“For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’”
James illustrates verse 10 by two instances in verse 11 of the most glaring incidents of not loving our neighbor. This verse also shows the unity of the law.
For He who said,
James quotes from Ex. 20:13,14 and De. 5:17,18 to show the unity of the law. We cannot plead innocence based on not committing adultery if we have murdered someone. God does not buy into this kind of pleading.
A single violation of His law destroys the whole law. The law is one because God is one. If we break one of God’s commands, we violate the Lawgiver.
‘Do not commit adultery,’
The Bible uses the term adultery of both sexes, placing them under an obligation of fidelity (Ex 20:13,14; De 5:17,18; Mt 5:27; Mt 19:18). Adultery carries the idea of debauchery. Sexual intercourse with a spouse, not one’s own, debauches the other person.
The stigma of one sin can put a blotch of debauchery on our character.
The purpose of the 10 commandments is to provide freedom. By commanding against adultery, God gives freedom to the married partners to relate to one another. The boundaries of the institution of marriage give freedom for a spouse to trust his or her partner.
God’s view on marriage is a lifelong partnership, and divorce is against God’s original purpose (Mt 19:6ff), so remarriage after divorce is adultery (Mt. 5:32; 19:9; Mk. 10:11-12; Lu. 16:18). Marital fidelity must be maintained to protect freedom in marriage (He 13:4).
When we commit a sex act with someone other than our marriage partner, we debauch the person with whom we commit adultery (1 Th 4:3-8). Adultery and murder are destructive and catastrophic sins because of the social implications of committing these sins.
David’s adultery led to denial, cover-up, and ultimately to the murder of Bathsheba’s husband (2 Sa 11). Many disasters followed David’s adultery: rape, murder, and revolt against his kingdom by his own son (2 Sa 13-15).
After his repentance, David’s response was to worship with the worship of repentance. He worshipped after the tragedies came upon him because he acknowledges his sin and his guilt. God’s chastening should call for praise because we see God’s capacity for forgiveness. When we do not confess our sin, we widen anger and bitterness towards God.
A thief steals when he thinks no one is looking, and an adulterer commits adultery when he believes no one will find out. However, God knows (He 4:13).
Generally, it is advisable to confess the sin of adultery to the spouse. The two who committed adultery share a secret that in itself is an intimacy. This keeps a barrier between the legitimate spouses. If the spouse is not informed, then the possibility of relapse is very strong. Cover-up compounds the problem. The only exception to this is when a partner cannot handle the truth due to emotional problems (not the emotion of pain because of the affair).
David tried with futility to cover his sin. When Bathsheba became pregnant, David plotted to make it appear that Uriah was the baby’s father (2 Sa 11:5-13). When that scheme failed, David plotted again to have Uriah killed (2 Sa 11:14-17). That compounded his sin by a further cover-up system during Bathsheba’s pregnancy and following (2 Sam. 11:27). David wrote Psalm 32 as a response to his adultery and secretive systems operation.
Ps. 32:3-5, “When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long.
4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah
5I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.’”
We do not “fall” into adultery. Adultery always begins with a heart prepared and shaped by a pattern of lustful or covetous thoughts. We always first incubate adultery in mind. Sinful thoughts are not innocent. Some people believe that they can commit adultery in mind, and it is not truly a sin. This is why the Lord Jesus said that anyone who looks on a woman to lust for her had committed adultery in his heart (Mt. 5:21–22, 27–28).
Jesus sets the standard very high not to accept this kind of rationalization in our minds. If we tolerate this sin in our hearts, we show evidence of a hardened heart. If we fantasize about adultery, it is a sin that we wish to commit. Mental adultery is no peccadillo because it gives birth to actual sin. Actual sin is the offspring of our thought life (Ja 1:15).
We need to cry out with David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Ps 51:10). David wrote Psalm 51 after his sin with Bathsheba.