Overcoming Sin Through Christ – Adultery

Overcoming Sin through Christ

A Comprehensive List of Sins

(Alphabetically Arranged)

Richard Hollerman

The plan of this study is simple.  We will look at a large number of sins, one by one, alphabetically.  We will define the sin, describe it, and comment on it, along with noticing Scripture references on the particular entry.  Some illustrations will be offered along with the description.

Adultery

Adultery, both within and outside marriage, has become an epidemic in our sex-saturated, relativistic, immoral, and sex-crazed culture.  Unfaithfulness to the marriage bond has touched the lives of countless millions and you may have been involved yourself. Our English term adultery is defined as “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a partner other than the lawful spouse.”[i]  The Greek word translated “to commit adultery” is moicheuo.[ii]  The seventh commandment in the Ten Commandments is “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18; Luke 18:20; Romans 2:22; 13:9; James 2:11; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20).  Under the Law of Moses, adultery was a capital offense, punishable with death (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22).

Greece in the Classical period and also in the New Testament period reveals how prevalent adultery was to the masses.  Demosthenes writes of how commonplace it was: “We keep mistresses for pleasure, concubines for the day-to-day needs of the body, but we have wives in order to produce children legitimately and to have a trustworthy guardian of our homes.”[iii] Seneca said that Roman women “were married to be divorced and were divorced to be married.”[iv]  He said that innocence was “not rare, it is non-existent.”[v]  Barclay further explains: “The upper stratum of Roman society had become largely promiscuous.”[vi]  Adultery and other sexual sins pervaded both Greek and Roman civilization.

The Lord Jesus declared that marriage was to be kept in honor.  He quoted Genesis 2:24 in Matthew 19:5, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  He then concluded, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (v. 6).  The Biblical mandate is “one woman for one man for life.”  Paul emphasized how serious a violation of the marriage bond is in God’s sight.  He says that adulterers “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).  The Hebrew writer also says quite plainly: “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (13:4).

Surveys indicate that adultery is increasingly accepted in our society with large numbers of married people admitting to having committed this sin. God has always considered adultery to be wrong, whether under the Law of Moses in the Old Testament or under the teachings of Christ and the apostles in the New Testament.  Not only do many husbands and wives “cheat” on their spouse by having sexual relations with someone they are not married to, but a certain category of adultery has become prevalent.

The Lord Jesus explains this form of adultery that sometimes is overlooked when adultery is discussed.  He said, “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9).  To repeat, when a man divorces his legitimate and rightful wife, then marries another woman, he commits adultery—he enters a relationship or state that Jesus says is adulterous.  This would include millions of second marriages in our day.

One may wonder whether a woman may commit adultery in the same way as a man.  Jesus answers this as well: “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” (Mark 10:11-12).  We may wonder further whether the person who marries an individual who has divorced is also guilty and the Lord answers this scenario as well: “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery” (Luke 16:18; cf. also Matthew 5:31-21).  In other words, all parties in such a second marriage are guilty of adultery—and will remain in the sin of adultery until they repent and forsake this prohibited and immoral relationship.[vii]

Paul the apostle addresses the matter of adultery with these words: “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” (Romans 7:2-3; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:10-16).  This is something that people were able to see up until a century ago, but since that time humanistic perspectives and a lack of respect for the Scriptures have resulted in a massive plague of divorce and remarriage that often brings the sin of adultery.  The Christian must counter this contemporary flood of immorality by living a pure life and being content with the spouse that God has given.

Even the thought or imagination of adultery is wrong.   Jesus said that adultery comes “from within, out of the heart of men” (Mark 7:21) and it defiles the man (v. 23).  He further stated, “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” (Matthew 5:27-28; cf. vv. 29-30).  This shows that the inner desire for another person with whom you are not married or to have sexual thoughts regarding another person, other than one’s husband or wife, is considered adultery.  According to Jesus, one doesn’t need to commit the “act” of adultery (cf. John 8:4) to commit adultery with the mind.  We need to have a heartfelt repentance of all forms of adultery and a clear break from its manifestation if we hope to be saved from its guilt and power.

 



[i] The American Heritage College Dictionary.

[ii] William D. Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.

[iii] Quoted by William Barclay, Flesh and Spirit (London: SCM Press, 1962), p. 24.

[iv] Ibid., p. 25.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid., p. 26.

[vii] See our booklet, Serious Questions about Divorce, Remarriage, and Adultery.


 

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