Exodus 20:14, Matthew 19:4-6
Flourishing: As individuals we are made in God’s image to fill the world with his goodness. The most fundamental way that we image God is in the union and fruitfulness of sexual union within marriage. Marriage, the free, complete and irreversible giving of oneself between a man and a woman, consummated in sexual union and embodied in the fruitfulness of child-bearing, is God’s primary way of filling the world with the love of the Trinity. Marriage is the sacred centre of creation and, even in a fallen world, marriage fills the earth with immeasurable goodness and restrains evil in countless ways. Therefore, adultery – a married person having sex with someone they are not married to – is a direct assault on the bridgehead of God’s common grace into the world.
The power of sexuality to bring goodness into the world through marriage is derived from the immense physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual forces that are involved in sexual intimacy. Sex creates powerful and irreversible bonds between people. This is why the command also means that all sexual activity is to be reserved for marriage. Additionally, outside of marriage, these forces can become powerfully destructive. It is important for Christians to recognise that this understanding of the value of sex and marriage is more counter-cultural than ever before and thus to model lives that show how good God’s way is.
Fencing: A married person must not be sexually intimate with someone they are not married to. Moreover, all sexual intimacy is to be reserved for marriage. If you are sexually intimate with someone you are not married to, you are robbing them of the value God has placed on them, regardless of how they feel about the situation. An engaged couple should either wait until they are married before they have sex, or get married if they cannot wait. (1 Cor 7:9) Our culture’s emphasis on expensive and elaborate weddings is a particular barrier in this regard and Christians should seriously consider simpler marriage celebrations that do not create a temptation to sin through unnecessarily delaying marriage for financial or organisational reasons. In summary, all sexual activity outside marriage, and all sexual activity that isn’t directed to giving oneself completely to your spouse is a sin.
Freeing: The commandment frees us firstly by identifying just how much of a mess sin has made of our God-given appetites. The fact that we would devalue sex so as to sleep with someone we’re not married to, or even with someone else’s spouse, shows just how poorly we value ourselves and how badly we misunderstand God’s plans for how we should live. The law shows us that we need to repent. Secondly, Christ has paid our debt for even the most wanton abuses of others and gives us back our value even when we have been utterly devalued by others. (1 Pet1:18-19) Thirdly, Christ frees us by washing us of the effects of sexual sin (1 Cor 6:10-11), bringing healing to the victims and perpetrators of sexual sin. Fourthly, he enables us to love and value people without lust being involved. (1 Tim 5:2) Fifthly, he places us in the Church where our relationships can be healed. Sixthly, he restores spousal love to its original potential, (Ephesians 5:21-28) enabling Christian couples to love their with absolute self-giving. Seventhly, to those who are single, the command also holds out the freeing hope that, through the gift of the Spirit, Christians are freed from the need for sexual fulfilment and can both love and be fruitful in extraordinary ways that transcend marriage and point to the resurrection life.(1 Cor 7:7)
Fulfilment: Christ fulfils the command by pointing us to the true meaning of marriage, the union of Christ and the Church. (Eph 5:25-32) Mankind was made for union with God, but committed adultery by rejecting God’s rule and choosing sin instead. Despite this, Christ did not reject his adulterous bride, but laid down his life for her to cleanse her of sin, and is preparing his Church as a bride, that despite her past sin, will one day be spotless and pure, ready for eternal union and endless fruitfulness in the life to come. This faithfulness to the world, also includes his love for you, he died for each one of us, so that despite our unfaithfulness, we could one day enjoy the wonder of perfect life with him.