Why Is He An Adulterer?
by David Dann
June 05, 2004
In Matthew 19:3 the Pharisees ask the following question of Jesus: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” The Lord ultimately responds by saying, “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery, and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9). Essentially the same teaching is found in Matthew 5:32, Mark 10:11-12, and Luke 16:18.
The sin of adultery is defined as a sexual relationship between a man and woman in which at least one of the partners in the relationship is bound in marriage to someone else. Our Lord’s words make it clear that in the above scenario the husband who rejects his wife for just any reason and marries another woman actually enters into an adulterous union in that second marriage. However, it is just as important to notice that the man who then marries the woman who was put away for just any reason also commits adultery with her. Jesus says, “whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9b). This second man may be just an unsuspecting individual with good intentions who happens to meet, fall in love with, and marry a woman who was divorced for just any cause. Why would such a man become guilty of the sin of adultery upon marrying this woman, even though he may enter the relationship with nothing but the best of intentions? With so many divorces and remarriages taking place each day in our society we cannot neglect our responsibility to find a Bible answer to this important question.
Two Unacceptable Approaches To The Question
Why is the man who comes along and marries the woman who has been divorced for just any reason committing adultery when he marries her? When such a question is raised, one of the following two approaches are often taken in response:
1. He is not guilty of adultery. This is the approach taken by the world in general and by many who claim to be Christians. In the eyes of the world there is nothing wrong with this man marrying the woman who was put away for just any reason. To the world, the reason for the divorce is largely considered irrelevant. Many would scoff at the very idea that a marriage could be considered a sinful relationship. However, this approach will not settle the matter. Jesus says, “whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery” (Lk. 16:18b).
2. He is an adulterer because he has married a put-away woman. Those who respect the Bible as God’s word will often say that the reason the man in our scenario is guilty of adultery is that he has married a woman who has been put away, or divorced, by her husband. The thought is that the Lord will not permit any person who has been put away to remarry under any circumstances, and therefore, the man is guilty of adultery simply based on the fact that he has married a woman who was put away by her husband. But the truth is that there are some put-away people whom God will permit to marry. For example, if a woman is put away by her husband, but then her husband dies, she would be free to remarry (Rom. 7:2-3). Also, the apostle Paul says that a woman who divorces her husband may remarry her husband (1 Cor. 7:10-11). So, the question cannot be settled by simply saying that the man is guilty solely on the basis that he has married a woman of divorced status.
Clear Reasons Why He Is An Adulterer
1. He has married a woman who is still bound to a living mate. Paul writes, “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man” (Rom. 7:2-3). A man and a woman contract the marriage relationship, but God joins the two eligible parties in the marriage bond (Matt. 19:6). Divorce for just any reason will not result in the loosing of the marriage bond. The man under discussion has entered into a relationship with a woman who has never been released from the marriage bond that God put in place when she married her original husband.
2. He has married a woman who was divorced for just any reason. This is the scenario Christ deals with in Matthew 19:3-9, based upon the question the Pharisees present in verse 3. Though her original mate repudiates her, his action does nothing to dissolve the marriage bond put in place by God. Under such circumstances, her husband commits adultery should he remarry, and the next man who comes along and marries her whom he put away also commits adultery with her (Matt. 19:9; Lk. 16:18). It is important to note that the first husband, because of his ungodly action, bears a portion of the guilt in the adultery she commits with the second man (Matt. 5:32).
3. He has married a woman who did not put away her mate for sexual immorality. The Lord only gives one scenario in which He will loose a party in the marriage from the marriage bond while both partners are living. He says, “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery, and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9). Had she, being innocent of sexual immorality, put away her husband for his sexual immorality she would then be free to marry the second man without guilt. Since she did not do this, she is not released from the marriage bond.
The man who marries a woman who has been divorced for just any reason is guilty of adultery because he is now married to a woman whom he has no authority from God to marry. Let us be reminded that our actions must be authorized by the One who has all authority (Matt. 28:18), and that His words will judge us in the last day whether we like it or not (Jn. 12:48).
by David Dann