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Our summer sermon series on the 10 Commandments brings us this morning to the 6th Commandment – “You shall not commit adultery.” For better of for worse, like it or not, awkward and embarrassing as it may be, there’s no way to talk about this commandment without using the word “sex.” Simply put, “adultery” is the improper use of sex. Adultery is sex with those whom it is not meant.
I did a quick word search and discovered that the word ‘sex’ is never used in the bible. But the word ‘sexual’ however is used 31 times, and 30 of those times, it’s “sexual immorality.” In the Greek of the New Testament, it’s one word, “porneia.” It’s the word that we use for “pornography.”
The word ‘adultery’ appears 35 times in the Scriptures including the 6th Commandment. In the Old Testament it’s the Hebrew word “ne-aph.” In the New Testament it’s the Greek word “moixea.” Both words refer to the sexual infidelity of either a husband or a wife.
In every single case that either “porneia,” “ne-aph,” or “moixia” appear, its always in the context of God’s condemnation.
It shouldn’t surprise us that none of these words are found anywhere in the first two chapters of Genesis. There we read that God created the man and the woman and pronounced His “very good” upon all that He made. No “adultery” or “sexual immorality,” none of God’s condemnation in the beginning. ‘As it was in the beginning,’ is the way that it’s supposed be ‘now and forever.’ Needless to say, it is not.
It is quite clear in the Scriptures that God created the man and the woman for sex. After God made the male out of the dust of the earth and breathed His life giving breath into him, He announced for all to hear, ‘it is not good for the man to be alone.’ Something we men prove to be true over and over again.
In the counsel of the Holy Trinity, God said, “I will make him a helper FIT for him.” We should hear that little word “fit” in a much more literal and physical than we usually do. It is God’s purposeful and intentional design that the man and the woman physically fit together.
It is more than just interesting, that rather than making a woman out of the dust of the ground and His breath as He did the man, God put the man into a deep sleep and opened his side, and from what came from the man’s side, He made a woman. From the man He made a woman. From the male He made female. “Male and female He created them.”
And then the Lord God married them to each other saying, “the two shall become one flesh.” So, in CREATION, God made two ‘fleshes’ from the one flesh, two bodies from the one body. Then in MARRIAGE, He joins the two fleshes into one flesh. This is very purposeful. God ‘rent asunder’ the one body in CREATION, so that they may be ‘joined together’ as one body in MARRIAGE.
God made men and women for sex and marriage is the place where sex is to take place. Needless to say, sex can take place outside of marriage, but it is needful to say that this is not right and not good according to the God’s plan for it, no matter how right and good the culture around says it is. And let us also say that ‘same-sex marriage’ certainly doesn’t ‘FIT’ into God’s design for marriage either.
Let’s be sure to understand that sex is not a ‘bad word’ or a ‘bad thing.’ “Male and female He created them.” “The man and the woman were both naked and were not ashamed.” But like every single one of God’s good gifts, it has its limitations and boundaries that need to be respected; limitations and boundaries that we have ignored and transgressed in many ways. So, in a world that is saturated with sexual immorality, we need to remind and encourage one another, and especially our children, to refrain from SEXUAL IMMORALITY and pursue SEXUAL MORALITY according to God’s Word, as awkward and uncomfortable as that may be.
So, just as you can’t talk about the 6th Commandment without using the word ‘sex,’ you also can’t talk about the it without using the word ‘marriage.’ Through out the Scriptures, God esteems marriage as the highest and most important institution in society. Marriage is the means by which God provides for the protection and care of a woman, the mutual joy and pleasure of a man and a woman, and for the procreation and care of children.
One clear indication of His high regard and care for marriage is the 6th Commandment. With it, God has put a wall around the husband and wife for their protection. “You shall not commit adultery.” This wall is there to protect a husband from having another man from break into his marriage and play the husband to his wife. And likewise, it’s there to protect a wife from having another woman break into her marriage and play the wife to her husband. And it’s not only a wall to keep others OUT of someone else’s marriage, but also to keep the husband and wife IN their own marriage.
Because the truth is, nothing is more destructive to a marriage than adultery. And that includes adultery in person as well as virtual adultery through the internet and media. A whole society that condones and encourages adultery puts the whole institution of marriage at great risk. So this is not just about your marriage or mine, but also about the stability of marriage for all of society, both now and into the future.
I would anticipate that with all of this focus on marriage, the question is bound to arise, what then does the 6th Commandment have to say to those who are not married? What does it mean for men and woman who are single, either because they’re still too young for marriage, or single by choice, or single because the death of a spouse or divorce?
And the answer is the same as what we have said so far. Marriage is God’s designated place and ONLY designated place for sex to take place. There are not two separate commandments, one for married persons and one for singles.
Of course, this is not the message that we hear from the culture in which we live. And sad to say, sometimes this is not the message that is heard in some Christian churches of our day.
Just imagine if a Martian were to visit our nation and watch our T.V., and see our movies and read the books that we read. How surprised do you think he would be to hear that sex is supposed to take place within marriage?
To a society that has become thoroughly indoctrinated to the idea that any sex is acceptable as long as it is safe, St. Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians is downright laughable. Paul writes, “Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” “To the unmarried and the widows I say… if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry, for it better to marry than to be aflame with passion.” (1Cor. 7:2, 8-10).
Luther goes so far as to say in his Large Catechism that God created the man and woman with a desire for one another in order to draw them into marriage. But today’s acceptance of co-habitation has effectively made marriage just one of several options. Today we are told that marriage is ‘just a piece of paper.’
The question that needs to be addressed here is, why is marriage the only institution where man and woman as husband and wife are to find their joy and pleasure in one another and in which there is to be no adultery? Why not in cohabitation or hook-ups or brothels?
The introduction to the Rite of Holy Matrimony in the Lutheran Service Book puts it like this, “In marriage we see a picture of the communion between Christ and His Bride, the Church.” As it turns out, just as God created the man and the woman in His image, He has also created the marriage of the man and the woman in the image of the communion between Christ and His Bride, the Church.
Consider this, what God did with the first Adam is really the image of what He has done with the 2nd Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ. God put the 2nd Adam into a deep three day sleep, and opened His side with a Roman spear. And from the blood and water that came from the side of Christ, He made a Bride for the Man.
And the two were united to each other in the marriage of Holy Baptism. He is bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh. And we are the very ‘body of Christ.’ And He calls us His beloved and commits Himself to His Bride until death do us part. But with Christ our husband, even death cannot part us.
His union with us and ours with Him is very physical. He gives us His body in the bread and wine and we become one flesh with Him and He with us in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
Can we see now how this applies just the same to husbands and wives as it does to singles?
In Jesus Christ, God has given us, both male and female, the perfect Husband. He will NOT be unfaithful to us. He protects His bride from all danger, even against the threats of the devil. He lays down His life for Her. He finds His joy and delight in her and she is to find her greatest joy and delight in Him as well as honor and obey Him.
When a husband and wife live together with each other like this, it is a picture of the communion of Christ and His Bride the Church. Can we see why no other arrangement but marriage can do this?
But, you say, this is idealistic. This is not really how any marriage really looks, especially not our marriage to Jesus. And that is sadly true. We flirt with other gods and cheat on our divine Husband in many and various ways. We are an unfaithful people, unfaithful with each other because we are first and foremost unfaithful to Christ. Hear the word of Your Husband who says, “you wicked and adulterous generation.”
And it is not just the physical act that is so detestable to God. He sees our heart and He knows the desires of our heart. “You have heard it 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.” (Mat.5:28).
“In marriage we see a picture of the communion between Christ and His Bride, the Church.” Adultery has no part in that picture. Adultery is an offense before God because it terribly distorts the wonderful reality that it is meant to portray.
Let’s rehearse our assignment for this week together. What is the 6th Commandment? “I am the Lord your God. You shall not commit adultery.” What does this mean? “We should fear and love God, so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life and husband and wife love and honor each other.”
“You shall not commit adultery.” As you read through the Scriptures, it becomes pretty clear that this commandment is not only to be heard as God’s strict judgment against adultery. There is also a very real sense in which we may hear this Word from God as His promise to us. ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
He is the faithful Husband of His beloved Bride, and He will fulfill His perfect love for us. By His perfect power and love, He will make us what we are not yet; a faithful Bride. At the end of the Bible, St. John sees God’s creation completely renewed by the blood of Jesus. John sees a ‘new heaven and a new earth, the new Jerusalem, “prepared as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband.” He sees the Bride of Christ, enter the banquet hall that is prepared for the “wedding feast.” She is radiant, pure, forgiven all of Her sins. Adulterous no more. “As it was in the beginning, is not yet now, but will be forever.”
Until then, we are to lead sexually pure and decent lives and husband and wife love and honor each other.