Luke 7:36-50, Exodus 20:14
An addition to the Authorised Version of the Bible in 1631 earned the printer a significant fine of £350 imposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Its problem – it omitted one word out of that particular print, the word ‘not’ from the seventh Commandment. It read, ‘You shall commit adultery.’ For that, the version of the Bible became known as the ‘wicked Bible.’ In our study of the seventh Commandment we are certainly not going to leave out ‘not!’ Today, of course, such an oversight might be rewarded. A university lecturer asked a class if they could downsize the Ten Commandments, which would they leave out. The majority said the seventh commandment.
We live in an age there where marriage is under constant attack; people are living together, having affairs, making it seem justifiable. People regard the seventh Commandment as outdated. A positive assertion of marriage is needed all the more today because it is so widely disregarded. God’s way is the right way, God’s way is the best way.
- The attack upon marriage and the promotion of promiscuous behaviour.
We are told that adultery and other forms of sexual immorality are natural, normal and necessary. The Bible states from the beginning God intended all sexual activity to be between one man and one woman within the context of marriage (Genesis 2:24).
Man was not created to be like the animals but to enjoy a single, committed relationship for life. The very word adultery means a violation of marriage by breaking commitment (Leviticus 20:10). Although God often showed mercy to such sinners, the severity of punishment reveals the severity of the crime.
Following on from the lie that adultery is natural, there is the additional lie that adultery is normal. Television, newspapers and magazines are constantly filled with adultery. But adultery is abnormal to God’s purpose. He reserves His strongest words for it (Jeremiah 5:7-9). The consequences of adultery and promiscuity are far reaching: the devastation of partners, the great emotional cost for children, the cost to state in terms of the price of divorce in our land. The Lord reserves the most serious warnings for any who believe such behaviour is normal.
The ultimate excuse for adultery is the spouse no longer loves his or her spouse and finds greater happiness in the arms of another. This is based on the mistaken belief that love is just an emotion that comes and goes. It goes against Biblical teaching in which one gives oneself exclusively to one other, irrespective of the ebb and flow of feelings. Real love is not self-seeking, it is self-sacrificing (Ephesians 5:25). Many times those who have seen adulterers’ promiscuity as the road to happiness have found it as the road to ruin.
The sanctity of marriage and rejection of sexual acts outside marriage is normal, natural and necessary. Satan seeks to destroy and damage the God-ordained order for family and individuals. The Lord Jesus Christ cites adultery as the grounds for gaining divorce (Mark 10). It is sad that Christians fall for the lie. It is best seen in ministers who have committed adultery but are allowed back into the pulpit. Sin, of course, is forgiven and the minister should be received back into the fellowship of the church. But by his infidelity to his wife, they have barred themselves from preaching.
- The deceitfulness of adultery.
For many this Commandment has no fear because we can honestly say we have never committed adultery, we have been faithful to our husband or wife. However, that is to ignore the seed of adultery that is found in our hearts. All of us, in some way, have been guilty of weakening our marriages. The scriptures point us to the way sexual activity prior to marriage breaches the seventh Commandment. The abuse of the gift of our sexuality before marriage deprives a future wife or husband (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 18). Today many people believe that having many partners is not wrong, provided they are one at a time. There are many problems that conflict marriages because of sexual activity outside, prior to marriage.
People can engage in marital unfaithfulness. They may enjoy sexual fantasy in viewing inappropriate material, flirting with the opposite sex. This weakens marriage too, even if there is no acting on the thought. The scriptures call us to be pure in thought and action. We are to guard our minds from all immorality (Philippians 4:8). God knows what we feed our minds on.
There is the problem of inappropriate thoughts. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” (Matthew 5:28). Accordingly, there is no-one here this morning who is not guilty of breaking the seventh Commandment. When we condemn the actions of others which we find obscene and sickens us, remember we too have been guilty of obscenity which sickens Him. We too need forgiveness. There is help at hand in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The grace of God for adulterers is best seen in three women who broke the seventh Commandment:
The woman of Samaria (John 4:1-26)
The woman, believed to be Mary Magdalene, who scandalised the Pharisees (Luke 7),
The woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11).
What do we see in each case?
- Whereas others were keen to condemn these women, Jesus did not. On the contrary, He deals with them as if they were respectable.
- He forgives their sin, bringing them freedom from the penalty of sin.
- He changed their lives, transforming them into disciples who loved righteousness. He establishes a new relationship in their lives with God and God’s law.
- The Saviour remained faithful to them, even going to die on the cross to pay the price of their sin.
There is no doubt they continued to fail Him, even as we do, but He never forsook them, even as He never forsakes us.
The good news, the gospel news, then is there is forgiveness for adulterers and those with promiscuous behaviour, to those who repent. Forgiveness is available to all who turn to Christ. But it also involves sinning no more. In God’s power they must flee from the sin of the past and not repeat it. You can’t continue in the old ways. People who do are not truly born again.
- Marriage is used in the Bible as a picture of the relationship between God and His people. That’s a sobering challenge to those of us who are married. Are our marriages a picture of the relationship between God and His people? Do we reflect the union of Christ and the Church? We may not commit physical adultery but there may be nastiness, attitudes that don’t speak of a commitment of love.
Even amongst Christians there are those who defile their marriage with pornography, who seek to use their partner in the porn of their own sordid experience of sinful immorality. Praise be to God, not only in their forgiveness, not only in their restoration, there is also the complete, never-ending commitment of the Lord Jesus Christ to each and every one of us that can never be broken. He will never forsake us, He will never abuse us. He will never cease to love us. He will also be to us our heavenly spouse who has sacrificed Himself for our eternal good.
The seventh Commandment does have a ‘not’ in it, it’s not left out. It is there for the glory of God, the good of His people and the good of all mankind.