“You shall not commit adultery.”

~ Exodus 20:14


Shhh … stop … this is a church site … don’t … just … it’s awkward if you … some things should just be priv… not everyone is comfortable talking about … you can’t just … what if someone sees this who …



That is what will be discussed in this reflection. If it makes you squeamish, I can’t help it.

Have you ever noticed that Scripture is far less squeamish about sex than we Christians are? The Bible talks about sex a lot: from why God gave us sex (Genesis 2), to how we are to approach sex (1 Corinthians 6) to how pleasurable God created sex to be (the whole book of Song of Songs). Yet, we as His church have a hard time bringing it up. Granted, sex is a very personal, vulnerable, and intimate part of life.

But it is also extremely important for us, both personally and socially, to understand what God’s intention was for creating sex.

It is in that light that we will engage the topic of sex because this command does so unabashedly. There may be sexual terms in the following paragraphs that you are unused to seeing, and while I will not apologize for them, now you know what is coming. Onward we go!

As we continue to work our way through these commandments, we come to realize these commands are sequential and relational: command #5 was about the sacredness of community and family, command #6 about the sacredness of life, and this command #7 is about the sacredness of marriage and relationship.

Sometimes we want to limit this command to married people, thinking God is simply telling married folks not to cheat on each other. While the structure of marriage is central to God’s overview of sex, this command is not simply limited to our narrow scope of adultery (one spouse cheating on the other). This is a command for all of us, no matter what our marital status may be.

God designed sex for a man and a woman to enjoy within the committed bonds of marriage. Sex is a relational act of love between two people who completely and loyally give their lives solely to each other. Genesis 2 teaches that the two people become one flesh. There is a unifying of bodies, souls, or identities within a sexual relationship once two people marry. And, as J.I. Packer says, sex heightens “the sense that, being given to each other, they now belong together, each needing the other for completion and wholeness.”

The place that sex has in the world as God designed it, then, is for two people to grow closer together within the bonds of marriage and lifelong mutual fidelity. Sex allows for the married couple to continually ‘know one another,’ as the Bible says, and is an example of love and faithfulness to each other and their creator.

That means that casual sex outside of marriage “cannot fulfill God’s ideal, for it lacks the context of pledged fidelity (J.I. Packer, emphasis added).” This includes all sorts of things:

– Adultery: Sex which destroys God’s sacred unity of two married people.
– Fornication: Sex outside the faithful union of marriage.
– Pornography: Sex as lust and control, not love, for someone with whom you are not committed to.
– Homosexual Intercourse: Sex outside God’s design for one man and one woman to become one flesh.
– Masturbation: Sex with oneself for an ego trip, making it personal and not relational.

While some may think all these examples push the limits of this command, let’s remember that Jesus, in Matthew 5, says that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in their heart. Anyone who looks lustfully. All of the above involve looking or thinking lustfully, and so all fall into this ‘adultery’ category. Any sexual act outside the boundaries of marriage – which God has put in place – breeches the purpose for which sex was created by our sovereign God.

So, why? What is the harm? Why does God use one of His 10 Commands on sex?

The reason is because breaking this command not only minimizes God’s intentions for sex in our lives, but it undercuts God’s design for us. And not just His physical design, but His relational design as well. While things like masturbation and homosexuality go against His physical design for human creation, adultery, fornication, pornography, and prostitution go against His relational design for us as well – and when you read relational here, please think beyond marriage.

The 10 Commandments, the covenant law, were instrumental in both the familial and societal structure of Israel. To break this 7th command – just like with commands 5 and 6 (and, spoiler alert, commands 8, 9, and 10 to come) – is to break down the structure of society. This is not merely a private concern between a man and a woman, but a public concern. Sexual immorality tears families apart, which negatively impacts generations of people, which fractures society. And if anything fractures enough, it crumbles.

This was especially true in Israel. The surrounding nations of Israel committed all kinds of sexual immoralities: orgies, homosexuality, selling sex, using sex in business deals; sex was meant as either a currency or as a means for physical gratification, even at the expense of another. It was about receiving, having, or gaining. It was entirely selfish.

Israel was to stand apart from all of that. God said, no, sex is not for oneself, but for each other. For marriage. For the family. To strengthen love. To strengthen God’s People. That is why it was created, so the community can operate with a healthy foundation of people not using one another for personal gains, but for building the foundations of a loving, familial society. Essentially, by following this command, our communities are strengthened, because relational fractures never affect just two people.

While this was true in Israel, boy is it ever true now, too? We live in an overly sexualized world. We have more access to sex than ever before. With technology as advanced as it is now, sex is readily available within two or three taps on your phone. The human sex trade is as heartlessly prominent as ever, and our world encourages sex outside of marriage, losing one’s virginity hastily, and adding to one’s scorecard. In our current context, sexual identity is not just talked about anymore, it is paraded down the street.

Truthfully, as much as our church culture needs to be talking more about sex, our world culture could sure afford to talk about it less. We as a church need to talk more openly about sex, the God-created beauty of it, and the ramifications that our overly sexualized culture may have on us all.

But above all, we need to openly talk about sex because so many of us struggle (or have struggled) with this commandment. Pornography usage amongst both men and women is sky-high and rising. Erotic fantasy books are flying off the shelf. Co-habitation is on the rise, ‘sexting’ is a real problem for many, and the guilt and shame of our previous sexual relationships do not just simply go away on their own.

Church, we need to talk to each other. To remove shame. To move forward. But most of all, we need to remind each other that God’s grace is enough! In fact, it exceeds everything we have ever done! Jesus’ sacrifice covers all sins, even the private, sexual ones that our churches struggle to properly help with.

If you have struggled, or continue to struggle with any sexual sin, bring it to Christ. His grace is more than sufficient! And then, do not remain silent. Talk to a trusted brother or sister in Christ. Seek out help. Talk to someone. Stop the cycle.

And if you are approached by someone who struggles, please respond to this conversation with love and grace. This is hard for them! They trust you. Approach that person as Jesus would, full of grace and truth.

So, please talk. Don’t just do it for yourself, but for your family, your church, and for the foundations of community God has put in your life. Because with all these commands, God knew Jesus needed to come to rescue us all.

Which is exactly what He did!

Questions to Ponder:

1) From a biblical perspective, what is adultery?

2) How does breaking this command affect the communities we are a part of?

3) Does our church need to spend more of its time discussing the topic of sex? Why or why not?