Infidelity.com reports that 57% of American men and 54% of American women admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they have been in. The same site reports that 53% of American marriages end in divorce and that 74% of men and 68% of women says they would have an affair if they knew they would never be caught. 1 These are depressing statistics, to say the least.
Adultery is a Sin against God and One’s Spouse
Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary defines ‘adultery’ as: “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband”.2 It is also known as infidelity. Adultery is not only a sin against one’s mate, but an attack on the sanctity of marriage, and a course of conduct that can cause havoc in many people’s lives. Adultery is also most importantly a sin against God.
Marital failures, and many other destructive conditions, exist because of sin. They exist because humans have decided that their way is better than God’s way. They have decided that fulfilling their desires is more important than obeying and glorifying the Creator/Sustainer of the universe. Nevertheless, the Christian must learn what the Bible says about adultery in order to see it the way God sees it. Only when we change our views to line up with God’s views can we live the full, blessed life He has waiting for us.
In the Old Testament, God Declared Adultery to be a sin Deserving Death
When God set apart a nation to be His special people, He gave them a set of basic guidelines for living. They were the basis for every other law He would give them. These laws were a written record of the way God expects His people to behave. The seventh commandment God gave His people was, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). God knew that the heart of humankind would naturally seek to fulfill every desire it experienced. God gave these laws to make His holy standards clear.
God viewed adultery as being a sin so terrible that it was punishable by death. “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10; cf. Deuteronomy 22:22). If we ever think that God takes adultery, or any other sin, lightly, we should remember what penalties and punishments He assigned to them.
Adultery is not just an outward action
“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 lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). This tells us that adultery can take place within the heart [mind] and is just as sinful as an outward act. The sin of the mind may not affect as many other people, families, and friends as the outward physical act, but it is still a sinful affront to the holiness of God. This applies to the prevalence of pornography in our culture. Often claimed to be a ‘victimless offense’, the damage pornography does to the heart of the one involved in it, and often to those around him/her, can be just as devastating. Pornography and adultery often go hand in hand.
Adultery can keep you out of the Kingdom of God
In First Corinthians 6:9-10, the apostle Paul lists some sins that, if continued in without confession and repentance, will prevent the practitioner from entering God’s kingdom, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God”. Included in this list is the sin of adultery. This further emphasizes how serious God views this sin. He knew the devastating effects adultery has on individuals and families and He wanted to protect us from that heartbreak. He still feels the same today.
David and Bathsheba: A Biblical Case Study of Adultery
Second Samuel 11-12 tells the story of how the great King David, of whom God called, ‘a man after my own heart’ (Acts 13:22; I Samuel 13:14), committed adultery. There are several lessons that should be learned from this story.
1. No one is immune to temptation.
When King David was a child, he slew a giant. Then God chose him to be the second king of Israel. The Bible also says that David was a mighty warrior (I Samuel 18:7-8). However, he still fell prey to the fleshly temptation of lust. We must never think we have reached a station in life, or a spiritual condition, where we can no longer be tempted to sin. We must always stay in a close relationship to God, so that He strengthens us to resist temptation. We are never strong enough on our own. No matter who we are.
2. Stay in the will of God
“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem” (I Samuel 11:1).
Second Samuel Verse 1 says that it was, “the time when kings go out to battle”. However, where was David? He had stayed behind. He was not where he was supposed to be. Instead of being with his men in battle, as was customary and appropriate, David was indulging in some inappropriate leisure time activity. Many times, we are most vulnerable to temptation when we have strayed out of God’s will.
3. Do not let sin dwell in your mind
As David was idly walking around on his roof, he saw a woman named Bathsheba bathing. Instead of turning immediately away, fleeing sexual immorality (I Corinthians 6:18), and seeking the face of God, he lingered and let sin take hold of his heart. Once the sin in his heart had taken hold, he acted upon it, sinned with Bathsheba, and she became pregnant (II Samuel 11:2-5). If we allow sin to linger in our thoughts it will inevitably take root.
4. Do not try to cover up sin; repent and seek God’s forgiveness (II Samuel 11:6-13).
David tried to cover his sinful behavior by bringing Bathsheba’s husband back from the battlefield. David hoped that Bathsheba and her husband would sleep together and everyone would believe it was this marital union that resulted in Bathsheba’s pregnancy. However, Bathsheba’s husband refuse to lay with his wife while the other men remained on the battlefield without him. It seems that Bathsheba’s husband had more morals than King David did in some matters.
Although David could have confessed and repented at this point, he decided to try another cover up. He had Bathsheba’s husband sent back into battle, placed on the front lines, and then abandoned to face death at the hands of the enemy. King David had Bathsheba’s husband murdered in the hope of covering his own sinful behavior. An important lesson to be learned from this is that one sin leads to another, oftentimes worse, sin if the sinner does not confess to God and repent of the sinful conduct (Romans 6:19).
5. God Will Even Forgive Adultery.
Second Samuel 12:1-15 tells us that Nathan, David’s beloved friend, confronted David with his sin. The mighty Kind David’s heart was broken when he realized how he had sinned against God and grieved God’s heart. David repented, asked for God’s forgiveness, and was forgiven.
Today, God offers that same forgiveness. When one comes to faith in Jesus Christ, by confessing and repenting of his or her sin, God is faithful to remove the guilt, shame, and future penalty that sin carried with it. By committing one’s life to Christ, a person becomes a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17), no longer helpless to resist temptation, but empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
This forgiveness is reiterated in the New Testament by Paul, writing to the Corinthians. Recall the verses mentioned earlier in I Corinthians listing some of the sins that will prevent one from entering the kingdom of God. Paul did not leave the Corinthian Christians without hope. The next verse says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:11).
Whether the sin is adultery or something else, Jesus Christ has paid the price for our forgiveness by His death, burial, and resurrection. No one has sinned too much or too long to be forgiven. The offer of salvation is for everyone (John 3:16) who is willing to confess and repent of his or her sins and turn their lives over to the Almighty Creator, Sustainer, and Savior of the world.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version
“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”