Deep Faithfulness – The 7th Commandment

March 24, 2024

Book: Ephesians

Deep Faithfulness - The 7th Commandment

SUNDAY PM SERVICE – 3/24/2024 – Ephesians 5:25-33

Introduction

When someone we love dearly truly wrongs us, it leaves arguably the deepest wounds. We might get furious with the awful driver who cut us off on the freeway, but I’ve never met anyone carrying emotional baggage years later from encountering a stranger who happened to be a jerk to them in traffic. On the other hand, even something as small as an offhand comment from a close loved one can hang in our minds for years and decades. Betrayal in our closest relationships is one of the hardest ordeals to overcome at the personal level.

Betrayal and faithfulness lie at the heart of the seventh commandment. We live in a world that balks at any restrictions upon our sexual activity. So, when Exodus 20:14 says, “You shall not commit adultery,” many in our culture write it off as prudish notions of God. Yet, very few who are the victims of someone else’s marital infidelity in particular seem to feel that this commandment is as unreasonably intrusive.

Like so many of the others, the seventh commandment then has wider reasons and ramifications than simply avoiding one prohibited action. It reaches into the depths of our souls to shape our most intimate of relationships so that we know how to love well.

The Ten Commandments are the summary of our moral obligations before God. Each one expresses something that is unchangeably true for our moral responsibilities because it also expresses something unchangeably true about God’s own character. In other words, this guidance for how we are supposed to live is grounded in God himself, since we are supposed to imitate him. The Ten commandments are a summary of how to imitate God.

Each command is also more expansive than a simple reading of its demand. Each requires more of us that a minimalist approach to our duties before the Lord. The valid implications of each commandment are binding as much as the commands themselves.

What ought we to learn about God and the Christian life from the seventh commandment? We ought to see that fidelity, constancy, and commitment are key features of who we ought to be.

The main point is that the seventh commandment teaches us about the depth of faithfulness.

  1. Devotion
  2. Delegation
  3. Desires

Devotion

What does the seventh commandment teach us about God? When we look at Ephesians 5, we get a glimpse into God’s character in relation to the issues surrounding the seventh commandment. The exhortation to husbands is grounded in Christ’s work for his people: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.”

The character that husbands need to have rests upon the sort of husband that Christ is to his bride, namely the church. Foremost, Christ is supremely committed to his people. Nothing will stop him from doing good to us. He will overcome every obstacle to preserve our relationship with him. Hence, the gospel is that Christ died to overcome our sin so that we might be reconciled to him. The character aspect shining forth in his actions for his people is his faithfulness, his commitment.

When have to know that this reason for God providing the gospel is his own faithfulness. In eternity, he committed himself to his people. That commitment unfailingly guaranteed that he would accomplish what was needed to secure our everlasting life with him.

When God made a commitment, he kept it. In Christ, God paid the cost of remaining committed. The point of reflecting upon this gospel reality is to see its connection to God’s very character. It shows that God is always faithful. He is faithful even when we are not. He is faithful even through situation where we cannot be. Christ is committed to his bride and will not deviate from his devotion to her alone. As those made to reflect God and to imitate Christ, we should have devotion in our marriages, and in many other facets of our life too.

Delegation

How does the seventh commandment apply to us today? Jesus gets us started in Matthew 5:27–30: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

Two issues come out of Christ’s point here. First, we see that the seventh commandment applies to things in our heart. According to Jesus, we are not faithfully keeping the commandment simply by avoiding sleeping with someone else if we are married. We break the commandment even by lusting after someone who is not our spouse. Whether we are married or not, the seventh commandment binds us to purity in our hearts concerning how we think about one another.

That raises an important point about the scope of the seventh commandment even concerning sexual morals. One of the questions a lot of Christian young people ask when they start dating or are in a serious relationship is something along the lines of how much can they do before it’s sin. There seems to be an assumption that as long as you can say “well, we never had sex” then you’ve avoided sin before the Lord.

As Christ applies the seventh commandment even to what we do in our hearts, we see how that approach is not fully faithful to God. Christ’s exhortation shows us that we need to do more than find a line than marks obvious sin and refuse to cross that line. He shows us that we need to pursue purity.

The question “how close can we get to sin?” is a bad question. We should never want to get anywhere near sin. We should not flirt with reaching its border. We should flee from sin. Especially as the seventh commandment touches plainly upon sexual issue, we should mind Paul’s explicit warning in 1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee from sexual immorality.” So, we need to ask the question, how can I pursue purity?

Westminster Larger Catechism 138: The duties required in the seventh commandment are, chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behavior; and the preservation of it in ourselves and others; watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses; temperance, keeping of chaste company, modesty in apparel; marriage by those that have not the gift of continency, conjugal love, and cohabitation; diligent labor in our callings; shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto.

It’s easy to see how the first part of Christ’s teaching shows us the spiritual, heart-level component. It might be easy to miss how the second part of Christ’s teaching extends the significance of the seventh commandment further than the limited scope. Jesus reflects upon the seventh commandment to show a radical opposition to temptation and to working against all sin in our lives. In other words, the seventh commandment is holistically about our faithfulness.

Adultery happens to be the most pointed example of what faithfulness means. What more foundational commitment can we have at the earthly level besides our marriage vows? This most pivotal context of faithfulness is a shaping influence upon every aspect of our faithfulness. Our promises to commit ourselves in marriage, our trustworthiness in this relationship, is a compressed, intense example of our faithfulness, commitment, and trustworthiness in all areas of life.

We have noted how the ten commandments have a logical development among them. We need to worship the true God alone, we need to worship him rightly, we need to invoke him reverently, we need to devote time to his worship. All those duties about submitting to the Lord channel into our first duty toward our neighbors in honoring our parents.

The home is our training ground to understand our place in the world and how authority works. The first way we learn to love our neighbor concretely is by defending and furthering life. Now, we need to learn to defend and further love.

We learn faithfulness to one another through the training ground of the seventh commandment to measure, regulate, rightly express, and direct our love in proper directions and in proper ways. Whether you are presently married or not, the seventh commandment teaches us that we need fences around how we act upon impulses so that love might be rightly expressed. We do not love one another well if we do not reserve certain aspects of our love for the proper contexts. Even beyond the act of sexual intercourse, love has proper contexts of expression. We learn restraint and proper action. In other words, we learn right delegation of our desires in how to love well – we learn where to place them rightly.

Desires

How does the seventh commandment point us to Christ? We’ve already seen Christ’s commitment to his bride in Ephesians 5. The gospel premise there is how Christ is faithful to his bride no matter how unfaithful we can often be.

His commitment was obvious in how he died to cleanse us. His work aimed to present you “to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” His death was to us clean from our every transgression.

As much as Christ’s sacrificial life tells us about his commitment to love us well, his life tells us about how he devoted his life to his bride as well. John 6:37–40: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Christ came devoted to accomplishing something specific. Namely, he came to give everlasting life to those whom the Father had given to him. Jesus had this specific people. He had a bridge. God the Son came to earth so that his whole earthly life was devoted to working for this bride to provide her life, love, and all that she needs.

Christ was faithful in all things because of his devotion to his bride. We are able to place our desires in the right place as we realize where Christ placed his desires.  Hebrews 12:1–2: “since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” He desired that cloud of witnesses for his own, so kept his sight on the joy of that bride, the joy of bringing you, believer, to himself for everlasting life. Christ, the ultimate bridegroom, set all his faithfulness and devotion on making sure that he would have you to love in grace for all eternity.