Opening Prayer: Gracious Father, we come before you as people who are immersed in a confused culture. We know that you have given us a wonderful gift in the marriage covenant, and that we are called to rejoice in the gift of sex. Teach us now by your Word and Spirit. Take away any false assumptions and teach us wisdom. Amen!
We come now to the seventh commandment. Biblical discussion of sex is perhaps one of the most glaring voids in the modern Church. The culture around has held the monopoly on this subject for so long, many Christians do not even know where to begin. But just because the world cannot stop talking about sex does not mean that it understands. Sexual wisdom begins with the fear of Yahweh, and sin always breeds confusion. The law of God gives understanding and clear thinking (e.g. Ps. 19:7).
Who Do You Belong To?
Adultery is essentially treason to the marriage covenant. In general, the command applies to all sexual immorality, and specifically, it applies to unfaithfulness in marriage. The prohibition against adultery, as with all of the other commands, brings with it a positive command requiring loyalty to the spouse that God has given. Even though the context sounds strange to modern ears, the requirements of Moses that wives be treated with dignity and justice do not degradate women as mere ‘property’. Rather, they raise the idea of “belonging” or “possession” to a position of honor and glory. It is a glory to belong. It is a well known fact that in the ancient world many people (including Israel) practiced polygamy. Yet, it is equally clear that God placed restrictions on marriage in order to discourage this practice and encourage the creational norm of monogamy (e.g. Ex. 21:10). Our passage in Deuteronomy does the same. Moses requires that marriage be thoughtfully considered and not rushed into (Dt. 21:13). Likewise, the son of an unloved wife may not be passed over for inheritance rights (Dt. 21:16-17). This not only discourages a man from favoring a wife, but ultimately it discourages a man from putting himself in this situation to begin with. But the point of this discouragement is the Biblical teaching that marriage is a certain kind of possession but not that kind.
The Gospel of Belonging
Sinful man hears the word ‘possession’ and immediately tends to run in a couple of directions. He may begin thinking about how he can get more. This mindset results in polygamy or a string of broken relationships. Or, it may result in various forms of tyranny. Husbands think that this means bossing their wives around. Wives manipulate their husbands, nagging them, harping on them, or using sex as leverage. Both of these tendencies are fundamentally adulterous, treasonous, and disloyal. Paul says that the real authority that resides in marriage is one which is mutual and requires giving (1 Cor. 7:2-4). Having a husband means that she has authority over her husband’s body, and having a wife means that he has authority over his wife’s body. This is because marriage is always a picture of the gospel. The gospel is the good news that Jesus is King, and this King has come and freed his people from death and sin and darkness and brought them light and life and forgiveness. This good news comes to you in the midst of your sin. You did choose him, but he chose you in order that you might go and bear fruit (Jn. 15:16). The Christian gospel of our victorious King bestowing a kingdom upon his people is the pattern of Christian marriage.
First, recognize where true wisdom is found. The gospel is the wisdom of God and the foolishness of those who are perishing. Believe the gospel: there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). Jesus died for sexual sins; by his stripes you are healed. Learn the gospel inside and out, and think through, pray through the gospel that you might be wise and understand the mystery (Eph. 5:32). Adultery begins in the heart (Mt. 5:28); therefore confess your sins, believe that you are forgiven, and plead with God to deal with you.
Second, cultivate loyalty. Do this because God is already fiercely loyal to you. The God who has died for you and for your sins, calls you to follow him in this. This is the way to life. And loyalty is not merely the lack of treason. Enact your loyalty; live it out. In another discussion of sexual purity, Paul condemns going to a temple prostitute because Christians have been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). And lastly, do not say, I will change when he does or she does. This is a Pelagian gospel. All of you belong to God; you are his possessions because he died and won you when you were still in your sins. And all of you who are married belong to your spouse. Therefore rejoice in your wife; rejoice in your husband. Your God rejoices over you.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Almighty God, make us a faithful and loyal people: loyal to you and loyal to one another. Teach us to rejoice in you as a faithful bride, and in so doing, make us a community that rejoices in your good gifts. Teach us to glory in the bodies you have given us that we might be faithful to you in all things.