Nowhere in Scripture are biblical values stated more succinctly. So what are the commandments, and what do they mean for us today? The Bible teaches that we are made right with God by His grace, through faith—not by obeying the Old Testament law. But these 10 commands are moral standards that reflect God’s holy character and define the way He intends for humans to live. This month, due to the frequency and prominence of this issue in the news, we consider the commandment forbidding adultery.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world. In every way, it is good news. When John the Baptist was commissioned by God to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, he was affirmed by Zechariah “to give [God’s] people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:77).
Without this wonderful hope in Christ, the issue of adultery would leave many people with absolutely no hope at all. So, whatever situation you may find yourself in, please don’t stop reading. Make no mistake about God’s attitude in this regard. Adultery is sin, and sin is never to be taken lightly. All sin condemns us before a Holy God. The Bible is clear that “all have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:11-12).
But remember that Jesus Christ is our hope. He came to this world because of the love of God for all sinners. When Jesus died on the cross, He took on Himself the sins of all who would repent, confess their sin to the Lord Jesus, and accept Him by faith. And faith is the wonderful means given to us by God’s Holy Spirit, whereby we take God at His Word.
The Bible tells all sinners to “repent, then, and turn to God, so that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19). The very act of confessing sins to God and the necessary act of repenting from those sins for salvation is the essential means by which even the sin of adultery can be forgiven. When the Apostle Paul spoke of the forgiveness of “all” sin, he quoted David who wrote in the Psalms, “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against him” (Romans 4:7-8). This is the prayer of faith for salvation for all who would believe on His name.
But what about believers who commit adultery? Again the Bible is clear. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). The us and the we here refer to all those who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ and are a part of His family. Such a believer must confess the sin of adultery to Jesus, repent of that sin, and then “go and sin no more!”
This is exactly what happened to the woman who was caught in the very act of adultery.
The Pharisees hauled her before the Lord Jesus and demanded that she be condemned without remedy. Jesus rebuked them and turned her sin on them by saying, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).
Needless to say, her accusers began to recoil and walk away from her because they had been confronted by the truth of the all-encompassing reality of sin. All sin, Jesus was implying, is sin—regardless. While some sin affects and hurts people in their relationships more than others, and while certain sins carry harsher societal and spiritual punishment than others, all sin is counted as unrighteous before God because He is holy and pure and can in no way accommodate, tolerate or excuse any sin. Such was the case with this sinful woman. The redemptive hope for all adulterers lies in what Jesus had to say to her personally after He had taken care of the indignation of the people who howled for her to be brought to justice: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
Looking around, and rightly astonished, she affirmed that all her accusers had left her alone with Jesus. At this point Jesus says to her, “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:10-11).
Wow! What a message of hope.
So, let’s take a closer look at the issue of adultery and consider what God has to say about it.
Adultery continues to be a buzzword that stirs the emotions of believers and unbelievers alike. It is everywhere and seems to draw no boundaries in society. People from every walk of life succumb to it—from commoners to movie stars, politicians, military generals, royalty and members of churches.
It does not take long for those caught in adultery to start lining up excuses of every imaginable type. Blame is often assigned to those most offended and affected by it, while issues such as honor, integrity and faithfulness are bounced around in every conversation.
Families are frequently shattered and children’s lives are left broken and battered by the storm. There is nothing good about adultery, and God does not offer even the slightest excuse to any person for any reason to ever commit this grievous sin against God and his or her fellow man.
All of the Ten Commandments reflect the character of a loving and righteous God. While the first four reflect man’s vertical relationship to God, the next six reflect man’s horizontal relationship to one another. And this is where we find this commandment on adultery.
Opinions concerning the exact meaning of adultery are offered frequently by those attempting to find a “loophole” for their sin. When God spoke the words “Do not commit adultery,” He was establishing the fact that any sexual activity between a man and a woman outside of marriage is adultery.
In so doing, God affirmed three very important things. First, He affirmed that marriage was to be only between a man and a woman. Second, He affirmed that this relationship was to be monogamous and permanent. Third, He affirmed the sanctity of the marriage relationship, which was to be undefiled. The marriage relationship was to be sacred.
This is where we see the character of a loving God so clearly on display. In Moses’ day, pagan cultures were infiltrating the Israelites. God’s law was being defiled and golden calves were constructed as an alternative means of divine protection and deliverance. The Israelites’ behavior was becoming a mirror image of the world in which they lived. But God would have none of it. His covenant with His people was tied in to the way in which He remains faithful and true to all who believe in Him. The marriage covenant between a man and a woman should reflect that faithfulness. God wants us to remain true to each other—just as He remains true to us. Only His way matters.
©2012 Don Wilton