Sunday, October 3, 2010

4 Types of Adultery

This post was first published on ROOTSS on Wednesday, 7th February 2007


When I was a young boy growing up in church, I remember one particular Sunday when there was no Sunday School. My sisters and I accompanied our parents to Sunday Service and Rev Sam Goh was preaching. Back then, our church was pretty small and cosy, and could sit about 300 persons. Our dear Pastor asked the congregation whether any of us could remember the Ten Commandments.I remember one member mentioning "Thou shall not steal", and another "Thou shall not murder". Well, this young gentleman, at the tender age of 10 or 11, raised his hand and said,"Thou shall not commit adultery".Even though I had responded so, I never knew the actual meaning of that word until much later in my teens. And as I look back, the progressive revelation to me is that there are actually 4 types of adultery.

1. Physical Adultery

This is the one referred to in the Ten Commandments as recorded in Ex 20:14. It is being unfaithful to one's spouse by going to bed with someone other than one's spouse. The concept of physical adultery is something that even pre-believers are able to comprehend.

2. Mental Adultery

In Jesus' sermon on the mount, He tells us in Matt 5:27-28 "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. This was something pretty radical, because the standards set by Jesus Himself seems to be even higher than what was given through Moses.

3. Emotional Adultery

I learned this term when my wife and I attended a marriage-enrichment course called Married for Life in 2003. When one starts to look to someone else to meet his or her emotional needs, then he or she is actually committing emotional adultery with that other person, even though the physical (or even mental act) has not taken place.

Dennis Rainey, the co-founder and president of FamilyLife, a division of Campus Crusade for Christ, describes this in his article Avoiding Emotional Adultery as "an intimacy with the opposite sex outside of marriage. Emotional adultery is unfaithfulness of the heart. When two people begin talking of intimate struggles, doubts or feelings, they may be sharing their souls in a way that God intended exclusively for the marriage relationship. Emotional adultery is friendship with the opposite sex that has progressed too far."

A churchmate shared with me back in 2003 that he will never give a lift to a lady such that only that lady and him is the car by themselves. It is wise to draw these type of boundaries because even the Bible tells us to flee from sexual sins. For other types of trials and temptations, we can stand firm against the devil. But for this type of attack, we must flee. Paul tells us in 1 Cor 6:18 "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body." When Joseph was seduced by Potiphar's wife, he did not argue or reason with her. He did the only thing that was correct for a man to do. He fled.

4. Spiritual Adultery

Having been progressively convinced about the dangers of the types of adultery as mentioned above, I understand now that there is a 4th type of adultery -- spiritual adultery.

In Romans 7, Paul tells us
1 Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives?
2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage.
3 So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.
4 So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
5 For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death.
6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

When I first read this passage, it was like woah, cheemalogy man, that's Greek to me (which is the case I suppose, because Paul wrote his epistles in Greek, but what I meant is that I read the passage in English, but I could not understand what he was trying to convey, so I might as well have read in in Greek).

I was more familiar with the next part of the chapter, ie. verses 7 to 21, where Paul talks about the struggle he faced, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do" (verse 15).

So why did the Holy Spirit see fit to inspire Paul to include the "An Illustration from Marriage" in Rom 7:1-6 before the "Struggling with Sin" in Rom 7:7-21?

As humans, we are able to understand the concept of a marriage covenant between a husband and a wife, and how they are bound by this covenant as long as both persons remain alive. Paul applies this analogy to the covenants that God has with His people. Previously, you and I, as it were, were married to Mr Law. Mr Law demanded from us perfection, and we had to obey all that he commanded. The trouble was that none of us are able to meet up to all of Mr Law's demands, and the marriage thus became a very unpleasant one.

The only way out of that covenant was for someone to die. Mr Law could not die because God's laws are eternal. So God provided a means out of that old covenant -- by the death of Jesus. Jesus became the means for us to be released from the earlier marriage, via His death, and so we are now free to marry another (Rom 7:3), and that person is the resurrected Christ. We, as the Church, are the bride of Christ and we are now married to our Lord Jesus.

Jesus now provides us with the means to love others, obey God's commandments and to live a abundant life. However, once in a while, we may accidently read a book, or hear a sermon, telling us that we cannot live by grace alone, or that we have to earn our salvation, or that we have to do things in order to be right with God. This is like asking us to go back to Mr Law instead of remaining faithfully married to Jesus.It may not seem like a big deal to most of us to mix Mr Law and Jesus together, but Paul tells us in no uncertaintain terms that this is spiritual adultery!

He struggled with spiritual adultery himself and that is why he mentioned that the things he wanted to do, he could not, while the things he did not want to do, he did. The revelation comes in Rom 8:1-2 where he declares that therefore is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus because the law of the Spirit of life has set him free from the law of sin and death, which means this follows from the passage earlier as recorded in Rom 7.

He then goes on to declare victory found purely in Christ in the rest of Rom 8, the climax of which is found in verse 37 where he says that we are more than conquerors because of Christ.

So friends, let us not be found guilty of any of the 4 types of adultery, but remain faithful and committed to our spouse here on earth, as well as to our bridegroom, the Lord Jesus. Amen?

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