Lesson 3 – Adultery and Divorce

Adultery and Divorce

Scripture:  Matthew 5:27-32


When someone speaks with what appears to be “authority” on how to attain satisfaction for one of our innate needs, most people want to listen.  If the information involves the sex drive people are “all ears.”  Millions of messages go out about sexual activity over our world communication systems daily.  Millions of ears and eyes are wide open to receive this information.  Many of those who constantly receive this information are too immature to properly process what they are being told and shown.  The result is role confusion, an animalistic level of morality, broken homes and a generation of people on drugs.

The question we need to ask all prophets of how to find satisfaction for our innate urges is; “Do they speak with authority?”  Will the program they are presenting produce satisfaction or will it produce lust?  If they are offering information about sexual satisfaction, are they speaking to married people only?  In our text, Jesus spoke with authority on the subject of sex.  The context for His lessons is always related to one woman and one man in marriage.  The world and the church both need to listen to Him.

The sex need is one of the strongest urges in maturing people.  The power it can generate for a person’s character must not be lost.  People need to be mature enough to get married before they can incorporate the joy and strength from this drive into their lives.  Both parties should have moved from the dependent to the independent stage of life before their marriage.  This means they should have control of their emotions and their bodies.  They should have attained financial independence because they need to leave their fathers and mothers and become one (Matt. 19:5).   People are not prepared to take full responsibility for their behavior in interdependent relationships until they have become independent in these three fields to some degree.  The husband is the leader in this new interdependent relationship called family (I Pet. 3:1-7).

Since God’s program for satisfying the sex urge involves two people of the opposite sex in marriage, it is a complex program.  One aspect of marriage is a simultaneous pursuit for sex satisfaction of two people.  Marriage involves a person with a female body and a female brain in the pursuit of satisfaction of all of their innate drives in union with a person with a male body and a male brain.   If they do not follow the authoritative teachings of Jesus they will find themselves entangled in lust that leads to adultery.  When an urge becomes strong enough to dominate a person’s personality, it becomes lust.  Lust and love are often confused.  Lust is an unbridled selfish desire.  The love that marriage must be built on is an attitude of win/win.  The pronoun “I” is replaced with “we.”

Adultery, a noun, is translated from the Greek word “moichos.” It denotes one who has unlawful sexual intercourse with the spouse of another (Luke 18:11; I Cor. 6:9; Heb. 13:4).  Adulteress is translated from “moichalis.”  Adulteress is used in the natural sense of physical sex (II Pet. 2:14; Rom. 7:3).  It is also used in the spiritual sense (Jas. 4:4).  Adultery has been translated from “moicheia” in Matt. 15:19; Mark 7:21; John 8:3.  Adultery is a condition of the heart that expresses its self in the act.

In our text the Greek verbs “moichao” and “ moicheuo” have been translated adultery.  Fornication is translated from “porneias.”  It is used of “illicit sexual intercourse” here and in Acts 15:20; I Cor. 5:1.  The following are different English translations of Matthew 5:32 where both words are employed.

But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.  NIV

Except for the cause of unchasity.  NASB 

But I say unto you, that every one who putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulterous: and whosoever shall marry her when she is put away commitheth adultery.  ASV


People in the world societies have experimented with various sexual activities in order to attain satisfaction for their God given sexual urges.  Unfortunately, they have done this without proper guidance from Jesus, who is the light of life (John 1:3).  They have failed to follow the laws of life.  Some have asked, “What is wrong with experimentation?  After all it is how scientists learn.”  Agreed, if we are speaking about physical things, for if the experiment fails they can dispose of the ruined project and start all over.  However, when we are dealing with the “self” of a person, failed experiences generally leave scars.  The self of a person is their spirit that came from God after it has been imprinted, or modulated, by time spent in their respective environment.

Some of us can point to scars on our bodies that have successfully healed without inhibiting our use of the body part.  Scars left on our character and personality as a result of sin is a spiritual matter that will need the grace and guidance of Jesus Christ for healing.   Sin is lawlessness and the law is the law of life of the new covenant (I John 3:4; Matt. 26:28; Rom. 8:1, 2; Heb. 8:10).  Scientists experiment to discover God’s laws of nature.  We appreciate the laws they have discovered and successfully harnessed for our daily usage.  Christians do not need to do experiments with our lives in order to discover the laws of life.  Jesus has already had them inserted into the scriptures.  Many of them are found in His Sermon on the Mount.  All we need to do is hear them and understand how they work with the present condition of our “self.”  Of course, we will need to put our faith in them and have the courage and patience to let God write, or impress, them on our hearts and minds.

Jesus pointed out that adultery is a failed attempt of attaining sexual satisfaction that leaves scars on the inner man – the “self.”  Adultery, indeed, is a grievous sin against the body of a human being, especially for Christians, because the Holy Spirit lives with us.  God’s Holy Spirit will not be joined to a harlot (I Cor. 6:18-20).  Intercourse is one avenue for making two persons one.  An adulterous act has an ugly destabilizing effect on the spirit of mankind – the “self.”

Adultery is not merely the act of having physical sex with the spouse of another person, adultery happens in the mind.  In fact, illicit sex happens in the mind and heart rather than “in the bed.”  Pornography feeds mind sex.  It does not satisfy the innate need for satisfaction of the human sex drive.  The failure to attain satisfaction for any one of a person’s innate drives detracts from the person’s power to build his or her “solid rock” character (Matt. 7:24-27).  When both partners in a marriage help each other satisfy one another’s sexual urges along with their other innate needs, strong character will be the result for both the husband and wife.

An adulterous character is a weakened character.  Adulteresses and adulterers will seek to satisfy their healthy sexual urges in unhealthy manners.  All sexual activity other than with one’s own spouse is adulterous (I Cor. 5:9, 10).  Some sexual activity in marriage may be unhealthy (Heb. 13:4).  In illicit sexual scenarios neither person attains satisfaction for their sexual urges nor their social acceptance needs.  The home environment is destroyed when the parents are dissatisfied.   The home no longer serves their need or the children’s need for mental and spiritual security.  The honor and glory of the home vanishes.  There are always victims of sexual lusts.

Lust, in reference to sexual desire, is a desire to use another person for self gratification.  It does not incorporate the expanding of one’s ego boundaries of the inner self in love (agape).  It is purely a selfish act; however, it is portrayed by the world under such banners as falling in love, being in love and making love.  The meaning the Greek word, agape, does not incorporate selfishness (I Cor. 13:1-7).

In far too many cases the victims of sexual immorality are the children who are reared by parents with weak character.  Their parents are unhappy because they do not enjoy satisfaction for their innate needs.  When they go outside marriage for their sexual satisfaction the home may be ripped asunder by divorce.  The damage to the wronged spouse may drive her or him to become an adulteress or adulterer (Matt. 5:32).   The spouse may stand strong and marry again.  They have this privilege if they feel the need (Matt. 19:9).

But what about the children?  Who will repair the damage done to their world?  How can they honor a father or mother who has an adulterous character (Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:20)?  If their father is the one who committed adultery or is a fornicator, who will “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord?”  Eph. 6:4.  Jesus may have had these thoughts in mind when He said, “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”  Matt. 18:6.

The Law of Moses said, “Do not commit adultery.”  Jesus taught us how to fulfill the requirement of this Law by dealing with the cause of adultery.  The cause is lust.  Lust is translated from the Greek word “epithumia.”  It basically means a strong desire.  This strong desire can override the law of life of the new covenant about how our “selves” are designed to grow and be productive.  Lust is counterproductive to the development of Christian personality and character.  The Apostle Paul warned the unmarried Corinthian Christians about the strong desire in them for sexual relations between a man and a woman.

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.  But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.  I Cor. 7:8, 9

If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants.  He is not sinning.  They should get married.  But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin – this man also does the right thing.  I Cor. 7:36, 37

Although Paul addressed his thoughts to men, the same principles apply to women.  Both have an innate need for sex; howbeit, their stimulation may happen in a different manner (I Tim. 5:11).  Men are more often stimulated by looking at a female form (Song of Solomon 4:1-15).  This does not appear to affect women as it does men.  A woman desires to be nourished and cherished by her husband, as he does his own body (Eph. 5:29).

In today’s technical world of communications, girls and women are showing off their bodies and boys and men are looking like they never have before.  This plants the seed for lust (I John 2:15-17).  God has warned mankind not to use this approach to attain satisfaction.  The sex drive in males can be stimulated by looking at females who are dressed immodestly (Matt. 5:28; I Tim. 2:9, 10).

Christian women who tend to dress immodestly need to examine their motives (II Cor. 13:5).  Men may think they are showing their bodies because they have an interest in sexual activity.  In most cases the men would probably be wrong.  Their immodesty may signify a vanity problem and, or, a misguided social program.  Paul gave Timothy the solution to the problem of immodest dress (I Tim. 2:9, 10).  The “show with misguided motives” approach of women who dress immodestly outside the marriage covenant will only foster lust and fail to attain sexual satisfaction.  Neither is it a proper method to satisfy their need for achievement, social acceptance, security or glory.    Lust can never be satisfied.

Mankind’s innate need for sex can be satisfied in marriage.  After the marriage covenant has been validated by God, it is alright for a woman to show and for a man to look in order to stimulate and seek satisfaction in the act of sex (I Cor. 7:1-5).  This is what is often called “falling in love.”  It is a wonderful and pleasurable time but it must come after marriage.  Although the sex urge is a strong motivation for a man and woman to be joined in marriage, the love described in I Corinthians 13:1-7 and Ephesians 5:22-33 should be an attribute of both parties.  This parental quality of love will cause them to be patient with and kind to one another.  They will not be competitive or selfish.  They will be slow to anger.  If their anger flares they will not let the “sun go down” before they have restored their trust in one another (Eph. 4:26, 27).   By taking quick action, the hope for their marriage to be a home for children for God will be saved.

What we do understand from the foregoing Corinthian scriptures, 7:8, 9, 36, 37, is the urge for sex is a very strong natural desire in people at the time their bodies fully develop into the productive stage.  Their inner person should be in control of their “will to act” at this stage of their lives (I Cor. 7:37).  They need to fully understand the problem of the man in Adam in the world and in Christ.  Christians have a tendency to gratify the desires of the sinful nature (Rom. 13:14).  The desire for sex is not a result of Adam and Eve breaking covenant with God.  This desire is a part of our inherited equipment.  We need to be careful to follow the law of life for the development of our character and personality in the way we seek satisfaction for the passion of sex.

An adult man or woman may be prepared for marriage; however, they should not select a partner to satisfy their sex urge only.  Some people have confused their desire to attain satisfaction for their sex drive with “falling in love.”  This has led to many wrong choices for marriage partners from the beginning of time.  It was a problem during the time Jesus was on earth (John 4:16-18).  It is a grave problem in the Western societies today.  The choice for a mate should be made on the principle of sharing a complete life together.  An old axiom is “I lift thee and thee lift me;” therefore, both are lifted up in their interdependent relationship.

God intended that a man and a woman should leave their parents and live together as one.  For the rest of their lives they are to be a union of ideas, goals, efforts and especially a union of love (agape).  Together they are to meet the world and its difficulties.  They are to grow in a deepening of their mutual spiritual bond, dipping into each other’s minds for a sharing of their very emotions.  They are to share, not only each other’s emotions and history, but each other’s hopes and dreams.  Their mutual thoughts build an outlook for their children which will reach into the lives of future generations.  There is a sharing of the load of work and family responsibilities.  Not least in their union is a sharing of mutual pleasures.  Sexual relations should be pleasurable.  It is not simply an act for breeding as in the animal world.  Married life looses the power and pleasure of the innate sex drive when reproduction is the only motive.

Since God’s only law for the satisfaction of this strong desire is in marriage to a person of the opposite sex, all people should understand God’s law of marriage.  What is it?  All aspects of marriage have been set forth by God and not by the culture of any nation (Gen. 2:24).   This is not a marriage of families.  God, Himself, validates the covenant, not a preacher or the church; therefore, only God can invalidate a marriage (Matt. 19:4-6).  God ordains governments within His will (Rom. 13:1; Acts 5:29).

The husband and wife are an independent family; however, it is not a democracy or co-regent affair.  The man is the head of the woman as long as the husband has Christ as his head (I Cor. 11:3).  God does not take away the wife’s right to choose (Acts 5:7-10).  Both parties have a right to choose a Christian mate before marriage (II Cor. 6:14-18).  God has arranged all these principles so the children produced by their sexual relationship will be reared for His eternal kingdom (Isa. 43:6, 7).  God hates divorce because it causes His little children to stumble, along with the loss of the family as a model of God’s kingdom family (Malachi 2:13-16; Matt. 18:10-14; Heb. 2:11-13).  Divorce disrupts the program for sex satisfaction of the party in the marriage who has been wronged.

Why so much emphasis on God’s ordained institution of marriage?  Because Jesus’ law of life for attaining satisfaction for Christians’ sex drive has its roots in marriage.  Sometimes newly “born again” Christians find themselves in a situation where there is no acceptable way to fulfill their sex drive.  This might happen by being the guilty party in a divorce case or by having been divorced for a reason other than adultery.  The sex drive can be a very demanding drive.  So what to do?  The following are some choices:

1.   Expression:        Ignore laws of life and express the desire.

2.   Suppression:     Keep strict control.  Do not give way to expression.  Jesus may have had this kind of thinking in mind when He said, “if your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown in hell.” Matt. 5:29.  Some Christians may need to recognize that we have “tendencies to lust” in some areas that we have not yet grown spiritually enough to keep dormant.  We want to make sure we don’t make provisions for our lust (Jas. I:13-15).  Consequently, we need to admit our weakness and stay away from situations that would tempt us to make provision and give expression to our lust.

Christians who may have been homosexual offenders before they were born again will need to consider this choice for dealing with their sexual urges (I Cor. 6:9).  The solution for tendencies to lust is found in spiritual growth (Rom 13:14).

3.   Repression:      This is an extremely dangerous way to deal with a desire a person does not plan to express.  Repression neither expresses the desire nor admits its presence.  People who use this remedy deceive themselves; however, one cannot close a desire out of one’s mind in this manner.  It will find another way to express itself.  Many people suffer from fears, guilt and unacceptable behavior because they have repressed some episode or desire.  They put them in a compartment in their minds and try to close the door.  Still they find expression in unusual ways the person does not realize.

4.   Sublimation:      A form of sublimation is what the Apostle Paul practiced and suggested Christians might want to choose in I Corinthians 7:8, 29-38.  In this case, a person takes the power of the drive in question and directs it toward another goal.  Paul wanted to use his time and energy for his apostleship.  He did not deny he had an urge for sexual activity.  He used the time and energy it would take to carry about a wife, as Peter did, for other worthwhile goals (I Cor. 9:5, 24-27).

Questions for Discussion

  1. How much interest do people have in programs they think will give them satisfaction for their innate needs?
  2. List the inherited drives that should be fulfilled in marriage for each spouse.
  3. When people offer information about our inherited urges, what is the first question for which Christians need an answer?
  4. What are some of the complications of seeking to satisfy one’s sexual needs?
  5. What is the difference in lust and love?
  6. What is one way Jesus teaches people to keep from committing adultery?
  7. In what manner is most adultery committed?
  8. What is wrong in experimenting with various philosophies in order to satisfy our sexual urges?
  9. Generally, who are the victims in a divorce?  List some ways they are hurt.
  10. How was Jesus’ teaching about adultery different from the Law of Moses?
  11. Define lust.  How do Christians deal with our tendency to lust?
  12. Why did Jesus direct His admonition to men and not to women in Matt. 5:28?
  13. Explain how the satisfaction of a person’s sex drive relates to their character.
  14. How could people get themselves in a position of not being able to fulfill their sex drives according to God’s plan?
  15. What might this person in the answer to the foregoing  situation need to do in order to live a happy and rewarding life according to the plan of God?
  16. Why should emphasis be put on marriage when people discuss sexual immorality?

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