What Is Adultery and What Are Some Sneaky Signs We're Ignoring?

When God gave the 10 Commandments to His people, in order to guide them on the narrow path, He included, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). This was the sixth command of the Lord. The law was given to bring clarity and reveal our great need for the Savior Jesus. In fact, Jesus Himself teaches this law to an even higher standard when He says, “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 5:28). Adultery is a serious sin and whether within the heart or by actions, it is important to identify it and repent.

Heather Riggleman from Christianity shares, “According to the infidelity statistics, about 40% of unmarried relationships and 25% of marriages see at least one incident of infidelity. An issue of Marriage and Divorce journal also stated that 70% of all Americans engage in some kind of affair sometime during their marital life. Adultery is one of the worst things that can happen to a marriage and violates everything youve built with your partner in such a painful way.”

How Does the Bible Define Adultery?

Bible Study Tools shares some biblical definitions of adultery.

Adultery is destructive:

Proverbs 6:32 “But a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself.”

Lust is adultery of the heart:

Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5: “It is Gods will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God;”

Mark 7:20-23: “He went on: 'What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a persons heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Marriage is to be kept pure:

Hebrews 13:4: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

Luke 16:18Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Matthew 19:9: “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

What Does the Bible Say about Adultery?

In Levitical law, they took adultery so seriously that if a man slept with another man’s wife, the adulterers would both be put to death (Leviticus 20:10). I’m going to be honest, if this were still the method of today, I know a few people who would not be alive. We cannot ignore the harm done by affairs. When a man and a woman make a marital covenant before God and fail, he or she not only cheats on the spouse but sins against the Lord. This is why the grace of Jesus is so abundant and overwhelming. We all deserve the punishment of eternal death for our sins. However, Jesus came and lived the life we could not live and by placing faith in His death and resurrection, we can have forgiving and eternal life.

I think of the Samaritan woman at the well. She had committed adultery with many men. She had five different husbands and the man she was living with at the time when Jesus met her was not her husband. After Jesus revealed this, the sinful woman recognized this was true. John 4:25-26 says, The woman said, 'I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us. Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you—I am he.’”

When we think about adultery, we cannot help but remember David, a man after God’s own heart who saw Bathsheba bathing and slept with her while her husband was away at battle. David’s selfish lust not only caused sin at that moment, but snowballed into trying to hide her pregnancy, and ultimately led to the murder of her husband Uriah (2 Samuel 11).

After all of David’s ungodly choices, Nathan the prophet rebuked him with a parable. He shares about a rich man who refused to use one of his own sheep for a meal and instead took a poor man’s only ewe. David became angered by the story and Nathan reveals that the rich man in the story was David and the poor man was Uriah.

Adultery is a sin that devastates those around you. I have seen too many families torn apart by the selfish sexual desires of one spouse. Brokenness occurs and divorce often times as a result. This leads to children growing up in separate homes and trying to process as they get older how they will have a healthy marriage. Generational consequences occur because of the moment of adultery. We see pastors fall into this sin because they did not set up safer boundaries when interacting with congregants of the church. We see lonely wives whose husbands travel desire to be loved and noticed fall into the trap. We see the reputations of respected leaders go down the drain in a minute because of their secret lifestyles coming to the surface.

Adultery is devastating, but may we never forget that Jesus is redemptive. If we love Him, He will work together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). However, our choices do come with consequences. King David and Bathsheba’s first son died (2 Samuel 2:18). Even though there is grace and forgiveness for our sins, may we never push the limit to rely on that grace and live against God’s laws. A true understanding of grace enables us to desire to walk in God’s ways.

In John 8, Jesus was asked to stone a woman for adultery. He began to tell the people whoever had never sinned throw the first stone and they all eventually left. Jesus, who was the only one who never sinned, chose not to condemn her, but to forgive her and call her to leave her life of sin.

What Are Forms of Adultery?

Pornography: Viewing or reading graphic materials that are sexual.

Flirting: Trying to entice another through smooth words and using inappropriate language with another who is not your spouse.

Any form of Sexual Relations: Encountering another person sexually who is not your spouse.

Sexting: Sending inappropriate messages or images to someone who is not your spouse.

Lusting: Having sexual fantasies about another person who is not your spouse.

Signs We Aren't Always Looking For:

Church Settings and Small Groups: I have heard too many stories of affairs occurring within churches and small groups. The enemy is out to divide marriages. Even if a couple seems healthy in public, do not assume that anyone is above falling short in this area. Set up boundaries to not place yourself in any potentially tempting situations.

Watch out for Technology: Social media and texting can make things seem much less like a red flag; however, conversations can creep in that should not. I have an older friend who got asked to be her high school ex-boyfriend’s friend on social media. She said no because it would not have been a wise door to open. Even if you appear to be too extreme, it is better than ever allowing one foot in the door of adultery.

Relational Health: In premarital counseling, a couple does a lot of communicating and focuses on their relationship. As time goes on in a marriage, it is easy to neglect this important aspect. Spend time regularly checking in on each other and loving one another. Set aside time to date and romance your spouse. Are your kids becoming too much of a priority? Ask God to help you place your family in the correct order.

Emotional Adultery: Jessie Warner for Crosswalk shares, “Emotional adultery can occur when one person shares their personal thoughts, feelings, and emotions with another person other than their husband or wife.” This could include sharing your heart and soul with someone other than your spouse. It might be the act of telling personal sexual things to someone other than your spouse. Or perhaps, becoming emotionally deep with a person whom who you are attracted to.

Marriages are so valuable to the Lord. They are a gift that He has given to us to model His love for His church. When we commit adultery, we not only ruin the image of our own marriages, but we taint the view of God’s love to others who we are witnessing through our marriage. We need to take this very seriously and rely on the Holy Spirit to help us succeed in purity. If you have fallen into this trap, ask Christ to forgive you. His grace is enough. Turn away from this lifestyle and seek reconciliation with your spouse. If that is too far gone, pray that your testimony can be a lesson to others and a reminder that Jesus has loved you like the Samaritan woman.

Related Resource: Listen to our new, FREE podcast on marriage: Team Us. The best marriages have a teamwork mentality. Find practical, realistic ideas for strengthening your marriage. Listen to an episode here, and then head over to LifeAudio.com to check out all of our episodes:

Photo credit: ©Unsplash/Engin Akyurt

Emma DanzeyEmma Danzey’s mission in life stems from Ephesians 3:20-21, to embrace the extraordinary. One of her greatest joys is to journey with the Lord in His Scriptures. She is wife to Drew and mom to Graham. Emma serves alongside her husband in ministry, she focuses most of her time in the home, but loves to provide articles on the Bible, life questions, and Christian lifestyle. Her article on Interracial Marriage was the number 1 on Crosswalk in 2021. Most recently, Emma released Treasures for Tots, (Scripture memory songs) for young children. During her ministry career, Emma has released Wildflower: Blooming Through Singleness, two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, and ran the Refined Magazine. You can view her articles on her blog at emmadanzey.wordpress.com and check out her Instagram @Emmadanzey.



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