A Laymen’s Commentary on the Large Catechism: Sixth Commandment

This is part 8 of 16 in the series A Layman's Commentary on the Large Catechism



My heart overflows with a pleasing theme;
    I address my verses to the king;
    my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.

You are the most handsome of the sons of men;
    grace is poured upon your lips;
    therefore God has blessed you forever.
Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one,
    in your splendor and majesty!

In your majesty ride out victoriously
    for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
    let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
Your arrows are sharp
    in the heart of the king’s enemies;
    the peoples fall under you.

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
    The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
    you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
    with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;
    your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.
From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;
    daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor;
    at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.

10 Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear:
    forget your people and your father’s house,
11     and the king will desire your beauty.
Since he is your lord, bow to him.
12     The people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts,
    the richest of the people.

13 All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold.
14     In many-colored robes she is led to the king,
    with her virgin companions following behind her.
15 With joy and gladness they are led along
    as they enter the palace of the king.

16 In place of your fathers shall be your sons;
    you will make them princes in all the earth.
17 I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations;
    therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.

(Psalm 45)


The Sixth Commandment.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

What does this mean?–Answer.

We should fear and love God that we may lead a chaste and decent life in words and deeds, and each love and honor his spouse.

(Small Catechism)


These are the holy Ten Commands
Which our Lord God placed in our hands
Through Moses, His own servant true,
When he to Mount Sinai drew.

Thou shalt respect thy marriage vows,
Thy heart give only to thy spouse;
Thy life keep pure, and lest thou sin,
Use temp’rance and discipline.

God hath giv’n us all these commands
That thou thy sin, O child of man,
Might know, and also well perceive
How unto God man should live.

Help us, Lord Jesus Christ, for we
A Mediator have in Thee.
With works we’d perish from the path;
They merit but endless wrath.
Kyrieleis! (TLH 287/LSB 581)


The Sixth Commandment.

199] Thou shalt not commit adultery.

200] These commandments now [that follow] are easily understood from [the explanation of] the preceding; for they are all to the effect that we [be careful to] avoid doing any kind of injury to our neighbor. But they are arranged in fine [elegant] order. In the first place, they treat of his own person. Then they proceed to the person nearest him, or the closest possession next after his body, namely, his wife, who is one flesh and blood with him, so that we cannot inflict a higher injury upon him in any good that is his. Therefore it is explicitly forbidden here to bring any disgrace upon him in respect to his wife. 201] And it really aims at adultery, because among the Jews it was ordained and commanded that every one must be married. Therefore also the young were early provided for [married], so that the virgin state was held in small esteem, neither were public prostitution and lewdness tolerated (as now). Therefore adultery was the most common form of unchastity among them.

202] But because among us there is such a shameful mess and the very dregs of all vice and lewdness, this commandment is directed also against all manner of unchastity, whatever it may be called; 203] and not only is the external act forbidden, but also every kind of cause, incitement, and means, so that the heart, the lips, and the whole body may be chaste and afford no opportunity, help, or persuasion to inchastity. 204] And not only this, but that we also make resistance, afford protection and rescue wherever there is danger and need; and again, that we give help and counsel, so as to maintain our neighbor’s honor. For whenever you omit this when you could make resistance, or connive at it as if it did not concern you, you are as truly guilty as the one perpetrating the deed. 205] Thus, to state it in the briefest manner, there is required this much, that every one both live chastely himself and help his neighbor do the same, so that God by this commandment wishes to hedge round about and protect [as with a rampart] every spouse that no one trespass against them.

206] But since this commandment is aimed directly at the state of matrimony and gives occasion to speak of the same, you must well understand and mark, first, how gloriously God honors and extols this estate, inasmuch as by His commandment He both sanctions and guards it. He has sanctioned it above in the Fourth Commandment: Honor thy father and thy mother; but here He has (as we said) hedged it about and protected it. 207] Therefore He also wishes us to honor it, and to maintain and conduct it as a divine and blessed estate; because, in the first place, He has instituted it before all others, and therefore created man and woman separately (as is evident), not for lewdness, but that they should [legitimately] live together, be fruitful, beget children, and nourish and train them to the honor of God.

208] Therefore God has also most richly blessed this estate above all others, and, in addition, has bestowed on it and wrapped up in it everything in the world, to the end that this estate might be well and richly provided for. Married life is therefore no jest or presumption; but it is an excellent thing and a matter of divine seriousness. For it is of the highest importance to Him that persons be raised who may serve the world and promote the knowledge of God, godly living, and all virtues, to fight against wickedness and the devil.

209] Therefore I have always taught that this estate should not be despised nor held in disrepute, as is done by the blind world and our false ecclesiastics, but that it be regarded according to God’s Word, by which it is adorned and sanctified, so that it is not only placed on an equality with other estates, but that it precedes and surpasses them all, whether they be that of emperor, princes, bishops, or whoever they please. For both ecclesiastical and civil estates must humble themselves and all be found in this estate, as we shall hear. 210] Therefore it is not a peculiar estate, but the most common and noblest estate, which pervades all Christendom, yea which extends through all the world.

The Fifth Commandment dealt with a man’s physical person.  The Sixth Commandment deals with the next most important thing, his wife who is also one flesh with him.  This one flesh union is given in the very beginning before the Fall, and it unites a man and a woman into a new family.  This blessed estate is given for three reasons: companionship, pleasure, and procreation.  Thus we are to hold it in very high esteem (Genesis 1-2).

Recall that it is at the point when the woman is created and marriage instituted that God calls the Creation very good.  Thus marriage is the crowning achievement of Creation, for reasons that will become apparent shortly.  It also shows the importance of the woman to God as she is the crown jewel of all Creation, which man is to treasure.

All of this falls into what is called the Order of Creation, which describes both the order of authority but also the order of service.  Authority always has demands on the one given authority.  It is a curious irony that those who have more authority also have less freedom as they are given more responsibilities to service.  It is a concept we have lost in this grey and latter-day where authority is taken to mean a tyrannical self-serving rule rather than a selfless service to those whom one has authority over.

The Order of Creation is as follows: God > Angels > Men (Men > Women > Children) > Animals > Plants > Inanimate World

Thus within the Order, Men as a species have dominion over all material beings and objects.  It is they who have stewardship over all Creation.  Within human families, husbands have dominion over their wives and children.  This dominion is for their good and not for him to lord his dominion it over them.  Rather he is to love them as much, if not more, than his own body for they are his flesh.  So also wives have dominion over their children along with their husband.  They are to use that authority to serve and love their children.  Conversely, wives and children must submit to their proper authorities, but by doing so are also freed of the burdens of responsibility.  It is the husband that ultimately bears the sins and pain of the family, as Adam did for Eve.  This is also why men are to be the only ones in harm’s way because women and children are to be protected above all else from the evils of the world by men.  This gives great freedom to women and children as they live under the protective care of the men in their lives.

However, marriage is more than just an earthly estate. It is also a dim image of the actual reality of how Christ loves the Church.  This is how St. Paul discusses it in Ephesians 5:22-33.  It is not that Christ and the Church is a metaphor for marriage, but rather the other way around.  Christ and His bride, the Church, are the reality.  Marriage is the example.  Christ is the husband, the head of His bride.  He takes on all of His bride’s sin and makes her pure and beautiful.  He sacrifices Himself for her in the greatest and most perfect way.  He is what it means to be a loving husband.  All husbands should rightly desire to be little Christ’s to their families.  Likewise, the Church is the bride, the body of Christ.  She lovingly submits to Christ’s instruction and care, as her Bridegroom.  All wives should rightly desire to be little Church’s to their families.

Indeed men and women are created with these distinct vocations in mind.  Our modern confusion of the sexes via feminism and transgenderism has destroyed this and made a mess of understanding what roles the Lord has given to men and women, especially in marriage.  For more discussion of the roles of men and women see the books “Man Up!” and “Ladylike”.  For an excellent discussion about the Christian response to transgenderism see the CTCR report “Gender Identity Disorder or Gender Dysphoria in Christian Perspective”.

Regardless of vocation in the family, we are to live chaste lives.  This chastity is found both in the single life of celibacy but also in the married life with enjoying one’s spouse.  So married men and women and just as pure and undefiled as the most blessed virgin.  Thus this commandment is meant to protect marriage, as the Law acts as a hedge against evil (Job 1:1-12).

As we saw in the 4th Commandment God has already approved marriage, but now He hedges it even more with the 6th. Marriage and sex are to be held in great honor and purity (Hebrews 13:1-6).  Thus this commandment forbids all thoughts and acts of lust.  This includes the blight of pornography and masturbation, which has destroyed and seared the consciences of our men in this highly sexualized age.  It also forbids fornication such as premarital sex, which both treats sex as a drug but also robs the future spouses of their right to a pure husband or wife.  This also applies to the sin of cohabitation which seeks to play house rather than embrace the love and commitment found in marriage.  All of these sins, along with many others, are not to be numbered with the saints (Ephesians 5:1-21).  They all stain our bodies, minds, and souls.  Rather men and women are created not for lewdness but for marriage and to raise children (Psalm 128).

Marriage then is to be highly esteemed by all, even above all other earthly estates.  God established this as the bond which produces the family, the foundation of all order in society.  This predates all government.  It is the crown of His creation and the last remaining vestige of the Garden of Eden.

211] In the second place, you must know also that it is not only an honorable, but also a necessary state, and it is solemnly commanded by God that, in general, in all conditions, men and women, who were created for it, shall be found in this estate; yet with some exceptions (although few) whom God has especially excepted, so that they are not fit for the married estate, or whom He has released by a high, supernatural gift that they can maintain chastity without this estate. 212] For where nature has its course, as it is implanted by God, it is not possible to remain chaste without marriage. For flesh and blood remain flesh and blood, and the natural inclination and excitement have their course without let or hindrance, as everybody sees and feels. In order, therefore, that it may be the more easy in some degree to avoid inchastity, God has commanded the estate of matrimony, that every one may have his proper portion and be satisfied therewith; although God’s grace besides is required in order that the heart also may be pure.

213] From this you see how this popish rabble, priests, monks, and nuns, resist God’s order and commandment, inasmuch as they despise and forbid matrimony, and presume and vow to maintain perpetual chastity, and, besides, deceive the simple-minded with lying words and appearances [impostures]. 214] For no one has so little love and inclination to chastity as just those who because of great sanctity avoid marriage, and either indulge in open and shameless prostitution, or secretly do even worse, so that one dare not speak of it, as has, alas! been learned too fully. 215] And, in short, even though they abstain from the act, their hearts are so full of unchaste thoughts and evil lusts that there is a continual burning and secret suffering, which can be avoided in the married life. 216] Therefore all vows of chastity out of the married state are condemned by this commandment, and free permission is granted, yea, even the command is given, to all poor ensnared consciences which have been deceived by their monastic vows to abandon the unchaste state and enter the married life, considering that even if the monastic life were godly, it would nevertheless not be in their power to maintain chastity, and if they remain in it, they must only sin more and more against this commandment.

217] Now, I speak of this in order that the young may be so guided that they conceive a liking for the married estate, and know that it is a blessed estate and pleasing to God. For in this way we might in the course of time bring it about that married life be restored to honor, and that there might be less of the filthy, dissolute, disorderly doings which now run riot the world over in open prostitution and other shameful vices arising from disregard of married life. 218] Therefore it is the duty of parents and the government to see to it that our youth be brought up to discipline and respectability, and when they have come to years of maturity, to provide for them [to have them married] in the fear of God and honorably; He would not fail to add His blessing and grace, so that men would have joy and happiness from the same.

219] Let me now say in conclusion that this commandment demands not only that every one live chastely in thought, word, and deed in his condition, that is, especially in the estate of matrimony, but also that every one love and esteem the spouse given him by God. For where conjugal chastity is to be maintained, man and wife must by all means live together in love and harmony, that one may cherish the other from the heart and with entire fidelity. For that is one of the principal points which enkindle love and desire of chastity, so that, where this is found, chastity will follow as a matter of course without any command. 220] Therefore also St. Paul so diligently exhorts husband and wife to love and honor one another. 221] Here you have again a precious, yea, many and great good works, of which you can joyfully boast, against all ecclesiastical estates, chosen without God’s Word and commandment.

Marriage is also given to curb sexual sin as it is the proper place for sexual desire.  It is most godly to have and enjoy sex in marriage, it is most ungodly to do so outside of marriage.  Such are the blessings of this hallowed estate.

St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in chapter seven lays out our Christian ethic towards sex in no uncertain terms.  First, man and wife are not to use sex as a weapon.  Rather man and wife are to have healthy sex lives and remain physically attractive to each other (1 Corinthians 7:1-5).

St. Paul then moves on to point out that being single is also a good thing as you can devote yourself to serving the Kingdom (Matthew 19:10-12).  However, the true gift of celibacy is rare.  As such those who do have sexual desire should marry (1 Corinthians 7:6-11).

Christians should not marry those who do not share their faith, as it is sinful (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).  However, for those situations where a believer is unequally yoked, divorce is forbidden (1 Corinthians 7:12-16).  In fact, as Jesus rightly states divorce is an aberration to God’s plan for marriage (Matthew 19:1-9).  As such divorce is always to be abhorred, and only used in cases of infidelity and only after all calls to repentance have failed.

St. Paul goes on to discuss how we are to stay in our vocations that the Lord has put us in (1 Corinthians 7:17-24).  Those who aren’t bound in marriage are free to do as they please and decide if they will or won’t marry, and who they will marry if they do so (1 Corinthians 7:25-31).  St. Paul though warns that marriage will not solve all your problems but rather it will change your focus, as God gives you a different vocation (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).

In the end, the rule of Scripture is simple. If you have sexual desire, you should marry. If you do not, you shouldn’t.  Marriage is for this life only and ends at death (1 Corinthians 7:36-40, Mark 12:18-27).  So far St. Paul on marriage.

Even though we are saved, we are still in our bodies.  Thus marriage exists to curb our sin.  Yet even in this, God’s grace is required to remain pure.  We must seek out Christ and justification always.

Luther here points out, from personal experience, that vows of celibacy are ridiculous.  Those who take them judge themselves as better Christians than those who marry.  Given this, and our inability to keep these vows, vows of celibacy outside of marriage are null and void.  If we would be chaste we must marry or be one of the select few who have the gift of celibacy.

Because marriage is disdained we have a filthy, loose, and shameful culture which uses sex as a drug and a cheap thing.  As such we have the punishment for breaking this commandment already among us.  After all our society is rife with STD’s, bastard children, abortion, low birth rates, and destruction of societal morality.

To fight against this Parents, Government, and the Church should encourage marriage and help single people who do not have the gift of celibacy to find husbands/wives.  Arguably our children should be marrying much younger than they do as the throes of hormones cause many to fall into the sins of pornography and premarital sex. In addition, many studies have shown the benefits of younger marriage and having children at a younger age.  Beyond the fact that marriage and children force our young men and women to mature and become responsible adults.

Marriage brings great blessings to all. Husband and wife should strive to live faithfully, chastely, harmoniously, and in love with God and each other.  Many good works can be found in marriage, sex among them.  Inside the marriage, it provides for the chastity, the mutual comfort of those married, and is the means by which the Lord grants the blessing of children.  Marriage gives stability and a place to raise children. It also helps society by creating and training new people and granting stability to the world as a whole.  Marriage helps to make mature and responsible people who think about others instead of themselves.  Beyond that, it gives true expression to the created order of man and woman, who can fully express their masculine and feminine virtues in marriage.

All other sexual deviancy outside of marriage is rejected and condemned as sinful.  Sex is to be properly confined to marriage and no other institution.  Thus homosexuality, bestiality, polygamy, pedophilia, and prostitution are sinful along with manifold other heinous acts (Genesis 19, Romans 1:18-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-20, 1 Timothy 1:8-11).

With that preaching of the Law though there is beautiful Gospel attendant.  For we are all sinners in need of a Savior as St. Paul wonderfully states in 1 Corinthians 6:11. Thus to call people back from their sins we must speak the truth to that those who practice any sexual deviancy, which can be difficult in these days ruled by the sexual revolution.  Our goal must always be the salvation of the sinner, not his condemnation.

1 “Wake, awake, for night is flying,”
The watchmen on the heights are crying;
“Awake, Jerusalem, arise!”
Midnight hears the welcome voices
And at the thrilling cry rejoices;
“Oh, where are ye, ye virgins wise?
The Bridegroom comes, awake!
Your lamps with gladness take!
With bridal care
Yourselves prepare
To meet the Bridegroom, who is near.”

2 Zion hears the watchmen singing
And all her heart with joy is springing;
She wakes, she rises from her gloom.
For her Lord comes down all-glorious,
The strong in grace, in truth victorious;
Her star is ris’n, her light is come.
Now come, Thou Blessed One,
Lord Jesus, God’s own Son,
Hail! Hosanna!
We enter all,
The wedding hall
To eat the Supper at Thy call.

3 Now let all the heav’ns adore Thee,
Let saints and angels sing before Thee
With harp and cymbals’ clearest tone.
Of one pearl each shining portal,
Where, joining with the choir immortal,
We gather round Thy radiant throne.
No eye has seen the light,
No ear has heard the might
Of Thy glory;
Therefore will we
Sing hymns of praise and joy to Thee!

(LSB 516)

About Dr. Paul Edmon

Dr. Paul Edmon is from Seattle, Washington and now resides in Boston, Massachusetts. He has his B.S. in Physics from the University of Washington in 2004 and Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of Minnesota in 2010. He is professional staff at Harvard University and acts as liaison between Center for Astrophysics and Research Computing. A life long Lutheran, he is formerly a member of Messiah Lutheran Church in Seattle and University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis. He now attends First Lutheran Church (FLC) of Boston where he teaches Lutheran Essentials. He sings bass in the FLC choir and Canto Armonico. He was elected to the Concordia Seminary St. Louis Board of Regents in 2016. He is single and among his manifold interests are scotch, football, anime, board games, mythology, history, philosophy, and general nerdiness. The views expressed here are his own and do not represent Harvard University or Concordia Seminary. Twitter: @pauledmon

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