Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery

This week’s scripture reading, Matthew 5:27-32,

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast [it] from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut if off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell. It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Lust in History

Does the Bible say not to commit adultery? Yes indeed! What is adultery in the Bible? Well, the deeper meaning of Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery is one of those Bible studies that tend to start out with a sense of foreboding gloom but it fortunately ends in God’s love, mercy and grace, so hang in there! Following the same pattern from the last week, a notable individual, King David fell into perilous times by committing adultery as shown in 2 Sam. 11:4a, And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her.

And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her.

2 Samuel 11:4a

In the New Testament however, Jesus reaffirmed in this week’s scripture that it was clear from the beginning, adultery was a sin as listed in the Ten Commandments from Ex. 20:14 Thou shalt not commit adultery. In the Old Testament, such a transgression of God’s commandments also bore the most severe penalty as recorded in Lev. 20:10, And the man that committeth adultery with [another] man’s wife, [even he] that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

Recalling from the last study, as anger is to killing, so lust is to adultery as described above by Jesus. Lust is the precursory thought to the sinful act of adultery, indicating the act has already been committed within someone’s heart. This is where the deeper meaning of thou shalt not commit adultery comes into perspective.

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Psalm 119:11

A Twofold Transgression

It is often asked what is God’s punishment for adultery but the deeper meaning of lust and adultery tends to carry a twofold transgression with them. First they are against God as noted in Ps. 119:11, Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Secondly, they are against oneself as recorded in great length by Paul in 1 Cor. 6:15-20, Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make [them] the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

The wisdom of Solomon also adds a little more bluntness to this particular transgression in Prov. 6:32, [But] whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he [that] doeth it destroyeth his own soul. That is indeed reflected in the deeper meaning of thou shalt not commit adultery.

know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you,

1 Corinthians 6:19

Downward Spiral of Sin

The very notion of lust brings with it a sobering revelation from God as Paul wrote in the beginning of his letter to the Romans. Therein lies a perilous downward spiral of sin followed by separation from a holy God through lust as recorded in Rom. 1:18-32. Readers of this scripture will notice how each successive act or thought in this regard leads to worse consequences from God who then gives people over to an even more depraved mind.

This journey of depravity is first recorded in Rom. 1:24, Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves. Then verse 1:26 reads, For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections… Then verse 1:28 reads, …God gave them over to a reprobate mind… This finally culminates in the sad reality as shown in verse 1:32, Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. Here we are starting to see the deeper meaning of thou shalt not commit adultery among many other sinful acts. * (reprobate – depraved, unprincipled)

In further letters, Paul adds to this dilemma as noted in Eph. 4:18-19, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. * (lasciviousness – unrestrained sexual behavior)

Strange Bedfellows

Since misery loves company, lust and adultery are often grouped together in scripture with less than pleasant bedfellows as shown by Paul in 1 Cor. 6:9-11, Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. Is it any wonder why Jesus painted such a dramatic figure of speech in removing body parts (Mt. 5:30) to eliminate this sin from people, and though while graphic in nature, it was of course not to be taken literally. It was rather more to prove a point from a figurative sense. * (reviler – to speak abusively)

The Need for Change

Picking up on the above comment however as Paul stated, this will now mark where this Bible Study transitions, since herein lies the saving grace for such transgressions before a holy God. Paul noted that as Christians, we are now washed, we are now sanctified, we are now justified. This is the believer’s state and presence before God upon placing their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul proclaims this from the rooftop so to speak in Gal. 2:20, I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:

Gal. 2:20a

This is the new creation in Christ that Paul is referring to, in bringing a new and transformed life in us, as shown in 2 Cor. 5:17, Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. As described earlier in the downward spiral of sin, the opposite process now takes place through new life in Christ, where successive changes occur within believers as described in 2 Pet. 1:2-7, Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that [pertain] unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 

Walk of Faith in Christ

This is the daily walk for believers in Christ where the flesh and the spirit are described more fully in 2 Cor. 10:3-5, For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

This is indeed noteworthy and worth repeating as we are to bring into spiritual captivity every single thought contrary to God’s holy calling. The apostle John helps to encapsulate this message in one of his letters as noted in 1 John 2:15-17, Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the World. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Spiritual Warfare

This is indeed a spiritual war that requires full submission to Christ as described by the apostle Peter in 1 Pet. 2:11, Dearly beloved, I beseech [you] as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul. Peter also coined a verse from the Old Testament in reference to this point as noted in 1 Pet. 1:15-16, But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. 

Paul was also noteworthy in his many letters to believers highlighting rightful living in the presence of a holy God as shown in Rom. 13:12-14, The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to [fulfil] the lusts [thereof. * (chambering – bedroom) * (wanton – sexually unrestrained)

let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

Rom. 13:12b

There is no denying that this is to be a new way of life and one to be lived out in a different manner as Paul further wrote in Rom. 12:1-2, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Lust & Covet

In closing off this Bible Study that surrounds such a sensitive and controversial subject, it should be noted that verses about lust abound throughout scripture. Perhaps this is reflective of the prevalence and propensity toward lust in human nature where few, if any, are immune from its natural desire and inclination. After all, people can lust after anything in life, which is why another word “covet” is frequently used in scripture, meaning to desire something, usually wrongfully. It is not uncommon for people to lust after any desire to satisfy the flesh including gluttony or intoxication. Lust and coveting can also take place with desire for riches, material possessions, status and fame, etc.

Fruit of the Spirit

While Paul wrote extensively on the subject of lust, he also showed how believers in Christ can produce better fruit through the indwelling Holy Spirit, as noted in Gal. 5:22-25, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. This walking in the spirit requires a minute by minute walk at times, similar to David’s plea before God for inward change as noted in Ps. 19:14, Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

Love, Mercy & Grace

Lastly, let it always be remembered that God’s love is a message of hope and when sin does take place, we have an advocate in the Lord Jesus Christ as noted by the apostle in 1 John 1:7-9, But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Praise God for his glorious provision of mercy, grace and forgiveness in Christ!

Bible Study Questions

  1. In Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery, Jesus points people from adultery towards lust. True or false?
  2. Fill in the blank. Jesus redirects people to lust because to lust is to commit ________________ already in your heart.
  3. In the section Twofold Transgression, name the two things people sin against with adultery and lust.
  4. In the section Downward Spiral of Sin, name the three effects of continuing in sin.
  5. Name at least three more things people are prone to lust after other than sexual fleshly desires.
  6. In the section Spiritual Warfare, Paul tells us to cast off the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light. True or false?
  7. Are there areas in your own life that need to be cast off in exchange for putting on God’s armour of light (1 Corinthians 13:12-14)?

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