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by Ian McPherson

It may be argued that adultery has even more devastating consequences to family life, and mankind in general than burglary, and even rape or murder. Yet in Australia, adultery carries with it no punishment by law. For example, I know of a husband and wife who had worked hard for many years building a business together. They had a nice family, and had become quite wealthy and self-sufficient. After many years of marriage the husband had an affair with an employee, and the wife was forced out of the luxurious house they had raised their family in. The adulteress moved into her house, taking over her husband, and her possessions (even using many things that they had received as wedding presents). Because the husband was a clever business man, he managed to tie up all the business, and house, in his name. His wife received nothing., she was therefore forced to live a miserable life on Government assistance, staying in small units or with family. This man had destroyed his family, robbed his beautiful, innocent wife of her possession, plundered her home, humiliated her, and destroyed her life. Yet he has never come before the courts as a criminal. Not only this, but according to many religious people today, this man could, with God's blessing, marry the adulteress and live in sinless marital bliss. We ask, is this right? and answer with a resounding No!

GOD ORDAINED MARRIAGE AS HIS ONLY AUTHORIZED MEANS OF SEXUAL COHABITATION. From the very beginning of time, God ordained that man and woman would become husband and wife, live together and produce a family. (Genesis 1:27-28). When God brought the woman to Adam, and he accepted her as his wife, marriage was instituted. Genesis 2:24 says, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." The "leaving and cleaving" refers to the marriage covenant which joins the couple together as husband and wife, and "one flesh" refers to the intimacy of the sexual union which God expects to be practised within the marriage. This special bonding together of their bodies is designed to be shared only by the married couple throughout their life together. Neither couple is permitted to allow a third party into the marriage union. Children who came forth from this union could therefore enjoy a loving and secure environment in which to be nurtured to adulthood. This is God's way.

GOD HAS NEVER TOLERATED ADULTERY. Biblical history indicates that God has always demanded strict punishment for adultery. Even the pagan king Abimelech recognized that it was a crime worthy of death. When he took Sarah (Abraham's wife) into his harem, God appeared to him in a dream and said " .., Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man's wife." -- Genesis 20:3 It was only the fact that he had not actually committed adultery with her that His life was spared. We notice also that The Law of Moses demanded the death penalty for adultery "And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbours wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death." --- Leviticus 20:10. The book of Proverbs gives many warnings about adultery. For example, Proverbs 6:29-32 "So he that goeth in to his neighbour's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent. {30} Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house. But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.".

Even in the Christian dispensation, although the church cannot rule politically and execute perpetrators, Governments are authorized by God to execute malefactors (Romans 13:4). it seems certain therefore that adultery would be among those things which Paul said, under inspiration, are "worthy of death" (Acts 25:11).

GOD HAS ALWAYS PUNISHED ADULTERY. An extra marital sexual union breaks this one flesh relationship, and adulterates the marriage bed. (Hebrews 13:4; 1 Cor 6:15-17) Fornication is singled out by the Holy Spirit, as being different, to all other sins (1 Cor. 6:18-20). Within the marriage bed, it constitutes the only ground for divorce and is therefore, in the Lord's eyes, a worse crime against a marriage partner than any other sin in the world. Jesus said in Matthew 19:9 --- "And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery." The word "except" forcibly makes the sexual defilement of the marriage bed by one's spouse, the only ground for divorce and remarriage. This is significant when you consider terrible crimes against marriage such as drunkenness, violence, and mental abuse. Bad as these sins are, none of them constitute ground for divorce and remarriage.

THE NEW TESTAMENT TEACHING ON ADULTERY IS CLEAR. There are many today who apply for divorce, hoping that the certificate will grant them the right of marriage. It does so in the eyes of the law of the land, but the reader of God's law should know better. Governments do not have either the right or the power to invent their own conditions of divorce and remarriage (Matthew 19:6). Paul said "So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man --- .Romans 7:3. This, and all the other verses in the New Testament relating to divorce and remarriage show that a marriage authorized by the law of the land is not automatically authorized by God. Any sexual union (whether it is within, or without marriage) which involves the spouse of another is divinely defined as adultery. (Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18). The only exception to this rule is the remarriage of one who is the innocent victim of a guilty fornicator (Matthew 19:9; 5:32).

MISCONCEPTIONS OF ADULTERY. There have been attempts by Bible students to try and modify the Lord's teaching on adultery. Below are some of these.
THAT LUST IS ADULTERY AND THERFORE CONSTITUTES GROUND FOR DIVORCE. In Matthew 5:27-28 Christ said "ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. The sin Christ is talking about here takes place in the mind, and committed by a lustful man alone. The ground for divorce mentioned by Christ is FORNICATION which means illicit sexual intercourse, therefore adultery "in the heart" is not a reason for divorce. A man who lusts after a woman in his mind has no more literally committed an immoral sex act, than one who hates his brother has committed murder actual murder (1 John 3:15). Fornication and adultery can only be committed physically by two parties. In the Lord's illustration, the woman who is the object of the man's lust is not involved in the sin. It all takes place in his imagination. Think for a moment. Could a man divorce his innocent virtuous wife, if another lustful man committed adultery with her in his heart? Obviously not, yet this would be so if "mind adultery" constituted a Scriptural reason for divorce.

THAT ADULTERY IS SIMPLY COVENANT BREAKING AND HAS NO REFERENCE TO THE SEXUAL RELATIONSHIP. A great error in this heresy is two fold. First of all it is claimed that the expression "marrieth another" (Matthew 5:32, 19:9; Luke 10:11-12, Luke 16:18 etc.) refers only to the marriage covenant and has no reference to sexual cohabitation. It is true that in the figurative sense people of God commit adultery with the world when they forsake the covenant they make with God (c/f Jer 3:8-9). It is also true that marriage is a covenant, and that when adultery takes place, the marriage covenant is broken. However in Prov. 2:16-17 where covenant breaking is mentioned in relation to marriage, sexual unfaithfulness is specifically inferred.

The second error is that although it is admitted that it is sinful to divorce and remarry, God still accepts the unscriptural covenant and thus blesses the sexual union of the couple. This is obviously a wrong concept of repentance. Even if the term "marrieth another" meant simply "Make a covenant" without reference to the sexual act, it would still infer that the couple were not Scripturally married, and would therefore have no sexual rights to each other.

The fact is however, the expression "marry" infers a sexual right of the couples involved. The Greek word is GAMEO which means "to take as a wife, to marry, enter the marriage state" (Bullenger's Lexicon)

THAT BAPTISM SANCTIFIES ADULTERY. It is generally admitted by those who hold this view that a married person commits adultery when he divorces his wife and remarries, but when he is baptised, the adultery is forgiven and the couple can remain in the marriage. The inference is that baptism sanctifies a sinful union. Believers in this idea have little concept of what baptism is about. Baptism does not sanctify sinful unions. If a homosexual for example is baptised he must leave his homosexual union forever in order to remain forgiven of the sin. If a thief enters the waters of baptism he remains a thief unless he repents of his stealing previous to baptism, and ceases stealing after his baptism.

One way to illustrate error is to bring a proposition to its obvious conclusion. In the position above, what if only one of the parties in an adulterous marriage is baptised? Would this make the baptised partner's sexual union holy, but his marriage partners union adulterous? Of course not! However this would be the obvious conclusion to such a theory. What is the state of the marriage when one party is baptised and the other is not? Adultery cannot be participated in alone. Concerning his unscriptural marriage to Herodias John plainly told Herod " It is not lawful for thee to have her." -- Matthew 14:4. Could baptism make this marriage lawful? Of course not.

THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR ADULTERY TO BE CONTINUED IN AFTER DIVORCE. It is argued that when a spouse is divorced for fornication that both parties revert to "single" status and therefore both parties have the right to marry. This view is false for many reasons. One of these is because it is falsely assumed that the divorced fornicator reverts back to the same single status as one who has never been married. The fact is, the scriptures do not say that such a person is "single" but is "divorced", and the Lord clearly states that a sexual union with a divorcee constitutes adultery. (Matt 19:9b; 5:32b). May the Lord help us to hold to his teaching on the subject of adultery. Let us always hate the sin, but love the sinner. Let us also be diligent to keep ourselves pure and avoid fornication.


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