In this series, we have been studying the Ten Commandments as recorded in Deuteronomy 5, and we have discovered that there are some changes and some additions in comparison to Exodus 20. Deuteronomy 5 is a pastoral rendering of the law by Moses in one of his Sabbath sermons to the children of Israel, just before they crossed over the Jordan River.
In this article, we will be studying the seventh commandment as found in Deuteronomy 5:18. In this text, it contains one extra word from that which is recorded in Exodus 20:14. “Neither shalt thou commit adultery.” The additional word is neither, which connects this text to the commandment that is given in verse 17: “Thou shalt not kill.”
The first three commandments given in the second table are very specific in their order. They center around the home and on the lives of those who make up the home. The fifth commandment, you may recall, tells us how we are to relate to that place, to those people, where life begins and where relationships have their origin—the home. The sixth commandment unfolds the sacredness of human life.
Just as the sixth commandment points to the value of human life, the seventh commandment points to the place of sexuality in human life. Writing on this commandment, one biblical scholar stated that sexuality is enormously wondrous and enormously dangerous. The danger of sexuality is that it is capable of evoking desires that are destructive of persons and of communal relations.
When the ancient Israelites interpreted the commandment about adultery, they understood it in a very limited sense: it was a prohibition against sexual relations with the wife of another man. The violation of another man’s wife was viewed so seriously that it was a capital offense. Leviticus 20:10 reads, “And the man that committeth adultery with [another] man’s wife, [even he] that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”
A Sacred Gift
Human life centers in more than just one person; it centers in two people—the male and the female. Each is uniquely different, but when they are brought together, the Bible tells us, they become “one flesh.” Genesis 2:24. They form a beautifully composed unit of oneness. Human sexuality is a gift from God that is sacred and that is meant to be reserved for nurturing the lives of a man and a woman together into the bonds of an everlasting unity. The seventh commandment deals with the guarding of that relationship of oneness from any outside source of interference, so that the happiness and the perpetuity of the home and the family can be maintained on the earth.
God made provision for everything that would affect the human family so as to promote the greatest safety and harmony. The most intimate, the most binding, the most sacred of all human relationships is marriage, and it is upon this relationship that the very existence and the perpetuity of the human race depend. Marriage is a divine ordinance, older than any other human institution. Marriage is older than man’s fall and sin. Marriage is as old as Eden and the creation of man and woman.
After God had finished the creation of all animal life on the sixth day, He saw that “it was very good.” Genesis 1:31. When God said that “it was very good,” this included everything about the human creation. It included the very fact that God has placed in His Law a commandment that deals with sexuality. Sexuality is very good, as far as God’s pronouncement is concerned. What has happened, however, is that sexuality, as a result of sin, has become something nasty and bad in the minds of many people, and it is taught and perpetuated that way.
In Genesis 1:28, God commands the first man and woman whom He created to “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth.” The process of obeying this command is a sexual process—man and woman, sperm and egg, coming together in union form a new creature, ordained by God, blessed by God through the sanctity of marriage. No problem was considered that would affect this process, until sin came on the scene. When sin entered the Garden of Eden, almost immediately a shame came upon Adam and Eve, the Bible says, because “they were naked.” Genesis 3:7. Selfishness set in, and the divine plan that God had ordained turned into human purpose and was driven by human emotions. Adultery is the supreme example of selfishness—I need this for me; my wife or my husband does not meet my needs.
Great changes began to take place in that which God had pronounced as “very good.” One of the human family became subjugated by the other. Man held the rule, and woman became subjugated by man. God’s plan was distorted. The earth became wicked and violent, and, as a result of that violence, God destroyed everything upon the earth except that which was contained in the ark.
God designed the commandment that forbids adultery for the human family to protect husband and wife and to safeguard the rearing of children who had respect for God and for the human race. The seventh commandment is in God’s Law for this purpose.
A Sensitive Subject
Sex is a very sensitive subject because we have been subjected to unbalanced and false information. Very early on, in the Christian church, tampering began to take place, as far as sexuality was concerned, in the human mind. The church began to tamper with other commandments, and we know the result of that as far as the Sabbath/Sunday issue is concerned. We, as Seventh-day Adventists, have focused on that aspect of the tampering of the commandments. But, in reality, even though the wording of the seventh commandment was not tampered with, the understanding and the application of sexuality in the human family was.
By the fifth century, a monk in the Catholic Church by the name of Augustine began to set the tone for Christian thinking that would continue for centuries. Orders of monks came into being as well as convents for nuns and a distorted view of what God had pronounced “very good.” They began to teach and believe that chastity was the most favored position that the human race could hold. Such beliefs were taught in the schools of the church. The leaders began to destroy any and all documents and arts that had any reference to sexual matters. This is why, to a large extent in the European areas where Catholic influence has been felt, we have very little understanding of sexuality in earlier centuries. We have to go into areas where the Catholic influence was not felt to really understand the teachings that were going on at that time.
Out of this period came the Victorian era. The Victorian era is responsible for negatively impacting more people psychologically than perhaps any other era that has come to pass in this earth’s history. Today, we are still feeling the results of the Victorian era concerning sexuality. Generally, the first references children hear regarding their sexual organs are terms such as icky pooh and nasty. That comes from the Victorian mentality, and such thoughts have messed up innumerable people.
So, sex is indeed a very sensitive subject, because we have never fully understood what the Bible has to say about sex. We have never been able to come completely out of the Victorian era, which contended that sex is wrong, that it should not be preached about or discussed.
In Your Heart
Jesus said, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Matthew 5:27, 28.
Jesus expands on these verses from the Sermon on the Mount telling what this commandment is prohibiting. It is not just the overt behavior of adultery that is being prohibited, but also the very disposition within us that underlies such behavior—the lust within us that gives rise to the kind of leers that veritably “undress” another person in order to feed the fires of our fantasized desires.
If you admire something long enough, you will soon want it. And if you want something long enough and bad enough, you will probably find a way to get it. We need to be careful, because sin starts in the mind. So the sin begins in looking and in thinking about that which is forbidden. The mind is the incubator of almost every deed that is done.
Ellen White counsels: “Our meditations should be such as will elevate the mind. ‘Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.’ [Philippians 4:8.] Here is a wide field in which the mind can safely range. If Satan seeks to turn it to low and sensual things, bring it back. When corrupt imaginings seek to gain possession of your mind, flee to the throne of grace, and pray for strength from heaven. By the grace of Christ it is possible for us to reject impure thoughts. Jesus will attract the mind, purify the thoughts, and cleanse the heart from every secret sin. ‘The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God; . . . casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.’ [11 Corinthians 10:4, 5.]” Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 136.
Adultery is more than living a Clinton lifestyle. There is long distance adultery; the Internet opens up the possibilities for cyber adultery. This is a sin. Imagine spending hours tantalizing and playing with another human. And how do you even know if you are talking to a male or a female? If a married person allows his or her mind to fantasize about another person, they are playing with a fire that might just burn up their marriage. Your marriage gets torched when you are in the chat room dabbling with another person. Do not play with fire unless you want to spend some time in the burn unit. You know, I am sure, when the burn unit will occur. The New Testament is just as clear as the Old Testament when it says that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Galatians 5:21.) Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers will be in the kingdom of heaven. The Bible is very plain on this.
Another kind of adultery is pornographic adultery. You get burned when you allow your mind to feast on pornographic images, which come onto your computer screen or into your mailbox. You need to avoid these temptations. Job had it figured out, when he said, “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” Job 31:1. That is a good covenant to make.
We need to eliminate anything that stirs us up with this type of temptation. Maybe we need to clean out the magazines in our houses. Maybe we need to get rid of some of the videos in our houses. Maybe we need to call the cable company and cancel certain channels, or, better yet, get rid of the television! We need to get our Bibles and read them.
Heed the counsel given in 1 Corinthians 7:2, 3: “Let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.”
And then there’s another type of adultery. We would call it premarital adultery, or fornication or cohabitation. Did you know that individuals who cohabit and then marry are 33 percent more likely to divorce than if they had not?
Purity is also expected if you are unmarried. Fornication includes those who live together before marriage. A girl who is shacked up with her boyfriend is very likely to suffer physical abuse. A child who lives in such a home with his or her mother’s boyfriend is 73 times more vulnerable to experience fatal abuse than a normal child. (See Maggie Gallagher, The Abolition of Marriage, Regnery Publishing, Washington, D.C., 1996, 31.)
Adultery does have consequences that are not usually shown in the fictitious world of movies, television soaps, or make-believe stories and books. Those things teach us that adultery is all love and fun, and everything is fine. But, I will tell you that eternal life is certainly jeopardized. Health is endangered. Happiness is squandered. Your reputation is cheapened. Your marriage is often irreparably destroyed. Your children suffer the consequences for generations to come. Your family name will be dragged into the dirt. Can you really afford adultery?
Breaking the seventh commandment produces broken homes and poverty. Almost 75 percent of American children living in fatherless households will experience poverty before the age of 11, compared to only 20 percent of those raised by two parents. Such children tend to drop out of school and develop emotional or behavioral problems, commit suicide and fall victim to child abuse or neglect. Males from such households are more likely to become violent criminals. In fact, men who have grown up without dads currently represent 70 percent of the prison population serving long-term sentences. (See Michael G. Moriarty, The Perfect 10, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1999, 113.)
Consider as well the other commandments that are broken when adultery occurs. Adultery is stealing; it steals the love from another; it steals someone’s spouse away. Adultery destroys trust, and jeopardizes the family. Adultery is a living lie. It is done without the knowledge of the spouse. Adultery is coveting someone who does not belong to you.
In faithful, lifelong committed relationships—those in which the partners say, and really mean, “ ’til death do us part”—we have the opportunity to mirror something that is divine. We have the opportunity to mirror in our own relationships that same quality of faithfulness with which, throughout our lives, God relates to us.
By being faithful to your spouse, you are enhancing your ability to be faithful to God. The purpose of the seventh commandment is to build an atmosphere where two people can experience the highest joy and deepest intimacy as they both grow more and more into the fullness of the image of Jesus Christ. God’s commitment and fidelity to us is eternal. He created us, too, for fidelity. God wants to protect that bond, but Satan works overtime to destroy the Christian home, because it represents that connection.
This seventh commandment is about chastity, faithfulness, and the overcoming of lust. Yet the truth of the matter is that these qualities in our relationships are too difficult for us to accomplish all on our own. You see, the rest of society is just too heavily invested in tempting us away from these. So to come anywhere near succeeding at them, we need to understand the value and worth of chastity, faithfulness, and the overcoming of lust, and ask God to help us obtain and maintain His virtue in our lives each day.
“Let every one who desires to be a partaker of the divine nature, appreciate the fact that he must escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. There must be a constant, earnest struggling of the soul against the evil imaginings of the mind. There must be a steadfast resistance of temptation to sin in thought or act.” Review and Herald, June 12, 1888.
The apostle Paul writes, in 1 Thessalonians 4:3: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality.”
A retired minister of the gospel, Pastor Mike Baugher may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com.