A member of a former church came to see me and confessed he was in an adulterous relationship. In order to empathize with him, I tried to vocalize how he must have been feeling. “I’m sure you are overwhelmed with grief and guilt and probably have never been more miserable in your life.” He got a perplexing look on his face and said, “Well, not really. I’ve never been happier in my life!”
Since that experience, I’ve quit guessing how people may be feeling about their behavior, especially sinful behavior. The truth is that sin—especially secret sexual sin—is pleasurable and exhilarating—for a season.
Solomon, who wrote from personal experience, said, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant” (Proverbs 9:17). But he goes on to say in verse 18 that after a while, what were sweet sours and what were delicious decays, leads to death. Or listen to another observation from Solomon in Proverbs 5:3-4, “For the lips of an adulteress drip honey and smoother than oil is her speech. But in the end, she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.”
Sexual sin is pleasurable—for a while—but in the end, it leaves a path of destruction that can last for generations. That is why God prohibited a very specific kind of sexual sin in His list of regulations for living we know as the Ten Commandments. Today our study has brought us to the seventh commandment found in Exodus 20:14, “You shall not commit adultery.”
Sex is a marvelous gift from God that comes with only one instruction: use as directed. And the only direction God gives us about sex is this: sex is to occur only within the marriage relationship.
If you are single, having sex with another person is called fornication, and that is prohibited if you have sex with someone of the same sex; that is prohibited because, regardless of what the Supreme Court says, you cannot be married in God’s eyes to a person of the same sex.
If you are married and have sex with someone other than your own mate—whether the other person is single or married—you are guilty of adultery. Adultery occurs when a married person has sex with anyone other than his mate.
That’s the only restriction God gives about the sexual relationship. Do whatever you like to do. Have all the fun you want, but sex is reserved for a marriage relationship. Outside the marriage bond, sex by married men or women is adultery—and God abhors that. God is pro-sex (within marriage) and anti-adultery.
2. The Progression of Adultery (James 1:13-15)
First, we commit mental adultery whenever we lust. We fantasize about having sex with another man or woman. That’s the part about being carried away and enticed to the point that sin is conceived in our minds. 1 John 2:16 warns us against the “lust of the eyes” in that it sees a person who is off-limits as an object to be desired and consumed sexually.
- Physical Adultery (James 1:15)
Second, we commit physical adultery whenever we give in to our mental adultery. This is part of James’s warning in which sin is conceived in our bodies. When this happens, the Lord says we’ve “committed villainy” (Jeremiah 29:23 KJV), something wicked and criminal. In fact, Job came right out and said adultery is criminal. He called it a “heinous crime” (Jeremiah 31:11 KJV), something odious for which we should be ashamed. Adultery is a crime against our mate, against our God, and against ourselves.
- Death (James 1:15b)
Third, when we commit the sin of adultery, we experience death, just as James wrote: “When sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:15). James was referring to physical death, which is the penalty all paid for sin (Genesis 2:17; 3:19; Romans 6:23). But there’s more than physical death involved. The sin of adultery might also bring forth the death of a marriage, a family, a career, a reputation, and a home.
3. The Avoidance of Adultery (Proverbs 4:23)
Thinking about sin makes way for the act of sin. Suppress the first and avoid the second. So guard your heart by placing five sentries at your heart’s door.
- Make a covenant with your eyes (Job 31:1).
- Avoid compromising company (1 Corinthians 15:33).
- Be accountable for your time (Proverbs 16:27).
- Have a fresh desire for your mate (Proverbs 5:15-20).
- Develop a healthy fear of God (Proverbs 16:6b).
- The Aftermath of Adultery
What if you have broken the seventh commandment and committed adultery, or you are the victim of adultery—is there any hope for you or for your marriage?
Adultery is a serious sin, but it is not an unforgivable sin. Remember Colossians 2:13-14 concerning the “certificate of debt?” With God’s forgiveness comes a responsibility to change.
If you are the innocent party in the adultery, remember there is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is an obligation of every Christian.
Can a marriage survive adultery? The good news is yes, if both parties are willing to exert the necessary effort. One writer says it this way, “Marriages torpedoed by affairs need not sink. They can be towed into dry-dock, repaired, and refitted. Once refitted, they will sail farther and faster than at any previous time.”
That’s the power of God’s Grace.
Full Passage: Exodus 20:14