Since we will gather for worship and partake of Christ’s body and blood given and shed for the remission of our sins, it is indeed good and right that we examine ourselves in accord with 1 Cor. 11:28-29: “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”
We do so this week on the basis of God’s commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14
Luther explains the meaning of this commandment in his Small Catechism: “We should fear and love God that we may lead a chaste and decent life in word and deed, and each love and honor his spouse.”
When we examine ourselves on the basis of this commandment, we might assume we have kept it if we haven’t cheated on our spouse and had an illicit affair, but Jesus points out that the commandment includes so much more.
Jesus said, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matthew 5:32; cf. Mark 10:11-12). And Jesus explains that this commandment is also broken when we have sinful thoughts and desires: “That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
The point is that we are guilty of adultery whenever we fail to live in full accord with God’s purpose and design in creation for the life-long union of one man and one woman unto one flesh (cf. Genesis 1:26-28; 2:7,18-25). When questioned about reasons for divorce, Jesus returned to God’s purpose and design in creation, saying (Matthew 19:4-6), “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
It is for this reason that numerous other sexual deviations are included in the prohibitions of Leviticus 18 and elsewhere in the Scriptures. Included in the list of abominations to the Lord are sexual relationships outside of marriage, incest, bestiality, homosexuality and anything which contradicts God’s purpose and design in marriage.
Wives also break this commandment when they fail to submit to the headship of their husbands, and husbands when they fail to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5:22-33; cf. 1 Peter 3:1-7).
And should we take such sins lightly, God’s Word reminds us that they are damning. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; cf. Gal. 5:19-21; Hebrews 13:4; Revelation 21:8).
Thus, we are guilty and condemned by this commandment of the LORD God not only if we have had an illicit affair or a sexual relationship outside of marriage; we are guilty if we have done anything contrary to God’s purpose and design when He created Adam and Eve and instituted marriage, whether that be desiring a woman sexually, viewing pornography, desiring or obtaining a divorce or even failing to live within the God-given roles of husband and wife in marriage.
Again, when we examine ourselves in the light of this commandment of God, we see our utter failures. We deserve nothing but God’s eternal wrath and punishment.
We remember that Christ Jesus kept this commandment perfectly in our stead. He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). And, He went to the cross to suffer and die and bear the just punishment for your sins and my sins against His commandments. “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures … he was buried … he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3,4).
The Bible also tells us (1 John 1:8-9; 2:1-2): “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness … If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
Therefore, we who stand condemned by God’s Law flee to Christ and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross that we might receive pardon, forgiveness and life eternal through faith alone in His name.
I ask you before God: Do you acknowledge that you have sinned? Do you confess and agree with God that you are guilty and deserving of his wrath and punishment? Do you believe God’s commandment is good and right but you are wrong, a sinner deserving of the torments of hell?
Do you trust that Christ Jesus has truly redeemed you from the curse of God’s law? That He fulfilled the law’s righteous demands and then took your sins upon Himself, along with the sins of the whole world, and suffered your just punishment when He died upon the cross? Do you believe that Christ paid for your sins when he died upon the cross and that he rose again in victory?
Do you also believe Jesus gives you to partake of His sacrifice for the sins of the world in the Sacrament – that He gives you His body and blood given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins?
As a fruit of your faith, do you truly desire and seek God’s help to amend your life and live it in accord with God’s Word, to flee from sexual immorality and to rid yourself of sources of temptation (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:18; Matthew 5:29-30).
If you are truly sorry for your sins and look to Christ and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for pardon and forgiveness, I announce unto you the grace of God and, in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]