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                            Redefining Adultery

     Biblical teaching on God's marriage law, including divorce and
remarriage, is clear. God's plan is one man and one woman making a
lifetime commitment to each other. "So then, they are no longer
two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not
man separate" (Matt. 19:6). Thereis only one reason for divorce and
remarriage; that is the cause of fornication Matt. 19:9. Jesus
said,"whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and
marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is
divorced commits adultery." (see also Mk 10:11-12; Lk. 16:18; Rom.

     Do you see that adultery is biblically defined, not only as
the "extra-marital affair" where one is unfaithful to his spouse,
but also, adultery is committed when one divorces his spouse and
marries another, and further, when one marries one who has been

     When a divorce has occurred, unless one has put away his
spouse for the cause of fornication, one must "remain unmarried or
be reconciled to her husband" (1 Cor. 7:11). Reconciliation may not
possible because of the unwillingness of the former spouse, etc. In
that case one must remain unmarried (1 Cor. 7:11). A third option,
namely remarriage (except reconciliation to one's legitimate
spouse) is not given.

     If  you are the one  who  has  remarried (not having put away
your spouse for the cause of fornication), you must recognize that
your marriage is an adulterous relationship (Matt. 19:9; Rom.
7:2,3). One must cease the practice of sin; one cannot continue in
the adulterous relationship and have God's approval (Eph. 5:3-6;

     Efforts have been made for some time to "redefine" adultery.
We are being told that adultery is not a sexual act, and that you
cannot "live in adultery." Instead, supposedly, adultery is when
one breaks the marriage contract; it is when one divorces!

     There is only reason for this new definition and that is is
because of what it attempts to accommodate. You see,  if adultery
is "covenant breaking" (divorce), and does not refer to the
ongoing relationship (involving sexual union), then when one
repents of adultery, he only repents of covenant breaking, and then
is free to continue in the marriage. This is a case of grabbing at
straws to try to support a conviction that some want, with no
support other than the fact that they want it.

     "This novel notion has but one design--the accommodation of
unscriptural divorce and remarriage, and it is without a shred of
evidence, both linguistically, and in the overall context of the
Bible" (Jackson.130).

     These efforts to redefine adultery, as if it it so hard to
understand the meaning of the term from the contexts of pertinent
passages, reminds me of the scribe in Luke 10, who acted as if it
were a tremendous problem to define "neighbor." "But he, wanting to
justify himself, said to Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'" It's
really not all that hard. When Jesus told the parable of the "Good
Samaritan" he had no trouble defining neighbor. His problem was
that he wasn't ready to be that kind of neighbor!
     These attempts to bypass the teaching of our Lord also reminds
me of Balaam, who knew what the Lord said about Balaam's going to
curse Israel, (God said, "Thou shalt not go"- Num. 22:12). But when
promised more riches and honor, Balaam said to the messengers, "Now
therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may
know what Jehovah will speak unto me more (Num 22:18). His problem
was not that he needed more information; he was trying to find a
way around what God said, in order that he could do what he wanted.
We need to look for truth instead of looking for loopholes around
the truth!

     It is not difficult to understand the biblical usage of the
word "adultery." The Greek term is Moixeia, defined as illicit
sexual conduct of a married person. Adultery is an act that a man
does "with another man's wife" (Lev.20:10). Hosea told worldly,
idol-worshiping Israel, "let her put away her fornications from her
face, and her adulteries from between her breasts" (Hos.2:2). The
allusion to an immoral embrace is just too plain to miss
(Jackson.131). Consider Matt 5:28: "But I say to you that whoever
looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery
with her in his heart." Do men lustfully fantasize about breaking
covenants? (ibid).

     Do you remember the women brought to Jesus in who had been
"caught in adultery, in the very act" (John 8:4). In what act had
she been apprehended? Covenant breaking? Slamming the door as she
abandoned her marriage?   Had  they seen her tearing up the
marriage certificate?

     No, it is not a difficult task to define adultery.  We read in
Heb. 13:4, "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled;
but fornicators and adulterers God will judge."  From this passage
you can clearly see that fornicators and adulterers  "defile the
bed."  Do you remember Reuben,  the son of Jacob, who went up to
his father's bed. then defiled it? Gen 49:4). The text says, he
"lay with Bilhah his father's concubine" (Gen.35:22). This is what
he writer of Hebrews calls "adultery." 

     Consider also the Lord's teaching in Matthew 5:32: "But I say
unto you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except
sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever
marriesa woman who is divorced commits adultery."  This passage is
focusing upon the position that one puts his spouse in when he puts
her away (not for fornication). Jesus says that he "causes her to
commit adultery." But if adultery is to be defined as "covenant
breaking" how can the passage make sense? Did she break her
covenant with him? No. She has broken no covenant. The text says
that he put her away. But when she marries another man, Jesus said
that she is committing adultery. If adultery is simply "covenant
breaking", how could a person who has not broken the covenant be
guilty of it? This clearly reveals the fallacy of defining adultery
solely in terms of the breaking of the covenant. (Jackson.59).

     The correct understanding of the passage is this: She commits
adultery, because she has been put away for some frivolous reason,
and therefore is still bound (as per Rom. 7:2-3). But when she
marries another man, she commits adultery. She has not committed
adultery the moment he puts her away. But the fact is that most
divorced people remarry. It is from that perspective that Jesus
speaks. If and when she engages in sexual activity later with
someone else, she is committing adultery. But Jesus' point is that
the one who put her away is co-responsible for it; he put her in
that position, and thus will share in her guilt. We must accept the
Lord's definition of adultery.----Leon Mauldin
         (Source of quotes:Jackson-Scott discussion).

If you have corrections, questions, comments or suggestions about these questions and answers, please contact Leon Mauldin directly at

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