Scripture Exodus 20:14, Hebrews 13:1

THE ROOT REASON FOR MARITAL FIDELITY

(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg


Children's Message: To Demonstrate the concept of adultery to children , glue two pieces of paper together, preferrably one red, one blue.  Eplain that these pieces of paper are like two people who get married, they have become one.  Adultery is when one decides that it would be better to be one with someone else and leaves the other.   Challenge the children to get the two pieces of paper apart.  What happens?  Both pieces of paper get ripped and for useful purposes are destroyed, no matter how much care is taken in removing them from each other.  This pictures well the consequence of betrayal and adultery and divorce which so often happens because of adultery.  

People of God:

One time a mother was listing the 10 commandments with her daughter and her daughter could define at least to some degree what every one of the commandments ment, until she came to the 7th. Her mother was scratching her head wondering how she is going to describe this command to her daughter, and then her daughter piped up; "Mom, I know what adultery means.  It means 'You shall not cut down an adult tree.'"1   Our children's illustration is a helpful way of describing what adultery is to children.

This morning we continue our study of the Ten Commandments in our ongoing study of the Heidelberg Catechism. The commandment which we focus on this morning is the seventh commandment - Exodus 20:14 "You shall not commit adultery." NIV

Turn with me to Hebrews 13:1-6

Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."   So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

Turn also to the Heidelberg Catechism, p# 912

108: What is God's will for us in the seventh commandment?

God condemns all unchastity.   We should therefore thoroughly detest it and, married or single, live decent and chaste lives.

109: Does God, in the commandment, forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery?

We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul, and God wants both to be kept clean and holy. That is why he forbids everything which incites unchastity, whether it be actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires.

Our society has been deeply influenced by a scientific view of reality. It has been influenced by the scientific presuppositions of a self contained and therefore an a-moral evolution of biology and ecological interdependencies. In short, those who adopt evolution have difficulty with this command about adultery. It unneccesarily limits the evolution of the species. Dr. Helen Fisher in her book Anatomy of Love: The Mysteries of Mating, Marriage and Why we Stray  gives this somewhat evolutionary definition of why people commit adultery. Men do it "to ensure a widespread dissemination of their genetic material" and women do it as "an alternative strategy for the acquisition of resources to support herself and her young ones." (Taken from Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments: the significance of God's Laws in Everyday Life , p. 215)

After all, why not commit adultery if you can find reasons for person gain? There are always fish in the pond that look better than the one were committed to? If my marriage has difficulties, why not look for a better one, after all this is a consumer society? And if you can get past the pain, maybe your children too, onto a new future, then why not?  After all its a growing experience right? What is this about a God that puts strict limits on my sexual behavior?

You see, without God in the picture, adultery, for a multitude of individual reasons becomes justifiable, after all, animals do it all the time.

This morning I want to demonstrate to you that the 7th commandment has everything to do with God, in fact we will find that this command is actually a sin first of all against God even before it is a sin against our spouse and or children.

Notice that the entire Law reveals something about God. The commands

1 - You shall have no other God's before me - reveals that there is one God and that there is no other God apart from him.

2. You shall not make any carved image - reveals that God is infinite in glory and no human representation will ever do him justice.

3. You shall not use my name in vain - reveals that God intends to keep his reputation pure just as he himself is truly pure and holy.

4. You shall keep the Sabbath Holy - reveals that God is a God committed to providing for the needs of those who are called by his name.

5. Honor your father and your mother - reveals a God who is Lord over all and who chooses to delegate to those under him appropriate authority.  To disobey those authorities appropriately exercised is to disobey God.

6. You shall not commit murder - we found that we are made in the image of God, and each one of us has the right to display that image. To kill is a direct attack on God! It is a sin against God because it destroys his image in a person

Now just like each one of these earlier commands is not only a command to us - it is also a revelation of the character and the nature of God, so to this seventh commandment reveals to us the character of God.

You see, God wants us to obey this command because he wants us to reflect his character, his image in this world. And the heart of this image bearing are these words from Genesis 1:27 NIV

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them...

Male and Female together reflect the image of God. This passage tells us that in some way - bearing the image of God in this world is a male and female vocation. Male by himself could not image God fully, female by herself could not image him fully.  Together they are called to image God.  The question is "What part of God do they together image?"

There are a few possible answers.  Some suggest that the providing roles of men and nurturing roles of women are part of the character of God.  These characteristics are part of the way he reveals himself in the scriptures and the suggestion is that it takes both men and women to portray that accurately. This may be true.  But one would be hard pressed to find this to be a reason against adultery or marital unfaithfulness.

The connection between the image of God and this seventh commandment has to do with the covenant faithfulness of God. Throughout the Scriptures, God is pictured as a God who is flawlessly faithful to his commitments, a God who is true to his relationships, a God who is true to every one of his promises.

In fact, 2 Timothy 2:13 tells us that God's character is so unchangeably faithful that to become unfaithful, he would disown himself.

Its because of this that God ordained marriage as a sacred institution, simply because a husband and wife, who are faithful to their marriage vows reflect something of the beauty of God in this world. Husband and wife, who go through the difficulties of a marriage relationship and remain committed to one another demonstrate the nature of God who, even though he has had unbelievable difficulties with his rebellious human race remains flawlessly committed to us. That is how, man and women together, in faithfulness reflect the image of God to this world.

That is also the reason why scriptures tell us that marriage is a mysterious covenant that reflects the relationship between Christ and his church. Thus in Ephesians 5:25-33, Paul flips from one to another in one breath, while talking about marriage and faithfulness and two becoming one, he is in the same breath talking about Christ and the church.

The root reason for marital fidelity is simply this:  Marital fidelity reflects the beauty of God's faithfulness in this world.

It is for this reason that when Adultery happens, it is a sin against God!  Joseph when tempted knew that it was a sin against God , and as we will find out tonight, he fled adultery for that very reason.

David, when he committed adultery with Bathsheba cried out to God "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight"  He understood what he had done against God in his act of marital unfaithfulness.

Adultery is a sin against God because we were designed as male and female to reflect his covenant faithfulness in this world. We may find many excuses for adultery, but at the heart of every act of adultery is the breaking of a covenant, a marring of the image of God.

And so this command, like the command not to kill, has everything to do with the image of God - God's revealed beauty in this world.

How much more is that image marred and God angered when we who call ourselves Christians, commit adultery? How much more is it marred when we, who bear God's name in this world, when we who are called to be set apart to the Lord in this world, when Christians who are given the calling to reflect the beauty of God to this world, the image of God, turn their backs on faithfulness?  How much more is God incensed when those who are given to leadership in the community of faith, when they commit adultery? James 3:1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

Hebrews 13 which we read before this makes it very clear that God will judge the adulterer. Harsh words in scripture. Harsh words because the character of God is faithfulness. Actually - the faithfulness of God is the foundation of that passage. The foundation is God's flawless commitment to us:  "I will never leave you nor forsake you!"

That is the nature of His commitment to us and he wants us to reflect that faithfulness in our commitments to each other.

At the end of this message I invite you to use these words of commitment to each other, these words that God used to demonstrate who he is, these words by which we reflect the character of God.

When we Professed our faith, each one of us made a commitment to God.  Though we didn't use these exact words, our commitment to God was to spend the rest of our lives living for God. So today, I invite you again to say to God "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

In that profession of faith, we made commitments to each other, that we would belong to the family of God.  Today, use God's words to each other: "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

On this day, many of us are here as families.  As parents, we assume our children understand the faithfulness of our love for them.  On this day, use God's words to voice your love for them:  "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Many of us are here as spouses.  We have at one time said to one another that we belong to each other till death do us part.   On this day, use God's words to voice your love for each other:  "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

I have encouraged you to use the very words God uses because we are called to reflect the beauty of his image to this world and to each other. That is why God calls us to faithfulness in our marriage commitments!


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1  Source - The Ten Commandments: the significance of God's Laws in Everyday Life by Dr. Laura Schlessinger

(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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