Many rightly argue that one of the greatest problems that our culture has is that it celebrates the violation of the Sixth Commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.” It has an unhealthy infatuation and morbid interest in the topic of death. Some of the most popular movies are the most brutally violent, and unfortunately, these portrayals of death are the aspects of filmography that attract so many to watch it. The same is true with video games, but even more so. Many of the most successful video games usually have you play a character that is a murderous criminal or a battle-obsessed soldier where you are rewarded for racking up as many kills as possible. It is the unhealthy infatuation and morbid fantasy played out in the virtual world, and these things are probably the closest we can come to murdering someone without actually taking a life.
Though our lust for blood in this sense is a major issue in our culture, there is another lust that trumps even that, and that is the obsessive lust after sex. We live in a culture that is characterized by sensuality, hedonism, and the pursuit of pleasure. Movies, TV, billboards, and especially the internet bombard our senses with sexual images, desensitizing us to the things that were once deemed shameful and indecent. The sexual mores that were valued and protected by a generation only 60-80 years ago are now viewed as archaic, prude, and shackling. The old, Biblical morals that have been preserved in society are tossed to the wayside to allow for a more promiscuous and “liberated” sexuality whose only ground for moral permissibility is adult consent and desire. We live in an over-sexed society where we celebrate, pursue, and encourage the violation of God’s Seventh Commandment.
If we seek to serve God and do His will in all aspects of life, we need to investigate the Word of God which speaks to all areas of our lives. He has created us in His image with the intention for us to reflect that image, so we are, by nature, moral beings. So, these Ten Commandments that God gives us are the summary of our proper moral duties toward God and toward our fellow image-bearers. A right use and view of sex is another area of moral responsibility to God and to our neighbors, and to reflect God’s moral image in this area purely, He gives us this command: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
Webster’s Dictionary defines being “adulterated” as a purity weakened or lessened by the introduction of a foreign substance. The English definition of this word is well close to the Hebrew essence of this command- adultery is to defile, corrupt, or pollute with a foreign element. It is bringing in something that does not belong.
The clearest thing that is in view in this 7th command is to protect the purity of the marriage bed and to promote the sexual fidelity of the husband and wife, but it also pertains to all things related to marriage. Some may say that this act of sex is all that is in view concerning this command and we should go no further, but one has to ask, what is being adulterated or violated if someone has sexual relations with someone who is not their spouse? Is it just the act itself that is violated, or is it something greater? What is destroyed by adultery? Given that the proper, Biblical bounds for all sexual activity is within the covenant of marriage, then it is marriage that is destroyed through the act of adultery.
Sex is the quintessential act that symbolizes the unity of the loving, covenantal bond between a man and a woman. Scripture uses words like “know” to describe the act of sex. Genesis 4:1, “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived.” The Bible is not trying to get around or hide the word “sex” in this verse, just read Song of Solomon or other places and you can see that Scripture is not shy when it comes to its use of language. Rather, it is a chosen word that is meant to express the deep intimacy and thorough bond that sex creates, so much so that the husband and wife become “one flesh,” which conveys the soldering aspect of sex in marriage. So, sex unifies, consummates, and increases the bond of love, trust, respect and fidelity toward each other, deepening and strengthening that covenantal tie. However, if that act is shared with another, that covenantal bond, which includes all of those wonderfully unifying attributes, is severed. And this severing by way of adultery is so heinous and painful that it can turn the spouses who were once best of friends and partners in life who had each other’s best interests in mind, into enemies who are full of spite, hatred, and animosity against each other. So, this command is about marriage, and God gives us this command to preserve our marriages.
Out of a proper love for God’s good gift of marriage, and out of a love for the things He loves, we are to act in ways that protect and promote marriage, everything related to it like our proper roles and attitudes toward our spouses, including sexual ethics, and even potential marriages. Since potential marriages are to be preserved, this command also pertains to those who are not married. So, this command even has things like fornication in its sights. The single person is not married yet, and this other person has not been joined by covenantal vows, and sex is an expression of that covenant which has not been made, so sex outside of marriage is a violation of this command. Engaging in premarital sex is an affront to this command, it is a defiling and misuse of your own body and of the person with whom you are engaged in, and it is an offense to your future spouse to whom you will have to answer. So, if you are single or unmarried, you are called to be celibate and not to participate in this act that is reserved for marriage. All are called to be celibate for a season until marriage comes.
Since we are to act in ways that protect and promote marriage, we are not to act in ways that would besiege and unmake marriage. This unmaking can be done before marriage, and it can include our attitudes of marriage. We cannot despise marriage as some archaic, patriarchal institution meant to hold people back, or as a mere social contract that people sign as a guarantee or a warrantee for a lasting companionship. Marriage is the ultimate, intimate relationship that God has given to us, so we are to esteem it, protect it, and to hold it dear. It is not something for which people settle, but this wonderful gift of human relationships that God has given to us is the normal course for human life and for the continuation of our society of people. It is not some second-rate thing that we settle for, or a ball-and-chain we avoid to further our own, selfish pursuits. Nor is it to be used simply as a selfish means to further your social status, or some sort of self-fulfillment. Its aim is to be beyond yourself if it is truly to be done from a heart of love to God and to your spouse.
The Genesis account of the creation of mankind shows us how worthy marriage is for us to esteem. God made man to be a creature of relationships in the midst of the creation account. Genesis 2 centers upon Adam’s need for a help that is meet, or suitable, for him. Despite what some people may think or how some people would abuse this, the word helper here is actually a strong word. It is not referring to someone who is lesser, like a servant or assistant, but the word implies that it is someone who supplies strength and deliverance to those who are in need. This same word is said of God as the helper of His people, as a source of strength and support. So “helper” is not derogatory here, but it shows her worth and worthiness to be esteemed by her husband.
The term “fitting for him” is composed of “according to” and a term that means “in front of.” This indicates that it is a match that has equality to, one that is able to truly meet face to face. Verse 18 says that “it is not good that man should be alone,” and this does not mean that God is insufficient for man, or that paradise is flawed, but that God created man with an inherent incompleteness that could only be supplied by a fellowship with someone who matched and complimented him. And the Lord lead Adam through a process of discovery that culminated at His presentation of the newly formed woman to her husband. Adam goes through this process, he names the animals with authority, but he does not find a helper that matches him. He is looking for someone who is truly equal, completing, and befitting for him- another divine image bearer.
God provides this for Adam while he was in a position of complete helplessness. She is created of the man, for the man, out of the flesh and bone out of the man’s side. The woman was not made from his head, as if she were to be in dominion over him, or from his foot, as if she was subordinate to him – but from his side in partnership and love. It led John Calvin to conclude that marriage is the best support of life- she is necessary for mankind to live well. God presents the woman as the first marriage, joining them together, and completing the human race. He is to love and cherish her as his own body. When Adam names the woman, it is almost like a wedding song. By making her out of him, God indicated that husband and wife are one flesh, committed together in lifelong unity and partnership. This lifelong unity in the garden is to be lived without fear or shame, and they are to enjoy their total openness, nakedness, and intimacy with each other. This teaches us that God is the lord over our love and relationships because we see that God is active in the whole process, he makes, presents, and joins them together.
So, we are to esteem marriage even as it is preserved after fall, cherish it as a wonderful gift from God for mankind, and know that it is the normal course for humanity- we are to therefore do all that we can to preserve it. Marriage is the foundation of every other society in the world, and mankind is not created to live in an isolated individuality, so godly marriages are needed and necessary for societal flourishing; and it is from this spring which all other human relationships flow. If the foundation of a building is compromised, the whole building is in danger of destruction. We need to preserve the sanctity of marriage by heeding this command of remaining lovingly faithful to the spouses which God has presented to us.
Our preservation of the sanctity of God’s great gift of marriage can even be compromised by things that are not sexual. Intimacy in marriage does not only include physical acts, but it also includes an emotional and relational tie that helps make the trust and unity of marriage so strong and sweet. Inappropriate emotional attachments to members of the opposite sex (or even the same) can be an assault on marriage because it is putting yourself in a situation that cultivates an emotional dependency or intimacy in the place of where it should be- in the marriage. And how often do these kinds of relationships lead to physical infidelity? We may never know the true statistic, but this compromise of emotional trust is bad enough in and of itself for the stability of a marriage.
The failure to promote the dignity and good reputation of your spouse can also undermine the sanctity of the marriage relationship. You could divulge information to others about your spouse by gossip or slander- think about all the husbands who talk about the “ball and chain,” or “the old woman”- this kind of language does not communicate a great joy and delight in his wife like Adam’s song when Eve was presented to him; nor are they loving words that show that he sees her as an equal partner, as a fitting helper in life, and as a trusted confidant.
We are to work toward a greater unity and oneness in marriage. Intimacy and closeness between spouses needs to be protected and a Christian marriage ought to grow in their depths of intimacy. This most profound of human relationships that God has given us is a covenant of mutual faithfulness that mirrors the relationship between the lord and His people and is meant to reflect Christ’s love to the church. So, the great depths of joy and love that are experienced within a healthy marriage are only but a shadow of our relationship with God. Just as we are to grow in our sanctification and love for God as we move along in this life, so we are to do the same with our spouse.
In a good marriage, as the years pass by, the couple remains more than just faithful to one another; they are alive and dynamic, and there is a natural growing element in marriage. The older they grow, the more they need each other, the more they enjoy knowing each other, serving each other, and serving others with each other. After 10 years of marriage, it is more sweet and solid than it was on your honeymoon, and 10 years after that it is sweeter still. So, work against hardness of heart, bitterness, thoughtlessness, and selfishness in your marriage because just as these are hindrances in our walk of faith, they are also hindrances in our walk with our spouse.