Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery (Phil Johnson)

Exodus 20:14   |   Sunday, August 30, 2015   |   Code: 2015-08-30-PJ

If you have been watching the news lately, you're probably aware of a

massive, growing scandal involving a website known as Ashley Madison.

This was a sinister website that existed for one purpose: they offered a

kind of anonymous social network for people seeking to commit adultery.

Or at least it was supposed to be anonymous. Someone hacked their site,

got the names and addresses of the millions of people who had signed up,

and released all that information last week, exposing the names of some

30 million people who were cheating on their spouses.

The website's slogan was, "Life is short; have an affair"Cwhich may

be the stupidest bit of fleshly wisdom ever advertized by an actual

multi-million-dollar company. "Life is short; have an affair." Compare

that with what Scripture says in Revelation 21:8: "As for . . . sexually

immoral [people], . . . their portion will be in the lake that burns

with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."

Anyway, some prominent names have surfaced in the list of people

who had secretly paid money looking for someone to have an affair

withCand sadly, I've seen the names of at least a couple of well-known

people who had professed to be Christians. One Southern Baptist leader

who observes and comments on trends in church leadership predicted this

week that perhaps as many as 400 pastors will resign today because their

names have turned up on the list. Whether that prediction turns out to be

true or not, we'll see. I hope it's just an exaggerated guess. I don't know

why a pastor whose sin has been exposed like that would wait till the

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Lord's Day to resign, but it's hard to explain why people do what they do


What's clear is that the moral decline in our culture has been rapid,

and reckless, and there are sinister people who will champion every kind

of sin. Satan and his minions have never been busier, and one of their top

goals is to ensnare and embarrass the people of God. So be on guard. But

also, it's interesting (isn't it?) that although people openly advocate sin,

and the all the major media and entertainment industries have been

engaged in a decades-long effort to destigmatize every kind of

iniquityCpeople are still naturally and rightfully ashamed of their sin, and

they still try their best to keep their sin a secret. But, Scripture says, "Be

sure your sin will find you out."

And because adultery is a particularly egregious sin, this morning I

want to look at a single verse that we haven't considered together for

more than a decade. It's the Seventh Commandment, found in Exodus

20:14: "You shall not commit adultery."

When we studied the Ten Commandments several years ago, one of

the things we stressed repeatedly was that all the commandments mean

much more than they actually say. Psalm 119:96 says, "Your

commandment is exceedingly broad." The Ten Commandments are

categories, not narrow rules. Each commandment has sweeping

implications, so that an almost infinite range of moral duties is set forth in

these ten brief imperatives. Ultimately they demand from us no less than

moral perfection.

We also learned in that study of the Ten Commandments that when a

positive commandment is given, a negative one is also implied. And

when a sin is forbidden in negative terms, some positive duty is also

placed on us by implication. For example, when the Third Commandment

forbids us to take the Lord's name in vain, it also means by implication

that we should show honor and reverence to the Lord's name. It's not

Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery


enough to abstain from using the Lord's name in blasphemous ways; we

also have a positive duty to use the Lord's name in ways that show Him

reverence and honor.

The Pharisees in Jesus' time were too focused on the letter of the law.

And they figured they could easily avoid taking the Lord's name in vain if

they simply avoided using the Lord's name at all. So they invented

euphemisms to use in place of he Lord's name. They spoke of heaven, or

substituted one of the attributes of God in place of His name. And they

invented rules saying you shouldn't swear by God's name, but it was OK

to swear by heaven. And Jesus exposed their folly in Matthew 23:22. He

said, "whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God

and by him who sits upon it."

They were playing semantic games with the letter of the law. They

were using a wooden literalism so that they could circumvent the spirit of

the law and still claim they were obeying the law to the letter. But Jesus

said the true meaning of the law runs much deeper than the wooden,

literal meaning of the words. It's the spirit of the law that counts. And

again, as the Psalmist says, the law is exceedingly broad.

I want to talk for a moment about interpreting the Bible literally. And

let me say this carefully, so that no one misunderstands. We believe from

the depths of our hearts that Scripture means what it says. The first step in

interpreting Scripture correctly is to discern its plain meaning. And

except where the authors of Scripture are employing figures of speech,

we ought to interpret what they have written literally. We don't believe in

spiritualizing the text. We don't throw out the plain meaning of Scripture

and replace it with some fanciful or spiritual alternative meaning. (And

that is true when we're interpreting passages like this. When the Seventh

Commandment says "You shall not commit adultery," it certainly

means that in a literal sense.)

Exodus 20:14


So our understanding of this commandment begins with the plain

meaning of the words. We affirm the normal, straightforward, literal

meaning of the BibleCexcept in those places where the context makes it

clear that a figure of speech is being employed. And we don't apologize

for being literalists when it comes to interpreting the Bible. Those who

reject the literal meaning of the biblical textCpeople who treat Old

Testament history and the miracles of Scripture as mythologyCare in

effect calling God a liar.

But there is a kind of rigid, slavish literalism that we need to avoid.

Church history is full of errors that stem from an overly narrow literalism.

For example, the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation

teaches that the bread and wine in the communion service change into the

actual body and blood of Christ, so that Christ is resacrificed every time

mass is observed. How do Catholics attempt to justify that doctrine

biblically? By an appeal to the literal meaning of Jesus' words in John

6:53-54, where Jesus said, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of

Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds

on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life." They press the

literalism of John 6 to such a degree that it overturns the plain meaning of

many passages that say Christ was sacrificed once for all.

Jehovah's Witnesses deny the deity of Christ, and they attempt to

justify their false doctrine by an appeal to the literal meaning of John

14:28, where Jesus said, "The Father is greater than I." Consider that

verse for a moment with me:

Here is a rule of thumb to remember when you are interpreting

Scripture: the literal meaning of the text is always a good starting place,

but there are many more factors that must be considered if you want to

arrive at the true and full meaning of the text. Context is vital. The

context of John 14:28, for example, deals with Christ's return to heaven at

the end of His earthly ministry. We need to understand it in light of

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Christ's prayer in John 17:4-5. Jesus prays, "I glorified you on earth,

having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now,

Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had

with you before the world existed." Suddenly it becomes clear what

He meant in John 14:28. He had laid aside His heavenly glory and

humbled Himself in order to come to earth and die. He was now looking

forward to returning to heaven, where He would once again dwell in the

very same glory God the Father dwells in. And He wanted the disciples to

rejoice with Him because he was returning to His heavenly throne, rather

than being sad that He was leaving them. And suddenly we understand

John 14:28 in a totally different light. Here's the full verse again: "You

heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I will come to you.' If

you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to

the Father, for the Father is greater than I." He was not saying the

Father is greater than Him in essence; He was speaking of His own

earthly humiliation, and rejoicing that He would soon be glorified again.

Now, we do understand that verse in a literal sense, but it is not a

myopic, mechanical literalism that divorces that verse from everything

else the Bible teaches about the nature of Christ. You can't isolate a text

from the rest of Scripture and guarantee that its full meaning lies only in

the bare literal sense of the words. Scripture interprets Scripture, and

sometimes the context sheds more light on a passage than you will get

from the literal meaning of the words themselves.

This is not complex, by the way. It works the same way in our

everyday speech. What we really mean is often determined more by

context than by a bare literal meaning of words divorced from their

context. If I say, "I ran into Pete Beaudoin Friday night . . . "Cyou're

going to have to hear the rest of my conversation before you know

whether I mean I hit him with my car, or encountered him unexpectedly

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at the Dodger game. Or I might just mean that I physically bumped into

him while hurrying around a corner in the hallway of the church. All

those are literal meanings, but the full and true meaning must be

determined by the context. And ordinarily, the fuller the context, the

more clear the meaning becomes. It's the same way when we interpret


Rigid literalism is a particular danger for Pharisees and evangelicals.

We're so keen to be faithful to the literal meaning of Scripture that we

sometimes limit the meaning too much. I have met seminary students who

insist that when you preach on any passage of Scripture, you should never

go outside the immediate context to explain it. They would never dream

of quoting a verse from Matthew to shed light on a verse from the

Psalms. As if the full meaning of any text must be drawn only from the

barest literal meaning of the words in the text themselves.

But you cannot always do that and be faithful to the true meaning of

the text. The full meaning of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 can only be

understood in light of the New Testament descriptions of the crucifixion.

The symbolism of Moses smiting the rock that gave water to the Israelites

in the wilderness can only be understood in light of 1 Corinthians 10:4,

where the apostle Paul says that rock was a picture of Christ.

And to bring it back to the Ten Commandments, these

commandments cannot be isolated from the rest of Scripture and

interpreted with a wooden literalism that limits their scope to the bare

sense of the words in the commandments. The larger context of Scripture

teaches us that they mean far more than they actually say.

So when this commandment says, "You shall not commit

adultery," it certainly means that, but it means much more than that. This

commandment, like all the others, is exceedingly broad.

And this morning I want to look at the Seventh Commandment in

degrees. First we'll look at the letter of the commandment. Then we'll

Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery


consider the spirit of the commandment. And finally, we'll see the

urgency of the commandment. And that will be our outline, if you want to

take notes. Point number 1:


Look at the commandment again: "You shall not commit

adultery." Adultery, by the strictest defined, is voluntary sexual

intercourse between a married person and a partner other than the lawful

spouse. It is a gross sin because it breaks a covenant that is made before

God and defiles the marriage relationship, which was instituted by God as

the first and most important of all human relationships.

Marriage was established in the garden of Eden even before the Fall

of Adam. When God created Eve, Genesis 2:24 says this: "Therefore a

man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his

wife, and they shall become one flesh." That was God's design from

the beginning: one man, one womanCand joined together they become

one flesh. Adultery ruins that relationship in a way that is destructive of

all other relationships. Adultery completely destroys trust, and therefore it

undermines intimacy. It defiles the purity of the marriage relationship,

and often it destroys the marriage itself. It is a serious sin, one of the

grossest of sins, and it carries a reproach that cannot be blotted out.

In fact, listen to Proverbs 6:32-33: "He who commits adultery

lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds

and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away."

We have seen that in the case of David. Here was a man after God's

own heart who fell into the sin of adultery. He suffered the consequences

of that one sin for the rest of his life. The child conceived in his act of

adultery died. His own son Absalom turned against him. His reputation

was tarnished in the eyes of Israel. The loss of his reputation almost

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caused him to lose his throne. And even though he repented and God

forgave him the guilt of his sin, the reproach of it endured for the rest of

his life. And Scripture records this as his epitaph (1 Kings 15:5): "David

did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn

aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his

life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." So the consequences

of his adultery pursued him to the grave and that one incident became a

blot on an otherwise exemplary reputation.

It's clear (isn't it?) that God Himself regards adultery as the grossest

kind of sin. This is a very serious sin indeed. For those who might have

the mistaken notion that all sins are equal and there's no such thing as

lesser or greater sins, let me remind you: that is not a biblical idea. There

are degrees of sin, and Jesus Himself made that clear when He told Pilate

in John 19:11 that Judas's sin was greater than Pilate's.

That's not to minimize the evil of so-called "lesser" sins. Any sin is

enough to condemn a person to hell for eternity, so every sin is serious.

But hell will be even worse for some than for others. Jesus told the people

of Capernaum in Matthew 10:15 that the day of judgment would be

"more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom

and Gomorrah than for [their] town. So there are degrees of sin just

as there will be degrees of punishment in hell. And adultery is one of the

grosser sins.

This is confirmed by the law God has engraved on every human heart.

Virtually all human culturesCeven those that are far removed from the

gospel message and the Old Testament lawCuniversally regard adultery

as a horrible evil. Even modern secular society, which has tried hard to

sear the human conscience against any sense of guilt, has not managed to

do away with the stigma that goes with adultery.

Our society for years has desperately tried to do away with sexual

mores. The popular media have openly glamorized lust and

Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery


lasciviousness for decades. But still there is a strong sense that adultery is

wrong. That's why there was such a scandal a few years ago when the

leader of our nation confessed to an illicit relationship with a woman who

was not his wife. People know that is wrong. And no matter how he tried

to nuance his own definition of what he had done, every woman in

America knew he had been unfaithful to his wife. And his adultery

attached a reproach to his name that will never be blotted out.

Adultery is a horribly destructive sin. The book of Proverbs is full of

warnings against adultery, and they always focus on the bitter

consequences of this sin. Some of the longest discourses in the book of

Proverbs are warnings against the inevitable consequences of adultery.

And Scripture stresses the fact that those consequences are inevitable.

Listen to Proverbs 6:27-29: "Can a man carry fire next to his chest

and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals

and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his

neighbor's wife; none who touches her will go unpunished."

Commit adultery and you relinquish your innocence forever. You cannot

commit this sin and not in some sense be destroyed by it. "Be sure your

sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23). "He who sows iniquity will

reap sorrow" (Proverbs 22:8). And Galatians 6:7-8: "Do not be

deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he

also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the

flesh reap corruption."

Now, let's move beyond the letter of the law. Clearly, this

commandment forbids the act of adultery. But that does not exhaust the

moral ramifications of this commandment. If you're taking notes, here is

point 2. Let's examineC

Exodus 20:14



Remember that strictly defined, adultery is voluntary sexual relations

between a married person and a partner other than the lawful spouse. But

in a broader biblical sense, "adultery" encompasses any sin that violates

the sanctity of the marriage relationship. This commandment deals not

only with external behavior, but also with inward desire. If the act of

adultery is a sin, then any impure desire that might lead to adultery is a

sin of the same stripe. Because as Jesus said in Mark 7:20-23,

"What comes out of a person is what defiles him.

21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil

thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,

22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander,

pride, foolishness.

23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a


In other words, all the sins forbidden by the Ten Commandments stem

from evil thoughts that arise within our own hearts. And therefore the

moral law of God is focused on inward thoughts and desires even more

than it is on external behavior.

This is something the Pharisees never quite understood. They

imagined that by obeying the letter of the law and abstaining from

external acts, they were obeying God. They tended to think of sin mainly

as an external act rather than an internal, spiritual reality. And so they

were content to apply the letter of the law to their external behavior, and

they missed the law's spiritual meaning.

Most of our society suffers from this same error. People think of sin

as a social and political issue. They think something is wrong only if it

injures other people. You hear people speak of "victimless crimes," and

what they mean to suggest is that if no one else is injured by our

Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery


behavior, it cannot possibly be wrong. A few years ago I read an

interview with an influential theologian who said he figured any kind of

sexual fantasy was OK, as long as it never resulted in an outward act of

sin. Of course he was flatly contradicting what Jesus taught. But let's be

honest; he was simply putting into plain words the way lots of people

think about the sins that take place the mind and imagination.

Opinions like that are based on a wrong view of sin. Sin is wrong

because it dishonors God, whether or not any other human is injured by

it. Sin is wrong because it is an affront to a holy God, and since He looks

upon the heart, an impure thought violates His standard and offends His

holiness just as surely as an adulterous act. We fall into the very same

error as the Pharisees if we're only concerned about keeping the outside

of the cup clean while letting filth accumulate on the inside.

Jesus expressly taught this about the seventh commandment. Turn to

Matthew 5:27. Here's Jesus' own exposition of this commandment. This

is part of His Sermon on the Mount. He introduces the theme of His

message in verse 20: "I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds

that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the

kingdom of heaven." That's his main point. The standard of

righteousness set by the scribes and Pharisees falls short of the standard

of true righteousness. An upright heart, not just a clean arrest record, is

what God demands of those who will enter the kingdom of heaven. And

in the verses that follow, Jesus give a series of corrections to the standard

rabbinical misunderstanding of Moses' law.

Now it's important to understand that He is not adding to or taking

away from Moses' law in any respect. He tells us this in clear language in

verse 17: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the

Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." He

is not establishing a new standard here. This is a common

misunderstanding of the Sermon on the Mount. Lots of people imagine

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that Christ is overturning Moses and instituting a different standard. But

He is not. And He expressly says so. He's merely refuting the rabbinical

misunderstanding of the law, and especially their minimalist approach of

reducing the commandments to the bare literal sense of the words. And

that is why He says God demands a righteousness that exceeds the

righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. His dispute is not with Moses,

but with the minimalist interpreters of Moses. And so He sets out to give

the fuller meaning of Moses' commandments.

I read one Bible dictionary that said this (and I quote): "Jesus'

teachings expanded the Old Testament law to address matters of the

heart." That's nonsense. Jesus' whole point was that the Old Testament

law was meant to address matters of the heart. And the law read in

context affirms this. The Tenth Commandment, as we're going to see,

expressly forbids a man to covet his neighbor's wife. Proverbs 6:25 says

this about the seductress: "Do not desire her beauty in your heart."

Jesus is not adding a single thing that the Old Testament did not already

teach. He was simply pointing out that the same moral principle that

makes an act of adultery sinful also rules out any desire for an adulterous


Here's what Jesus says about the Seventh Commandment (Matthew


"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit


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."

In other words, an adulterous thought or an adulterous desire carries the

same kind of moral guilt as an adulterous act.

Now I want to be clear. I said earlier that there are degrees of sin.

Some sins are worse than others. And an act of adultery is worse than a

Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery


lustful thought. But Jesus' point is that they stem from the same evil seed,

and they carry the same kind of guiltCeven if it is a different degree of


I made this same point several years ago when we were looking at the

sixth commandment. I quoted from the Sermon on the Mount to show

that Jesus said hatred is morally tantamount to guilt. And someone asked

me afterward if I was suggesting that there is an exact moral equivalency

between the thought and the act, so that one is in every sense as bad as the

other. That clearly is not what Jesus was teaching. He wasn't saying that

full-fledged adultery is no worse than a lustful thought. But he was saying

that both are violations of the Seventh Commandment. And that reminds

us again that the commandment is exceedingly broad.

In other words, Christ was teaching that the seventh commandment

rules out, by implication, every kind of immoral thought or activity. That

includes every kind of fornication, every lustful look or thought, and

every type of unfaithfulness.

Not only that, but as with all the commandments, where a negative

prohibition is stated, a positive commandment is implied. The law says,

"You shall not commit adultery." It also means: You must love your

spouse with a full heart. Husbands, even if you never entertain a fleeting

desire for any other woman, if you fail to love your wife the way you

ought to love her, you have violated the spirit of this commandment.

Wives, if you fail to love your husband above every other earthly

entityCeven if you never have a lustful thought about another manCyou

are guilty, too. See what a high standard this sets?

Ephesians 5:25 spells it out clearly: "Husbands, love your wives,

as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." There

must be a fervency and a single-minded purity in marital love so that it

mirrors Christ's absolute devotion to the churchCand the church's

devotion to her Lord.

Exodus 20:14


That's what marriage was supposed to picture in the first place.

Marriage is an object lesson about the mutual love between Christ and

His people. That is why marriage is so sacred in God's eyes, and that is

why to violate the marriage commitment is such a serious sin in the eyes

of God.

Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 5:32 that "everyone who divorces

his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her

commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman

commits adultery." So even divorce is the same kind of sin as adultery.

And the only exception Christ makes is in cases where an unfaithful

spouse's act of adultery has already irreparably broken the marriage

relationship. In those cases, the innocent party is free to remarry.

Throughout Scripture, God likens unbelief and spiritual rebellion to

adultery. Israel in the Old Testament is repeatedly pictured as an

unfaithful spouse. Israel's apostasy was a kind of spiritual adultery. I

could give many examples of this, but we only have time for one. Listen

to Jeremiah 3:1-3. God, speaking through the prophet, reproves Israel for

her constant backsliding. Jeremiah writes:

You have played the whore with many lovers; and would

you return to me? declares the LORD.

2 Lift up your eyes to the bare heights, and see! Where

have you not been ravished? By the waysides you have

sat awaiting lovers like an Arab in the wilderness. You

have polluted the land with your vile whoredom.

3 Therefore the showers have been withheld, and the

spring rain has not come; yet you have the forehead of a

whore; you refuse to be ashamed.

In other words, unbelief and disobedience are spiritual harlotry. The

person who is unfaithful to God is a spiritual adulterer.

Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery


The same imagery is used in the New Testament. James 4:4 says,

"You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with

the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a

friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."

That's why adultery is such a serious sin. It manifests an unfaithful

heart. It is first and foremost a sin of the heart. And this commandment

addresses the sin of the heart; not merely an external act.

Now let's move to the third point and seeC


We see the seriousness of the seventh commandment in the penalty

that was attached to it under Moses' law. Leviticus 20:10 says this: "If a

man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the

adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death."

Deuteronomy 22:22 says, "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."

I already mentioned how the book of Proverbs again and again warns

about the soul-destroying effects of sexual impurity. It's significant that

virtually every time Scripture lists the gross sins that characterize the

inhabitants of hell, adultery and fornication head the list. Galatians 5:19:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality,

impurity, sensuality,

20 idolatry, sorcery, [etc.]

21 . . . I warn you, as I warned you before, that those

who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Exodus 20:14


Revelation 21:8: "As for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable,

as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and

all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and

sulfur, which is the second death."

In other words, this is a particularly hellish sin, and it destroys the

souls of those who practice it.

Jesus said the same thing. If you have turned away from Matthew 5,

go back there, and notice the rest of what He says about the sin of

adultery. Verse 28: "I say to you that everyone who looks at a

woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with

her in his heart." That is the context for what follows immediately.

Verse 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.

When He talks about your eye causing you to sin, the context makes it

clear that he is talking about sexual purity.

Now this is one of those cases where we must guard against applying

a slavish literalism to Jesus' command. He is using a figure of speech

here. This is hyperbole. And He is saying that if you struggle with

habitual lust, you had better take the most extreme kind of measures to

avoid the occasions for that lust.

He is not literally advocating self-mutilation, because that would

violate everything else Scripture teaches about the sanctity of our bodies.

But he is using hyperbole to stress the urgency of the Seventh

Commandment. He is saying that if you struggle with these issues, you

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had better do something drastic to put a stop to temptation. Get rid of

your television. Stay off the Internet. Don't frequent places where you are

constantly placed in temptation's way. Deal with it as drastically and as

completely as possible.

Someone says, "Well I'd have to quit my job to get away from

temptation." Quit it. When a habit of lust is eating at your soul, no

measure is too drastic. Cut it off and fling it from you.

That is the very same thing the apostle Paul meant when he

commanded us to mortify our members. Colossians 3:5-6: "Put to death

therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity,

passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On

account of these the wrath of God is coming."

This gets intensely practical, doesn't it? If you struggle with evil

habits and evil desires, there is only one way to overcome those sins:

choke the very life out of them. Mortify sin in your members. Romans

8:13: "For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by

the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."

Whether you sin with your heart or your hand or your eyes, Jesus

says, deal harshly with your own sin. Cut if off. Hack it to pieces. Burn

the bridges that keep bringing you back to it. Summarily remove

whatever temptation you face, and replace your evil habits with godly


It was Job who said, "I have made a covenant with my eyes;

how then could I gaze at a virgin?" He had purposefully and

resolutely determined never to look at that which might stir any illicit

desire in his heart.

For you married men, let me give you one other very practical bit of

advice on how to avoid this sin: Ecclesiastes 9:9: "Enjoy life with the

wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has

Exodus 20:14


given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life."

Proverbs 5:15-19:

Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from

your own well.

16 Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of

water in the streets?

17 Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers

with you.

18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of

your youth,

19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at

all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.

20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a

forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an


Be satisfied with your own wife. Learn to delight in her love, and hers

alone. And learn to make yourself delightful to her, so that she doesn't fall

into temptation, either. Wives, my counsel to you is exactly the same.

Some single guy is saying, "That's not very practical advice for me."

Well, in a way it is. If you struggle in this area, get married. Paul wrote in

1 Corinthians 7:8-9: "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it

is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot

exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry

than to burn with passion." Some of the single guys I know need to

set aside their romantic notions of feminine excellence and marry a girl

who has a few imperfections like they do. Married life with a woman who

loves you is vastly preferable to burning with uncontrollable passion.

Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery


All sexual sin is destructive to the soul. Adultery is particularly

catastrophic because of all the lives that are damaged when a marriage is

broken. Don't tolerate even the fleeting thought of this sin, but pluck it

out and cast it from you.

Now I can't quit without reminding you of the good news of the

gospel. There is forgiveness and cleansing even for sins as serious as

adultery. David's sin was adultery, compounded with a treacherous act of

murder. He committed adultery with Bath-Sheba, and he even had her

husband killed. But David repented, and as soon as he repented (2 Samuel

12:13), "David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD."

And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has put away your

sin; you shall not die."

Psalm 51 is David's prayer of repentance. The inscription on the

psalm identifies it as "A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet

went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba." It's the perfect

model of repentance for anyone who has fallen into adultery or any other

sin. In that prayer, David pleads with God repeatedly to blot out his sin

and cleanse his heart and restore the Joy of his salvation. David

understood that no mere ritual of sacrifice or outward piety could ever

cover the guilt of his sin, but (v. 17) "The sacrifices of God are a

broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not


David also understood that real repentance is not a one-and-done act.

He expresses his repentance first to Nathan in 2 Samuel 12. Then he

writes Psalm 51, where he pleads repeatedly for the Lord's forgiveness

and blessing:

Exodus 20:14


Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast

love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my


2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me

from my sin!

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before


Verse 9:

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right

spirit within me.

11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not

your Holy Spirit from me.

And Psalm 51 isn't the only psalm of repentance that we have from this

episode in David's life. Psalm 32, another psalm of repentance, written by

David is generally assumed to pertain to that same episode of adultery

with Bath-Sheba. In this psalm, David affirms his faith in the Lord's

forgiveness. So Psalm 32 begins with this triumphant expression of

gospel faith: "Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the

LORD counts no iniquity."

The gospel teaches that God's forgiveness is thorough and

freeCbecause Christ paid the full atonement for our sin, and he covers the

repentant believer's sin under a robe of His own righteousness. Romans

8:1: "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are

in Christ Jesus." In the words of Colossians 3:3, if you are a believer,

"Your life is hidden with Christ in God." Psalm 103:12: "As far as

Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery


the east is from the west, so far does he remove our

transgressions from us."

That is the glory of the gospel. It offers hope and cleansing for even

the guilty adulterer. It is the only remedy for a heart burdened down with

the weight of guilt and a life torn asunder by the consequences of this

deadly sinCor any sin, for that matter.

I doubt that there is a person here this morning who is not guilty of

breaking the Seventh Commandment in some degree or another. Whether

through an adulterous act, a lustful thought, or a covetous look, all of us

are guilty of breaking this commandment, and not one of us has any hope

whatsoever outside of Christ. I hope you are in ChristCtrusting,

repenting, hating the sin of unfaithfulness and leaning on the power of

His grace to enable you to go and sin no more.

If notCif you are trusting anything else as your hope for eternityCyou

need to pluck it out and cast it far from you; and seek the forgiveness and

cleansing Christ freely offers all who come to Him.

Exodus 20:14


Let's pray:

Father, like David, we confess that we are poor and guilty, conceived in

sin and prone to every iniquity. By the standard of Your law, we deserve

nothing but condemnation and hell. But we look to Christ as our Savior

and our strength. May we keep Him in the forefront of our thoughts, so

that we do not sin in our hearts or dishonor you in our imaginations.

Thank you for the gift of marriageCand especially what marriage

pictures: our spiritual union with Christ. Keep us hidden in Him and

conform us perfectly to His likeness.