“You shall not commit adultery.” (Ex. 20:14; Dt. 5:18).1
Introduction. Adultery was once considered one of the worst imaginable sins. But that changed with the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Today, social morals have changed so much that adultery is considered an exciting part of movies and television shows. The word “adultery” has also been changed to an “affair.” There are websites that help promote adultery and couples who wish to share spouses. The penalties for adultery have also been removed with “no fault divorces.” Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. The rate of the divorce within the Church has mirrored that of society around it. The rate of people choosing not to marry at all is rising steadily. Within some communities, nearly half of all children are born out of wedlock. Hollywood role models divorce multiple times and have multiple partners. With the institution of marriage in such poor shape, resistance to changing the definition of marriage has also crumbled. The Church has largely stayed silent as the institution of marriage and the stigmas of divorce and adultery have changed. This study explores the Bible’s reasons for Satan’s attack on marriage and the consequences for the Church if it fails to take action. It also explores steps that should be taken to prevent temptation leading to adultery. It also explores steps that should be taken once temptation is present. This study also explores when the victim should forgive and how the perpetrator can learn from his or her prior mistakes with the goal of sinning no more.
Marriage is God’s system for raising children to know His laws. When a man and woman are united in marriage, the Bible says that they have become one (Gen. 2:24). This means that each spouse must treat the other spouse as an equal part of one unit. A leader for God cannot ignore this by having more than one spouse (1 Tim. 3:1-2). The reason for this is that the family was meant to raise up children to know God’s laws (Dt. 4:9-10). “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Dt. 6:7). “You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Dt. 11:19; 31:12-13). “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6; Ps. 78:4-6). What kind of witness are the parents if they cheat on each other or divorce? Are you a role model to your kids? Are you teaching them God’s laws?
Satan’s goal is to break down the institution of marriage and destroy its purpose. Satan’s first attack in the garden of Eden caused people to question God. His second attack was to set Adam and Eve against each other (Gen. 3:15). Today, Satan has been extremely successful in attacking traditional marriages. Even when a marriage survives, Christians are not using their marriages for God’s intended purpose of raising up Christian believers.
Satan can only offer fleeting counterfeit pleasures. The pleasure Satan offers for the adulterer does not last long (Heb. 11:25; Lk. 12:19-20). In reference to sinners, David said: “[God] gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul” (Ps. 106:105). When you have sinned in the past, did the pleasure of the sin last long?
Satan seeks to place people into bondage to sin. Satan’s ultimate goal is to place people into bondage and cause them to turn away from God. He seeks to make us slaves to the flesh. Ultimately, this can become a form of idolatry when it manifests in addiction. According to the Apostle Paul, we are slaves to whatever we serve: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Ro. 6:16; Gal. 4:7-9). Jesus also explains that “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21; Lk. 12:34). Satan has placed our flesh at war with God’s Spirit. “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, promiscuity . . .” (Gal. 5:19; same 1 Tim. 1:10). In the end, we must pick which we will serve: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Matt. 6:24). If you choose the flesh, you are at war with the Spirit, “he mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God . . .” (Rom. 8:7). “and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:8). Which master are you serving?
Ignore Satan’s plans at your own peril. God says that only “fools mock at sin . . .” (Prov. 14:9). A sinner can become “bound by the cords” of his or her “sin” if the person does not repent (Prov. 5:22). “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions . . ” (Rom. 1:26). The unrepentant sinner will become like a dog that returns to its vomit (2 Pet. 2:22). The first step to avoid becoming trapped in sin is to recognize that you are at risk.
A lustful look toward the wrong person is an act of adultery. Some might be inclined to think that these are problems for someone else to worry about. Yet, Jesus tells that the mere act of lusting after another who is not that person’s spouse is an act of adultery: “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:28). Is anyone truly free from this sin? (Rom. 3:20).
The laws of sexual purity were expanded in the New Testament. Many Christians believe that the laws of the Old Testament no longer apply. Many reason that if they no longer need to make blood sacrifices or follow the Kosher laws, why should they have to follow the sexual purity laws? Yet, Christ did not come to destroy the Law (Matt. 5:17-19). He also warned that “sexual impurities” are among the things that defiled a man (Matt. 15:19-20; Mark 7:20-23). Of the few laws that Christians are told that they still need to follow, the laws against sexual immorality are among them. We are warned to avoid “food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (Acts 15:20). “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;” (1 Thess. 4:3). Are you maintaining the highest moral standards before God?
All fornication and sex outside of marriage is against God’s law. Christ specifically expanded the laws of the Old Testament to include not just lustful looks but all kinds of fornication and sex outside of marriage: “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” (Heb. 13:4). After the temple was destroyed, the Holy Spirit resides in us (1 Cor. 3:16-17). Have you kept the temple of the Holy Spirit holy?
Remarriage is only condoned following adultery. Jesus also tightened the standards for remarriage to only allow for it in the case of adultery: “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matt. 19:9). If Christians want to divorce because one person is mean or if they simply don’t get along, that is not acceptable in Christ’s eyes. If you know a believer who is considering a divorce, are you counseling that person to honor their vows and make the marriage work? Likewise, if you know someone who is harming their marriage, are you counseling them?
Adultery is a capital spiritual crime. God’s grace is only valuable if you know what you have been spared from: “If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, the one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” (Lev. 20:10). “If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel.” (Dt. 22:22). Have you given thanks to Jesus for what He has spared you from? Is your life a living witness to your thanks? (Rom. 12:1).
A person who breaks a wedding vow to commit adultery has a double death sentence. The rate of divorce within the Church would suggest that people believe that God does not impose a cost upon believers who break their holy vows. Yet, God warns those who have made wedding vows not to “swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God.” (Lev. 19:12). This violates the Third Commandment: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” (Ex. 20:7; Dt. 5:11). Because a broken wedding vow profanes God’s holy name (Lev. 19:12), the penalty is also death. “Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him.” (Lev. 24:16). “The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” (Lev. 24:16). “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” (Dt. 5:11). Because adultery was already punishable by death, a person who breaks a wedding vow before God to commit adultery has two separate death sentences under the law. The beginning of all knowledge is the fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7). The Church and our nation has lost the fear of the Lord.
The sexually depraved also engages in idolatry, which is separately punishable by death. Paul warns that sexual immorality can become an idol to the person consumed by it: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” (Col. 3:5). A person can become addicted to their lusts as if they were serving an idol. Because idolatry breaks the Second Commandment, the penalty is also death (Rev. 21:8; 22:15; 9:21). Thus, an adulterer who breaks a wedding vow can in fact have three death sentences before God.
The unsaved who engage in sexual immorality are barred from heaven. For the unsaved, there are eternal consequences to adultery and sexual depravity: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,… nor the covetous,… will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). “But for the . . . unbelieving and . . . immoral persons . . . and idolaters . . . , their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Rev. 21:8, 9:21). “Outside [of heaven] are . . . the immoral persons and . . .the idolaters . . ..” (Rev. 22:15). For “. . flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 15:50). “For the mind set on the flesh is death . . ” (Rom. 8:6). Thus, “[i]f you live according to the flesh, you must die. . . ” (Rom 8:13). If you have engaged in any sexual sin, how have you thanked Christ for what He has done for you on the cross? Or, have you used your freedom as a license to sin?
A person who sleeps with a harlot shares in the harlot’s sins. Paul separately warns about the consequences of sleeping with a prostitute: “Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one with her?” (1 Cor. 6:16). “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matt. 7:6). “Her house is the way to Sheol, descending to the chambers of death.” (Prov. 7:27). “For her house sinks down to death and her tracks lead to the dead;” (Prov. 2:18). Thus, a person who sleeps with a prostitute becomes one with the prostitute and shares in her sins.
When left unchecked, lust can lead to adultery and other sins. In addition to the penalties imposed upon the adulterers, there are other consequences. David first saw Bathsheba and lusted after her: “Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king's house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance.” (2 Sam. 11:2). David obviously made no effort to look away. His secret lust later led him to commit adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:4). When David’s adultery led to Bathsheba’ pregnancy and he could not convince her husband to be with her, he later committed murder to try cover his tracks (2 Sam. 11:14-17). David also became numb to his sin. He was not remorseful about sending Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to his death until God confronted him. Because of his sins, David’s physical health suffered (Ps. 38:3, 18). His family also lived in conflict because of his sins.
The Arab Israeli conflict is a result of Abram’s adultery. The Bible is full of misery following sexual sins. As a consequence of Abram’s decision to sleep with Sarai’s servant Hagar, his marriage suffered. Moreover, his descendants, the Arabs and the Jews, would live in conflict for generations to come (Gen. 16: 3-16; Hosea 8:7; Gal. 4:22-24). Thus, sexual sins can have long-lasting consequences.
Abram’s sexual sins caused a separation with God. After Abram slept with Hagar, he had to wait 13 years before God spoke with him again. When you openly sin, your prayers will be “hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7). “We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he does listen to anyone who worships him and does his will.” (John 9:31; Psalm 66:18; Prov. 28:9; Isa. 1:15). The reason for this is that sin cannot be in God’s presence, and He “cannot look on wickedness.” (Hab. 1:13). Are you doing things that might hinder your prayers?
Reuben’s tribe lost its first born status after he slept with Bilhah. Reuben was Jacob’s oldest son. He was born to Leah, the unloved first wife of Jacob (Gen. 29:30-31). Reuben was entitled to a double blessing as the firstborn (Dt. 21:15-17). Yet, Reuben defiled the maid servant of Rachel named Bilhah. Under the law, sleeping with a person’s step mother was forbidden under all circumstances (Lev. 18:8). It also violated the Seventh Commandment against adultery (Ex. 20:14; Deut. 5:18). The penalty for Reuben’s acts was death (Lev. 20:11). The consequence for Reuben’s actions was that he and his future generations lost their firstborn status (Gen. 49:3-4; 1 Chr. 5:1-2). Adulterers rarely think about how their actions can hurt their kids. Yet, God is filled with mercy and grace and wants none to perish. Even after his sins, Reuben’s tribe continued to be one of the 12 founding tribes of Israel.
Jacob’s marriage to Rachel and Leah caused jealousy between the wives. It was against God’s law for Jacob to marry both Leah and her sister Rachael (Lev. 18:18). Yet, he did so anyway because of his lust for Rachel. Jealousy was one of the fruits of this unholy union. While Leah had children, Rachel’s jealousy drove her to feel that she would die unless she had a child (Gen. 30:1). Jealousy eventually drove Rachel to have her husband Jacob sleep with her servant Bilhah (Gen. 30:1-6). Jealousy in turn drove Leah to have Jacob sleep with her servant Zilpah to increase the number of her kids. She did this even though she already had four sons and she had only had one year after their marriage without a pregnancy (Gen. 30:9-10). These examples show that there can be no family peace when a man has two wives or a wife and a mistress (Dt. 21:15-17). God shows by example that every person in the Bible who engaged in this sin brought disaster to themselves, their spouses and their children. Having more than one spouse almost never results in happiness.
Jacob’s marriage to Rachel and Leah also caused jealousy between their children. Leah’s children’s jealousy over Jacob’s love for Rachel’s children later drove Reuben to defile Rachel’s maid servant Bilhah (Gen. 35:22). Jealousy later drove nine of the boys to sell Joseph into slavery because Joseph was one of two sons of Rachel that Jacob loved more (Gen. 37:18-36). His multiple marriages sowed the seeds of misery and chaos.
If you are unfaithful to God, you also commit spiritual adultery. In addition to pain being imposed upon an adulterer, innocent spouses, and children, an adulterer also causes pain to God. God says that He is a “jealous God.” (Zech. 1:14; 8:2). Our God is “jealous” of us because He created us and joined us to Him (Dt. 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; 32:16; Jos. 24:19; Nah. 1:2). God analogized the spiritual wanderings of his people and their disobedience to the pain that a spouse feels when the other is engaged in adultery (Jer. 3:20-25). God even told the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute so that he could understand the pain that God feels when we are unfaithful to Him: “When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD.’” (Hos. 1:2). God warns that spiritual adultery through disobedience is so serious that He will punish the third and fourth generations of those who commit it (Ex. 20:5). The Church was meant to be a light to the rest of the world. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;” (Matt. 5:14). Yet, it cannot be that light when it is mired in sexual sin and divorce. Have your actions been pleasing to God?
We are the future bride of Christ. We also have another reason to stay pure. Jesus is our High Priest (Heb. 8:1). As our High Priest, He will one day marry His Church to form a bond of spiritual intimacy with it (Eph. 5:22-33; Rev. 19:7-8; 21:1-9). Yet, as a High Priest, He can only marry His people if they are spiritual virgins (Lev. 21:13-14). If He does not do so, He will “profane” His offspring (Lev. 21:14). We are the adopted sons of God the Father (Rom. 8:15, 23). We are therefore commanded to remain spiritual virgins to marry Christ (2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 14:4). Your bond with Christ should be like your bond with your spouse. You are told to be sanctified and holy (1 Thess. 4:3-8; 1 Peter 1:14-16). Your body is now the temple where the Holy Spirit dwells (Matt. 6:22-23). You misrepresent the light of God to others when you engage in adultery, lust, or fornication.
Live in the world but not of the world. The Jews were warned to only follow God’s Law (Lev. 18:1). When the Jews later invaded Canaan, Joshua was ordered not to let the locals stay because God knew that His people were too weak to avoid their temptations (Josh. 10:40). God says that His ways and His thoughts are not ours (Isa. 55:8). God also does not change or evolve (Heb. 13:8). Popular culture will always conflict with the Word because the devil controls it as the ruler of this world (Jo. 12:31; 14:30). As stated above, under God’s Law, even a lustful look at another person is an act of adultery (Matt. 5:27-28). Thus, believers cannot look to popular culture or what is politically correct for guidance on what sexual conduct is appropriate. God’s laws about sexual morality will always be unpopular to nonbelievers. Are you ashamed to defend them to nonbelievers? (Rom. 1:16).
If you love the world’s standards, God’s love is not in you. “[T]he lust of the flesh . .. is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (1 Jo. 2:16). These lusts include “immorality, impurity, sensuality.” (Gal. 5:24). If anyone loves these “things of the world,” “the love for the Father is not in him.” (1 Jo. 2:15). Even Solomon, the wisest man alive and the author of most of the proverbs, loved the women of the world around him. He gave in to the lusts of the flesh and strayed from God by taking 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:1-8). Lust also frequently brings down powerful politicians, leaders, sports heroes, and actors. Do you love the popular shows, movies, and magazines that glorify sexually immoral things?
Once we recognize the seriousness of the sexual sin, the question then becomes what can believers do to minimize their risks of committing this sin. There are seven things spouses can do to “not give the devil an opportunity” to cause sexual sin. (Eph. 4:27).
(1) Submit to each other and not to selfish desires. One of the number one causes of adultery is when a spouse feels neglected or if the spouse feels emotionally unfulfilled. The emotional hurt or neglect that one spouse feels causes the spouse to look to others for emotional intimacy. Paul gives practical advice to help avoid this. While the wife submits to a husband when he acts in a Godly manner, husbands are to serve their wives the way that Christ served the Church: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, . . . So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;” (Eph. 5:25, 28). Are you placing your own needs and desires above your spouse? Are you loving your spouse the way that Christ served the Church?
(2) Create ways to solve conflict within the marriage. The forbidden fruit was tempting for Eve. In the end, however, the results of taking it were disastrous. God warned that there would be conflict between Adam and Eve (Gen 3:15). Paul warns “not let the sun go down on your anger.” (Eph. 4:26). Do you talk through conflicts with your spouse? Or, do you let things bottle up?
(3) Avoid small sins that can lead to larger ones. People who engage in sexual sins get there through multiple small steps. Adultery is never the first step of a sinner. It happens after a long descent into sin. Small sins lead to bigger ones. Pornography, for example, is claimed by some to be harmless. Yet, in addition to being addictive, it is also a gateway to more serious sins like premarital sex, fornication, and adultery. This in turn leads to divorce and misery for entire families. Thus, one sin leads to another. Most people remember Joseph’s story because of the final temptation of Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39:12). But she built up to her advance after tempting him daily (Gen. 39:10-11). Moses warns that when we sin against God: “be sure your sin will find you out.” (Nu. 32:23). Are you willing to “. . .put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts”? (Rom. 13:14). Have you entertained small sins believing that they are no big deal in your life? If we fail in the small temptations, should we expect to be able to resist the large ones?
(4) Set God’s hedge of protection around you. One of the best preventive steps to avoiding sexual sin involves setting a hedge of spiritual protection around your life. Before Satan was allowed to test Job, he complained to God that Job was protected by “a hedge about him…” (Job 1:10). One of the most important ways to create a hedge of protection is to be in constant prayer (Jam. 1:5). Also, a believer must read the Word to create light unto the believer’s path (Ps. 119:105). Third, the believer must put on the armor of God, including the shield of God to quench the fiery darts of the enemy (Eph. 6:11). God creates a shield for those who submit to Him (Prov. 30:5; Ps. 115:11). An example of when God’s people dropped their hedge of protection took place at the end of the Jews’ 40-year march in the wilderness, the Jews “dwelt” at Shittim for many months (Nu. 25:1). The Jews were slowly seduced into temple prostitution there. It would have started off slow and appeared innocent at first. King Balak might have sent peace envoys to greet their Jewish cousins (The Moabites were the descendants of Lot and his daughter) (Gen. 19:30-38). Balak might have invited the warrior men to a banquet with lots of alcohol and with temple prostitutes assigned to seduce each man. At any step in this process, the Jews could have said no. More importantly, this all implies that the Jewish leaders set no boundaries on what the Jews could do with the Moabites. They also were not seeking God’s will in their actions. Are their “hedges” protecting what you do? Do you have boundaries on who you e-mail or who you meet with? Do you drink alcohol in the wrong settings where your hedges might be lowered? Do you set boundaries for your kids?
(5) Make a covenant with your eyes. God warns that “Marriage is to be held in honor among all . . ” (Heb. 13:4). This includes what we look at. It is part of a covenant that you formed with the Creator of the universe. Jesus therefore warns that you must keep your covenant pure by being careful what you look at: “The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness.” (Lk. 11:34). How do we keep our eyes pure? Job said that he created a “covenant with his eyes” to guard himself from looking at the wrong things: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1). Have you placed any limitations on what you look at?
(6) Beware of sexual temptation when times are good. Power, wealth, and complacency can also fuel a sense of entitlement. This can lead to sexual temptation. An example of this can again be found at the end of the Jews’ 40-year journey in the wilderness when they dwelt at Shittim in the country of Moab (Nu. 25:1). They stayed at this place until Joshua led them from there into the Promised Land (Nu. 33:49; Josh. 2:1). In Hebrew, Shittim means a “a grove of acacia trees”. The Jews had an easy life in this place. They also had lots of time on their hands. The Bible does not mention any sexual seduction while the Jews struggled through their 40-year journey in the wilderness. Besides Joseph, there also is no mentioned of any sexual seduction during their 400 years of Egyptian captivity. Their complaints mostly focused on their provisions. It was only after the Jews found comfort that they succumbed to sexual temptation (Nu. 25:1-3). Joseph was also tempted at a time when he was in charge of his master’s household (Gen. 39:6). David was tempted when he held the unchecked power as the King of the Jews (2 Sam. 11:2). If everything is good in your life, it is easy to let your guard down. For example, the most common thing to happen to couples who win the lottery is to get divorced. Satan uses sexual temptation to seduce Americans who are successful or comfortable. Has your wealth or comfort caused you to drop your guard? Are you using your money and free time to feed your flesh or the Spirit? Do you find more joy reading popular culture magazines and stories of debauchery or the teachings of the Bible?
(7) Go in groups of two or more godly companions when with the opposite sex. Finally, as a preventative measure, men and women should avoid being alone together. To protect the disciples, Jesus sent them out in twos: “He called the twelve disciples and began to send them out two by two, giving them authority over unclean spirits.” (Mark 6:7). This kept them accountable to each other. It also protected them from sins that they might engage in when they might feel that no one was looking. We are to avoid even the appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22). We are also commanded not to forsake the fellowship, which brings accountability (Heb. 10:25). We are further told to confess our sins to each other (Jam. 5:16). Yet, being with another member of your sex is by itself not a guarantee of accountability. If the other person is not a serious believer, you can be unequally yoked and weighted down by the other person’s sins: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.”’ (1 Cor. 15:33). Believers who date should also avoid being unequally yoked to guard against sexual temptation (2 Cor. 6:14-18). Have you placed yourself alone in places where you might be compromised? Do you have someone that you are accountable to?
Rebuke the devil and he will flee. The Bible promises that if we rebuke the devil in Christ’s name, He will flee. “But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” (Jude 1:9). “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (Jam. 4:7). “But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” (1 Pet. 5:9). When Joseph was tempted, he protested: “There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9). Have you rebuked Satan’s attacks? Or, have you invited them?
Flee sexual temptations. If a believer forgets to rebuke the devil and he does not flee, God promises not to put us in a place beyond our ability to resist the temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). When Potiphar’s wife was alone with Joseph, he could have given in to her advances and experienced a moment of pleasure without being caught. But he refused to do evil in God’s eyes (Gen. 39:6-9). He knew that God would have known his sins if he had agreed (Prov. 15:3). According the Bible, to fear God we must “hate” evil (Prov. 8:13). When he failed to stop her advances, he fled: “She caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me!’ And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside.” (Gen. 39:12). Yet, just as Joseph fled when tempted by Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39:12), we are commanded to “flee” sexual temptation: “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body (1 Cor. 6:8; 2 Tim. 2:22). After the sin of Adam and Eve, our sexual desires became distorted (Gen. 3:15-16; Rom. 8:20). God knows that we are most likely destined for bondage if we try to reason with temptation. Before God gave the Ten Commandments, He declared: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the Land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Ex. 20:2). His rules are meant to protect us from bondage. Through Jesus’ death, your body has been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). You are now His servant (Lev. 25:55). If you were once a slave to sin, you are now a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). Are you “fleeing” sexual temptation? (2 Tim. 2:22). Or, are you hanging out with people in the wrong places where you might be lead back to bondage?
The Devil causes us to rationalize our sins. When we don’t flee temptation, the devil will try to have us rationalize our sins. Sarai blamed God for her inability to bear children. She had waited 10 years for God to fulfill his promise. But she was not willing to wait any longer (Gen. 11:30; 16:1-3). When Sarai proposed that Abram sleep with her maid Hagar, Abram failed to seek God’s guidance (Gen. 15:1-4; 16:2; 25:21; Jam. 1:5). Abram likely rationalized that God had meant for him to sleep with his wife’s servant based upon what God told Abram in Genesis 15:4. Satan also tried to rationalize with Eve that God would not let her die if she ate the forbidden fruit. Has the devil caused you to rationalize your sins? If so, that is usually the first step into the abyss caused by sin.
If you repent, God is faithful to forgive you. God delivered the Jews from slavery in Egypt (Ex. 20:2). He can also deliver any person from any type of bondage (Phil. 4:13). He is not just the God of the Spirit, He is also “the God of the flesh.” (Jer. 32:27; Jo. 17:2). He made you a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). He can also wash your flesh of any iniquity or bondage (Ps. 51:1-3, 7). You must first read the Word to know your sins (Eph. 5:26). If you confess and repent of your “unrighteousness,” God is faithful to forgive you (1 Jo. 1:9; Jo. 15:3; 1 Cor. 6:11). You must then renew your mind every day (Rom. 12:1-2). Is there unconfessed sin in your life?
Jesus spared the prostitute from the penalty for her adultery. Some might feel the adultery is unforgivable. Yet, Jesus did not punish the prostitute when others wanted to stone her (Jo. 8:5-7). Jesus also offered the water of eternal life to the adulterous woman at the well (Jo. 4:14). Thankfully, God is slow to anger (Ex. 34:6; Nu. 14:18; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8). When a couple is engaged in adultery, God knows it at the moment the thought first enters the sinner’s head. From Jesus’ example, God seeks repentance from the sinner as His primary goal (Lk. 5:32; 15:7). Yet, once you repent and He forgives you, He wants you to sin no more. This is what Jesus told the forgiven prostitute (Jo. 8:11).
God forgave David for his adultery and murder. God also forgave David after he committed adultery. Is there any sexual sin of yours that is too big for God to forgive?
If God can forgive Judah’s sexual sins, He can also forgive yours. Judah was Leah’s son and Jacob’s fourth child (Gen. 29:35). After the sins of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, the blessings of being firstborn fell to him. Yet, he was also a sinner. He was the first-born by default and encouraged his brothers to sell Joseph to the Midianites, the descendants of Ishmael, out of jealousy (Gen 37:27-28). Er was the firstborn of Judah. God later killed Er for refusing to follow God’s directions (Gen. 38:7). Onan was the next in line to be the firstborn. But God took his life after he also disobeyed God by refusing to give Er’s wife Tamar an heir (Gen. 38:8-10). The law required that Onan give Tamar an heir who would receive the blessings of the firstborn (Dt. 25:5-10). Judah, however, broke the law by withholding his third son Shelah from her (Gen. 38:11, 26). Judah later negotiated with what he thought was a “temple prostitute.” Tamar was in fact the prostitute in disguise. Judah had no trouble knowing what the price was, suggesting that he was no stranger to this practice (Gen. 38:16-17). This meant that he was also guilty of fornication. Judah later also showed himself to be a hypocrite for saying that Tamar should be burned for what he thought was her adultery (Gen. 38:24). For breaking God’s law, Judah was deserving of the same fate as Onan – death. Yet, he later confessed his sins, and God forgave him. God further gave Judah the pre-emanate role amongst the tribes (Gen. 49:8-12). By the beginning of the book of Numbers, Judah’s tribe had grown to 74,600 fighting men, the largest tribe (Nu. 1:27). Jesus later picked the line of Judah to be identified as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.” (Rev. 5:5). God also named one of his 12 gates to heaven after Judah. This shows that God is full or mercy and grace. If God can forgive and use Judah, is there any sin of yours that is too big for God to forgive?
God hates divorce. God says that He “hates divorce.” (Mal. 2:16). Jesus broadened the prohibition against divorce to state that anyone who divorces a woman (except in the case of infidelity) and marries another commits adultery (Matt. 19:8-9). Yet, God only allowed for divorce because of the hardness of people’s hearts: “They said to Him, ‘Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.”’ (Matt. 19:8). Thus, even when a person has a right to a divorce, this is not the step that God wants the victim to take. He first seeks repentance.
Forgive others to be forgiven. Maybe you are unwilling to forgive a spouse who has sinned. After the Pharisees spoke to Jesus about “stoning” the prostitute, Jesus wrote on the ground (Jo. 8:6, 8). Adultery was punishable by death. But stoning was reserved for only two adulterous offenses. The first involved when a person lied about his or her virginity in getting married (Dt. 22:13-21). The second involved when a person had adultery with someone engaged to another (Dt. 22:13-21). Interestingly, the only person identified in the Bible who could have tried to stone a woman was Joseph if he had doubted Mary’s story. Jesus knew that the Pharisees were looking to test Him. Thus, He did not correct the Pharisees for their incorrect interpretation. Instead, he wrote on the ground (Jo. 8:6, 8). Under Roman law, a judge first wrote down a sentence and then read it. He likely wrote their names because they were guilty of the same sin. Or, they may have slept with her in the past: “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” (Matt. 7:1-2). This also fulfilled a prophecy: “O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the Lord.” (Jer. 17:13). Will you judge others for their sexual sins if you have your own? “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:15).
God tests us to show us where hearts are evil. Your old sins should not weigh you down. Instead, rejoice that God has given you the chance to learn and change from your prior mistakes: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” (Jam. 1:2). God cannot tempt us (Jam. 1:13-14). He does, however, test us (Jer. 17:10; 20:12). He tests us to show us where our hearts have evil (Jer. 17:9). David, someone who committed adultery and then tried to cover it up with murder, later invited God to search his heart to expose his sins (Ps. 139:23). His openness to learning from his sins is what made him a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22). Are you willing to let God show you your hidden sins? If you say to God that there is no need for Him to test you because you have no sin, the truth is not within you (1 Jo. 1:8). Do you think God prefers the sinner who is willing to let God show him or her their sins or the self-righteous person who claims they have none?
Learn from your mistakes by cutting out the things that make you stumble. God told the Jews to be holy and to draw a distinction between the clean and the unclean because He is holy (Lev. 11:44-7). Jesus said that the consequences of sin in our own lives is so severe that we would be better to cut out an eye or an arm or a leg if it causes us to sin (Matt. 5:29-30; 18:8; Mark 9:43-45). Jesus warns that “if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness.” (Matt. 6:23). Have you removed things that caused you to sin?
Jesus’ lesson for the Church to learn from its past sins. Jesus also warned the Church of Pergamum to learn from the past sexual sins of God’s believers at the hands of Balaam. Although God prevented Balaam from cursing Israel (Nu. 23-24), Balaam wanted to earn the pay that Balak offered him to bring a curse upon the Jews (Nu. 22:17). He learned that God was protecting His people (Nu. 23:8). Just like the devil, Balaam knew that the only way God’s people could be destroyed was if they voluntarily broke God’s Law. Having them join with temple prostitutes was one law he figured he could induce them to break (Ex. 34:14-15; Dt. 23:17; Judg. 2:17; 1 King. 14:22-24). Thus, he came up with a plan to have the Jews defile themselves with the Moabite and Midianite women, who together formed an alliance against Israel (Nu. 22:4). He instructed Balak to send his most attractive women to invite the Jewish men to Moabite banquets (Nu. 31:16). The women then seduced the men through acts of temple prostitution. The men would have had free sex with the prostitutes in exchange for their agreement to first eat foods sacrificed to Baal of Peor, the Canaanite fertility god, and then to worship him. Jesus later condemned the church of Pergamum for leading believers into the same kind of sin: “you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.” (Rev. 2:14). Pergamum symbolized the union of the church and the world. What lessons can the Church today learn from Balaam?
God meant for the cost of a broken vow to be expensive. To break a vow to God, including a wedding vow, a man would need to pay the priest 50 silver shekels (Lev. 27:3). Or, the priest would determine a fair amount based upon what he could afford (Lev. 27:8). The average male laborer’s wage in Biblical times was approximately one silver shekel per month. Women received about 50-67 percent of a male laborer’s pay (Wenham, Gordon, The Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979), p. 338). Thus, for the average male laborer aged 20 to 60 making 1 shekel a month, it would take 50 months, or 4 years and 2 months, to pay for a broken vow. Breaking a vow to God was not done lightly. Unlike today, divorce was a rare event because of the costs involved. Imagine what would happen if society increased the financial cost of adultery and divorce?
If the Church does not act, it will have lost its “saltiness”. Today, many churches have stayed silent while television, movies, magazines, and online entertainment glorify acts of sexual immorality. This has contributed to the rates of divorce, premarital sex, adultery, sexually transmitted diseases, and depression to explode. Jesus warned: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” (Matt. 5:13). Once the Church loses its moral “saltiness” it is hard to get it back: “Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again?” (Mk. 9:50). If the Church is to take the lessons from Balaam’s doctrine in society around us seriously, it must be praying for society to repent. It must be a holy light by its own example. Motivated by love, it must also be “salt”, an irritant in the wound of sin. Are you playing your part to restore others?