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Adultery by Marriage

I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.
—Matthew 19:9

There is another way to break the Seventh Commandment—“Do not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14)—that we don’t think about very much. But it’s rampant, not only in our society but also in our churches today. That is adultery by marriage.

What do I mean adultery by marriage? There are some people who think they can legitimize their affair by getting married. They think, If I see somebody I think I would be happier with, and if I’m not feeling fulfilled in my present marriage, then I will just divorce my mate and I will become that person’s mate, and suddenly God will bless our relationship. It does not work that way.

Let’s look at what God has to say about that kind of so-called marriage. In Matthew 19 the Pharisees tried to trick Jesus and with a thorny question about divorce and remarriage: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” (Matthew 19:3). Then they twisted Moses’ words and claimed the law said you could divorce your mate for any reason. “What do you say?” they asked Jesus. He said very clearly that yes, the law allowed for divorce, but that was not God’s plan in the beginning. “Have you not read,” Jesus says, “that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (vv. 4–6). Now, look at what Jesus says in verse 9: “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

If a person divorces a spouse for any reason other than immorality or desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15) and marries somebody else, then that person is guilty of adultery. Now, I believe there may be reasons a woman may move out of a home: if her life is being threatened, if she’s being physically abused. But the Bible only allows divorce and remarriage in the cases of adultery or desertion. Marriage is a forever commitment. And except in those extreme circumstances we are to remain committed and married to our mate.

You see, Jesus says, “He who created them from the beginning made them male and female” (Matthew 19:4). You read that and think, Well, duh. Of course He made them male and female. But Jesus is not stressing the importance of the gender here; He’s emphasizing the singularity of those nouns. God didn’t create them males and females. “He created them male and female.” The point is when God created the original couple, He didn’t create Adam and Eve and Janet and Carol and Ted and Bob and a whole group. And therefore if Adam didn’t care for Eve any longer, or wasn’t fulfilled by Eve, then he could just go out and find somebody else. No. Adam knew that Eve was the only one there. It was Eve or nothing.

I believe if people entered into the marriage relationship knowing Either I have to make it work with this person or if I divorce I’m going to spend the rest of my life single, then there would be fewer irreconcilable differences between mates. If you believe there is no out—that it’s either this or being alone forever—then you will be a lot more motivated to make that marriage relationship work.

The Bible says to divorce our mate simply because we’re unhappy and want to find somebody else, that is to be guilty of adultery by marriage.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Safe Sex,” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


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