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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
The Small Catechism – part 81

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From the Word27 You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27–28)

From the Confessions: The Small Catechism 

The Sixth Commandment

You shall not commit adultery.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that in matters of sex we are chaste and disciplined in our words and actions, and that husband and wife love and honor each other.

Pulling It Together: Breaking the marriage covenant is not simply a physical matter. Adultery begins in the heart, with lust and intention or will. Jesus teaches us that it is possible to commit adultery mentally, in the deepest way: in the heart, as we say. This is an act of unfaithfulness, not only to one’s spouse, but also to God and to the Christian community. Just as brothers and sisters in Christ witness marriage between a man and a woman, God does too. He is the primary witness of the marriage covenant (Mal 2:14), a relationship that demonstrates the love of God for his church (2 Cor 11:2). Adultery severs this bond between two people whom God has made one (Gen 2:24; Eph 5:31). Lusting after another is a demonstration that the heart is not in the right place; one’s affections are neither for one’s spouse nor for God.

In this passage, Jesus is concerned with the heart, with our affections. We are to love God with our whole being (Deut 6:5; Matt 22:36–40), beginning with the heart and mind—the will. He commands us to love our neighbor in the same way, beginning with our closest neighbor: wife or husband. Love begins in the heart; so does sin. When the heart wanders from love to lust, remember that Christ calls sinners like us to repentance (Luke 5:32) and faithfulness.

Prayer: Give me such love for you, O God, that I love my neighbor as myself. Amen.

Click here for resources to learn the Ten Commandments.

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The study not only addresses matters of life, death, heaven, and hell, it steadfastly affirms that Jesus Christ is at the center of all these things. Our ultimate faith and hope rest in Christ’s death and resurrection for our sake. We live in faith by the biblical promise that: “God raised the Lord, and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Cor 6:14).

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