What does the Bible say about adultery?
Divorce and adultery are a very common occurrence in the United States. Nearly all of us have a family member that has been affected by either divorce or adultery. This is a topic frequently discussed in Scripture. What all does it entail? Why is it wrong? What does this have to do with marriage, divorce, and even our understanding of salvation? Let’s take a look.
Christian quotes about adultery
“When adultery walks in, everything worth having walks out.” – Woodrow M. Kroll
“Adultery occurs in the head long before it occurs in the bed.”
“Adultery is a moment of pleasure and a lifetime of pain. It’s not worth it!”
“Divorce was never commanded, even for adultery. Otherwise God would have given His notice of divorce to Israel and Judah long before He did. A legitimate bill of divorce was allowable for adultery, but it was never commanded or required. It was a last resort – to be used only when unrepentant immorality had exhausted the patience of the innocent spouse, and the guilty one would not be restored.” John MacArthur
“Passion is the evil in adultery. If a man has no opportunity of living with another man’s wife, but if it is obvious for some reason that he would like to do so, and would do so if he could, he is no less guilty than if he was caught in the act.” – Augustine
“The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union.” C. S. Lewis
“Sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, if it has its own way it will go out to the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could, every thought of unbelief would be atheism if allowed to develop. Every rise of lust, if it has its way reaches the height of villainy; it is like the grave that is never satisfied. The deceitfulness of sin is seen in that it is modest in its first proposals but when it prevails it hardens mens’ hearts, and brings them to ruin.” John Owen
“If we seek from the world the pleasures we should seek in God, we are unfaithful to our marriage vows. And, what’s worse, when we go to our Heavenly Husband and actually pray for the resources with which to commit adultery with the world [Jas. 4:3-4], it is a very wicked thing. It is as though we should ask our husband for money to hire male prostitutes to provide the pleasure we don’t find in him!” John Piper
“Nothing is a cause for divorce save fornication. It does not matter how difficult it may be, it does not matter what the stress or the strain, or whatever can be said about the incompatibility of temperament. Nothing is to dissolve this indissoluble bond save this one thing… It is this question of the “one flesh” again; and the person who is guilty of adultery has broken the bond and has become united to another. The link has gone, the one flesh no longer obtains, and therefore divorce is legitimate. Let me emphasize again, it is not a commandment. But it is a ground for divorce, and a man who finds himself in that position is entitled to divorce his wife, and the wife is entitled to divorce the husband.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“If I was to ask you tonight if you were saved? Do you say ‘Yes, I am saved’. When? ‘Oh so and so preached, I got baptized and…’ Are you saved? What are you saved from, hell? Are you saved from bitterness? Are you saved from lust? Are you saved from cheating? Are you saved from lying? Are you saved from bad manners? Are you saved from rebellion against your parents? Come on, what are you saved from?” Leonard Ravenhill
What is adultery in the Bible?
The Bible is very clear that adultery is sinful. Adultery is when the covenant of marriage is broken by fornication and lust. If you’re married, you must not engage in any sexual relationship with anyone but your spouse, otherwise, that’s adultery. If you’re not married, you must not engage in any sexual relationship with anyone who isn’t your spouse – if you do, that is adultery too. Sexual relationships (in any form) must be only with your spouse. Period. Marriage is sacred – an institution designed by God. Marriage is not just a piece of paper. It’s a covenant. Let’s see what the Bible specifically says about adultery.
The sexually immoral and the adulterous – it goes hand in hand. Sexual immorality in any form is sinful and must be avoided. Sexual sins are specifically highlighted in Scripture and set apart from other sins – because sexual sins are not just a sin against God, but also against our own body. Sexual sins also distort and profane the marriage covenant, which is a direct reflection of Christ loving His bride, the Church, so much that He died for her. A distortion of marriage is a distortion of the living, breathing testimony of salvation. There is so much at stake here. Adultery and other sexual sins are a blatant affront to the proclamation of the Gospel.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus is discussing the Pornea Code discussed in Leviticus 20, where the consequence is death for both parties. In this passage all sexual sins – incest, masturbation, lust, bestiality, fornication, adultery, homosexuality – all sexual expressions outside of the selfless love found in the covenant of marriage – are called sinful.
1) Exodus 20:14 “You shall not commit adultery”
2) Matthew 19:9, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
3) Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.”
4) Hebrews 13:4 “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
5) Mark 10:11-12 “And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”
6) Luke 16:18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.
7) Romans 7:2-3 “For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. 3 So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.”
Adultery in the heart
In Matthew, Jesus is taking the Seventh Commandment up a notch. Jesus is saying that adultery is so much more than just going to bed with someone who isn’t your spouse. It is a heart issue. The Seventh Commandment is much more than you ticking off a box on the rules list. Jesus is saying lustful intent is the same thing as adultery. The physical act of adultery is just the external consummation of internal sin.
This sin always begins in the heart. No one just falls into sin – it’s a slow slippery decline into sin. Sin is always born in the depths of our wicked heart.
8) Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
9) James 1:14-15 “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”
10) Matthew 15:19 “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”
Why is adultery a sin?
Adultery is a sin first and foremost, because God says that it is. God gets to decide the parameters on marriage – since He created marriage. Adultery is an outward proclamation of several sins: lust, selfishness, greed and covetousness. In a nutshell, all sexual immorality is idolatry. God alone deserves to be worshipped. And when we choose what “feels right” instead of what God says is right, we are making an idol of it and worshipping it instead of our Creator. But also, adultery is wrong because of what marriage represents.
11) Matthew 19:4-6 “And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
The sacredness of marriage
Sex is not just a physical act to bring pleasure or to create the next generation. The Bible clearly teaches that sex was given to us to make us “one flesh” with our spouse. Yada is the Hebrew word used in the Old Testament to describe marital sex. It means “To know and to be known”. This is so much more than just a physical encounter. Sakab is the word used to describe sex outside of the covenant of marriage. It literally means “an exchange of sexual fluids,” and is also used to describe the mating of animals.
Marriage reflects the love Christ has for the Church. The husband is to reflect Christ – the servant-leader, the one who gave up His own will to serve for the good of His Bride. The Bride being the companion to work along side Him and to follow His leadership.
Sex was given to us for companionship, procreation, intimacy, pleasure, and as a reflection of the gospel and of the Trinity. Sex was ultimately designed to draw us to God. The Trinity are individual persons but one God. They retain all of their individuality yet are unified as a Singular Deity. Each person of the Godhead never uses the other for selfish purposes or gain. They only seek the glory of each other while simultaneously not diminishing the dignity of each other. This is why sexual sins are wrong – sexual sins dehumanize and depersonalizes people by turning them into objects. Sexual sin at its core is about self-gratification. God designed sex to be a communion of two self-giving people. Thus, sex within marriage reflects the Trinitarian relationship: permanent, loving, exclusive and self-giving.
12) 1 Corinthians 6:15-16 “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.”
13) 1 Corinthians 7:2 “But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.”
14) Ephesians 5:22-31 “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So, husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
How to avoid adultery?
We avoid adultery and other sexual sins in the same basic way we seek to avoid other sins. We flee from them and focus on Scripture. We keep our thoughts captive, and guarded, and keep our minds busy meditating on the Word. Practically, we do this by not developing a significant emotional attachment to an opposite sex friend and by not placing ourselves (or our friends) in potentially tempting situations. No one is above this sin. No one who has committed adultery just stumbled into it – it is not a hole in the road. Adultery happens by giving in a little wiggle room at a time, a few too many glances, a few too many shared moments, a few too many private encounters. This is a slippery slope that happens inch by inch. Stand guard. Be diligent.
15) Hebrews 13:5 “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
16) 1 Corinthians 10:12-14 “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”
17) Hebrews 4:15-16 “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
18) 1 Corinthians 6:18 “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.”
19) Proverbs 5:18-23 So be happy with your wife and find your joy with the woman you married— pretty and graceful as a deer. Let her charms keep you happy; let her surround you with her love. Son, why should you give your love to another woman? Why should you prefer the charms of another man’s wife? The Lord sees everything you do. Wherever you go, he is watching. The sins of the wicked are a trap. They get caught in the net of their own sin. They die because they have no self-control. Their utter stupidity will send them to their graves.
Biblical punishment for adultery
In the Old Testament, the death penalty was given to both parties who committed adultery. In the New Testament, we are warned that those who live in a continual unrepentant lifestyle of sin, including sexual sins, may not have ever been saved to begin with. There are numerous verses that explain the danger of sexual sins. Adultery will leave scars. The sacred covenant has been violated and hearts have been broken.
20) Leviticus 20:10 “If a man commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, both the man and the woman who have committed adultery must be put to death.
21) 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
22) Hebrews 13:4 “Let the marriage bed be held in honor by all and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.”
23) Proverbs 6:28-33 “Can anyone walk on red-hot coals without burning his feet? 29 So it is with a man who has sex with his neighbor’s wife. None who touch her will escape punishment. 30 People do not despise a thief who is hungry when he steals to satisfy his appetite, 31 but when he is caught, he has to repay it seven times. He must give up all the possessions in his house. 32 Whoever commits adultery with a woman has no sense. Whoever does this destroys himself. 33 An adulterous man will find disease and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be blotted out.”
Is adultery grounds for divorce?
God offers forgiveness and is eager and willing to forgive sinners who have repented. Adultery does not always mean that the marriage cannot be saved. God can restore a broken home. Marriages can be saved. Marriage was designed in the beginning to be permanent. (This is not talking about homes where one spouse is in danger from the violent abuse of another.) Is your home broken by adultery? There is hope. Seek an ACBC certified counselor in your area. They can help.
24) Malachi 2:16 “I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel, “and the one who is guilty of violence,” says the Lord who rules over all. “Pay attention to your conscience, and do not be unfaithful.”
25) Matthew 5:32 “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
26) Isaiah 61:1-3, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…”
27) John 8:10-11, “When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’”
What is spiritual adultery?
Spiritual adultery is unfaithfulness to God. This is a sin that we so easily slip into. It is when we have a devotion to things of this world, to seeking after what our feelings dictate, etc instead of seeking God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and body. We all are guilty every moment of spiritual adultery – we cannot love God as wholly and completely as we should.
28) Ezekiel 23:37, “For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. They have committed adultery with their idols, and even sacrificed their sons whom they bore to Me, passing them through the fire, to devour them.”
God’s Word says that we are to be holy and pure. Our lives are to reflect His truths and we are to be a set apart people – a living, breathing testimony.
29) 1 Peter 1:15-16 “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior, because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I Am holy.”
30) Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are evident, sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, enmity, strife, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”