The Seventh Commandment: You Shall Not Commit Adultery (Exodus 20:14)

The Seventh Commandment: You Shall Not Commit Adultery (Exodus 20:14)

What a cultural reformation would take place if we began to take the seventh commandment seriously. It is not difficult to find illustrations of our radical need for this renewal. We could name prominent figures in every sphere of society that have committed adultery. We could see the breakdown of the covenant marriage, both its biblical definition as well as its value in a secular nation.

One of the more obvious ways in which we see the problem is with the early indoctrination of our children. Girls and boys are inundated with perversions of marital love through entertainment, social media, and even the curriculum of public schools. The latest example of this is the promotion of the movie “Cuties” on Netflix. The director’s warning about the dangers of oversexualizing children, created a movie that exploited many children in the process. 

The outrage of so many Christians is encouraging, but we are rightly chastised for waiting this long to say something. If we are not properly training our children at home, we can be certain that they will be learning from whatever culture in which they are engrossed (e.g., Netflix, Tik Tok, Instagram, Facebook, etc.).

Unfortunately, this perversion is nothing new. Church records throughout history reveal sexual sin to be one of the primary subjects of church discipline. In his exposition on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Puritan pastor Thomas Watson wrote in the late 17th Century:

If the devil should come and carry away all that are guilty of bodily uncleanness in this nation, I fear more would be carried away than would be left behind.

There really is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). 

Read Exodus 20:14

A Summary of the Series

It’s been a month since we took a break from our study of the Ten Commandments so let me begin by summarizing the series. We began the series by laying out the three uses of the law. It’s first and primary purpose is to serve as a mirror revealing our need for Jesus. It also serves as a muzzle upon sin, which means it is useful for the broader culture to understand morality. And finally, it provides a map for believers to show their gratitude to God by living obediently by the Spirit. 

Before looking at the commandments individually we emphasized the importance of the preface, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2). The Ten Commandments were not given to humanity from a distant God, but they were given to a people whom He had already rescued out of their slavery. We must keep that context in mind whenever we study these commandments, lest we turn our obedience into a work that earns justification before God.

As we began to look at each commandment individually, we noted that the first four commandments focus on our relationship with God while the latter six deal with our relationship with one another. Of course, both categories overlap to a degree, but that is the general pattern of the commandments. 

In the First Commandment we are called to worship the one true God. In the Second Commandment we are forbidden from manufacturing our own means of worship. We worship the only God in the way He has prescribed. The Third Commandment elaborates on this by forbidding the misuse of God’s name. The Fourth Commandment concludes with a positive command to honor the Lord’s Day.

We transition to our relationship with our neighbors in the fifth through tenth commandments. We spent two weeks each on the topic of honoring our parents, focusing on the parent/child relationship one week, then looking at the implication for our relationship with other authority figures God has placed over us. The Sixth Commandment teaches us not to murder, but it also implies the hatred within our hearts as a form of transgressing God’s will. The language on the surface of each commandment bears many implications when you consider how it is interpreted throughout Scripture. We will see the same thing this morning as we look at the Seventh Commandment which forbids adultery.

As we have done in the past, we are going to break this Seventh Commandment into two sermons. We will focus on the positive aspect of the commandment this morning, and next week we will look at the negative aspect.

  1. The Preservation of Love
  2. The Perversion of Love

God has given us the gift of marriage, but our sinfulness has corrupted that good gift. There are positive and negative implications for us to consider this morning. 

The positive implication is that the Seventh Commandment commends marriage.

The Commendation of Marital Love

In order to understand the significance of adultery, we must first recognize the value God has placed upon the covenant of marriage. Marriage is a creation ordinance (Gen. 2:24). God created us male and female in order to provide the gift of loving marital union. We were intricately designed to have a partner with whom we would experience life together. The intimacy that is shared within a marriage is meant to provide joy and support throughout our adult lives. Christians should not be prudish, but they should clearly explain God’s design for sexual experience to occur within the context marriage.

But before we get to far, we need to ensure that we have a proper definition of marriage. The legal codes of our nation do not reflect what Scripture clearly teaches us. 

Reformation Study Bible Marriage is to be an exclusive relationship between one man and one woman wherein the two become “one flesh,” being unified physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. It is intended to last for life.

Marriage is meant to bless our whole being, therefore it is viewed as a duty for those who are not called to be single (1 Corinthians 7:2). In making us male and female God also created us to fill certain rolls within a marriage that serve to complement each other in natural ways. At a most basic level, this involves procreation, the fruitful multiplication of members in the family unit.

We could spend weeks unpacking all of the blessings that are wrapped up in the covenant of marriage. That’s because it is the greatest earthly expression of a covenantal relationship that reflects God’s love for us. God has promised to place his loving kindness upon his redeemed bride. In light of His commitment to us, we respond in love and obedience. But even when “we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).

As a creation ordinance, this “one flesh” blessing is offered to all humanity. Unbelievers experience many benefits from marriage. In fact, marriage is not to be dissolved even if one partner is an unbeliever. The unequal union may not be ideal, but it is better than divorce. A Christian is not free to leave a spouse simply due to unbelief. This shows the transcendent value of marriage.

However, the blessings of marriage are corrupted when they are pursued outside of the context of the covenantal bond. Sexual activity outside of a marriage weakens the benefits. Many would testify that it is empty apart from God’s design. In a sense, the blessing becomes cursed if it is separated from the marital commitment.

On the other hand, that marital commitment cannot be manufactured. If marriage reflects the covenantal love of God, then arranged marriages are not the ideal process for finding a match. That intimate connection should be present on some level. That is why “burning with lust” was a concern for those waiting to get married. Paul would say it’s better to get married than to prolong that lustful state of waiting (1 Corinthians 7:9). To be honest, if lust isn’t even a problem, that might be an even bigger indication that an appropriate level of love is lacking.

If marriage is such a tremendous blessing it is worth preserving.

The Preservation of Marital Love

Just as the blessing of marriage is wholistic, so is the preservation of our chastity. Everyone, whether single or married, in every situation that they find themselves ought to consider whether they are protecting their own purity and the purity of those they are with. If adultery can be committed in the heart (Matthew 5:28), then we must guard everything we think, say, and do. We must take care that what we see, touch, and hear promotes rather than distorts purity.

Yes, that means what women and girls wear is important. Consider whether your clothing might cause a brother-in-Christ to stumble. Teach your kids the importance of modesty. Women should learn to focus on the beauty of their internal character.

1 Peter 3:3-4 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

We must seek to stay above reproach in the various spheres to which we are called. Make daily contributions to the health of your marriage. Like a retirement plan, frequently making small contributions to your marriage will add up over time to build a fortress of protection against the onslaught of temptations presented by the world, the flesh, and the devil. However, the message of sexual purity is relevant to everyone. If the most intimate relationship is scorned, every other relationship suffers a lack of fidelity.

The commandment is universally applicable because of it’s place in the moral law, but it also reflects a relationship that spans all of Scripture, namely God’s relationship with his covenant people. The Old Testament prophets frequently viewed Israel’s idolatry in terms of adultery and whoredom. God takes his covenant seriously, therefore the value of its earthly reflection should never be minimized.

The New Testament deepens our understanding of the marriage bond. God sends his Son to be the bridegroom who rescues his wayward bride by offering his perfect righteousness. Jesus came in fulfillment of God’s covenantal promises, and in perfect fulfillment of the moral law. Marriage is seen in light of Christ’s relationship with his bride, the Church.

Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

This is what a perfect marriage looks like, and all who have come to Christ by faith experience the blessings of God’s covenant faithfulness. You can be assured that Christ is working, by his Spirit, to cleanse and sanctify you. He is preparing you for the enjoyment of the great eternal wedding celebration.

The joy of that celebration was set before Christ, which is one of the reasons he was motivated to endure the excruciating pain of the cross on our behalf (Hebrews 12:2). At the cross, Christ poured out his sacrificial love for his bride. The fullness of his marital love and faithfulness was on display. On the cross, Christ proved that he will never leave you nor forsake you!


It is Christ’s love for the Church that we understand God’s ideal for marriage. Although it will remain nothing more than a dim reflection, sexual purity in a Christian marriage reflects Christ’s sacrificial fidelity to his bride. When we consider this commandment within the proper biblical context, we do not view it as an impossible burden, but a reflection of God’s covenant faithfulness to us. And we ought to be supremely interested in the preservation of that love, and the many ways in which we oftentimes pervert it.