We have now arrived at the Seventh Commandment which is: “You shall not commit adultery.” The Ten Commandments are divided into two sections. The first section (1st-4th Commandments) concerns our relationship with God and the second section (5th-10th Commandments) concerns our relationship with one another. Jesus summarized these two main sections of the Law when He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37,39). In the section related to our interpersonal relationships, God started with authority over life (parents), sanctity of life (murder), and now He moves to purity for life. The Seventh Commandment explicitly prohibits adultery. What is adultery? It is sexual relations with someone who is not your spouse. God only sanctions and blesses sexual relations that occur within the bounds of heterosexual, monogamous marriage. All other sexual activity is sinful and not approved by God.
The Covenant of Marriage
To better understand the prohibition against adultery, we need to take a moment to discuss marriage. Our Statement of Faith (BFM 2000) defines marriage this way:
Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.
Marriage is not a contract. A contract is a temporary agreement entered into for personal benefit. The contract may be broken (with or without a penalty) at any time if a better opportunity becomes available. God designed marriage to be a covenant. Marriage is a covenant because it is a pledge to dedicate yourself and all you have to another person for their benefit. Marriage is one of God’s great blessings for mankind and for the right ordering of society.
The Gift of Sex
The Covenant of Marriage is sealed through God’s gift of sexual intimacy. When God created Adam, He created him from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life. Eve was created differently. She was taken from the man’s rib and presented to Adam “as a helper suitable for him” (Gen 2:20). In Genesis 4:1, we are told that Adam “knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain.” The word “knew” comes from the Hebrew word yada. Yada is an important word in a covenant in that it signifies:
a spiritual and physical oneness with her and she with him, and they would have no such relationship with anyone else. The physical relationship in marriage is an essential part of the “being one” which God intends in marriage. But the physical relationship does not exhaust the meaning of “know” in its covenant sense relating to marriage. To “know” one’s spouse means to be faithful to one’s spouse, not only in the physical relationship but also in all aspects of the marriage: support, comfort, friendship, service to each other, etc.
The Horror of Adultery
Adultery is so reprehensible because it violates the one-flesh bond between husband and wife. It violates yada and damages the spiritual, emotional, and physical connection between husband and wife. It is not the unforgivable sin, but it is a serious sin with far reaching consequences. Adultery is a betrayal of the marriage covenant and the vows made before God. Because marriage is a picture of the relationship between Jesus and the church (Eph 5:32), it is a betrayal of our union with Christ. How do we keep ourselves from adultery?
Prayerfully Strive for an Affair-Proof Marriage
- Avoid Temptation. Only a great fool would flirt with temptation. Guardrails are on the side of the road to keep you from danger. We all need guardrails in our life because we are not as strong as we think we are. Paul made this very clear in his letter to the Corinthians, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Cor 10:12). You need to set good boundaries (guardrails) that you and your spouse agree on and stick to them. Get a friend whom you trust and ask them to help you stay true in your marriage. Listen to your conscience. Your conscience is a gift from God and the more you mature in your faith the more sensitive it becomes to sin. Listen to your God-given conscience and stay away from sin. Strive to not be “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 3:13).
- Pursue God. While it is good to actively avoid bad behavior, make sure you replace it with good behavior and actions. 1 Chronicles 16:11 says, “Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face continually.” Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” If you want to be a better husband/wife, be a faithful Christ follower. “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desire of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
- Pursue Your Spouse. It’s good to avoid temptation but also make sure that you pursue your spouse. God has created men and women different and with different needs. Emerson Eggerichs does a great job showing this biblical truth in his book Love and Respect. Husbands love your wife. Let her know that she is the only person in the world for you. Wives respect your husband and let him know that he is the only person in the world for you. Communication is either your greatest friend or worse enemy. Poor communication ruins relationships; especially marriage. Good communication is essential to growing closer together. Be honest with each other. Be self-controlled. Stay positive. Speak gracious and edifying words. “Be quick to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19). Be quick to forgive and to ask for forgiveness.