Living In Adultery
The Bible has much to say concerning sexual sins, especially adultery. Under
Moses’ Law, adultery was prohibited, and God commanded that those caught in the
act were to be punished by death (Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 20:10).
This sin tarnished the lives of many men of old. The classic Bible example is
David, who committed adultery with Bathsheba. In an effort to hide his sin with
Bathsheba, David committed other sins and was responsible for the death of Uriah,
Bathsheba’s husband (2 Samuel 11). The ironic thing about David’s adultery is
that, even though he made a concerted effort to cover his sins, the Bible
records the account of David’s sins. The fact that the Lord sent Nathan to
confront David about this matter (2 Samuel 12) and that adultery was punishable
by death under the Old Law, demonstrates God’s displeasure with those who
committed this sin.
Old Testament prophets used the term adultery as a metaphor to describe those
who were unfaithful to God. Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Hosea used this term to
describe those involved in the practice of idolatry and pagan worship (Ezekiel
23:37; Jeremiah 3:6-10; Hosea 4:2-14).
Christ condemned the practice of adultery when he told the woman brought to Him
by the scribes and Pharisees (who claimed she was “taken in adultery, in
the very act” to “go, and sin no more” (John 8:3-11). It
is interesting to note that the scribes and Pharisees did not bring the man who
was involved in “the very act” with her. It is reasonable to
conclude that the woman’s accusers were also guilty of the sin of adultery–see
vss. 6-9. Perhaps, one or more of the accusers was the woman’s partner in the
The apostle Paul wrote concerning adultery. Paul described adultery as a
“work of the flesh” and warned that those guilty of this and other sins
would NOT inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 6:9,10).
Even though God and His inspired apostles and prophets condemned the practice of
adultery, men throughout time and ages have participated in it and suffered from
the evil and rotten fruit for which it is responsible. The very society in which
we live promotes, condones, and approves of this sin. In every corner of this
world, from skid row to the Clinton White House, adultery, fornication, and
sexual immorality in general, are highly glamorized and glorified.
Sadly, some of my own brethren are involved in justifying and condoning
adulterous marriages. Some gospel preachers have attempted to redefine adultery.
They’ve made the argument that one who unscripturally divorces and then marries
another mate, commits sin at the time of the divorce. However, in the second
marriage they are legally married and cannot commit adultery or live in
adultery, and may therefore remain in that marriage.
The argument is often made by some that the terms “living in adultery” and
“adulterous marriage” are contradictory and not found in the Bible. It is
concluded that sexual activity within the subsequent marriage does not
On page 72 of Brother Jerry Bassett’s book, Rethinking Marriage, Divorce &
Remarriage, he writes, “We have often heard, and used, the expression,
'adulterous marriage.' By this is meant a marriage in which its partners commit
adultery with each other every time they engage in sexual intercourse. Since we
are obligated to speak as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11), it seems we should
have noticed that the phrase, ‘adulterous marriage,’ simply does not appear
anywhere in the Scriptures. We should have also noticed that this expression is
a contradiction in terms when the word ‘adulterous’ is used to describe sexual
intercourse with another person’s spouse, and the word ‘marriage’ refers to that
in which a man and a woman are spouses to each other. This very idea, and thus
the term used to describe it, seems to have originated in the minds of men as a
result of a faulty concept of what Jesus meant by his use of the term adultery.”
On the same basis as brother Bassett’s argument–that the term “adulterous
marriage” is not used in the Scriptures–a homosexual could use the same faulty
reasoning to justify homosexuality by saying that the Bible does not
specifically use or condemn the term “homosexual marriage.” Also, the term
“living in sin” is not found in the Bible. So, can we therefore, argue that the
use of this term is the “result of a faulty concept” in the teaching of Christ
and his apostles on the subject of sin? If not, why not?
In this study, the proper definition of terms is crucial. Jesus said, “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” (Matt. 19:9). In that chapter, Jesus
taught at least two important truths:
1. Lawful marriage of a man and a woman is for life.
2. The innocent mate may put away the unfaithful mate only
for the cause of sexual immorality, and may marry another.
Adultery, as used in this chapter, is defined, “...to have unlawful
intercourse with another’s wife...” (Thayer, p. 417). Of the word
fornication, Thayer said, “prop. of illicit sexual intercourse in general”
(p. 532). Walter Bauer defined fornication as, “Prostitution, unchasity,
fornication, of every kind of unlawful intercourse” (A Greek - English
Lexicon of The New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, p.
693). The term fornication generally refers to unlawful sexual intercourse
between the unmarried, but, the term is also applied to include illicit sexual
intercourse between two people who are married. The term fornication would
include incest, prostitution, lesbianism, homosexuality, bestiality, pedophilia,
In addition to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5 and 19, several other Bible passages
clearly show that it is Biblically possible for two people to be legally married
and live in adultery. According to the Bible, Herod and Herodias were married
(Mark 6:17). John told Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy
brother’s wife.” (Mark 6:18). While their marriage may have been legal,
it was not lawful (approved by God). Therefore, they were living in a sinful
relationship (an unlawful marriage), and Herod did not have his OWN wife, but
the wife of his brother, Philip (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:1,2). John boldly condemned
this marriage, and as a result, he lost his head! Brother Bassett argues that
John did not use the term “adulterous” when he condemned the marriage of Herod
and Herodius. He wrote, “... this marriage was unlawful on the basis of
incest (meaning, not adultery, according to Bassett, tgm). It involved the
uncovering of the nakedness of a brother's wife (Leviticus 18:6,16,20:21), a
clear case of incest” (Ibid. p. 73).
Again, on the same basis of Brother Bassett's argument–that the word
“adulterous” is not used–I can then say that the word “incest” is not used in
this passage. If not, why not? Question: Did John use the term “incest”? NO! Did
Herod, even though he and Herodius were married, have the wife of another man?
Yes, according to John. (Matthew 14:3,4; Mark 6:17,18; Luke 3:19) Were they then
living in adultery? YES! Please refer again to the earlier definition of
In Romans 7:2-3 Paul wrote, “For the woman which hath an husband is bound
by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she
is loosed from the law of her husband. 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.”
In this passage, Paul made several important points:
1. Marriage is a life-long relationship.
2. The death of a mate frees the surviving mate to marry
another (one scripturally qualified, of course).
3. The woman who marries another man while her husband lives
is an adulteress.
Question: Is the woman “who shall be called an adulteress,” living
in adultery when she is married to another man while her husband lives? Most
certainly! Therefore, according to God’s book, “living in adultery” is a
Furthermore, in Colossians 3:5-7 Paul wrote, “Mortify therefore your
members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate
affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which
things sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the
which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them” (Emp.
mine, gm). Since Paul said they “lived in” fornication, then it is
possible to live in adultery.
In conclusion, the terms "living in adultery”
and “adulterous marriage” express Bible concepts that God and divinely inspired
men condemned in God’s Holy book. Bible repentance demands that those who are
living in adulterous marriages and other sinful relationships cease the
relationships and “do works meet for repentance” (Acts 26:20). The homosexual
must give up his homosexual lover; the drunkard and the drug addict must give up
the alcohol and drugs; the thief must stop stealing; the liar must stop lying
and speak the truth; and the woman (“an adulteress”) who is married to another
man while her husband lives, must leave the adulterous relationship.
Bible repentance also demands that sinners show godly sorrow, come to abhor in
their minds their past sinful lives, cease practicing sin, and humbly submit to
the gospel of Christ; the emotional appeals and faulty conclusions of some of
our brethren notwithstanding.
Let us hold in honor the divine sanctity of God’s marriage law, taught by His
Son, Jesus, who said, “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.
What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder”
(Matthew 19:6). In order to reach heaven, we must respect Divine authority and
not tamper with it. We must strive to please God in all that we do, realizing
the important principle of truth–what God hath NOT joined together, man
MUST put asunder!