Text: Sixth Commandment
The Holy Spirit teaches us in Genesis 2 that after God formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, He found that it was not good for Adam to be alone. Every beast of the field had its mate – its helper – but, the Spirit says, “for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.” The Lord God caused Adam to go into a deep sleep, then He took a rib from Adam’s side and formed woman from it. God brought Eve to Adam and he said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” This was the first wedding ceremony, the institution of marriage. “Therefore,” it says, “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
The estate of marriage is a holy relationship instituted by God before the fall into sins. It is worthy to be aspired to and honored by all people as a good gift and gracious blessing of God. This is what the Lord teaches us in the Sixth Commandment. Marriage is a good gift of God, and we honor Him by living chastely both within marriage and outside of it.
Let’s go ahead and read the Sixth Commandment together.
You shall not commit adultery. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.Martin Luther’s Small Catechism
Among all the other Commandments, the Sixth Commandment is the most difficult to talk about. Temptations against this Commandment are things that we all experience at one time or another. These are powerful temptations, easily given into, and well-able to destroy faith. St. Paul was very right to teach the Corinthians to flee from sins against this Commandment. He wrote to them, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” These feelings are so powerful because, in their original state, they were given by God.
The attraction of man and woman is good and was originally given by God in the Garden of Eden. There, He instituted marriage to be the place where these desires are exercised in a godly fashion. He brought Eve to Adam, as we heard, and instructed them to, “be fruitful and multiply.” God intended that the good attraction of man for woman (and vice versa) lead to the birth and raising of children, who, in turn, would be taught to love God and their neighbor. The estate of marriage is a good gift of God that serves four purposes. It is for man and woman to be of mutual help and support for each other. It is for husband and wife to exercise their desires in God-pleasing ways. According to God’s will, marriage may lead to the birth and raising of Christian children. Lastly, since the Fall, marriage also serves as an aid against sin. St. Paul also wrote to the Corinthians, “Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”
I used an older word earlier in this sermon, the word chaste. Being chaste means being modest and decent toward the opposite sex, being respectful of the Lord’s gift of marriage whether we are married or not. This is an idea we’ve approached already: in the Fourth Commandment, we honor God by honoring those He sends to care for us; in the Fifth Commandment, we honor God by respecting the life He gives to us and our neighbors; in this Commandment, we honor God by being faithful to our spouses – we who are married – and refraining from sexual activity if we are unmarried.
As with the other Commandments, the Sixth Commandments speaks not just to actions, but to words and thoughts as well. For those who are married, God would have us relate to our spouses in respectful ways, not in lustful ways. In our thoughts, we should also be faithful to whom God has joined us. We should be aware of how we show affection for others, as well, that the attention due our spouse is not directed toward those to whom we are not married. This is what it means to be chaste within marriage. Husband and wife help and support each other, and find joy in each other alone.
However, chastity is not only a calling for married couples, but for single people as well. God does not require all people to marry. It is not a command. Marriage is not a Sacrament. We are neither more saved if we are married, nor less saved if we aren’t. Just as God calls husbands and wives to be faithful to each other, He calls single men and women to be faithful to Him by honoring this Commandment. This means keeping a close watch on our hearts, that we speak and think about the opposite sex in decent ways. It means regular confession and absolution when we do transgress against this commandment. And, it general, it means reserving sexual activity for marriage alone, along with praying for and supporting those who are married. (Which is something we should all be doing.)
Marriage is a good and wonderful gift of God, whereby He joins man and woman together to support each other, find joy in each other, and, where He wills, bring forth and raise Christian children. Beyond this, though, there is an even greater thought: marriage is an earthly illustration of the love that Christ has for us, His Church. As He is faithful to His bride, so He teaches us to be faithful to Him, by honoring this institution and living chastely in what we say and do.
Let us pray:
Holy Lord, You instituted marriage in Eden, and by Your Word You uphold and protect this blessed union of man and woman in one flesh. Cause us to honor marriage and put away from us all sinful thoughts, words, and deeds that would dishonor and distort the gift of marriage. Bless all married couples with faithfulness. Hear the prayers of all who seek a godly spouse, and give to us all purity and decency in all things; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.