If you have been watching the news lately, you're probably aware of a
massive, growing scandal involving a website known as Ashley Madison.
This was a sinister website that existed for one purpose: they offered a
kind of anonymous social network for people seeking to commit adultery.
Or at least it was supposed to be anonymous. Someone hacked their site,
got the names and addresses of the millions of people who had signed up,
and released all that information last week, exposing the names of some
30 million people who were cheating on their spouses.
The website's slogan was, "Life is short; have an affair"Cwhich may
be the stupidest bit of fleshly wisdom ever advertized by an actual
multi-million-dollar company. "Life is short; have an affair." Compare
that with what Scripture says in Revelation 21:8: "As for . . . sexually
immoral [people], . . . their portion will be in the lake that burns
with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."
Anyway, some prominent names have surfaced in the list of people
who had secretly paid money looking for someone to have an affair
withCand sadly, I've seen the names of at least a couple of well-known
people who had professed to be Christians. One Southern Baptist leader
who observes and comments on trends in church leadership predicted this
week that perhaps as many as 400 pastors will resign today because their
names have turned up on the list. Whether that prediction turns out to be
true or not, we'll see. I hope it's just an exaggerated guess. I don't know
why a pastor whose sin has been exposed like that would wait till the
Lord's Day to resign, but it's hard to explain why people do what they do
What's clear is that the moral decline in our culture has been rapid,
and reckless, and there are sinister people who will champion every kind
of sin. Satan and his minions have never been busier, and one of their top
goals is to ensnare and embarrass the people of God. So be on guard. But
also, it's interesting (isn't it?) that although people openly advocate sin,
and the all the major media and entertainment industries have been
engaged in a decades-long effort to destigmatize every kind of
iniquityCpeople are still naturally and rightfully ashamed of their sin, and
they still try their best to keep their sin a secret. But, Scripture says, "Be
sure your sin will find you out."
And because adultery is a particularly egregious sin, this morning I
want to look at a single verse that we haven't considered together for
more than a decade. It's the Seventh Commandment, found in Exodus
20:14: "You shall not commit adultery."
When we studied the Ten Commandments several years ago, one of
the things we stressed repeatedly was that all the commandments mean
much more than they actually say. Psalm 119:96 says, "Your
commandment is exceedingly broad." The Ten Commandments are
categories, not narrow rules. Each commandment has sweeping
implications, so that an almost infinite range of moral duties is set forth in
these ten brief imperatives. Ultimately they demand from us no less than
We also learned in that study of the Ten Commandments that when a
positive commandment is given, a negative one is also implied. And
when a sin is forbidden in negative terms, some positive duty is also
placed on us by implication. For example, when the Third Commandment
forbids us to take the Lord's name in vain, it also means by implication
that we should show honor and reverence to the Lord's name. It's not
Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery
enough to abstain from using the Lord's name in blasphemous ways; we
also have a positive duty to use the Lord's name in ways that show Him
reverence and honor.
The Pharisees in Jesus' time were too focused on the letter of the law.
And they figured they could easily avoid taking the Lord's name in vain if
they simply avoided using the Lord's name at all. So they invented
euphemisms to use in place of he Lord's name. They spoke of heaven, or
substituted one of the attributes of God in place of His name. And they
invented rules saying you shouldn't swear by God's name, but it was OK
to swear by heaven. And Jesus exposed their folly in Matthew 23:22. He
said, "whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God
and by him who sits upon it."
They were playing semantic games with the letter of the law. They
were using a wooden literalism so that they could circumvent the spirit of
the law and still claim they were obeying the law to the letter. But Jesus
said the true meaning of the law runs much deeper than the wooden,
literal meaning of the words. It's the spirit of the law that counts. And
again, as the Psalmist says, the law is exceedingly broad.
I want to talk for a moment about interpreting the Bible literally. And
let me say this carefully, so that no one misunderstands. We believe from
the depths of our hearts that Scripture means what it says. The first step in
interpreting Scripture correctly is to discern its plain meaning. And
except where the authors of Scripture are employing figures of speech,
we ought to interpret what they have written literally. We don't believe in
spiritualizing the text. We don't throw out the plain meaning of Scripture
and replace it with some fanciful or spiritual alternative meaning. (And
that is true when we're interpreting passages like this. When the Seventh
Commandment says "You shall not commit adultery," it certainly
means that in a literal sense.)
So our understanding of this commandment begins with the plain
meaning of the words. We affirm the normal, straightforward, literal
meaning of the BibleCexcept in those places where the context makes it
clear that a figure of speech is being employed. And we don't apologize
for being literalists when it comes to interpreting the Bible. Those who
reject the literal meaning of the biblical textCpeople who treat Old
Testament history and the miracles of Scripture as mythologyCare in
effect calling God a liar.
But there is a kind of rigid, slavish literalism that we need to avoid.
Church history is full of errors that stem from an overly narrow literalism.
For example, the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation
teaches that the bread and wine in the communion service change into the
actual body and blood of Christ, so that Christ is resacrificed every time
mass is observed. How do Catholics attempt to justify that doctrine
biblically? By an appeal to the literal meaning of Jesus' words in John
6:53-54, where Jesus said, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of
Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds
on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life." They press the
literalism of John 6 to such a degree that it overturns the plain meaning of
many passages that say Christ was sacrificed once for all.
Jehovah's Witnesses deny the deity of Christ, and they attempt to
justify their false doctrine by an appeal to the literal meaning of John
14:28, where Jesus said, "The Father is greater than I." Consider that
verse for a moment with me:
Here is a rule of thumb to remember when you are interpreting
Scripture: the literal meaning of the text is always a good starting place,
but there are many more factors that must be considered if you want to
arrive at the true and full meaning of the text. Context is vital. The
context of John 14:28, for example, deals with Christ's return to heaven at
the end of His earthly ministry. We need to understand it in light of
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Christ's prayer in John 17:4-5. Jesus prays, "I glorified you on earth,
having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now,
Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had
with you before the world existed." Suddenly it becomes clear what
He meant in John 14:28. He had laid aside His heavenly glory and
humbled Himself in order to come to earth and die. He was now looking
forward to returning to heaven, where He would once again dwell in the
very same glory God the Father dwells in. And He wanted the disciples to
rejoice with Him because he was returning to His heavenly throne, rather
than being sad that He was leaving them. And suddenly we understand
John 14:28 in a totally different light. Here's the full verse again: "You
heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I will come to you.' If
you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to
the Father, for the Father is greater than I." He was not saying the
Father is greater than Him in essence; He was speaking of His own
earthly humiliation, and rejoicing that He would soon be glorified again.
Now, we do understand that verse in a literal sense, but it is not a
myopic, mechanical literalism that divorces that verse from everything
else the Bible teaches about the nature of Christ. You can't isolate a text
from the rest of Scripture and guarantee that its full meaning lies only in
the bare literal sense of the words. Scripture interprets Scripture, and
sometimes the context sheds more light on a passage than you will get
from the literal meaning of the words themselves.
This is not complex, by the way. It works the same way in our
everyday speech. What we really mean is often determined more by
context than by a bare literal meaning of words divorced from their
context. If I say, "I ran into Pete Beaudoin Friday night . . . "Cyou're
going to have to hear the rest of my conversation before you know
whether I mean I hit him with my car, or encountered him unexpectedly
at the Dodger game. Or I might just mean that I physically bumped into
him while hurrying around a corner in the hallway of the church. All
those are literal meanings, but the full and true meaning must be
determined by the context. And ordinarily, the fuller the context, the
more clear the meaning becomes. It's the same way when we interpret
Rigid literalism is a particular danger for Pharisees and evangelicals.
We're so keen to be faithful to the literal meaning of Scripture that we
sometimes limit the meaning too much. I have met seminary students who
insist that when you preach on any passage of Scripture, you should never
go outside the immediate context to explain it. They would never dream
of quoting a verse from Matthew to shed light on a verse from the
Psalms. As if the full meaning of any text must be drawn only from the
barest literal meaning of the words in the text themselves.
But you cannot always do that and be faithful to the true meaning of
the text. The full meaning of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 can only be
understood in light of the New Testament descriptions of the crucifixion.
The symbolism of Moses smiting the rock that gave water to the Israelites
in the wilderness can only be understood in light of 1 Corinthians 10:4,
where the apostle Paul says that rock was a picture of Christ.
And to bring it back to the Ten Commandments, these
commandments cannot be isolated from the rest of Scripture and
interpreted with a wooden literalism that limits their scope to the bare
sense of the words in the commandments. The larger context of Scripture
teaches us that they mean far more than they actually say.
So when this commandment says, "You shall not commit
adultery," it certainly means that, but it means much more than that. This
commandment, like all the others, is exceedingly broad.
And this morning I want to look at the Seventh Commandment in
degrees. First we'll look at the letter of the commandment. Then we'll
Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery
consider the spirit of the commandment. And finally, we'll see the
urgency of the commandment. And that will be our outline, if you want to
take notes. Point number 1:
1. THE LETTER OF THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT
Look at the commandment again: "You shall not commit
adultery." Adultery, by the strictest defined, is voluntary sexual
intercourse between a married person and a partner other than the lawful
spouse. It is a gross sin because it breaks a covenant that is made before
God and defiles the marriage relationship, which was instituted by God as
the first and most important of all human relationships.
Marriage was established in the garden of Eden even before the Fall
of Adam. When God created Eve, Genesis 2:24 says this: "Therefore a
man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his
wife, and they shall become one flesh." That was God's design from
the beginning: one man, one womanCand joined together they become
one flesh. Adultery ruins that relationship in a way that is destructive of
all other relationships. Adultery completely destroys trust, and therefore it
undermines intimacy. It defiles the purity of the marriage relationship,
and often it destroys the marriage itself. It is a serious sin, one of the
grossest of sins, and it carries a reproach that cannot be blotted out.
In fact, listen to Proverbs 6:32-33: "He who commits adultery
lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds
and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away."
We have seen that in the case of David. Here was a man after God's
own heart who fell into the sin of adultery. He suffered the consequences
of that one sin for the rest of his life. The child conceived in his act of
adultery died. His own son Absalom turned against him. His reputation
was tarnished in the eyes of Israel. The loss of his reputation almost
caused him to lose his throne. And even though he repented and God
forgave him the guilt of his sin, the reproach of it endured for the rest of
his life. And Scripture records this as his epitaph (1 Kings 15:5): "David
did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn
aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his
life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." So the consequences
of his adultery pursued him to the grave and that one incident became a
blot on an otherwise exemplary reputation.
It's clear (isn't it?) that God Himself regards adultery as the grossest
kind of sin. This is a very serious sin indeed. For those who might have
the mistaken notion that all sins are equal and there's no such thing as
lesser or greater sins, let me remind you: that is not a biblical idea. There
are degrees of sin, and Jesus Himself made that clear when He told Pilate
in John 19:11 that Judas's sin was greater than Pilate's.
That's not to minimize the evil of so-called "lesser" sins. Any sin is
enough to condemn a person to hell for eternity, so every sin is serious.
But hell will be even worse for some than for others. Jesus told the people
of Capernaum in Matthew 10:15 that the day of judgment would be
"more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom
and Gomorrah than for [their] town. So there are degrees of sin just
as there will be degrees of punishment in hell. And adultery is one of the
This is confirmed by the law God has engraved on every human heart.
Virtually all human culturesCeven those that are far removed from the
gospel message and the Old Testament lawCuniversally regard adultery
as a horrible evil. Even modern secular society, which has tried hard to
sear the human conscience against any sense of guilt, has not managed to
do away with the stigma that goes with adultery.
Our society for years has desperately tried to do away with sexual
mores. The popular media have openly glamorized lust and
Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery
lasciviousness for decades. But still there is a strong sense that adultery is
wrong. That's why there was such a scandal a few years ago when the
leader of our nation confessed to an illicit relationship with a woman who
was not his wife. People know that is wrong. And no matter how he tried
to nuance his own definition of what he had done, every woman in
America knew he had been unfaithful to his wife. And his adultery
attached a reproach to his name that will never be blotted out.
Adultery is a horribly destructive sin. The book of Proverbs is full of
warnings against adultery, and they always focus on the bitter
consequences of this sin. Some of the longest discourses in the book of
Proverbs are warnings against the inevitable consequences of adultery.
And Scripture stresses the fact that those consequences are inevitable.
Listen to Proverbs 6:27-29: "Can a man carry fire next to his chest
and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals
and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his
neighbor's wife; none who touches her will go unpunished."
Commit adultery and you relinquish your innocence forever. You cannot
commit this sin and not in some sense be destroyed by it. "Be sure your
sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23). "He who sows iniquity will
reap sorrow" (Proverbs 22:8). And Galatians 6:7-8: "Do not be
deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he
also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the
flesh reap corruption."
Now, let's move beyond the letter of the law. Clearly, this
commandment forbids the act of adultery. But that does not exhaust the
moral ramifications of this commandment. If you're taking notes, here is
point 2. Let's examineC
2. THE SPIRIT OF THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT
Remember that strictly defined, adultery is voluntary sexual relations
between a married person and a partner other than the lawful spouse. But
in a broader biblical sense, "adultery" encompasses any sin that violates
the sanctity of the marriage relationship. This commandment deals not
only with external behavior, but also with inward desire. If the act of
adultery is a sin, then any impure desire that might lead to adultery is a
sin of the same stripe. Because as Jesus said in Mark 7:20-23,
"What comes out of a person is what defiles him.
21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil
thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,
22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander,
23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a
In other words, all the sins forbidden by the Ten Commandments stem
from evil thoughts that arise within our own hearts. And therefore the
moral law of God is focused on inward thoughts and desires even more
than it is on external behavior.
This is something the Pharisees never quite understood. They
imagined that by obeying the letter of the law and abstaining from
external acts, they were obeying God. They tended to think of sin mainly
as an external act rather than an internal, spiritual reality. And so they
were content to apply the letter of the law to their external behavior, and
they missed the law's spiritual meaning.
Most of our society suffers from this same error. People think of sin
as a social and political issue. They think something is wrong only if it
injures other people. You hear people speak of "victimless crimes," and
what they mean to suggest is that if no one else is injured by our
Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery
behavior, it cannot possibly be wrong. A few years ago I read an
interview with an influential theologian who said he figured any kind of
sexual fantasy was OK, as long as it never resulted in an outward act of
sin. Of course he was flatly contradicting what Jesus taught. But let's be
honest; he was simply putting into plain words the way lots of people
think about the sins that take place the mind and imagination.
Opinions like that are based on a wrong view of sin. Sin is wrong
because it dishonors God, whether or not any other human is injured by
it. Sin is wrong because it is an affront to a holy God, and since He looks
upon the heart, an impure thought violates His standard and offends His
holiness just as surely as an adulterous act. We fall into the very same
error as the Pharisees if we're only concerned about keeping the outside
of the cup clean while letting filth accumulate on the inside.
Jesus expressly taught this about the seventh commandment. Turn to
Matthew 5:27. Here's Jesus' own exposition of this commandment. This
is part of His Sermon on the Mount. He introduces the theme of His
message in verse 20: "I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds
that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the
kingdom of heaven." That's his main point. The standard of
righteousness set by the scribes and Pharisees falls short of the standard
of true righteousness. An upright heart, not just a clean arrest record, is
what God demands of those who will enter the kingdom of heaven. And
in the verses that follow, Jesus give a series of corrections to the standard
rabbinical misunderstanding of Moses' law.
Now it's important to understand that He is not adding to or taking
away from Moses' law in any respect. He tells us this in clear language in
verse 17: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the
Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." He
is not establishing a new standard here. This is a common
misunderstanding of the Sermon on the Mount. Lots of people imagine
that Christ is overturning Moses and instituting a different standard. But
He is not. And He expressly says so. He's merely refuting the rabbinical
misunderstanding of the law, and especially their minimalist approach of
reducing the commandments to the bare literal sense of the words. And
that is why He says God demands a righteousness that exceeds the
righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. His dispute is not with Moses,
but with the minimalist interpreters of Moses. And so He sets out to give
the fuller meaning of Moses' commandments.
I read one Bible dictionary that said this (and I quote): "Jesus'
teachings expanded the Old Testament law to address matters of the
heart." That's nonsense. Jesus' whole point was that the Old Testament
law was meant to address matters of the heart. And the law read in
context affirms this. The Tenth Commandment, as we're going to see,
expressly forbids a man to covet his neighbor's wife. Proverbs 6:25 says
this about the seductress: "Do not desire her beauty in your heart."
Jesus is not adding a single thing that the Old Testament did not already
teach. He was simply pointing out that the same moral principle that
makes an act of adultery sinful also rules out any desire for an adulterous
Here's what Jesus says about the Seventh Commandment (Matthew
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit
28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman
with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her
in his heart."
In other words, an adulterous thought or an adulterous desire carries the
same kind of moral guilt as an adulterous act.
Now I want to be clear. I said earlier that there are degrees of sin.
Some sins are worse than others. And an act of adultery is worse than a
Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery
lustful thought. But Jesus' point is that they stem from the same evil seed,
and they carry the same kind of guiltCeven if it is a different degree of
I made this same point several years ago when we were looking at the
sixth commandment. I quoted from the Sermon on the Mount to show
that Jesus said hatred is morally tantamount to guilt. And someone asked
me afterward if I was suggesting that there is an exact moral equivalency
between the thought and the act, so that one is in every sense as bad as the
other. That clearly is not what Jesus was teaching. He wasn't saying that
full-fledged adultery is no worse than a lustful thought. But he was saying
that both are violations of the Seventh Commandment. And that reminds
us again that the commandment is exceedingly broad.
In other words, Christ was teaching that the seventh commandment
rules out, by implication, every kind of immoral thought or activity. That
includes every kind of fornication, every lustful look or thought, and
every type of unfaithfulness.
Not only that, but as with all the commandments, where a negative
prohibition is stated, a positive commandment is implied. The law says,
"You shall not commit adultery." It also means: You must love your
spouse with a full heart. Husbands, even if you never entertain a fleeting
desire for any other woman, if you fail to love your wife the way you
ought to love her, you have violated the spirit of this commandment.
Wives, if you fail to love your husband above every other earthly
entityCeven if you never have a lustful thought about another manCyou
are guilty, too. See what a high standard this sets?
Ephesians 5:25 spells it out clearly: "Husbands, love your wives,
as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." There
must be a fervency and a single-minded purity in marital love so that it
mirrors Christ's absolute devotion to the churchCand the church's
devotion to her Lord.
That's what marriage was supposed to picture in the first place.
Marriage is an object lesson about the mutual love between Christ and
His people. That is why marriage is so sacred in God's eyes, and that is
why to violate the marriage commitment is such a serious sin in the eyes
Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 5:32 that "everyone who divorces
his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her
commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman
commits adultery." So even divorce is the same kind of sin as adultery.
And the only exception Christ makes is in cases where an unfaithful
spouse's act of adultery has already irreparably broken the marriage
relationship. In those cases, the innocent party is free to remarry.
Throughout Scripture, God likens unbelief and spiritual rebellion to
adultery. Israel in the Old Testament is repeatedly pictured as an
unfaithful spouse. Israel's apostasy was a kind of spiritual adultery. I
could give many examples of this, but we only have time for one. Listen
to Jeremiah 3:1-3. God, speaking through the prophet, reproves Israel for
her constant backsliding. Jeremiah writes:
You have played the whore with many lovers; and would
you return to me? declares the LORD.
2 Lift up your eyes to the bare heights, and see! Where
have you not been ravished? By the waysides you have
sat awaiting lovers like an Arab in the wilderness. You
have polluted the land with your vile whoredom.
3 Therefore the showers have been withheld, and the
spring rain has not come; yet you have the forehead of a
whore; you refuse to be ashamed.
In other words, unbelief and disobedience are spiritual harlotry. The
person who is unfaithful to God is a spiritual adulterer.
Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery
The same imagery is used in the New Testament. James 4:4 says,
"You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with
the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a
friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."
That's why adultery is such a serious sin. It manifests an unfaithful
heart. It is first and foremost a sin of the heart. And this commandment
addresses the sin of the heart; not merely an external act.
Now let's move to the third point and seeC
3. THE URGENCY OF THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT
We see the seriousness of the seventh commandment in the penalty
that was attached to it under Moses' law. Leviticus 20:10 says this: "If a
man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the
adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death."
Deuteronomy 22:22 says, "If a man is found lying with the wife of
another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the
woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel."
I already mentioned how the book of Proverbs again and again warns
about the soul-destroying effects of sexual impurity. It's significant that
virtually every time Scripture lists the gross sins that characterize the
inhabitants of hell, adultery and fornication head the list. Galatians 5:19:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality,
20 idolatry, sorcery, [etc.]
21 . . . I warn you, as I warned you before, that those
who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Revelation 21:8: "As for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable,
as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and
all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and
sulfur, which is the second death."
In other words, this is a particularly hellish sin, and it destroys the
souls of those who practice it.
Jesus said the same thing. If you have turned away from Matthew 5,
go back there, and notice the rest of what He says about the sin of
adultery. Verse 28: "I say to you that everyone who looks at a
woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with
her in his heart." That is the context for what follows immediately.
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it
away. For it is better that you lose one of your members
than that your whole body be thrown into hell.
30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and
throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your
members than that your whole body go into hell.
When He talks about your eye causing you to sin, the context makes it
clear that he is talking about sexual purity.
Now this is one of those cases where we must guard against applying
a slavish literalism to Jesus' command. He is using a figure of speech
here. This is hyperbole. And He is saying that if you struggle with
habitual lust, you had better take the most extreme kind of measures to
avoid the occasions for that lust.
He is not literally advocating self-mutilation, because that would
violate everything else Scripture teaches about the sanctity of our bodies.
But he is using hyperbole to stress the urgency of the Seventh
Commandment. He is saying that if you struggle with these issues, you
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had better do something drastic to put a stop to temptation. Get rid of
your television. Stay off the Internet. Don't frequent places where you are
constantly placed in temptation's way. Deal with it as drastically and as
completely as possible.
Someone says, "Well I'd have to quit my job to get away from
temptation." Quit it. When a habit of lust is eating at your soul, no
measure is too drastic. Cut it off and fling it from you.
That is the very same thing the apostle Paul meant when he
commanded us to mortify our members. Colossians 3:5-6: "Put to death
therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity,
passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On
account of these the wrath of God is coming."
This gets intensely practical, doesn't it? If you struggle with evil
habits and evil desires, there is only one way to overcome those sins:
choke the very life out of them. Mortify sin in your members. Romans
8:13: "For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by
the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."
Whether you sin with your heart or your hand or your eyes, Jesus
says, deal harshly with your own sin. Cut if off. Hack it to pieces. Burn
the bridges that keep bringing you back to it. Summarily remove
whatever temptation you face, and replace your evil habits with godly
It was Job who said, "I have made a covenant with my eyes;
how then could I gaze at a virgin?" He had purposefully and
resolutely determined never to look at that which might stir any illicit
desire in his heart.
For you married men, let me give you one other very practical bit of
advice on how to avoid this sin: Ecclesiastes 9:9: "Enjoy life with the
wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has
given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life."
Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from
your own well.
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of
water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers
18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of
19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at
all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.
20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a
forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an
Be satisfied with your own wife. Learn to delight in her love, and hers
alone. And learn to make yourself delightful to her, so that she doesn't fall
into temptation, either. Wives, my counsel to you is exactly the same.
Some single guy is saying, "That's not very practical advice for me."
Well, in a way it is. If you struggle in this area, get married. Paul wrote in
1 Corinthians 7:8-9: "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it
is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot
exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry
than to burn with passion." Some of the single guys I know need to
set aside their romantic notions of feminine excellence and marry a girl
who has a few imperfections like they do. Married life with a woman who
loves you is vastly preferable to burning with uncontrollable passion.
Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery
All sexual sin is destructive to the soul. Adultery is particularly
catastrophic because of all the lives that are damaged when a marriage is
broken. Don't tolerate even the fleeting thought of this sin, but pluck it
out and cast it from you.
Now I can't quit without reminding you of the good news of the
gospel. There is forgiveness and cleansing even for sins as serious as
adultery. David's sin was adultery, compounded with a treacherous act of
murder. He committed adultery with Bath-Sheba, and he even had her
husband killed. But David repented, and as soon as he repented (2 Samuel
12:13), "David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD."
And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has put away your
sin; you shall not die."
Psalm 51 is David's prayer of repentance. The inscription on the
psalm identifies it as "A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet
went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba." It's the perfect
model of repentance for anyone who has fallen into adultery or any other
sin. In that prayer, David pleads with God repeatedly to blot out his sin
and cleanse his heart and restore the Joy of his salvation. David
understood that no mere ritual of sacrifice or outward piety could ever
cover the guilt of his sin, but (v. 17) "The sacrifices of God are a
broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not
David also understood that real repentance is not a one-and-done act.
He expresses his repentance first to Nathan in 2 Samuel 12. Then he
writes Psalm 51, where he pleads repeatedly for the Lord's forgiveness
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast
love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me
from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before
Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right
spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not
your Holy Spirit from me.
And Psalm 51 isn't the only psalm of repentance that we have from this
episode in David's life. Psalm 32, another psalm of repentance, written by
David is generally assumed to pertain to that same episode of adultery
with Bath-Sheba. In this psalm, David affirms his faith in the Lord's
forgiveness. So Psalm 32 begins with this triumphant expression of
gospel faith: "Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the
LORD counts no iniquity."
The gospel teaches that God's forgiveness is thorough and
freeCbecause Christ paid the full atonement for our sin, and he covers the
repentant believer's sin under a robe of His own righteousness. Romans
8:1: "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are
in Christ Jesus." In the words of Colossians 3:3, if you are a believer,
"Your life is hidden with Christ in God." Psalm 103:12: "As far as
Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery
the east is from the west, so far does he remove our
transgressions from us."
That is the glory of the gospel. It offers hope and cleansing for even
the guilty adulterer. It is the only remedy for a heart burdened down with
the weight of guilt and a life torn asunder by the consequences of this
deadly sinCor any sin, for that matter.
I doubt that there is a person here this morning who is not guilty of
breaking the Seventh Commandment in some degree or another. Whether
through an adulterous act, a lustful thought, or a covetous look, all of us
are guilty of breaking this commandment, and not one of us has any hope
whatsoever outside of Christ. I hope you are in ChristCtrusting,
repenting, hating the sin of unfaithfulness and leaning on the power of
His grace to enable you to go and sin no more.
If notCif you are trusting anything else as your hope for eternityCyou
need to pluck it out and cast it far from you; and seek the forgiveness and
cleansing Christ freely offers all who come to Him.
Father, like David, we confess that we are poor and guilty, conceived in
sin and prone to every iniquity. By the standard of Your law, we deserve
nothing but condemnation and hell. But we look to Christ as our Savior
and our strength. May we keep Him in the forefront of our thoughts, so
that we do not sin in our hearts or dishonor you in our imaginations.
Thank you for the gift of marriageCand especially what marriage
pictures: our spiritual union with Christ. Keep us hidden in Him and
conform us perfectly to His likeness.