The Ten Words: The Seventh
Perhaps you’ve never considered how each of the commandments of the Decalogue relate to the opening several chapters of Genesis. The primacy of God as the only God and the One deserving of all our worship are woven throughout those chapters. God resting on the 7th day serves as the model for the 4th commandment. Adam and Eve’s directive to be fruitful and multiply set the stage wonderfully for the 5th commandment. The second and third recorded sins are coveting (envy) and murder, the 10th and 6th commandments respectively. When God confronts Adam and Eve for their sin as the holy Judge, they bear false witness against each other and against God - the 9th commandment. The seventh commandment is no different. Its genesis comes directly from these opening chapters of the Book of Genesis. One cannot understand the full weight of adultery without seeing how the goodness and sanctity of marriage is woven into the order of creation itself. Furthermore, Jesus Himself connects the 6th commandment to creation. And so the grave sin of adultery does not merely transgress the Mosaic law but seeks to upend God’s very design for humanity.
The marriage ceremony of Adam and Eve at the end of Genesis 2, that moment when God awakened Adam from sleep to present him with his bride, serves as one of the most foundational moments in all of history. The last two verses of the chapter are especially pivotal, as God declares that a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife. The sanctity of marriage is immediately seen as Moses records that Adam and Eve were naked yet unashamed. The beauty and intimacy that is pictured here is unparalleled in all recorded history, a romance only dreamed of by Shakespeare and romance novelists. It makes perfect sense then that when the Pharisees approach Jesus and seek to trip Him up by asking about the 7th commandment, He immediately takes them back to these opening chapters of Scripture. As the Pharisees were so consumed with their overly structured and unbiblical idea of righteousness, they failed to see how the 7th commandment was merely a reflection of something much larger. Jesus points them to God’s design in marriage as foundational to human society, and they are left speechless.
Jesus does not stop there, however. Earlier in his ministry, during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus extends the 7th commandment beyond just the mere act of adultery, which is sleeping with someone who is not your spouse. He had just explained that anger is murder in the heart and a violation of the 6th commandment. He then immediately explains also that simply lusting in your heart after someone who isn’t your spouse is a violation of the 7th commandment. At first glance this seems like a stretch, but when considered from the perspective that we’ve just examined, how the 7th commandment relates to the created order, lust becomes much more devastating. Lust is thus the first step on the road to the undoing of society itself. If marriage is foundational to all human society, to the fabric of our communities and nations, then that moment when you look at someone else’s husband or wife with desire becomes the very seedling that the devil uses to undo the goodness that God has made.
Adultery and divorce have brought devastation, pain, suffering, and chaos into the world. The breakdown of Western culture has accelerated exponentially as the collective understanding of the importance of marriage in maintaining culture and society has degraded exponentially. The inverse correlation should be obvious to even the most secular mind. Yet our culture remains saturated with images and entertainment meant to explicitly play on the sin of lust and adultery. It’s comedic to the point where advertisements will now simply show sensual scenes or images without ever showing their product because “sex sells.”
But it’s not just Western culture at large that’s been fooled. Satan has convinced many Christians that adultery isn’t really that bad. Christian families are ripped apart. Even churches are dealt devastating blows as their pastors and elders are caught in adulterous relationships. Of course the revelation of sin often comes with the mere quip by the offender that “God forgives” without ever wrestling with the true meaning and consequences of their actions. There has been a massive failure on the part of the modern church to teach and instruct on the sanctity of marriage and the evils of lust. We’ve held onto Jesus’ claim that it’s “not what goes in that defiles,” leaving us with an excuse to watch that show or movie that everyone else is watching because we “like the plot.” Yet the sensuality takes root, lustful thoughts grow, and adultery and divorce are the fruit.
Brothers and sisters, it’s time to take seriously how lust and adultery have wreaked havoc in our churches and families. It’s time we are honest with ourselves and the lust of our own hearts. It’s time we are honest about the effect that the culture which idolizes sex is having on us. It’s time we remember that the sanctity of marriage is central to God’s very design for creation, and when we sin in this way, we are high-handedly rejecting God and His good plan. It’s time we remember why it is that David, when wrestling with his own adultery, says to God in Psalm 51, “Against you and you only have I sinned.” It is because David knows that lust and adultery cut to the very core of God’s goodness to us.
Keith Kauffman attended University of Maryland (B.S.) and Capital Bible Seminary(M.Div.). Keith currently works at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, working in the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases studying the immune response to Tuberculosis. Keith serves as an elder at Greenbelt Baptist Church.