Guest writer from Christianity Magazine Archives

Adultery—“A Heinous Crime”

Sewell Hall

If you were asked to name a “heinous crime,” what would you think of first? Cyanide in Tylenol? A recent senseless assault on some innocent child? The murder of a million Jews in Germany? Surely all of those are “heinous crimes.” How many of us, however, would identify adultery as “a heinous crime?” Job called it that in Job 31:11.

We have seen so much evidence of adultery around us that we have become anesthetized to its seriousness. It is dramatized on the screen, glamorized in music and immortalized in print. It has become a way of life for multitudes of otherwise respectable people, so much so that many have come to believe that anyone who abstains is abnormal.

Job’s designation is still accurate. Consider some things of which one is guilty when he commits adultery.

Breach of Contract. When we marry we promise before God and witnesses to keep ourselves to our spouse alone “so long as we both shall live.” Does our word mean nothing? We would be incensed if our companion should break that covenant; what right have we to break it? If we do not have the honor and integrity to keep this promise, what promise can we be expected to keep?

Grand Larceny. Nothing my companion in marriage possesses is so valuable to her as the trust she has in me that I am keeping our marriage contract. No amount of money I might take from her could possibly hurt as much as to take away that trust by proving to be unfaithful. To rob her of that is to rob her of the security and stability to which her own sacrifices and investments clearly entitle her.

Unlawful Trespass. Webster says, “Trespass implies an unlawful or unwarranted entrance upon the property, rights, etc. of another.” If the person with whom one commits adultery is married, then the right to the body of that person belongs to his or her spouse (1 Corinthians 7:4) and anyone else is trespassing. Even if the person is not married, the charge of trespassing still holds, for the only one who has a right to anybody is a marriage companion.

Treason. Christians are citizens of the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Colossians 1:13). Adultery is one of Satan’s devices in his war against God. If a Christian engages in adultery, he is giving aid and comfort to the enemy and allowing himself to be used for his purposes. The figure is different but the message is the same in 1 Corinthians 6:15. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!”

Desecration of a Place of Worship. The argument against sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 6 is continued in verses 19 and 20. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Contempt of Court. Contempt of court is “any willful disobedience to, or disregard of, a court order or any misconduct in the presence of the court” (Compton’s Encyclopedia). God is “Judge of all the earth” (Genesis 18:25) and “there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). Every act of adultery, therefore, is “in the presence of the court” and is a direct violation of His injunction: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Romans 13:9).

Gambling. One who commits adultery is putting at risk everything of value in his life. He is gambling with his honor, his wealth, his health, his conscience and his ability to control his thoughts (Proverbs 5:9–14). He is gambling with church relationships, family relationships, and even with his right to be married. I know of no passage which gives a person divorced for adultery the right to marry anyone else.

Murder. Adultery murders something good in a person that is almost impossible to restore. This must have been what the Holy Spirit was saying in 1 Corinthians 6:18. “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.” This is not to question that adultery can be forgiven; it can be (1 Corinthians 6:9–11). But one thing is certain: if it is not forgiven, the soul is murdered. Revelation 21:8 warns that the “sexually immoral … shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

What other sin involves so many offenses against God, man and self? We must agree with Job that adultery is a “heinous crime; yea it is iniquity to be punished by the judges.” Even if human judges overlook it, “the Lord is an avenger of all such” (1 Thessalonians 4:6).[1]

[1] Hall, S. (1986). Reminders: Adultery—“A Heinous Crime.” Christianity Magazine, 3(5), 5.

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