Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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Redefining Adultery

In a recent edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the religious editor had an article dealing with the methods modern day denominations use to deal with the sin of adultery. The different methods ranged from a withdrawal of fellowship to a complete acceptance and fellowship of this sin.

There are two things I would like you to especially notice about the attitudes towards adultery. First, the laxness of the different religions in dealing with it. Only a few of those surveyed indicated a willingness to withdraw fellowship from an adulterous individual. Most suggested counseling, but few were willing to go that final step. There were a few, but even these were unwilling to mark a man publicly, and withdraw, as commanded in scripture. One Baptist minister stated that it might be necessary to force one to leave because of the disharmony and problems it might cause in a congregation; but the thought of making a man confess the sin of adultery publicly, was, as he put it, “Terrible.”

Contrast that attitude with Paul’s command to, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:4-5). The Corinthians were harboring an adulterer, and were glorying in their open mindedness. Much like we see today. Paul stated that in doing so, they were shaming themselves in the eyes of God. He commanded them to deal with such a one publicly.

The second alarming trend is a willingness to arbitrarily redefine the term adultery. Several were openly stating that we should broaden the term adultery to include any unwillingness to honor the contract of marriage. This serves to make the sin more mundane, and lessen the desire to deal with the sin scripturally.

An explanation. Under Old Testament rule, the sin of adultery was punishable by stoning. Jesus recognized this, and when the woman was brought before him, found in the very act, he did not deny she was worthy of this punishment (cf. John 8). Instead he commanded that the one without sin cast the first stone. When all left, having been convicted by their own conscience, Jesus said, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” There is no doubt that her sin was sexual in nature. She was unfaithful to her husband, caught in a sexual act with a man who was not her husband. As such, she could rightfully have been stoned to death. Her escape from that death is directly attributable to the mercy of our Lord.

The way the Bible deals with the sin of adultery serves to illustrate the serious nature of that sin. Contrast this with the statements of these individuals quoted in the article mentioned before. One stated that adultery should be defined as any failure to fulfill responsibility on the part of either man or wife. For example, a man goes hunting every weekend with his buddies, instead of staying home with his wife. Under this definition, the man would be guilty of adultery. Or a woman does not sufficiently encourage her husband as a helpmeet. She too is guilty of adultery. Notice that such a redefinition does two things. It robs the act of any sexual connotation. Additionally, it discourages dealing with the sin. After all, no one wants to withdraw fellowship from a man just because of an occasional hunting trip. And if there is no difference between that and sexual unfaithfulness, then we should not have to withdraw from the sexually unfaithful either.

Be careful of anyone who starts an explanation with the statement, “To me…” As in, “To me, adultery is…”, or “To me, sin is…”, or, “To me, God is…” It doesn’t matter what adultery, sin or God is to you. What matters is what God says it is, not what you say it is. God defines adultery as unlawful sexual intercourse of a married individual. That is, sexual intercourse with anyone other than that individual’s God approved spouse.

Yes, this is just another example of denominations becoming soft on sin. An unwillingness to call immorality what it truly is. And an unwillingness to deal righteously with the rebellious sinner. They simply do not want anyone to think they are “judgmental”, or “mean-spirited”.

However, I close with a quote from a book, Rethinking Marriage, Divorce, & Remarriage, written by a gospel preacher from Oregon by the name of Jerry F. Bassett. He states, on page 77 that Jesus defines adultery as being something other than unlawful sexual intercourse. In his own words, “To the contrary, Jesus said, the very act of marrying another person which involves the treacherous breaking of an existing covenant constitutes adultery (Matthew 5:31-32).” In redefining adultery as the “treacherous breaking of an existing covenant”, the writer allows for a repentance of this sin, and an continuation of the new marriage. You say you are sorry for divorcing your last wife. And then God allows you to keep your new wife. After all, “adultery” has nothing to do with having sexual intercourse with your new wife. It is the breaking of a covenant. Thus even our own brethren are redefining words in order to get away from the necessity of dealing with the sin and its consequences.

Brethren, let us take care lest we drift away. Do not allow the sophistry of men turn you away from the simplicity of the gospel of Christ.