Taking his series of sermons on Ten Commandments forward, Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Wash., shared with his congregation what marriage is and what it is not, stressing on the gravity of the sin of adultery and sharing 11 practical, biblical ways to attack it.
The pastor of the prominent megachurch in Seattle, spoke about the Seventh Commandment on Sunday, based on Exodus 20:14: "You shall not commit adultery."
God rightly compares marriage to a vine, according to Psalm 128:3, the pastor told the congregation. "You've got to invest a lot and you've got to wait a long time, and you're going to need to be patient and tending to it if you want it to grow and be fruitful. And adultery is literally just severing near the base, the vine."
Many who are unmarried think temptation will cease once they get married, Driscoll said. But that's not so. "As we read in the Bible, the first wedding between our first parents was immediately... followed up with a war. Satan didn't even show up to Adam and Eve until they were married."
But what's marriage? "It's covenant and consummation," Driscoll said, and quoted Malachi 2, "The LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth."
"Is marriage a civil contract, or is it a biblical covenant? A civil contract is really just between two people. It's more of a business arrangement; it's a legal arrangement... The Christian understanding… is that it is not merely civil but covenantal-meaning, it's not just two people. It's two people in God who oversees the covenant."
Marriage is covenantal and it includes consummation, the pastor added. "Two people who are sleeping together are not married because they don't have the covenantal aspect – all they have is the consummation aspect. Two people who are really good friends and love one another and spend time together, but have not entered into covenant and consummated it, are not married."
Driscoll quoted Genesis 2:24: "A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh."
"A civil marriage is not a covenant marriage," the Mars Hill pastor stressed. "In our culture, we don't believe that people are made male and female; we believe that God makes androgynous people who then determine their gender identity. So you're not a man or a woman; you're a person who gets to decide if you will live as a man or a woman."
God made us male and female, Driscoll added. "And I want to be pastorly sensitive to those who are born in such a way that anatomically and physically, there are complicated variables, but that's a small minority. It's led to the point in our culture then, well, why can't a man marry a man, and why can a man marry a woman? And so what we have today is not a definition of marriage, but the absence of a definition of marriage."
The correct definition of marriage is important because it is a portrait of something far greater, the pastor told the congregation.
"The Bible tells us that marriage is a portrait and a symbol and a picture of Jesus' love for the church. You can read this in Ephesians 5, where it says that Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, to present her to Himself as a radiant bride without blemish or spot. The history culminates in Revelation 19 near the end of the Bible with a wedding."
What happens is, if you're confused about marriage, that covenant, you're ultimately confused about salvation and that covenant, Driscoll explained. "This is why people who support same-sex marriage also support universalism, the idea that all peoples and religions will be saved. If you're confused about how God has covenant with us, you'll be confused about how to have covenant in marriage."
So, if marriage is covenantal, what happens when you violate the terms of the covenant? What happens when you commit adultery?
In the Old Testament, the penalty for adultery is death (Leviticus 20:10), and in the New Covenant, the penalty was divorce (Matthew 19:9), the megachurch pastor said.
Divorce is something that should not be rushed into, Driscoll warned. "For those of you who are hearing this, hear me on this: adultery does not mean you should get a divorce. Adultery means you have that as a possibility – it's not a requirement. You don't have to get divorced, but according to Jesus, you have a right to be divorced."
The pastor encouraged "to go back to that vine and to nurture it and to feed it and to water it and to tend to it to see if you can't get it to grow again. If you're going to go do that with someone else, put all that time, energy, effort, and investment in, oftentimes it is good to make that same investment in the relationship you already have."
If you have children, sometimes the wounded parent thinks, "We'll get a divorce and move on," he added. "True or false, for those of you who are divorced with children that if you have children, it's never over?"
In the eternal kingdom, the penalty for adultery is damnation, according to 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, the pastor said. "You can go to hell for this."
God is holy, Driscoll reminded the church members. "Do not be deceived. Not everyone is saved. Not everyone knows Jesus. Not everyone is forgiven. Not everyone is going to heaven. And the big idea here is not, have you sinned, but are you changing?"
The pastor then said heart adultery precedes hand adultery, according to Matthew 5:27–28. "Hand adultery and heart adultery both count."
Driscoll also warned against emotional affairs. "An emotional affair is where you have adultery of the heart that has not yet moved to the hands, but it may only be a matter of time. If you have a friendship with someone of the opposite sex, particularly if there's any aspect of it that is private, personal, it's a sin. It's not a sin for two couples to be friends and enjoy one another, but when one husband goes out to coffee with another wife or vice versa, that's heart idolatry, that's heart adultery."
The pastor then shared 11 ways to attack adultery.
One, don't practice cheating. "Men are waiting till almost thirty. Women are waiting until their late twenties. They spend their young adult years dating, relating and fornicating, not worshiping and waiting. Singles, fornicating is an internship for adultery."
Two, married couples, fight for fidelity with freedom and frequency. "Part of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. Once you get married, however, a good defense is frequency and freedom."
Three, don't first cheat on God. "Before you cheat on your spouse, you have to cheat on God first," the pastor said. "The first commandment, one God. Second commandment, you worship that God alone. Adultery doesn't come until the seventh commandment, and you won't even get to the seventh commandment if you don't violate the first two commandments. Sex is god, and I worship by having sexual sin."
Four, sexual sin starts with your eyes which then recruit your hands. "So guard your eyes. Guard what you see."
Five, see people as family. "To conquer your biology, stop seeing people sexually and start seeing them as family. In our day, we have really a perverted notion where it's like strangers and potential sexual objects."
Six, sexual purity requires both a passionate want-to and a plan for how-to. "The want to precedes the how to. If you don't want to be sexually pure, no plan is going to work. If you want to be sexually pure, that's a good start, but then you need a plan for how to maintain sexually purity."
Seven, your manhood is not best expressed by conquering ladies, but rather, conquering lust, Driscoll shared. "An animal will conquer others. A Spirit-filled man conquers himself – self-discipline, self-control. You're a worshiper; you're not an animal."
Eight, ladies, know men are only half the problem. "... You're not a passive woman; you're a godly woman. We can't just blame this all on the men. Men bear large responsibility, but they don't bear entire responsibility," the pastor said.
Nine, define your life forward then live it backward. "Here's the big idea: look down the road, what do you want for your future? ...So all the decisions I make along the way need to be decisions that help lead to that end. When you get shortsighted, you ultimately damage your future."
Ten, nurture your deepest desires. According to Galatians, the Spirit and the flesh war against one another "and that the flesh keeps you from doing – here's the big word – what you want to do. If you're a Christian, you may have temptations, but your deepest desires are for purity," Driscoll said. "The problem is not that some of you have too passionate desires but that your desires are too weak, that you'll settle for pornography and adultery when you can have a covenant with Jesus and your spouse."
Eleven, you should come clean before you get caught. "Some of you are already living under the anxiety of, 'I'm guilty; I hope I don't get caught.' And some of you are living under this myth: 'If I tell my spouse, then that will hurt our marriage.' The truth is, it's already damaged, and the other person doesn't know why... Let's just be honest and say that God has already caught you."
After talking first to Jesus about your sin, talk with your spouse, Driscoll underlined.
Before concluding, Pastor Driscoll shared "a story of hope," about the woman caught in adultery. "Jesus went to the cross, and He died for this woman's adultery. And Jesus went to the cross and He died for your hand adultery and your heart adultery, and He paid the penalty of death so that we could receive life, and he commands us to go and sin no more."