On the Plains of Moab Blog
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November 7, 2016, 9:55 AM

Here Comes the Seventh!

This coming Sunday, we come to the Seventh Commandment. “You shall not commit adultery.” On the face of it, referring to one behavior, in one relationship: marriage. However, the commandment is expanded and applied in all aspects of our sexuality in the pages of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. This is why Reformed catechisms Paint a broad brushstroke when it comes to the Seventh Commandment. Check out both the Westminster Larger Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism below:

Westminster Larger Catechism
Q. 138. What does the seventh commandment require?
A. The seventh commandment requires us to be sexually pure in body, mind, inclinations, words, and actions, and to maintain that purity in ourselves and others. We are to monitor what we look at as well as what we experience with our other senses; and we are to live temperately, keeping pure company and dressing modestly. Those who cannot control their sexual desires should marry, loving and living together with their spouses. We should also work hard at whatever we are called to do, avoiding all opportunities for indecency, and resisting any temptation to say, think, or do anything indecent or obscene.

Q. 139. What particular sins does the seventh commandment forbid?
A. In addition to failing to do what is required, the seventh commandment forbids: adultery, fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural desires; all impure imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and inclinations; all corrupt and nasty talk or listening to such, lewd looks, shameless or frivolous behavior, and immodest dress;8 prohibiting lawful marriages and allowing unlawful ones; condoning, tolerating, or organizing prostitution and visiting prostitutes; restrictive vows of celibacy, unnecessary delays in marrying, having more than one wife or husband at the same time; unjust divorce or desertion; idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, and keeping impure company; obscene or pornographic songs, books, pictures, dancing, or theatrical presentations; and all other encouragement to or indulgence in impure activities by us or others.

The Heidelberg Catechism
Q. 108. What does the seventh commandment teach us?
A. That all unchastity is condemned by God, and that we should therefore detest it from the heart, and live chaste and disciplined lives, whether in holy wedlock or in single life.

Q. 109. Does God forbid nothing more than adultery and such gross sins in this commandment?
A. Since both our body and soul are a temple of the Holy Spirit, it is his will that we keep both pure and holy. Therefore he forbids all unchaste actions, gestures, words, thoughts, desires and whatever may excite another person to them.

Got to love Heidelberg's pastorally warm language as compared to the icily academic laundry list of Westminster!

I forget who uttered these words, but it is both a cautionary note and a rebuke to the church at the same time: “The Church will either shape the world; or the Church will be shaped by the world.” In matters of sexuality, the world has proved very adept in defining morality down. Biblically void, specious reasoning abounds.

In the run-up to the sermon on Sunday, I want to share a couple of links. The first is the Preliminary Paper on Human Sexuality that was approved last summer in Detroit at the EPC’s General Assembly (GA). It will be voted upon formally next summer at the Sacramento GA for inclusion in our Constitution. I think you’ll find it quite pastorally sensitive.


The second article is a response from Rosario Butterfield to the news that popular Christian author, Jen Hatmaker, has changed her mind on same-sex marriage. Rosario comes from a unique perspective and background.  One that makes Hatmaker’s flip very personal. Again, I link to this to give you something to chew on before Sunday.


Please understand that the sermon on this particular commandment isn’t just going to be about this hot button issue. However, you cannot deny that this issue has overwhelmed God’s people, leaving many confused. Many afraid to speak up for fear of being called bigots or haters. We do need pastoral clarity.

However, there is more to this commandment, and I pray that I can be winsome and loving speaking in very turbulent waters.

The journey begins. Books (and The Book!) and blank paper in hand. A week of prayer and reflection and writing ahead.

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