What does the Bible say about adultery?

The word adultery is etymologically related to the word adulterate, which means “to make something of a lesser quality by adding another substance” or “fraudulently alter the composition of a substance.” Adultery is voluntary sexual activity between a married person and someone who is not their spouse. It is an adulteration of the marriage by the inclusion of a third person. What Is Adultery In The Bible?

The Bible begins its teaching on marriage with the model of Adam and Eve: a man and a woman, husband and wife, united by God (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:7-9). Adultery is prohibited in the seventh commandment: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). The fact that the prohibition is simply stated without any explanation indicates that the meaning of adultery was well understood at the time Moses gave the law. Scripture is consistent regarding the prohibition of adultery.

Despite the clarity of the original model of marriage and the prohibition against adultery, sinful humanity has developed ways of trying to blur the lines of morality.

Polygamy is one way in which the prohibition on adultery has been circumvented to some extent. Polygamy is not technically adultery, although it does adulterate God’s original plan for marriage. In the Old Testament, polygamy was permitted by God but never endorsed by Him. Polygamy was not considered adultery because, although a third person (or perhaps a fourth, fifth, etc.) was added to the marriage, the additional women were legally included in the marriage. A polygamist who engaged in sexual activity with anyone other than his legal spouse was still committing adultery. As polygamy is generally illegal in modern countries today, a third person cannot be legally included in the marriage.

Divorce and remarriage are other ways to circumvent the prohibition on adultery. If a married man has an affair, he is committing adultery. However, if he divorces his wife and marries the other woman, he keeps his “legal” position. In most modern societies, this has become the norm.

Jesus puts an end to these two “strategies”: “A man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery” (Luke 16:18 – NLT). And, “Whoever divorces her wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10: 11-12). . 

For Jesus, divorce does not exclude the prohibition of adultery. If a married man sees another woman, he desires her sexually, he divorces her wife and marries the other woman, and he continues to commit adultery. Since the marriage bond is meant to last a lifetime, divorce does not relieve the person of the responsibility to be faithful to the original spouse. (On a similar note, we acknowledge that in some cases Scripture allows for divorce, and when divorce is allowed,

Jesus took the prohibition of adultery even further than the Mosaic Law: “You have heard that it was said, Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I tell you, whoever looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5: 27-28). So, even if a man tries to “legally” avoid adultery by seeking a divorce, he is already guilty because of the lust in his heart that led him to take those steps. 

If a man “legally” brings another woman into the marriage, making it a polygamous marriage, he is still guilty of adultery because of the lust in his heart that motivated him to marry another wife. Even if a man or woman simply indulges in lustful thoughts (pornography is a bigger problem), then he or she is committing adultery even if there is no extra-marital physical contact. This explanation of Jesus avoids all the nuances about “how far is too far” with someone other than a spouse and avoids the need to define what “sex” really is. Lust, not sex, is the limit of adultery.

Proverbs 6 gives strong warnings against adultery, providing “correction and instruction… keep away from your neighbor’s wife” (verses 23-24). Solomon says,

“Do not covet her beauty;
do not be seduced by her flirtatious looks.
For a whore will bring you poverty,
but sleeping with another man’s wife will cost you your life.
Can a man set fire to his legs?”
without burning his clothes?
Can he walk on hot coals
without blistering his feet?
So it will be with a man who sleeps with another man’s wife.
Whoever embraces her will not go unpunished” (verses 25-29).

Adultery is deadly serious and carries God’s consequences.

 “But he who commits adultery lacks understanding; he who does so corrupts his soul” (Proverbs 6:32; cf. 1 Corinthians 6:18 and Hebrews 13:4).

A person living in open, unrepentant adultery proves that they have not truly come to know Christ. However, adultery is not unforgivable either. Any sin a Christian commits can be forgiven when the Christian repents, and any sin an unbeliever commits can be forgiven when that person comes to Christ in faith. “Do you not know that the unjust shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not err; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers… shall inherit the kingdom of God. And these were some;

but you have already been washed, you have already been sanctified, you have already been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). He observes that in the Corinthian church, there were former adulterers, but they had been washed of their sins,