by Richard Mansel, assistant editor
Adultery tears homes and lives apart. Like a wildfire, it leaves destruction in its wake. Some refer to it as a crime against marriage. We have seen the devastation it brings upon everyone in its path.
When a cheating spouse is discovered, the pain and anger are palpable. Thousands have been killed as a result of these discoveries. Spouses are intensely angry that they have been deceived and rejected.
God, on the other hand, knows everyone who cheats on him spiritually. Brazenly, they flaunt their sin before his face (Psalm 139). His pain is inconceivable to us.
Physical adultery is defined as, “Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than his or her lawful spouse.”/1 Keil and Delitzsch define it as, “sexual intercourse of a husband with the wife of another, or of a wife with the husband of another.”/2 Spiritual adultery is when we place anything above him and look to it as our savior. Both occur far too frequently.
We will be examining physical and spiritual adultery, the pain they cause and the ways we can avoid them.
People are attempting to redefine physical adultery in Scripture so that it loses its sexual component and becomes simply covenant breaking. However, man is not the authority; God’s Word is (John 12:48; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Truman Scott admits, “Up front let me tell you that every publication, I mean Bible dictionary, commentary, Greek Lexicon, Greek word study, specific treatises on divorce and remarriage, I mean everything that has been written or translated within the last 350 to 400 years, define adultery as follows: ‘Sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than his or her spouse.’ That settles it. With such an array of scholarship, who would dare to think anything otherwise?” /3 Yet, he does so, anyway.
Seeking to prove from Scripture that adultery is not a sexual sin is futile.
Leviticus 20:10 says, “The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife of another, or of a wife with the husband of another” (NKJV). Leviticus 18:20 adds, “Moreover, you shall not lie carnally with your neighbor’s wife, to defile yourself with her.” Literally, the latter passage can be translated as, “You shall not give your copulation to the wife of your fellow for seed, to become unclean by her.”/4 The word for “carnally” means the “flow” of his seed just as in Leviticus 22:4./5
Deuteronomy 22:22 reads, “If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die– the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel.” Of course, “lying” refers to sexual relations (Genesis 34:7,31).
Context and usage determines the meaning of words, not false aspirations. Woods writes, “an elementary rule of interpretation is to observe carefully the significance of that which goes before and that which follows the passage under study, before attempting to reach a conclusion as to its intended and proper meaning.”/6
1/ Robert B. Costello, Editor in Chief, “Adultery,” Webster’s Random House College Dictionary (New York: Random House, 1991): 19.
2/ C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1866-1891; Peabody: Hendrickson, 2001), 1:401.
3/ Wayne Jackson and Truman Scott, Divorce and remarriage: A Study Discussion (Stockton: Courier Publications, 1983), 2.
4/ Lawrence E. Barclay, “Adultery” (Montgomery: Unpublished Manuscript), 13.
5/ Frances Brown, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody: Henrickson, 1979), 282.
6/ Guy N. Woods, How to Study the New Testament Effectively (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1992), 75.
Adultery is a sexual sin that tears lives apart.