How to Get It Right: Being Single, Married, Divorced, and Everything in Between

Posted on Updated on

Chapter 10: Understanding Adultery

“You shall not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14, NAS).”

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them…but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed (Genesis 2:18-25)

Old Testament Adultery:

“but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Matthew 5:22, NAS).”

Definition of Adultery: being unfaithful to covenant vows in any capacity; spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and even financially – covenant betrayal

One of the treacheries against God we see so much in the Old Testament is adultery, otherwise noted as prostitution. For obvious reasons, adultery here is not sexual as we think of it in the natural – it is the total package of covenant betrayal. Many throw out Matthew 5:22 to people concerning divorce by stating that the only legal ground for divorce is adultery, yet we foolishly automatically think of adultery exclusively as sexual, much like we misuse intercourse assuming it’s exclusively sexual in nature. This is where great confusion enters.

Adultery comes in many, many forms. It is, in short, being unfaithful to the covenant vows of marriage; sexual misconduct is adultery, no doubt, but so are many other forms. We should not limit the broad spectrum of its definition lest we leave people in confusion and condemnation. We, God’s people, are His bride. In Jeremiah 3:9, God referred to His people as committing “whoredom…defiled…with stones and stocks.” Where do we read about sexual misconduct? We do not.

In wedding vows, however worded, the promise between the groom and the bride are to be faithful always, loving always, committed fully one to the other as long as they both shall live, and forsaking all others. However you slice it, to break these vows in any capacity (sexually, mentally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually), adultery has been committed. E.g. when a person places more value on their career, friends, hobbies, children, or anyone or anything else, adultery has been committed. To be present in the marriage physically without another person involved, yet one has pulled away mentally or emotionally leaving the spouse lonely and abandoned is adultery, make no mistake.

Biblical Scope of Adultery:

To understand the full spectrum of “adultery,” we must realize that when any of the covenant vows are forsaken, adultery is in full-force. This is why so many struggle with attempting to stay in a loveless, comfortless, honor-less, and lonely marriage. Most Christians are told, “If the act of adultery (translated exclusively as sexual misconduct) has not taken place, you have no grounds for divorce.” How many people forsake their bride or groom for their work, friends, family, hobbies, etc.? To reiterate, the vows say, “Forsaking all others, being faithful only to her or him so long as you both shall live.” Adultery has clearly transpired when any of these vows are broken.

I read an article by Robert Walters entitled, The Biblical Definition and a Biblical Conclusion. Here is a portion of that article that is well worth reading:

The Bible is not a dictionary, thus we should not expect it to define a word in the same manner as would a dictionary. The Bible is the word of God composed of various books and letters. In defining adultery, we must study and compare various passages of Scripture. This is the only way to ensure an accurate, scriptural definition.

As is often the case, a word may have more than one definition. Some, for example, would say that adultery is nothing more than “the act of sex a married person has with the spouse of another.” To believe this, one would have to be ignorant of or deliberately ignore a number of Scriptures that contradict such a definition. The Scriptures reveal that adultery is used to describe different actions committed by an individual or group. But the result is always an action contrary and detrimental to the covenant known as marriage. The narrow definition of the word that some espouse is merely effort to defend traditional error.

In defining adultery, consider the following Scriptures:  “And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks (Jeremiah 3:9, KJV).” This passage tells us that “she” (God’s people) committed adultery with stones and stocks. These things were party to the sin. When we understand the sin, we will understand adultery as it relates to the present marriage, divorce, and remarriage controversy.

A covenant was made between the nation of Israel and God. Israel agreed to abide by the terms of the covenant and God promised to bless them. The stones and stocks were the objects to which God’s wife—Israel—gave its affections. The foreign object that adulterated the relationship served to replace God. God divorced Israel and the relationship he had with them ceased to exist. No sex involved, yet adultery was committed! Therefore, if anyone tells you that “adultery is nothing but a sex act,” you may want to refer him or her to the Scripture noted above.

Some, in an attempt to defend the traditional definition, may argue that adultery in the passage under study is spiritual adultery. But the sin in view here is marital adultery (Jeremiah 3:14), a sin that was an act of unfaithfulness to the marital vows, even though sex was not involved. Today, a person can commit adultery against their spouse in exactly the same way without sex being involved. Virtually all admit that adultery is committed by “putting away” and remarrying (Matthew 19:9). Even those who are not capable of having sex are able to commit adultery in various ways, namely by simply being unfaithful to their spouse—acting as if the marriage does not exist and taking up with another.

And he saith unto them, whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her (Mark 10:11, KJV).” This Scripture does not agree with the traditional definition of adultery. Jesus says that adultery is committed against the previous spouse rather than with the second woman he marries! We are compelled, therefore, to reject the traditional definition in favor of the biblical definition. This Scripture makes it clear that adultery includes the idea of the breaking of a covenant. But do not confuse the word “breaking” with the word “destruction.” One may break the terms of a covenant; yet, if repentance and forgiveness follow, the covenant remains intact. A marriage is ended, destroyed, over, when one or both parties have legally declared the marriage to be over. The Jewish Law, and the law of our land, requires a “bill of divorcement” or divorce certificate. When one who is divorced, and therefore “unmarried,” is unable to resist sexual temptations, he may marry another (1 Corinthians 7:8, 9). (end excerpt)

Is a Remarried Divorced Woman an Adulterer Forever?

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (II Timothy 3:16, NAS).”

Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law…but sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,   but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin (Romans 7).

First, I notated II Timothy 3:16 simply to remind us of the general purpose for the Word. Secondly, in the very long text of Romans 7 above (none of which could be overlooked), we see that, by law, if a woman is divorced and the husband lives, the woman is considered an adulterer should she remarry. Countless women have struggled with this passage stating that, according to this passage, any woman who is legally divorced and remarried is an adulterer forever lest her ex-husband die— only then she is freed from the law. This seems cut and dry enough, but only if we read these texts absent from the remaining texts. Fortunately for us all, Paul did not stop with the first few verses!

This is where the importance of understanding covenant with God, as written in chapter two, comes in. As the Word plainly directs, we see that the only way to enter into true covenant and to be freed from the law is exclusively through death. The above reference begins with physical death of the ex-husband as the only solution to the adulterous woman’s freedom, but then Paul transitions quickly into the spiritual diverting away from that which is physical.

Keep in mind that the Old Testament (Old Covenant) is physical, whereas the New Testament (New Covenant) is spiritual. What transpired back then (pre-Christ) did so physically, but what transpires today (post-resurrection) is spiritual. To “die” as in “die to self” is a spiritual term and, in so “dying to self,” we are freed from the weight of the Law and we enter into the rest and relief of the Law through Christ’s fulfillment of the Law.

The Law reveals sin and sin kills man. Sin kills the man because no one can fulfill the Law. Paul immediately instructs that we are all to enter into death (spiritually speaking) so as to enter the Body of Christ. In so joining, death to the old Earthly man has to occur. When death takes place, our new life in Christ frees us from the law—all of it.

Bringing it full-circle, in reference to divorce and adultery, we see that, by law (earthly, old man), the divorced and remarried woman is an adulterer. However, Paul shifts attention to all sin—that all people are sinful—that the flesh (physical) of any man or woman is sinful. Once in Christ, divorced, single, or married, we are exempt from the law – the law that binds our human form to the condemnation of adultery of any kind; the adultery of breaking the Law of our holy God.

In other words, though the Law condemns everyone in their adulterous condition against God, once in Christ, we are no longer a slave to sin therefore we are no longer an adulterer. Too many people focus on the first section of “an adulterous woman” citing that no woman can remarry if her first husband lives lest she is a whore, yet Paul’s whole intent is not the physically adulterous woman but rather to point to understanding adultery against God and how to become free from all forms of adultery.

In doing so, he points to us all as sinful in need of death (spiritually) so as to partake of the new life offered by God through Christ. If you are in Christ, and if you are divorced legally, and if you are remarried legally, you are not an adulterous woman – you are free! Dying to self as notated in chapter two allows us to enter into the rest (peace) of Christ and, in turn, we are freed from the Law which keeps us all under condemnation. You are free!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s