Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery

Scripture Reading

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 it 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.

Matt. 5:27-32

Lust in History

The deeper meaning of thou shalt not commit adultery is one of those Bible studies that tends to start out with a sense of foreboding gloom but fortunately ends with God’s love, mercy and grace, so hang in there! Now, following along the same pattern from the last week’s study on, thou shalt not kill,  the notable individual from scripture like King David fell into perilous times by committing adultery as shown in this passage, “And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her.” [2 Sam. 11:4a]

It would be remiss not to highlight the event which led to the above act because this is where Jesus is leading people in this week’s scripture reading. Noting the preceding act that took place for King David helps to bring context to David’s summoning of Bathsheba over to his dwelling place. With this, let us see what took place now as David went up to his rooftop, “and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.” [2 Sam. 11:2b] Here we can see the words of Jesus coming through now in these circumstances when he spoke about someone looking upon a woman to lust after her, thus committing adultery already in his heart.

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

2 Sam.11:4a

In the New Testament, Jesus affirmed the point in this week’s scripture in that it was clear from the beginning, adultery was a sin as listed in the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” [Ex.20:14]  In the Old Testament, such a transgression of God’s commandments also bore the most severe penalty as scriptural records indicate, “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.” {Lev. 20:10]

A Twofold Transgression

Recalling from the last study, the premise that anger is to kill, is the same as lust is to adultery, as described in the passage 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 proper perspective. Lust and adultery tend to carry a twofold transgression with them. First they are against God as the Psalmist wrote, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” [Ps. 119:11] Secondly, they are against oneself as recorded in great length from the following passage in scripture.

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

Psalm 119:11

“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.” [1 Cor. 6:15-20]

In tandem with this premise is further case building from some Old Testament scriptures. In the wisdom of Solomon, he also adds a little more emphasis to the transgression of adultery by stating that, “…whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he [that] doeth it destroyeth his own soul.” [Prov. 6:32] This statement is indeed reflected in the deeper meaning of thou shalt not commit adultery from this week’s scripture reading. It highlights the corrosive effect of lust and adultery upon one’s very own soul.

…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 act of lust also brings with it sobering consequences from God. Paul wrote about this in the beginning of his letter to the Romans. By entertaining thoughts of lust and actions of lust, a perilous downward spiral of sin follows by separation from a holy God as recorded in the first chapter of Romans. Readers of this scripture will notice how each successive act or thought in this regard leads to worse and worse consequences from God who then gives people over to an even more depraved mind.

This journey of depravity is first recorded by highlighting the fact that people know God but they are not thankful for this knowledge. They end up becoming vain in their imaginations and consequently their foolish hearts are darkened. While they profess themselves to be wise, they become fools in the process {Rom. 1:21-22]

With that prelude, then the dire consequences begin to unfold, or unravel in God’s presence with the first declaration stating, “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves.” [Rom. 1:24] When this action takes place then more ensuing consequences follow, “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections…” [Rom. 1:26] Then as those consequences take place further depravity sets in as, “…God gave them over to a reprobate mind…” [Rom. 1:32] This finally culminates in the sad reality for people, “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.” [Rom. 1:32] Here we can clearly see the deeper meaning of thou shalt not commit adultery unfolding with people falling deeper and deeper into their sinful actions.

Paul adds to this dilemma as noted in this passage of scripture from his letter to the Church in Ephesus, “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.” [Eph. 4:18-19] This is such a depiction of complete human depravity, noting key phrases – darkened understanding, alienated from God, blindness of hearts, past feeling, lasciviousness, uncleanness, greediness! Lascivious is an older word meaning overt sexual desires.

Strange Bedfellows

Since misery loves company, lust and adultery tend to be grouped together in scripture with less than pleasant bedfellows also shown by Paul, “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.” [1 Cor. 6:9-11] 

Is it any wonder why Jesus presented such a dramatic figure of speech in removing body parts (Mt. 5:30) to eliminate this sin from people? Though graphic in nature, it was of course not to be taken literally. It was rather more to prove a point from a figurative sense that drastic action was required in dealing with such sins. After all, lust left unbridled will indeed lead to worse sins for people and with an in-born sinful nature this can affect people from all walks of life.

The Need for Change

Picking up on the above comment from the apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, 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. What a remarkable contrast to previous verses referenced! 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 his other letters by saying, “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.” [Gal. 2:20]

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 by Paul’s proclamation, “Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” [2 Cor. 5:17]  As described earlier in the downward spiral of sin, the opposite process can now take place through new life in Christ, where successive positive changes occur within believers as stated by the apostle Peter below,

“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.”

[2 Pet. 1:2-7]

Walk of Faith in Christ

This is the daily walk for believers in Christ where new life brings about new thinking and ways of following more virtuous character traits. Notice in the following passage where the flesh and the spirit are described in contrast to each other, “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.” [2 Cor. 10:3-5]

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 also helps to encapsulate this same message in one of his letters, “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.” [1 John 2:15-17]

Spiritual Warfare

This is indeed a spiritual war that requires full submission to Christ as described by the apostle Peter, “Dearly beloved, I beseech [you] as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” [1 Pet. 2:11] Peter also scripted a verse in reference to Old Testament verses highlighting this same point in the pursuit of holiness, “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.” [1 Pet.1:15-16]

Paul was also noteworthy in his many letters to believers highlighting rightful living in the presence of a holy God, “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.” [Rom. 13:12-14 Note the prevailing reference to lust in so many scriptural passages written by so many authors! One should never feel alone in their quest to overcome lustful sins since temptation is described as being common to all men [1 Cor. 10:13]

…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 life in Christ is to be a new way of life and one to be lived out in a manner of holiness as Paul further wrote, “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.” [Rom. 12:1-2] Is not this the peril of humanity in conforming to this world but Paul calls us to be transformed rather by the Lord Jesus Christ!

Lust & Covet

In closing this Bible Study that surrounds such a sensitive and controversial subject, it is noteworthy how many verses about lust are referenced in 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, “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.” [Gal. 5:22-25] This walking in the spirit requires a minute by minute walk at times, similar to a repentant King David’s plea before God for inward change, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” [Ps. 19:14]

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, “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.” [1 John 1:7-9]  Praise God for his glorious provision of mercy, grace and forgiveness in Christ!

Bible Study Questions

  1. In Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery, Jesus teaches people to think deeper than just the act of adultery. True or false?
  2. Fill in the blank. Jesus makes people contemplate upon their lust because, when people lust they 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)?

WORD GUIDE – * (reprobate – depraved, unprincipled) * (lasciviousness – unrestrained sexual behavior) * (reviler – to speak abusively) * (chambering – bedroom) * (wanton – sexually unrestrained)

Helpful Resources

You cannot copy content of this page