November 4, 2018
“If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” The quote is attributed to Billy Preston. In 1970, Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young wrote a song called, “Love the One You’re With.” It was the height of the sexual revolution in this country, spanning the 60s through the 80s. This revolution sought to overturn repressive and prudish views of sexuality that had been traditionally held. It encouraged expressions of sexual liberation, including extra-marital sex, nudity, pornography, and much more.
Many years ago an elderly Christian man came to me and confessed that early in his marriage, he suggested that he and his wife participate in a swingers club. He thought spouse swapping would be good for their marriage. But it wasn’t good. It was deeply destructive to his marriage and he was filled with guilt and remorse.
In Ex.20:14 we read the 7th commandment. “You shall not commit adultery.” There are many expressions of sexual immorality. Why does God put adultery in the Decalogue? Let’s think about this. The seventh commandment calls for marital faithfulness.
I. MARITAL FAITHFULNESS IS THE FOUNDATION FOR SOCIETAL STABILITY. Gen.2:23-25
When we think about the order in which the Ten Commandments are given, we see that the first four commands concern our relationship with God. The last six commands concern our relationship with society. I would suggest that obeying the first 4 commands, having to do with the worship of God, are essential for keeping the last 6 commands. Our worship of God brings order, clarity, and strength for living in society.
When God created Eve from Adam’s rib and brought her to Adam, we read in Gen.2:23-25 Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
Marriage is the first institution created by God. In Gen.1:28, Husbands and wives are called to be fruitful and multiply. But Gen.2 describes the context for this fruitfulness. Husbands and wives are to leave their parents in order to establish their own household. They are to hold fast to each other and they are to become one flesh through physical intimacy. Marital faithfulness provides a safe context for marital intimacy. After all, such intimacy requires complete vulnerability. Nakedness gives little protection.
Marital faithfulness is the command and expectation throughout the entire Bible. When we read about adultery in the Bible, the results are never good. David’s adultery with Bathsheba is the most well-known example and it brought great heartache to David’s family. In trying to cover it up he incurred the additional guilt of deception and murder.
But what exactly is adultery? The prohibition against adultery is found in all Ancient Near eastern Cultures. Adultery is having physical intimacy with someone other than your spouse. David Baker points out that in the patriarchal culture of Israel, “the primary concern is with a man (either married or single) having intimacy with a married woman other than his wife.” The command against adultery also applied to engaged couples.
In the Bible fornication, prostitution, homosexuality, premarital sex, cohabitation, incest, and bestiality are all against God’s law. But only adultery is found in the Ten Commandments because adultery breaks what Mark Rooker calls, “the most intimate of human relationships.” Again, David Baker writes, “The seventh commandment is not so much concerned with sex as with maintaining the sanctity of marriage as the fundamental unit of society instituted by God.” Adultery is a sin against God, against one’s spouse, and against society. In Dt.22:22 we read, “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.”
Obviously married men and women are to be faithful to each other in every way. There are many challenges to being faithful. Marriage is not particularly easy. But when husbands and wives are loving, faithful, invested in each other’s welfare, humble, and kind, the potential for deep joy is great. And society will be strengthened.
II. MARITAL FAITHFULNESS BEGINS IN THE HEART. Mt.5:27-30
In Mt.5:27-32, Jesus addresses the 7th commandment. He says, “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 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. 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.”
Just as he did with murder, Jesus calls us to look at what is in our hearts. Adultery actually begins in the heart. Dallas Willard writes, “To be right sexually before God…is to be the kind of person who has a detailed and established practice of not engaging his or her bodily parts and perceptions, thoughts, and desires in activities of sexual trifling, dalliance, and titillation.” In the words of Jesus, to look at a woman or a man for the purpose of lusting and fantasizing is to commit adultery with that person in one’s heart.
Someone says, “Well it’s not as bad as actually committing the act!” In one sense that is true in that actually committing the act brings about great heartache and destruction. But to cultivate such fantasies and desires is to plunge into an ever deepening slavery to sin that will ruin your closest relationships.
In Jb.31:1, Job says, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” Later in v.9-10 he writes, “If my heart has been enticed toward a woman, and I have lain in wait at my neighbor's door, then let my wife grind for another, and let others bow down on her.”
Certainly we cannot think about this without acknowledging the destructive power of pornography and other kinds of sexually immoral media that are regularly put before our eyes. The temptations are all around us. Adultery is common on the movie screen and T.V. It is common among politicians and actors. But commonness does not mean it is any less destructive to people and society. This is not to say that every time we see a beautiful woman or man that we commit sin. The human body is a gift from God. But when the human body is presented in sexually compelling ways we bring serious trouble into our souls. Marital faithfulness calls us to pursue inward purity, inward faithfulness. And clearly Jesus urges us to take drastic steps to turn away from adultery of the heart.
James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” In this world that provides ample opportunity for marital unfaithfulness, it is essential that we take every step necessary to cultivate purity of heart and mind. This is important for our personal integrity, our integrity with our spouse, our integrity in the world, and our integrity before God. And this leads me to further point out that…
III. MARITAL FAITHFULNESS DEPICTS JESUS WITH HIS CHURCH. Mt.26:26-29; Rev.19:9
So significant is the covenant of marriage that marriage is used as a picture of Israel’s relationship with God. In Jer.2:2 we read, “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD, ‘I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.” But Israel turned to idolatry. Listen to what God says in Jer.5:7, “How can I pardon you? Your children have forsaken me and have sworn by those who are no gods. When I fed them to the full, they committed adultery and trooped to the houses of whores.” Idolatry is pictured as spiritual adultery, unfaithfulness to God.
This picture of marriage is carried into the New Testament and applied to the Church. For example, in Eph.5 Paul points out that marriage is a metaphor for the relationship between Christ and the church. In Rev.19:7-8, we read, “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure"-- for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” Today we are gathering to the Lord’s Table. Is there any connection to the 7th command?
Let’s look at Mt.26:26-29. It says, “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."
I am especially thinking about the last phrase where Jesus says that he will not drink of the fruit of the vine until, “that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” He is referring to what is often called, ‘the messianic banquet.” In Rev.19:9 it is referred to as, the marriage supper of the Lamb. The messianic banquet is the same thing as the marriage supper of the Lamb. When will that take place? It will take place when Christ returns to gather his church and establish the kingdom of God in all its fullness. Paul points out that when we have the Lord’s Supper we proclaim his death until he comes. The Lord’s Supper is a foretaste of the marriage supper of the Lamb. We eat and drink in anticipation of eating and drinking with the Lord in the new heaven and earth
With that in mind, it seems to me that to participate in the Lord’s Supper is to corporately affirm that we are the people of God, the bride of Christ. To participate at the Lord’s Table is to suggest that as the bride of Christ we are seeking to be faithful to him. We are not engaging in physical or spiritual adultery. We are not living in sin. We are not worshiping idols. This is why we confess our sins. This is why we evaluate our hearts before coming to the Table.
The 7th commandment calls for marital faithfulness. At the Lord’s Table the Church, the bride of Christ, draws near to the presence of Jesus, the Lamb of God, the Bridegroom who is coming soon. The bread speaks of his body broken for us. The juice speaks of his blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Let us draw near to the Lord Jesus as we come to his Table. Amen