The 7th Commandment: A Call to Purity, A Place for Marriage
God: The Center of it All – Deut 5:18 – May 31, 2020
George Floyd was a 46-yr old black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis a few days ago. Floyd was just about my age. The police officers involved have been fired and charges are being brought against them for 3rd degree murder and manslaughter. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where I’m suspected of using a counterfeit $5 and a few minutes later I end up dead.
Martin Luther King, Jr., on Aug 28, 1963, spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. In one of his most famous lines he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” It’s clear we haven’t arrived. One of the hardest things to do is evaluate “the content of the character” of people whose skin color is different from our own. We see sin and deficiencies where it simply doesn’t exist. This cuts both directions.
Reading about the George Floyd incident I read a quote by a black mother and the conversations she would have with her black sons. About the need to go out of your way to be submissive to police officers so they don’t get killed. There are lots of black mothers having that conversation again with their black sons.
The parents of black sons in our church have had that conversation and will again. Anne and I have never had that conversation with our two boys.
Issues of race and policing are profoundly complex. The recent violence isn’t going to solve them, but the violence reminds us the issues are a big deal.
In social justice conversations there’s a prayer from Amos 5 that gets quoted a lot. I’ll read the lines right before it because it communicates something even more powerful to people like us who worship on Sundays almost every Sunday of our lives.
“I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:21–24)
This isn’t God telling us that he hates our worship here at Sovereign Grace. It’s a statement that you can’t worship on Sunday and not care about justice and righteousness Monday to Saturday. For our worship to honor God our justice and righteousness must also honor God.
Amos’ words are a prayer. So, let’s use that as a prayer for our country.
Today’s message is on the 7th commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.” These two words in Hebrew, “not” + “commit adultery,” have a lot to do with George Floyd.
This commandment isn’t just about a particular action you’re not supposed to do. It has to do with the way marriage is regarded among God’s people and even in a society. If a society esteems marriage as a commitment by a man and a woman to be faithful till death, that society will flourish. If a society loses its way and marriage gets redefined or marriages aren’t protected and strengthened, that society simply won’t flourish.
It’s too simplistic to say that the this commandment is why George Floyd happened. But we can’t miss that an appreciation of the 7th commandment will absolutely make events like George Floyd less common.
To see this happen in our entire society is a work God has to do. It’s far bigger than us. But if we as God’s people in this church can esteem marriage rightly, that will accomplish something real and significant. It’s something. It’s not everything, but it’s something.
Our sermon will have two negative points and two positive ones:
- You Shall Not Commit Adultery
- Flee the Sin of Lust
- Build Your Marriage
- Fight Temptation
We’ll start with the commandment itself.
I. You Shall Not Commit Adultery
I realize we have a pretty mixed audience this morning. With streaming only I know we have some children listening. So I should start with a very technical definition of adultery: If you’re married, don’t get all kissy, kissy with someone you’re not married to.
For you older folks, that’s a euphemism for being much more physically involved. But the key is that a married person is involved with someone who isn’t their spouse.
Hebrew verb, “commit adultery” used 34x in OT. First time in Decalogue (“ten words”) in Exod 20:13.
Only one sin is listed in the 7th commandment but it’s really a summary for a whole set of sexual sins (Deut 22:13–30; 27:20–12). Basic idea is that sex in any other way than between a husband and wife in a marriage is sinful.
The seriousness of the command is seen in the punishments laid out for those who break it. It’s a capital crime (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:13–30; 27:20–12). A man and a woman who get involved in adultery are to be stoned to death—stone by stone until they both die. God doesn’t require this of all sins, only the ones most destructive to people and families and the nation of Israel.
Remember, this isn’t the sin of lust but the physical act of adultery. When that line is crossed, the couple involved
We can also see the seriousness of adultery in how God uses the idea of marriage to describe his relationship with his people. Israel is accused of adultery when she turns to other gods:
For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. With their idols they have committed adultery, and they have even offered up to them for food the children whom they had borne to me. (Ezek 23:37)
When God wants to bring out how wrong and offensive it is turn away from him, he looks at the marriage covenant. To turn from him is to commit the worst adultery of all.
This teaches us that marriage is a sacred vow. When Josh Taylor and Rebekah Hill got married recently Josh vowed this:
I, Josh, take you, Rebekah, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance. This is my solemn vow.
The essence of the marriage vow is faithfulness till death. To take care of each other and love each other “till death us do part.”
Adultery is an action that destroys this vow. On your wedding day you gave your word. With adultery you break it.
God says that when this happens his people act forcefully. Marriage must be esteemed. Not a vow to trifle with.
There is something fundamental about marriage. If a people begin to chisel away at marriage something gets broken in that people that has ripple effects. All relationships get impacted, not just marriages.
We live in a day working hard to redefine marriage. Many were excited in 2015 when the Supreme Court said in its Obergefell decision that all 50 states must recognize same-sex marriage. Marriage privileges should be extended to same-sex marriages. When that happened the whole notion of marriage, true marriage, marriage between a man and a woman was downgraded.
The tragedy here isn’t about the laws of the land. We might be able to work hard and change the laws of the land. That could buy us a few years or a couple decades.
The tragedy is that so many people are so confused about marriage. God defines marriage. Not us. God defines marriage as a sacred vow between one man and one woman.
The basic command here is to physical purity. But a holy God also calls for purity in our hearts.
II. Flee the Sin of Lust
When Jesus teaches on this command he doesn’t stop with physical purity. He also calls us to a purity in the heart—Matt 5:27–30. In the Sermon on the Mount he says it’s possible to commit adultery in our hearts.
Once again he speaks in the pattern of an antithesis, “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” Listen to Jesus:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 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. 29 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.” (Matt 5:27–30)
Jesus takes the 7th commandment and says this is a sin you can commit in your heart. Like murder taking place in your heart through anger. Now it’s adultery taking place in your heart through lust.
It’s important to hear his words on what lust is: “Looks at a woman with lustful intent” (5:28). Not the act of physically seeing something that makes it sinful. It’s the intention of the heart. Why are you looking at her? That determines whether it’s using your eyes to see something in a typical way or trying to satisfy a sinful craving.
What is Jesus’ solution? If the problem is your eye, “tear it out.” If the problem is your hand, “cut it off” (5:29–30). Better to lose an eye or hand than “whole body be thrown into hell.”
Just like the radical punishment of stoning in the OT tells us this sin is serious, Jesus’ radical response to sin here tells us that this sin is serious. Whatever it takes to fight this temptation is worth it.
Sinclair Ferguson speaks on Jesus’ surprising counsel:
Act decisively, immediately, even if it must be painful. What a horrific description Jesus gives of what other New Testament writers call “mortification.” It is like gouging out your eye or cutting off a limb. There will be pain, tears, blood. There will be “withdrawal symptoms” after the amputation. The consequences seem almost unbearable. But the drastic nature of the remedy is simply the index of the radical danger of the sin. It is not a situation for negotiation. Obedience cannot be negotiated, nor can Heaven and hell.
Sinclair Ferguson, Kingdom Life in a Fallen World
Adultery with the body and adultery with the heart are two ways we can commit what the NT calls “sexual immorality.”
The apostle Paul speaks of this in Ephesians 5:
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Eph 5:3–5)
“Sexual immorality” is from the Greek porneia, where we get “pornography.” Indulging in pornography is one way we can commit sexual immorality.
As we scan the Bible’s teaching, what sins are part of “sexual immorality”?
- Having multiple spouses
- Homosexual acts and thoughts
- Premarital sex
- Getting involved physically with someone other than your spouse
- Or imagining these things = “lust.” This is also where the 10th commandment comes back around. That commandment says, “You shall not covet anything that is your neighbor’s.” The other nine commandments tell us that the actions are wrong. Then the 10th commandment tells us that the WANTING to do it is wrong.
We don’t want to see all these actions as equal. Physical adultery is far worse than adultery in the heart. But they are all sinful. Jesus makes it clear that adultery in the heart can send you to hell, just like adultery with the body can.
It’s not the unforgivable sin. His sacrificial death covers all sexual sins committed by God’s people. But without Jesus as your Advocate, adultery in the heart will send you to hell.
These are the 2 negatives. What about the 2 positives?
III. Build Your Marriage
The first positive is to build your marriage. Avoiding a sin is necessary. But there’s always something we are to build in its place. Turn away from adultery. Turn toward your spouse.
But you’re not married, you say? Build your future marriage. I can’t predict the future. You might not marry. But you probably will. And so live in such a way that your future spouse will be honored.
If you don’t marry you have honored your greater spouse, the Lord Jesus himself. The church is the bride of Christ. Christ is the Greater Spouse we must all be faithful to.
But for those of us married, build your marriage.
One of the first words on marriage in the Bible is from Moses in Genesis 2:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Gen 2:24)
There are three things here we must do. A man is to “leave” his family. You might not move out of the house, but you are leaving your place in one family to begin a new family with your spouse. A healthy marriage is one where both spouses have left their families appropriately.
Different cultures do this differently. But before God, you must leave your family and join to your spouse to form a new family.
Second, “hold fast.” This is a powerful idea and speaks so much in a day like ours where so much seems to be pulling spouses apart.
“Cleaving” to one’s wife points to a loving relationship or a friendship, certainly not limited to a sexual relationship….The “cleaving” mentioned in Genesis 2 refers to an intense love that radiates in body and soul throughout all areas of fellowship.
Jochem Douma, The Ten Commandments
It’s companionship. It’s romance. It’s spending time together. It’s spending money on each other.
These are not things you do just when you’re engaged. They are part of the work required to cleave to one another.
To help us build marriages in our church, at the end of July (Jul 30-Aug 1) we’re having a marriage conference in Ridgecrest, NC. Craig Cabaniss from a sister church in Frisco, TX, is the speaker. He will walk us through God’s word to husbands and wives.
And being in Black Mountain, NC, this makes for a great time to pull away as husband and wife. We’ll build in free time so you can enjoy one another while also hearing some excellent teaching on marriage.
IV. Fight Temptation
The first positive is to Build Your Marriage. The second is to Fight Temptation.
This is a list of things to consider. A mix of practical and spiritual. When you’re fighting sins, you always want a mix of practical and spiritual ways of battling.
For example, a very practical one: Be on the same sleep schedule as much as possible as your spouse. Cut out caffeine. Add caffeine. Being alone at night isn’t good for anyone.
And for example, a spiritual one: Study the promises of God that speak most directly to you. What is true of the goodness of God that speaks most directly to you? Study those promises. Read the Bible to find those promises. Memorize them so you can call them to mind at the right time.
Some computer practicals:
- Get Covenant Eyes on your computer and smartphone. This is one of those “Do the Obvious” kind of things. All your devices.
- Be smart about streaming movies and TV. Have shared accounts with your spouse and family as much as possible. Have as few streaming services as possible.
- Let your computer and smartphone be available for others to look at. A password your family knows.
Be alert in your friendships and relationships: As you live life and get involved with people, whether it’s the workplace or some community activity, maintain “social distance” as appropriate. What does COVID have to do with this? Not that “social distance.” The one we used to understand:
The seventh commandment thus forbids a married man to flirt with another woman, or a single man to get close to someone else’s wife. In order to forestall temptation, a certain social distance needs to be maintained. The commandment also forbids a married woman to seek primary emotional support from some other man, whether at work, at church, or [online]. To put things more positively, the seventh commandment requires husbands and wives to nurture their love for one another, emotionally and spiritually as well as sexually.
Phil Ryken, Written in Stone
Be accountable. Confessing sin to other believers is a powerful way to put sin to death. Choose your confessors carefully, but see this as a powerful weapon against sin and temptation.
If you’re really trapped, get real help. This is part of what it means to “cut out your eye.” The pastors can help you if you’re really trapped. Connect with people and resources that provide more significant help.
And finally, preach the gospel to yourself.
Conclusion: Preach the Gospel to Yourself
There are a lot of ways to do this. But learn how to preach the gospel to yourself.
We can do that using Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:9–11)
Preaching the gospel through a passage like this:
- The gospel is enough to handle real and destructive sins.
- These sins are not the unforgivable sins. We know that in this passage because “such were some of you.”
- But these sins are deadly ones. Without Christ these will not “inherit the kingdom of God.”
- The gospel unites us to Christ and brings the Spirit of God into our lives.
- That brings change: “such were some of you.”
Apply this to your past sin. Apply this to current struggles and failures. Turn to Christ. Turn to Christ again and again and again.
 Heb נאף (naph) “commit adultery”; Grk μοιχεύω.
 Grammar is pros to + infinitive, which Wallace says is typically purpose or result (611). “With lustful intent” is a little clunky but gets at the mark.
 Ferguson (NavPress, 1986), 123.
 The Ten Commandments: Manual for the Christian Life (P&R, 1996), 250.
 Ryken (Crossway, 2003), 154.