Why the Seventh Commandment is So Controversial
Of all the Ten Commandments in some ways the Seventh is the most pertinent to our current cultural breakdown and the one we have the most trouble talking about with seriousness and openness. Everyone’s grandma told them not to talk about it, so we don’t, except through euphemisms and juvenile remarks. However, none of the other statutes found in the summary of the Lord’s very character have as a consequence of its keeping (or breaking) the possibility that life can be created. The Sixth Commandment, which we looked at the past couple of weeks of course concerned its ending, but here we are working through what the one who made the heavens and the earth has to teach us about our own ability and calling to bring forth a new humanity made in His image.
Even those who our catechism below (which includes Paul, see 1 Cor. 7:8-9), mentioned with the gift of continency must take seriously the positive attributes given uniquely to mankind to do something only God has done. It’s a major responsibility and its violation has led to innumerable deaths from everything from disease to war. As I noted on Twitter the other day there is one weird trick that would guarantee all STD’s go the way of the Dodo…the problem is no one wants to follow it.
The greatest of the Homeric epics of ancient Greece centers around Helen and Paris and her kidnapping. The one Shakespeare play we all know the most about is grounded in the forbidden love between Romeo and Juliet. Romance, sexual intercourse, and all the grandness of the concept must not be hidden from conversation if the Church and her people are going to witness to the fallen world concerning sexuality’s beauty and God-given purpose. It is good and right and we have nothing to be ashamed about when we rest in the way our Lord has provided for husband and wife to find one another in grace.
Here are this week’s Q/A’s:
Q. 137: Which is the seventh commandment?
A. The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Q. 138: What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?
A. The duties required in the seventh commandment are, chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behaviour; 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 labour in our callings; shunning all occasions of uncleanliness, and resisting temptations thereunto.
A common theme among the laws of God is that if we would keep them rightly and properly the first step is that we do so with diligence and purpose. But how do we do that? We’ve noted before that at its center every sin has its beginning in spiritual atheism. In other words we do that which the Lord directs us not to do because we place ourselves in His shoes and make ourselves the prime mover and shaker of creation. We decide that which we think is right for us and then shove God off to the side as our wisdom and understanding take over. I would hope that we all confess that it is foolishness to break the Seventh Commandment for the reason that we must rest and hope in the one who has granted us knowledge of the First. Remember that the Ten Commandments are given in the context of God’s redeeming Israel from bondage to slavery in Egypt. His goal in giving them the law is to show them they are a particular people whom He has called to be His own. The words then found in Q. 137 then illustrate for us that God desires for us to be like Himself, to not give our love to another, but remain faithful to our betrothed, whether that be the spouse of our youth or the work the Lord has set aside in our singleness to accomplish (that is what continency or celibacy means). We do not cheat on our spouses for the reason that this is not how our Lord treated us. He has been eternally faithful and He has not cast His eye on another. When we read the Apostle to be like Christ here we see one the ways we are to be as Him in the consideration of what it means to not commit adultery.
But what does that mean? We’ve kind of talked around it, but it simply means to leave and cleave. When we marry we are to keep our eyes on the spouse God in His providence has provided for us. Those who are unmarried are to keep themselves spotless and are to be ready for marriage. I fear one of the reasons why so many of our young people, even in Christian circles, have so much trouble finding a godly spouse is that our porn-soaked culture has made it very difficult for young men and young ladies to find someone who doesn’t have a very worldly understanding of what marriage is: for women this often comes from having unrealistic expectations for the man in regards to his capabilities when first sought, and for men this often shows itself in the way their objectification of women moves them to desire a form that is unbiblical and plastic. The answer to fix this problem lies in the Church modeling through a Titus 2 and 1 Timothy 4 paradigm what the right type of spouse each should be to the other. It is an unfortunate reality that much of what passes for this in Christian publishing is quite worldly, so we must go back to the basics.
Elder men and mature women should be discipling young men and young women in how to find a spouse and how to make themselves properly prepared to be one. That’s part of the diligence mentioned above. We could get into the often unwise and unthinking way unfettered and unchaperoned dating has become the norm in conservative, biblical contexts when it comes to seeking a husband or a wife. We should never date for fun or for sport. Seeking a husband or a wife should involve the wisdom of mothers and fathers in prayer for their children, praying with their children, and always with the goal of ascertaining if the individual is the one God has called to be the one. Marriage is far too important to leave to youthful lust.
In closing, a positive understanding of this goes a long way in seeing that the Seventh commandment is not only followed, but leads to the flourishing of the entire community. The nation is wicked because the family is wicked. You can’t hope to fix what ails the culture until its building block is back in the foreground and in focus. Godly families working together in the church produce a godly society. That is central to what it means to keep this statute of God.
Here’s a word:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church