The Sixth Commandment—Exodus 20:14


Levi Durfey


1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.


4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.


7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.


8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.


12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

13 Thou shalt not kill.

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

15 Thou shalt not steal.

16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. (Exodus 20:1-17)




It was February 12, 1998. I entered into the chapel and sat down with a couple of my friends. It was our daily habit in seminary, a half-hour chapel service at midmorning. I wasn’t paying as much attention as my friends, who noticed that something was wrong. The dean of the seminary was present on stage, along with a few other of the administrative big-shots. We whispered back and forth for a moment, and then hushed when Dr. Grier stepped to the pulpit. 


There he announced that one of the professors, actually my own academic advisor, had resigned because of adultery. We were stunned as Grier explained that this had gone on for a long time. One of my friends had just recently submitted a paper to him on adultery in the Bible—it was handed back with comments like, “Good job, well put,” and so forth. We couldn’t help but wonder if that paper was one of the cattle prods that God used to convict his heart and confess his sin.


The adultery occurred when he started counseling a woman in the church that he pastored. One thing led to another, and pretty soon they were in a relationship. Dr. Grier, who had counseled in dozens of these sort of adultery situations, explained that, in counseling situations when this happens, it’s mainly the man’s fault. He pushes a little and the woman eventually complies. It was a stern warning to us men.


In our look at the Ten Commandments, we now turn to the one that my professor violated:




The sixth commandment reads:


Exodus 20:14 Thou shalt not commit adultery. 


We have said that the Ten Commandments, and in particular, the last six, are important to obey if a nation or society expects to survive. These are just commonsense rules for building lasting relationships. Of course, we’ve also seen that our nation is rapidly moving away from obeying these commandments. We kill our young by the millions with abortions and euthanasia is preparing to take our older folks. 


Adultery does not hold the kind of shame today that it used to. There are all sorts of justification for excusing it. “They’re two consenting adults, they can do what they want, besides his wife (or her husband) is a total idiot anyway.” Or, someone might pontificate about how what really matters is love—not a marriage commitment.


Our attitude is that adultery does not effect anyone much beyond the people directly involved. If these last six commandments are important for maintaining a good society, then how is committing adultery dangerous to our society as a whole?


This commandment protects the marriage relationship, which in turn protects the family, which is the basic building block of any society. The Bible confirms that adultery is a treason against a spouse, the family, the society, and God himself by making the penalty for adultery to be very high—death.


10 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. (Leviticus 20:10)


Douglas Wilson comments: “Certainly an adulterer is worthy of death; a man who will betray his wife will betray anyone and anything. Adultery is treason against the family, and God hates it.”[1]


Even though we may not use capital punishment for adultery any longer, that does not mean that the terribleness of adultery is any less diminished. It’s a betrayal of trust that will permanently mar the people involved and the children near to it.


How does adultery get started?




The thing with the Ten Commandments is that they are the top of the iceberg when it comes to sin. They forbid the greatest expression of a sin, but that doesn’t mean we can safely ignore the lesser sins leading up to it. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, explained and taught this truth. Murder is preceded by hatred, so hatred is, in a sense, the equivalent of murder (Matthew 5:21-22). He does the same with adultery:


27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 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. 30 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. (Matthew 5:27–30)


What is lusting? To lust is to imagine the possibilities with that person. Our culture says that lust is okay, you can look but you can’t touch. The vast majority of popular songs are about unbiblical love one way or another. Don’t even get me started with romantic movies. 


Jesus says that the sixth commandment forbids flirting, emotional bonding, thinking improper thoughts, and whatever else that may lead into adultery. Adultery never just happens. There’s bonding that leads up to the act of adultery. There’s something about the other person that fills in a gap a spouse is leaving. 




1. Flee Temptation And Kill Sin


Adultery can be prevented by avoiding the temptation, or the situations that could cause temptation to happen. It can be prevented by always being in guard in potential situations. A deacon from a previous church recalled the time that he learned the importance of being careful being alone with another woman. A certain family had performed for our church. He learned that one of the daughters, in her twenties then, built web sites. 


Since he owned a business that would benefit from a web site, he invited her to come and meet to discuss building him a website. When she came, she did not come alone—her sister came with. In a culture where women and men meet alone all the time, this surprised my friend. But then he realized how wise it was, and it became an important lesson in his life. 


I am not saying there are never times or places that men and women couldn’t meet alone—but it should never be taken for granted. We should always have a caution light blinking in the back of our brain, ready to do a Joseph-jump from the situation if necessary.


If you think that this is prudish and I need to lighten up a little, consider what Jesus said after saying that lusting was adultery—


29 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. (Matthew 5:29)


Ouch! Now, of course, he does not mean that we are literally to gouge out our eye or to mutate any other part of our body. Would that stop a person from lusting? Of course not! But neither should we write Jesus off as being out of date or out to lunch. D.A. Carson explains—


What then does Jesus mean? Just this: we are to deal drastically with sin. We must not pamper it, flirt with it, enjoy nibbling a little of it around the edges. We are to hate it, crush it, dig it out.[2]


What did Paul say about this?


5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: (Colossians 3:5)


Flee the tempting situations and put to death any lust at once. Remember that you can do this when you rely on the Spirit’s help more than your own strength.


2. Practice Modesty (Both Men And Women)


This is a very serious situation for our society today. Mention modesty and you’re liable to get slapped with the “I have a right to dress as I please and if you don’t like it, then go somewhere else.” Problem is, that attitude is very unloving towards both our brothers and sisters and also very unrealistic in the light of our sinful natures.


Modesty is more than about dress—it’s about attitude of self-exalting promotion. In the case of clothing, it’s a “look at me” sort of attitude. Paul says in 1 Timothy—


9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. (1 Timothy 2:9–10)


Now, I don’t think we need to get stuck on the what is and isn’t permitted. The real questions we need to ask are: 1) Why am I dressing this way? 2) What do I expect others, especially those of the opposite sex, to think when they see me? 3) Could I cause a brother or sister to stumble?


3. Nurture Your Own Marriage


What has been the most favorite car you have ever owned? For me, it is one that I still own: a 1997 Ford half-ton pickup. It doesn’t have anything fancy on it—no power windows or what not. The radio comes on randomly by itself, and you have to jam the button several times to get it to turn off. The wind noise is louder with the windows rolled up than with them rolled down. But there is an emotional bond between me and that pickup. 


Have you thought of your favorite car yet? Good, now imagine that car is your spouse. It’s the only car you can ever own—unless it’s killed in a tragic head on collision with a tree. What would you do to maintain a long and happy marriage with that car? Oil changes; keeping it clean inside and out; paying attention to the little noises and sounds it makes. And, you would drive it—disuse is a sure way to make a car age.


That’s what we need to do with our spouses (minus the oil changes). Nothing prevents temptation to lust better than being happy in your marriage (see 1 Corinthians 7:1-5). The way to stay happy in a marriage is to nurture it—make it last forever.


At the core of the nurturing of your marriage must be Christ. Remember that any act of unfaithfulness to your spouse is first and foremost an act of unfaithfulness to Christ—it’s involving his body in adultery (see 1 Corinthians 6:1-20). So pray together; talk about Christ together; talk to Christ together. Let him be the glue that holds you together.



[1] Qtd in Philip Graham Ryken and R. Kent Hughes, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), 629.

[2] D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World: An Exposition of Matthew 5–10, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999), 47.

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