Adultery from the Book Divine Sex

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CHAPTER FIVE

ADULTERY

In sexual matters, adultery is probably the primary sin.

Adultery is without question sinful. No one who commits adultery

can expect to receive God’s blessing or forgiveness until repentance

has been rendered. We do not mean that adultery is any “worse”

than other sins. We simply mean that adultery is absolutely

condemned by God. No circumstances may bring adultery into the

“exception” area. However, when adulterers repent they receive

immediate mercy exactly like all other penitents.

Since adultery is unalterably evil, and is warned of through

both OT and NT, no serious study of sexuality can ignore it. At the

same time anything as hellish as adultery must be considered with

intense care so that we are certain we know exactly what it is and

what it is not. We are convinced that severe misunderstanding

surrounds this subject, just as it does other sex matters. The

consequence of this misunderstanding takes at least the following

forms:

• People think adultery is particularly a sexual sin. It is not, as

we will show.

• Because people do not understand the true nature of adultery

many commit adultery unawares. Having done nothing

“sexual” they do not realize they have committed adultery.

• Some marriages that should be dissolved continue in

relentless misery simply because neither party has been sexually

unfaithful. Since “adultery” (as they conceive it) has not been

committed they think they are bound by God’s law to remain

married.

The truth about adultery will prove both liberating and

restricting. Truth here will enable some people to live without fear

of having committed this sin. Truth here will also bring some under

conviction of having “adulterated” against their mates even though

they have been sexually faithful to them. Let us look at what the

Bible actually says about adultery. Once again, we begin with

definitions of the Biblical words.

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Definitions:

Heb. “To apostatize; a woman that breaks wedlock.” (Strong’s #’s

5003, 4, 5)

Gk. moixeia, “to commit adultery, a (male) paramour; fig. apostate,

adulterer.” (Strong’s #’s 3428, 3429, 3430, 3431, 3432)

“…adultery, an adulteress.” Moixalis, an adulteress, applied as an

adjective to the Jewish people who had transferred their affections

from God.” (E. W. Bullinger, A Critical Concordance to the English and

Greek New Testament, pg. 28.)

“The parties to this crime, according to Jewish law, were a married

woman, and a man who was not her husband…Symbolically

adultery is used to express unfaithfulness to covenant vows to God,

who is represented as the Husband of His people.” (Smith’s Bible

Dictionary, pgs. 21, 22)

“(The words) mean ‘to commit adultery’ or ‘to seduce’…to

adulterate, illicit intercourse, adulterer, lover, adulterous,

adulteress, mistress, harlot.” (Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New

Testament, pg. 605, 606)

“In Scripture, (adultery is) sexual intercourse by a married man

with another than his wife, or by a married woman with another

than her husband. It is distinguished from fornication, which is

illicit sexual intercourse by an unmarried person…It is a violation

of the original, divinely instituted marriage bond. Adultery

involves more than physical promiscuity. It also violates the

integrity of the person. The penalty for adultery in OT is death; no

partiality is shown the man: both parties in the act are equally

guilty.” (ISBE, vol. 1, pg. 58, 59)

Some observations must be made relative to this last quote. It is

not true that Scripture defines adultery as “sexual intercourse by a

married man with another than his wife.” As we will see, Scripture

does not recognize the possibility of a man, married or unmarried,

committing adultery except when he violates the married status of

the woman. Otherwise a man might copulate with numerous

concubines, slaves and even prostitutes without committing

adultery. As our study on polygamy and concubinage proved,

many of God’s choicest servants “had intercourse with another

than his wife” and was never charged with adultery, nor suffered

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any rebuke or correction from God. Further, as we will

demonstrate, adultery is not the simple sexual act committed with a

married woman, but is the intent to deprive the husband of his property.

Further, it is not true that “fornication…is illicit sexual

intercourse by an unmarried person…” While this definition seems

to be standard in much writing and teaching it is nevertheless not a

valid lexical definition, and it does not meet the test of Biblical

usage. Fornication is a generic word, and is defined strictly as “any

illicit sexual activity.” “Fornication” does not in itself specify any

sex act as illicit. It encompasses all sexual acts that Scripture

defines as “illicit.” Unless Scripture defines “sexual intercourse by

an unmarried person” as illicit then the word “fornication” does

not apply to that act. “Fornication” has no inherent relationship to

the married status of the person committing it. Both married and

unmarried people may commit fornication by engaging in any act

that the Bible defines as illicit. Such acts as adultery, rape, bestiality,

incest, pedophilia and forced prostitution, are generically defined by

the word “fornication.” We will discuss the ramifications of these

observations as we proceed. Let us examine the Biblical references

to the sin of adultery.

Scripture References to Adultery:

Reuben lays with Bilhah, Jacob’s concubine, (Gen. 35:22). He is

cursed for this act, (Gen. 49:4). The adultery in this case is sexual

intercourse with a woman who belonged to another man.

Potiphar’s wife wants Joseph to have sex with her. He refuses,

giving the reason that “you are his wife,” (Gen. 39:7-9). Joseph

believes that to commit adultery is a “sin against God.” We wonder

if Joseph might have copulated with her if she had been

unmarried? The answer to that question must be determined by

what the Bible says about sex under those specific circumstances.

Joseph is concerned about what violates God’s will. Whether he

would copulate with this or any other woman, depends on what

God had spoken about particular situations. We must not jump to

conclusions before we study the evidence.

Adultery is strictly forbidden, (Ex. 20:14; Deut. 5:18, 21). One

may not “covet” a man’s wife or anything else that belongs to him,

(Ex. 20:17). Note first that these Scriptures do not deal with the act

of being sexually attracted to a woman even if she is married. They

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deal with “coveting” which by definition, means to desire to deprive

another by taking what is his. Thus one cannot “covet anything that is

thy neighbor’s.” The desire to take what belongs to another is a sin.

So obviously a man cannot desire to take another man’s wife. But

this says nothing about sexual attraction to a neighbor’s daughter.

Can a man look at his neighbor’s daughter and be moved by sexual

attraction to the point of wanting to marry her? Certainly. But he

cannot look at his neighbor’s wife that way.

One must not commit adultery with a neighbor’s wife, (Lev.

18:20; 20:10).

Copulating with another man’s slave requires sacrifice, (Lev.

19:20). Since adultery is not dealt with on the basis of offering a

sacrifice, but by extracting the death penalty, it is obvious that this

act is not adultery. A man’s slave is not in the same category as his

wife. This is using another man’s property without paying

appropriate compensation. This is stealing. It requires a sin

sacrifice, not for the sex act, but for the theft of another’s property –

his sole rights to the sexual property of his slave.

Unfaithful wives are to be tried by priests, and punished if

guilty, (Num. 5:11-31).

A man who commits adultery with a married woman brings

death to both, (Deut. 22:22).

If an engaged virgin lies with another man in the city, both must

die, (Deut. 22:23-24). She dies for not “crying out,” and he dies for

humbling his neighbor’s wife. Because she was engaged she was

considered as good as married and therefore she was already the

sole sexual property of her betrothed/husband. Thus sex with

anyone other than her fiancé is “adultery.” The fact that she did not

“cry out” implies that her sexual act was consensual; i.e. she was not

raped. But if a man rapes an engaged virgin in the country, only he

dies, (Deut. 22:25-27). The presumption here is that the virgin

“cried out” but no one could hear her. The presumption is “rape”

which carries the death penalty against the rapist only.

If a man seizes an unengaged virgin and copulates with her he

pays the bride price to her father, marries her and can never

divorce her, (Deut. 11:28-29). This is his penalty for forcing himself

on her and ruining her as a prospect for carrying on the pure

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lineage of another man as his wife. If she had voluntarily copulated

with him there would have been no penalty except that the man, if

discovered, would have to either marry her or pay her father a

dowry. We will note in passing that this text and similar texts

recognize the act of sex between unmarried people, but do not

define it as “fornication.”

“If I have been enticed by a woman or lurked at my neighbor’s door…”

i.e., If I have sinfully desired to take my neighbor’s wife, (Job 31:9).

His self-imposed curse is, “let others have sex with my own wife,” (vs.

10).

“Wisdom” delivers us from the “the immoral woman” and the

“seductress… who forsakes the companion of her youth; her house leads to

death,” (Prov. 2:16-19). This refers to an adulteress, a married woman

who forsakes her husband for other men.

The lips of an immoral woman drip honey. In the end she is as

bitter as wormwood; her feet lead to death and hell. Do not ponder

her way of life; she is unstable, (Prov. 5:3-6). Again, as defined by

2:16-19 and all else in Scripture, this is a married woman who leaves

her husband for other lovers. See also Prov. 5:7-14.

Rejoice with the wife of your youth; let her breasts satisfy you;

why be enraptured by an “immoral woman?” (Prov. 5:18-20). This

verse does not forbid marrying more than one woman. Nor does it

forbid all circumstances of copulation with a woman other than

one’s wife. This is proven quickly by the fact that the author,

Solomon, had 699 wives after the “wife of (his) youth” plus 300

concubines. This text demands faithfulness to the original wife. She

is not to be neglected, but is to receive favored attention and full

satisfaction in all aspects of marriage, especially sex.

God’s commandment is a lamp to keep one from the “evil”

woman, a seductress. Don’t lust after her beauty in your heart,

(Prov. 6:24-26). There is great harm to one who goes in to his

neighbor’s wife. So these are references to adultery; sex with a

married woman. One who commits adultery – steals another man’s

wife – lacks understanding and destroys his soul; he reaps wounds,

dishonor, lasting reproach and a husband’s fury, (vs. 32-35).

A young man meets an ”immoral woman” who is “rebellious” and

“would not stay at home,” (Prov. 7:7-11). She seduces him, (vs. 13ff),

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promising “my husband is not at home,” (vs. 19, 20). This is a married

woman, an adulteress. The young man yields to temptation and

suffers the consequences, (vs. 21-23). Do not fall into her trap,

avoid her, she leads to death, (vs. 24-27).

A “foolish woman” entices the “naïve” to come in to enjoy “stolen

water” and “bread eaten in secret,” but death is in her house, (Prov.

9:13-18).

The mouth of an immoral woman is a deep pit. The Lord abhors

those who fall in it, (Prov. 22:14). A harlot is a deep pit, a seductress

is a narrow well. She victimizes men and increases the “unfaithful”

among men, (Prov.23:27). This is an adulterous woman; a married

harlot. She refuses to admit guilt, (Prov. 30:20).

More bitter than death is the woman who is a snare, etc. A man

who pleases God escapes her, but she snares sinners, (Ecc. 7:26).

Exactly why this woman is a snare is not specified. In light of all we

have seen she must be an adulteress.

Israel turned from God to spiritual and sexual adultery with idols,

(Isa. 57:4-8).

Israel “tore off her bands and…lay down as a prostitute,” (Jer. 2:20).

Like a wild donkey in heat, she mated quickly with any male that

pursued her, (vs. 24). This is a married woman who tore off the

bands of her marriage vows to commit adultery.

Israel is so skilled at adultery that she can teach even the “worst

of women,” (Jer. 2:33).

Israel has “lived as a prostitute with many lovers,” (Jer. 3:1). There

is no place where she has not been ravished, (vs. 2); she has no

shame, (vs. 3); She has committed adultery everywhere, (vs. 6).

God divorced her and sent her away because of her adulteries yet

Judah followed her example, (vs. 8). Her immorality mattered so

little to her that she “defiled the land, committing adultery with wood

and stone,” (vs. 9). She is like a woman “unfaithful to her husband,”

(vs. 20).

Because of God’s judgment, Israel will pursue adultery in vain,

(Jer. 4:30). That is, Israel will try to leave God and find safety,

provision and blessing with another “husband” but God will not

allow her to be satisfied.

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God supplied Israel’s needs yet she committed adultery &

thronged to the houses of prostitutes, (Jer. 5:7). She is like “lusty

stallions, each neighing after another man’s wife.” This is adultery. As

judgment, God will give their wives to other men, (Jer. 8:10). Wait a

moment! If God gives their wives to “other men,” is God going to

sovereignly make “adulterers” out of these “other men?” Is God

going to simply impose a sinful condition upon them? This cannot

be. But this situation will help us see that simple sexual relations

with another’s mate is not “adultery.” Something else is required

in order for the sex act to be adulterous.

Israel is full of adulterers and unfaithful people, (Jer. 9:2).

“He that looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery

already with her in his heart,” (Matt. 5:27, 28). We will return to this

classic statement later.

“Everyone who divorces his wife except for … unfaithfulness, makes

her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits

adultery.” (Mt. 5:32; Mk. 10:1ff; Lk. 6:18ff).

“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, but no sign will

be given,” (Mt. 12:39).

“Whoever will be ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous

generation…” (Mk. 8:8).

“If while her husband lives, she is joined to another man, she shall be

called an adulteress, but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so

that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.” Rom.

7:3.

“Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers inherit the kingdom

of God,” (1 Cor. 6:9).

“The deeds of the flesh are evident, which are immorality,

impurity….” (Gal. 5:19).

“Whoremongers and adulterers, God will judge,” (Heb. 13:4).

“Adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that friendship with the

world is enmity with God?” (Jas. 4:4).

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Comments and Observations:

The single greatest fear prohibiting people from enjoying the

range of sexual pleasure available to them is the fear of adultery.

This is to be expected. Adultery is condemned and those who are

guilty are threatened with severe punishment. No holy person will

even consider committing adultery. But is it crucial to our study to

understand what adultery actually is: not what it is said to be “by

those of old time.” Definitions matter supremely. Biblical examples

must be understood. Most of our paranoia about adultery comes

not from the Bible but from incorrect information handed down to

us for generations. Adultery has traditionally been defined as “sex

with someone other than our marital mate.” This definition of

“adultery” is false for two reasons:

1] It is not the true meaning of either the Greek or the

Hebrew word;

2] It does not meet the test of agreement with Biblical

examples.

Both adultery and prostitution are considered in Scripture to be

governed by property rights rather than by purity codes. Consider

again these quotes from above, (emphasis by the present authors).

Adultery is defined as, “To apostatize; a woman that breaks

wedlock.” (Strong’s # 5003, 4, 5)

“Symbolically adultery is used to express unfaithfulness to

covenant vows to God, who is represented as the Husband of His

people.” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary, pgs. 21, 22)

“…adultery, an adulteress.” Moixalis, an adulteress, applied as

an adjective to the Jewish people who had transferred their affections

from God.” (E. W. Bullinger, A Critical Concordance to the English and

Greek New Testament, pg. 28.)

“A young man meets an ”immoral woman” who is

“rebellious” and “would not stay at home,” Prov. 7:7-11.”

“Israel “tore off her bands and…lay down as a prostitute,” Jer.

2:20. This is a married woman who tore off the bands of her

marriage vows to give herself to another husband.

These statements suffice to demonstrate the core issue of

adultery. Adultery is committed by a woman who rebels against her

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husband in going after sex with other men, or in other ways giving

her resources to them and depending on them, relating to them as

if they were her real husband. It is adultery because the husband

has not granted her freedom to have such association with other

men. She is his property (according to OT concepts) and she must

not breach his property rights by giving to others what he reserves

for himself alone.

A man commits adultery by taking from the married woman

what her husband has claimed as his sole privilege. It is this

“property rights” issue that distinguishes adultery. Strictly

speaking adultery is not a sex issue. Adultery is not “sex with

someone other than one’s spouse.” Adultery is taking what belongs

to someone else.

Adultery is not merely a sexual act. As we read from Scripture

Israel committed “adultery” against God numerous times yet all of

us understand that God and Israel never had sex, nor did “Israel”

as a nation have sex with other nations. Adultery is a matter of

rebelling against one’s spouse then putting trust in, depending on,

transferring one’s affections to another mate. By aligning herself

with foreign nations and taking their gods for herself Israel

committed adultery against God who was her true Husband. She

left God for another mate. Many things constitute adultery other

than a sex act. And a sex act itself is not adulterous unless it violates

the claim of exclusive ownership by one’s spouse. In other words, if

exclusive rights to a wife’s sexual favors is not claimed by a husband

then if his wife has sex with another man she has not thereby

committed adultery. There is no “rebellion” in her act and she has

in no way been “unfaithful” to her commitment to her husband.

She has not “broken the bands” of her marriage. If her faithfulness

to her marital commitment is not injured, the sex act has no moral

repercussions and it is not “adultery.”

It is impossible for us to perceive life as did Israel and her

neighbors. We have made many strides in the past few decades

toward realizing the full rights of women. We no longer have a

culture in which men generally consider women as “property.”

Especially in the Western world husbands do not feel they “own”

their wives. Women are granted liberty and privilege in every walk

of life, including marriage. But for us to understand the Biblical

concept of “adultery” we must understand that to the men of that

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age a wife was as much his personal property as was a slave, a

horse or a house. His wife was granted more consideration that a

slave but she had very little more freedom or authority. From the

time of espousal the woman “belonged” to the man. Therefore for

another man to attempt to win a woman away from her fiancé was

considered “adultery.” Even if the two never had sex, any romantic

complicity between a fiancé and another man was “adultery.

Likewise in a marriage the husband maintained sole rights to

everything that pertained to his wife, including her sexuality.

Israelite men especially protected this sexual exclusivity because

his wife’s child-bearing capacity was absolutely crucial to his tribal

standing and posterity. A man’s future depended on his having

many children, especially sons. But these children must be his, and

not another man’s. Anything that might in anywise raise a doubt

about whether a child truly was his own was potentially

devastating to an Israelite husband. Their clannish, tribal Hebrew

culture demanded that a man have only “pure” offspring to receive

his inheritance. Otherwise his inheritance might fall into the hands

of another family.

The OT concept of adultery can be understood only when we

view it in light of its cultural setting. A man’s problem with a wife’s

sexual adultery was not merely a problem with her having sex with

another man. It was a problem with potential destruction of his

tribal lineage; a problem with knowing whether her children were

actually his. We have no such cultural concerns today, so it is hard

for us to see the importance of this issue. But to them it was a

survival matter.

And adultery was not limited to sexual unfaithfulness. Adultery

was a matter of being unfaithful to the marriage covenant. A man’s

wife could not leave him and live with another man as long as she

did not have sex with the second man. Property rights came into

play. Since she belonged to her husband, to leave and go to another

man was to participate in marital theft; taking the husband’s

property (herself, her presence, her abilities, her house-keeping,

cooking, etc.) and giving it to another man. Because she was an

accomplice to this theft she was as guilty as the second husband

and they were both to be executed. Adultery was, and is, breaking

marriage, destroying the marriage bond. There are more ways to

do this than mere sexual unfaithfulness. When a man abuses his

wife physically, mentally, emotionally or financially, he has

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“broken covenant” with her and is an “adulterer.” Most marriages

in our society are formed around public vows whereby a man

swears before God and human witnesses that he will “love, cherish,

and honor” his wife, and promises to “protect and provide for her”

as well as to “keep myself (sexually) for you alone.” Any breach of

those vows is “adultery.” If a man makes six distinct vows, and

breaks all but one of them, how do we consider him “faithful?” If a

man honors his sexual vow but refuses to “love, honor, cherish,

protect and provide” for his wife has he been faithful to the

marriage covenant? Absolutely not!

Consider too, that whatever is not mutually enjoined upon each

other by the marriage covenant cannot be made a matter of

adultery. Suppose neither of the pair vowed to love, honor, cherish,

protect and provide for the other. To fail in any of those specifics

would not constitute breaking marriage covenant because none of

them was a part of that covenant. And if the couple did not vow to

grant the other exclusive rights to their sexuality, then to have sex

with someone else would not constitute breach of marriage

covenant. In other words it would not be adultery. It could not

possibly be so because sexual exclusivity was not a part of the

covenant. We say it again for emphasis: adultery is not “having sex

with someone other than one’s spouse.” Adultery is breaking the

marriage bond. Whatever breaks that bond is adultery. If a husband

and wife did not “bind” themselves to sexual exclusivity, then for

either of them to have sex with a third party is not adultery. It may

be something terrible, but it is not adultery.

If this is almost too outlandish to accept, put yourself again in

the OT setting and think of a righteous man like Jacob. He married

Leah first, then Rachel. Did he commit adultery with Rachel? Or

was it OK just because they were both married to him? Well, then

consider Judah’s encounter with his daughter-in-law Tamar (Gen.

38). He thought she was a prostitute and paid to have sex with her.

But even though adultery was a serious crime he was not accused

of adultery. Instead, when the affair was discovered he suffered

nothing more than a mild embarrassment at not having fulfilled his

promise to her. Maybe Abraham will help us again. He was

married to barren Sarah. In order to have children she could claim

as her own, Sarah insisted that Abraham copulate with Hagar,

Sarah’s maid. Abraham did so, thus having sex with someone other

than his wife. But Abraham did not commit adultery. Nor did he

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commit any sort of sexual sin. Or how about all the others who had

wives yet without a second thought had sex with their wive's

“handmaidens,” with concubines, with slaves and with prostitutes.

All of this occurred under a law that mandated the death penalty

for both the man and woman caught in adultery. The sexual

proclivity of men like David, Solomon, Gideon and others was

public knowledge. If having sex with so many women to whom

they were not married was “adultery” why were none of those men

ever accused? Why were none of them ever punished? The truth

stares us right in the face doesn’t it? In a culture that knew exactly

what adultery is and is not, and took severe measures to do away

with adultery, having sex with people other than one’s mate was a

common occurrence, yet was never treated as adultery. Indeed it was

never treated as even unusual. Think about it! Even godly men

going in to prostitutes was not thought to be anything worth

fretting about. Doesn’t it make you wonder how we got all our

concepts about the sordidness of all sex except monogamous

intercourse in the missionary position?

In the OT system a slave woman who has sex with a man other

than her master is not considered an adulteress. She and her lover

are not to be killed, “because she has not been emancipated,” (Lev.

19:20-22). The law demands “damages” instead. The sexual act

itself was not “defiling,” otherwise there could not have been such

leniency on God’s part. The law in this case gives the reason for

leniency: she is a slave, not a wife. Thus “adultery” can be

committed only with, and by a woman who is free to “rebel”

against her husband. It is a property rights matter. In Scripture

adultery is primarily an offense against property. It is theft – whether

actual or intended – of another’s property.

An objective study of Biblical sex law makes one thing clear:

sexual practice was largely regulated by the principle of respect for

sexual property. God forbade what violates one’s personal sexual

property (thus forbidding rape, incest, and parents prostituting

their children), and sexual property belonging to others (thus

forbidding adultery and requiring restitution for “using” another

man’s slave.). Bestiality is forbidden evidently as inherently

abominable and unnatural. All other sex laws have to do with

honoring the personal rights of the other parties involved.

Property is an extension of the owner. To violate my property is

to violate my person. It is to steal something from me. In marriage,

 

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violation of property rights by taking, or seeking to take a married

woman from her husband, is adultery. The notion of personal

sexual property formed the foundation of OT sexual ethics.

Impurity and dirtiness did not define sexual sin but “covetousness”

the desire to have something that belongs to someone else, did. Not

impurity and dirtiness, but disrespect for the rights of others

defined sexual sin. In other words, sexual practices were not

condemned because they were “filthy, unclean and dirty.” Sex acts

were condemned because they in some way hurt other people.

Take away this factor and you eliminate virtually all regulations

against sexual activity. That is, if a sex act does not in some way

harm another person, it is not of concern to God. It is a matter of

personal choice.

 

Deut. 20:5-7; 28:30, etc, equates acquisition of house, vineyard,

and wife. The wife, like these other possessions, became the

property of the husband and of the husband’s family as well. This

seems to be the logic of the Levirate marriage law which required

that if a man failed to impregnate his wife his brother was required

to do so. (cf. the previous chapter on “Polygamy”) If the brother

refused, it was a disgrace because he was setting his personal

desires above the good of the family, (Deut. 25:5-10).

 

In Israel, if another man had intercourse with a married woman

it constituted theft of her husband’s right to legitimate offspring.

Purity of physical lineage was crucial to inherited property rights,

preservation of the family name, and Messianic lineage. To corrupt

this in any way was a gravely serious issue. Thus the OT law

 

against adultery applied only to a man having sex with a married

woman, because this act threatened her husband’s lineage. And a

man could not commit adultery against his own wife, because she

had no claim to him as her property. A man could copulate with as

many women as he desired without ever corrupting his family

 

lineage. So for a man to have sex with many women was not an

issue, as long as he did not copulate with another married woman. If

he copulated with a different woman every night for a month, and

only the last woman was married, then he committed adultery only

with the last woman. Adultery was an issue only with a married

woman. A married woman committed adultery if she ever had sex

with any other man, under any conditions. Yeah, I know: “Where’s

the equality in that?” With Jesus’ alteration to this situation, the

woman became equal property owner of the husband thereby

 

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gaining the same privileges in sexual matters as he has. Granting

equal status to both husband and wife did not shackle both of them

with prohibitions against privileges that were available to the man

in OT law. It had the effect of opening to both man and woman the

same sexual privileges. We discuss this in detail below.

 

Adultery compromised the continuity of the family lineage.

Having legitimate, tribal heirs was a primary concern to Israelite

culture. This is why an Israelite man hesitated to marry a nonvirgin.

It was not that she was “defiled” or “dirty.” It was because

 

she might possibly be pregnant with a child that would be outside

the man’s pure lineage. It was for this same reason that a man did

not want his wife to have intercourse with another man. Not that

the sex act itself was sinful but that it threatened the purity of the

lineage and put in question legitimate inheritance of family wealth.

Take away these factors and adultery becomes a non-issue when a

 

man has sex with another man’s wife or if the wife has sex with

another man. If a sex act ceases to be a situation where a man’s wife

is being taken from him, or his rights to legitimate offspring are

threatened, or inheritance of family wealth is not compromised, or

Messianic lineage is not being compromised, then the act of sex

 

with the mate of another becomes something other than adultery.

Regardless of how we might otherwise define it, it is not adultery. It

may be good, bad or indifferent, but it is not adultery. A married

man, under OT law, could have sex with virtually any other

woman who was not already married. It was not adultery for him

to do so because the above circumstances were not a factor in his

actions. Adultery was a factor only when sexual intercourse

 

involved a married woman. It was always adultery for a married

woman to copulate with any other man. It was never adultery for a

married man to copulate with anyone other than his wife, unless

the other woman was married.

The 7th Commandment, prohibiting adultery, is in proximity to

 

that of theft, (Ex. 20:14,15). One is forbidden to covet his neighbor’s

house or wife or servant or ox or ass or other property, (Ex. 20:17).

Adultery refers to a man taking, or desiring to take, a married woman

from her husband. This concept of adultery is strange to the

Western world but only because we have adopted concepts that

suit our own cultural setting and that flow from our polluted

doctrinal inheritance. We understand adultery to be sexual activity

outside the marriage by either spouse. But OT teaching proves that

 

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a woman who was another man’s property must not violate his

property rights, yet the same man could have sex with a single

woman, a prostitute, another wife, a concubine, a slave, a divorced

woman or a widow, without committing adultery. This fact proves

beyond doubt that the sex act alone does not breach marital status and

is not adultery.

We moderns define adultery as “betrayal of trust,” but the Bible

never does so. Scripture teaches adultery is theft of another man’s

property, or rebellion against covenant commitment. This is true even in

the NT. Jesus redefined adultery such that both the husband and

the wife could commit adultery against each other. In the NT the

woman owns her husband just as he owns her, (cf. 1 Cor. 7:3,4). So

 

his sexual freedom is no greater than hers. They share “equal

opportunity” both with each other, and with others. In Jesus’

teaching adultery is defined such that its nature was in divorcing

one’s spouse and marrying another without sufficient reason. This

was to discard one’s wife without consideration to her rights to him

 

as her property. He was destroying her rights to possess her

property. He also broke the covenant bond of permanency – i.e.

“until death do us part.”

So with Jesus and NT authors, intention becomes the main thing.

Even in the “looking at a woman to lust after her,” it is the intention

Jesus deals with. It is not the “looking” that is adultery, but it is the

intention to take away the man’s property and have it as his own; to

break up the marriage and marry the woman whom he “covets.”

This is why polygamy was not an issue with God. God’s

concern has never been with “who is having sex with whom, and

how?” For a man to have several sex partners was never a matter of

adultery, even if a Solomon had 1,000 sex partners, always

available. In the NT the same privilege remains for the man simply

because God never took it away. But now, because woman is

sexually and maritally equal with man this privilege is open for the

woman also. Since God did not change His law and did not forbid

polygamy in the NT, it remains a freedom for a man to marry many

wives, have several concubines and even visit prostitutes, without

the sin of adultery. Such multiple relationships were not sin in the

OT and are not classified as sin in the NT. Since man and woman

become equal in NT ethics God makes it possible for woman now

to enjoy the same privileges that were once open only to a man.

Rather than destroying a man’s former privileges and bringing him

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down to a lower level, Jesus raises woman up to the man’s previous

level. What constitutes adultery in Jesus’ teaching is not having sex

with someone other than one’s spouse, but it is divorcing and

remarrying without just cause. It is getting rid of one’s mate– breaking

marriage covenant – that constitutes adultery in His example. It is

rebelling against the covenant vow to live together “until death do

us part.”

Purity of physical lineage is no longer an issue in marital sex.

Messianic lineage is no longer an issue. And it is obvious that

copulating with multiple partners was never a moral issue with

God. Thus it seems clear that since God does not change the basic

structure of sexual license for the man, woman’s privilege now is

the same as his – across the board. A man may have sexual

pleasure with another woman but he may not prohibit his wife

from enjoying the same pleasure with another man. Property rights

– the right to expect the husband/wife to remain husband/wife

and not seek divorce – remain intact. Covenant commitment – mutual

vows to be married until death – remain intact. Having sex with

other partners does not automatically threaten the marriage bond.

Neither husband nor wife is free to divorce their mate in order to

pursue other mates. This could be done in the OT. A man who was

not rich enough to have more than one wife could divorce her and

marry another. The change made by Jesus is that now mates must

remain married to each other and make their sexual practices fit

with their absolute commitment to remain married until death

separates them. The point is that Biblically nothing changed

relative to a man having sex with another woman than his wife.

What changed was Jesus opening to the wife equal privileges with

the husband. In NT ethics “marital fidelity” is not defined as sexual

exclusivity; it is defined as “fidelity” to mutual property rights, and

to covenant vows of lifetime marriage.

To protect both husband and wife Jesus prohibited divorce for

either husband or wife except on the grounds of covenantal

unfaithfulness. What breaks covenant is reason for divorce. What

does not break covenant is not valid reason for divorce. If vows

were made concerning sexual exclusivity those vows must be kept.

But since such vows were made, not by God’s requirement but by

man’s invention, they can be altered by mutual consent. If they are

altered so as to eliminate the demands for sexual exclusivity then

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sexual non-exclusivity cannot break marriage, and cannot be the

basis of either divorce or adultery.

The basis of marriage is lifetime commitment to each other.

Sexual intercourse with another person does not imply anything

about that commitment. Adultery in the mind and in actuality, is

either the desire or the actual attempt to end a marriage where there

has been no breach of covenant. God demands that a man and

woman not attempt to sever their marriage ties unless their mate

has been unfaithful to their original vows. Biblical vows evidently

included only that they would remain married for life. If evidence

arose that one mate was attempting to rob the other of his/her

property by severing the marriage bond it became grounds for

divorce by the innocent party. Jesus makes this a valid reason for

divorce and remarriage (Matt. 5:32ff; 19:9ff; Mk. 10:1ff; Lk. 16:18ff).

He was not talking about one mate having sex with someone other

than his/her mate. He was talking about desiring, planning or

attempting to undo the life long commitment they made to each

other. The appropriate and Biblically provable definition of “adultery”

is “severing or attempting to sever the marriage bond.” Doing so,

even in thought, “adulterates” the bond, lessens it, destroys it.

In Jesus’ statement about divorce and remarriage, two

significant facts appear.

[1. Jesus said if a man divorces his wife except for cause of

unfaithfulness he “makes her commit adultery,” (Mt. 5:32). How can

this be so? The woman in this case has obviously not had sex with

another man. So if “adultery” is “having sex with someone other

than one’s spouse,” how do we make sense of this statement? Since

the woman is innocent in this case, it is not possible that the mere act of

divorcing her has somehow made her guilty of having sex with

another man!

The Greek word here is moixeuthenai (aorist tense, passive

voice). The form of this word is intriguing in that the passive voice

puts the woman, not in a position of doing something, but of

something being done to her. What is said here is that the woman in

this case has been forcibly made a participant, not in a sex act, but

in “marriage breaking.” Beck’s translation says, “makes her a

partner in adultery.” Tyndale’s translation says, “causeth her to

break matrimony.” This makes the matter plain. Adultery is “the

act of breaking marriage.” The case cited above forces the woman

against her will, to become a party to marriage breaking. And any

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man that marries her is also forced to participate in “marriage

breaking.” Neither of them are guilty of illicit sex. The situation of

unjustifiable divorce has broken marriage illegitimately, and this is

what God considers “adultery.” The woman has “been made to

participate in marriage breaking.” Sex has nothing to do with it.

[2. Adultery, in Jesus’ words, does not mean “sex with someone

other than one’s spouse.” Jesus defines “adultery” in His own

words as “divorcing one’s wife without legitimate reason.” As we

have been saying, this demonstrates that “adultery” is the intention

or the actual act of “breaking marriage bond.” If the marriage bond

is not broken, i.e. if the “partnership” is neither threatened nor

destroyed, then “adultery” is not an issue regardless of what sex

has been participated in. If sexual activity has been enjoyed with a

man other than this woman’s husband yet there was no intention to

break the marriage, then the sex act did not break the marriage.

Again we say emphatically, adultery is not a sex act. One may have

sex with many partners and never even come close to committing

adultery just as occurred in thousands of instances in the OT. If we

can get our definitions right then we can get our thinking and our

theology right.

God never voiced displeasure with multiple wives or

concubines or even prostitution. God did demand that when a man

married a woman he remain married to her and never allow her to

be thought of as less than other women in his life. He is

commanded to rejoice in the wife of his youth, (Prov. 5:18), that is,

treat her with the honor, dignity and favor she deserves as his first

and most highly cherished wife. It doesn’t exclude other wives or

concubines. It demands that a man give priority to his relationship

with his first wife. This requires that he not demean her, neglect

her, deprive her of sexual pleasure, etc. It also means that he must

not seek to get rid of her in order to marry other wives.

We mentioned the importance of intent in this issue. NT teaches

that it is not the act itself that is sin so much as the motive that

drives it. In the statement, “he that looks upon a woman to lust after her

has committed adultery already with her in his heart,” (Matt. 5:27, 28),

the sin is neither in the looking nor in sexual desire. The sin is “to

lust after.” The words refer to covetousness. This is, looking with the

intention to possess what belongs to someone else. Adultery is

present in intention even when it is not enacted. This infers that

where sexual thoughts and even sexual actions are exercised

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without the intention of taking another’s property then neither the

sexual thoughts nor the act itself is adultery. If both mates agreed that a

wife was free to copulate with someone other than her husband

then doing so would not be adultery. If there was no intention to

possess the woman for oneself and take her away from her

husband it would not be adultery even if they have sexual

intercourse. A woman may set her eyes on another man and plan a

way to take him away from his wife and have him for herself. This

is adultery even in the thought. But if the desire is only for sexual

pleasure then it does not qualify as adultery for the intent to deprive

another is not there. And as with other possessions, a man may

“lend” his tools, car, boat, etc. to other people with perfect

propriety. Borrowing is not stealing and it does not deprive the

owner of his property. But if a man enters his neighbor’s garage at

night and takes his tools against his will it is theft. A man must be

allowed to exercise control over what belongs to him. To do

otherwise is theft. No one suspects that a neighbor desires to steal

his car, boat, tools, etc. if the neighbor asks to borrow them. And for

one to desire to borrow his neighbor’s property in no way

compromises the neighbor’s sole rights to that property. Others can

use it only by permission of the owner. But the owner does have the right

to allow others to use it. The same principle is true of both men and

women in marriage. They each possess the other’s body. They have

equal rights, and sole rights to the sexual favors of their mate. A

husband may have intercourse with another woman if his wife will

allow another woman to “borrow” her property. And a wife can

have intercourse with another man if her husband is willing for

another man to “borrow” his property. If mutual consent prevails,

sexual non-exclusivity in no way breaks the marriage bond.

“Outrageous?” No, it is Biblical. Just go back again to the OT and

read the hundreds of examples.

The idea that “I do not want to share my mate with anyone

else,” suggests that something is lost if one’s mate has sex with

another person. The reality is otherwise. There remains as much

sexual pleasure available to the mate as before. Nothing is

diminished or lost unless there is intent to end the marriage.

Otherwise it is nothing more than sexual pleasure, the same as it

was enjoyed by Abraham, Jacob, Judah, Gideon, Samson, David,

Solomon, etc. Can we get it in our mind that sex, in and of itself,

has no moral quality? Sex is a biological function. We have stated that

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sex in humans is of no more moral consequence than is sex in

animals. It is only when sex is used in such a way that others are

harmed or their personal rights are disregarded that sex becomes

wrong. God’s laws for sex relate directly to this one issue. No one is

allowed to try to steal my wife from me or me from her. My wife is

not free to ditch me so she can marry someone else and I cannot

divorce her so I can remarry. Even the desire to do so is adultery.

Our vows to be united for life are God’s required vows. Having sex

with another person is not a part of that equation except when it

breaches one partner’s sole ownership of his/her mate’s body. If

either or both mates grant permission and freedom then sexual

experience may be enjoyed with other people. It no more threatens

their marriage bond than borrowing one’s tools threatens the

owner’s possession of them.

Wives of OT saints did not “share” their husbands with other

women for they lost nothing by their husband’s sexual activities

with other women. If a wife has sex with another man the husband

has not “shared” her with the other man. He still “possesses” his

wife as his own and he still has as much of her sexual favors as he

desires plus all other marital blessings. If a woman’s husband has

sex with another woman the wife has not “shared” him with the

other woman. She still “possesses” her husband as her own and she

still has as much of his sexual favors, protection, provision, etc. as

before. In either case the husband and wife must not diminish the

sexual pleasure desired by their mates. If they exercise themselves

sexually outside the marriage they must be faithful to the needs of

their mates at all times. These things said, there is no reason for

men not to enjoy the same sexual advantages now that God’s

holiest men did in OT. And since women are now sexual equals

with men there is every reason to liberate them, inform them of

their privileges, and release them to take advantage of their sexual

freedom and enjoy this wonderful pleasure to their full satisfaction.

Men have always had this privilege (in spite of church dogma). Are

we “man enough” to grant it to our women?

We do realize that this sounds radical. But we encourage

readers to reflect again on the fact that this very situation prevailed

in OT Israel with God’s approval, with the exception that only the man

could enjoy this privilege and that he enjoyed it whether or not the

wife approved! How, when and why does it become “crude”

“lascivious” “promiscuous” etc. to continue the same freedom for

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the husband but now open it also to the wife? In other words how

could it be a blessing for the man then but a curse for the woman now?

How can we accuse God of vulgarity and other such accusations by

implying that He should never have sanctioned these very

situations? And how can we think we have a better concept of

sexual propriety than God does? If we can get it in our minds that

adultery is to deprive another of their property we will cease to have

difficulties with this subject. The advantage granted by the ethics of

the NT is that now the woman has a voice in this whole arena and she

has the same sexual liberty as her husband. A parallel to this is the

raising of woman to the same spiritual status of the man so that she

can now exercise leadership in the church equally with the man.

What was not generally allowable in OT is now allowable in this

area. So it is with sexual liberty. Only the man could enjoy sexual

liberty then. Since God did not eliminate that freedom it remains

for the man. But because the gospel liberates woman and raises her

to the same status as man, now the woman can also enjoy the same

sexual liberty that man has always enjoyed. Man was not brought

down; woman was brought up.

What difference does this concept make? We believe that

marriages by the thousands can be saved if husband and wife can

accept the facts that sexual desire is natural and clean and that desire

for sexual pleasure is as normal now as it was in the OT. The desire

for more sexual pleasure is no more “perverted” or “unnatural” or

“unholy” than is the desire for more food! A husband’s appetite for

more food does not threaten the wife just because she does not

desire more. A wife’s desire for another helping does not threaten

the husband just because he is already full. It is no more sinful or

unclean today for men to desire sex with many women than it was

for David, Solomon, Gideon, and all the rest. If it was good then it

cannot be evil now! And it is not sinful or unclean for women to

desire to have sex with more than one man. The sex act itself is not

an issue with God. What God protects is the relationship we have

with others. He demands that we respect their personal rights, their

property rights, and our/their mutual commitment to lifetime

marriage. God requires only that husbands and wives do not sever

their marriage ties in order to pursue sex with other partners. If the

commitment to marriage ties remain strong there is no prohibition

against, nor limit to each spouse enjoying the sexual favors of

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others. It was so for men in the OT. It is so for both men and women

now.

Spouses should not feel threatened by the desire of their partner

to have sex with another person. It is literally as natural and

common as the desire for water. Such a desire is not a lack of love

for one’s mate. It is nothing more than a desire for additional sexual

pleasure. When David added wives to his harem it in no way

implied a loss of love for his previous wife/wives. Neither partner

should feel threatened by their spouse’s desire for sexual variety.

Sex is not love, it is pleasure. When combined with love sex is

intensified, but sexual intercourse does not inherently imply love. It

certainly does not imply love in the animal world. That a spouse

desires sexual pleasure with others does not mean he/she loves

their mate any less. The love and the marriage bond of life-long

commitment is still as strong as ever. But they have opened

themselves up to pleasure that God has explicitly allowed for

thousands of years. We would do well to cease referring to sexual

activity as “making love” because truthfully, it has nothing

inherently to do with “love.” We could more appropriately call it

“having pleasure,” “enjoying sex,” or whatever, and thereby

eliminate the thought that to engage in sex with a person means we

“love” that person. There is no more reason to equate love and sex,

than to equate a back-rub and love; eating together and love; etc.

Sex with one we love intensifies the enjoyment and emotion of sex.

But in the same way eating a meal with one we love makes the

meal more enjoyable than eating with relative strangers. Marriages

that are founded on sex rather than love will not endure beyond the

physical limitations of our bodies and our physical capacity for sex.

Marriage founded on love will remain strong despite whatever else

comes along. We can and should make the effort required to rid

ourselves of the junk that fills our minds because of life-long

misinformation heaped upon us “by them of old time.” We can

give our partners a wonderful gift by giving them the freedom to

use their sexual liberty in ways that will enhance their joy of living

and increase their fulfillment.

These things being said, it may now be apparent to wives, that

when their husband “checks out” a beautiful woman he is not

somehow being “mentally unfaithful” to her, or wishing he had

married someone else, or no longer thinks she is beautiful, or no

longer loves her, or....… If a husband looks appreciatively at

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another woman the wife need not feel hurt as though she has

somehow become less in his eyes. If a husband enjoys looking at

photos of beautiful, nude women, the wife should not think he has

become perverted and that she is an unworthy wife. When

husbands show such proclivity for the beauty and sexuality of

other women it implies nothing about the worthiness, sexuality,

attractiveness or anything else, of the wife. She should absolutely

not feel the least bit threatened. All it means is that her husband

enjoys sex and beautiful women in the same way David, Abraham,

Solomon and other great saints did. Surely no one believes that

when a couple marry then suddenly all other women become

unattractive to the husband and all other men become unattractive

to the wife. Possessing a beautiful house does not suddenly cause

all other houses to become ugly. Husbands do not suddenly

become blind to beautiful women when they marry and wives do

not suddenly become blind to handsome men when they marry.

Once married, husbands and wives do not cease to have any sort of

sexual response to other attractive people. It is unrealistic for

married people to expect their mates to never again take a second

look at an attractive person of the opposite sex. And it is not

necessary for married people to feel they must choke off sexual

urges and desires that simply exist. They do not need to feel that

they must “protect my property at all cost,” and thereby deny the

one they love some sexual adventure and pleasure that is legitimate

for them. And those who desire to take advantage of their sexual

liberty should not feel guilty or ashamed or condemned because

they have that desire.

A man should not feel the least bit threatened if his wife looks a

second time at a handsome, well-built man. There is absolutely no

excuse for jealousy in such a situation. If she comments on how

good-looking he is the man should be able to agree and be glad his

wife is not cowed and in bondage to unrealistic opinions and

expectations. What a wonderful thing it would be if all men would

allow their wives to open their eyes and enjoy the normal delight of

looking appreciatively at the other sex. How can a man truly love

his wife and refuse to allow her to fully experience natural,

legitimate emotions? If a man’s wife looks at other men and acts in

a way so as to suggest she might be having sexual thoughts about

other men he should not feel the least bit threatened by it. If a wife

enjoys looking at photos of well-built, nude men, the husband

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should not feel the least bit inadequate as a lover or fear that he is

no longer satisfying his wife. Such “looking” implies nothing about

her commitment to their marriage, and nothing at all about her

husband’s attractiveness, sexuality or anything else. All it means is

that his wife enjoys sex and handsome men in the same way David,

Abraham, Solomon and other great saints loved beautiful women.

It means that she has come out of her shell, has been able to

straighten up her bent back, lift her bowed shoulders and raise her

head and gladly and confidently begin to enjoy her equal status

with her husband. The husband who genuinely loves his wife, who

can understand what this means to women in general and his wife

in particular, will rejoice and thrill in his heart that his wife has thus

come to full freedom and is able to do what few women have ever

been free to do. The very nature of “love” is the desire to give to the

loved one all that will make them happy; to sacrifice for the sake of

happiness and satisfaction of the loved one. The husband who can

understand and accept this will rejoice that his wife can fully enjoy

her whole person – soul, spirit, and body. Such a husband must be

very confident in himself and in his wife’s love for him. And a wife

who is offered such freedom should be able to see in it a gift of

supreme love and trust from a husband who desires for her

everything that she is able to enjoy and who trusts in her complete

devotion to him. Rather than being suspicious of his possible

“ulterior motives” she should see his gift to her of sexual liberty as

doubtless the greatest gift he is able to give her and to deeply

appreciate it as such and to demonstrate her appreciation by using

the gift! For a wife to extend to her husband such sexual freedom as

we have discussed requires a wife whose love for her husband rises

above suspicion, fear, jealousy and possessiveness and motivates

her to grant to him the liberty to enjoy everything that he can

legitimately enjoy. And she must trust in his complete devotion to

her. A husband who receives such a gift from his wife must surely

realize the great love she demonstrates in giving him the greatest

gift she is able to give him. He must be aware of the tremendous

depth of trust she has in him. Such a mutual gift of sexual liberty is

perhaps the clearest demonstration possible, of a couple’s mutual

commitment to the full growth and development of their partner.

If a married couple can overcome the mountainous hurdle that

has been placed before them in the opinions, traditions and cultural

standards of society and an ignorant church; if they can transcend

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the fallacy that sex with anyone other than their spouse is utterly

forbidden, they are poised to begin exciting adventures together

heretofore unimaginable. They can go places together, do things

together, watch things together, talk about things together that will

enhance their enjoyment of life, of other people, and of each other.

If they have committed together to remain married no matter what

and then grant the gift of sexual freedom to their mate, they can do

nothing else that is so unselfish and so full of love and trust.

Jesus said, “the truth will makes us free.” Digging through the

morass of misinformation, traditional interpretation, doctrinal

error, prejudicial opinions, high minded dogmatism and outright

contempt for legitimate Biblical truth is a formidable task. But

finding Biblical truth is worth any effort required. We believe that

if people will sincerely study Biblical truth (rather than read it

superficially), and can accept Biblical truth (rather than yielding to

fear of breaching prevailing opinions), and are willing to think

through and draw correct conclusions for themselves from Biblical

truth, then they can step into sexual freedom with none of the

illegitimate baggage that would otherwise plague them. This takes

courage and determination. But the sexual freedom they gain for

themselves, and grant to each other would be so wonderful as to

make the price seem insignificant by comparison.

May women now, as men once did, experience the full freedom

of their equal status with men. And may men gladly grant to their

wives all the freedom that they should rightfully enjoy. May all

husbands and wives proceed together with gladness into the liberty

made possible by truth.

May they never again be shackled by unbiblical doctrines and

opinions of men.

Additional note on Rom. 7:1-4, relating to “adultery.”

Paul references the OT code regulating marriage from the

“patriarchal, wife-as-possession” perspective unique to the

cultural/national/messianic hope environment in which that code

was given. Referencing this code makes maximum impact upon

his Jewish readers for the purpose of helping them recognize his

point about being freed from the OT code entirely, (vs. 4). Thus, “I

am speaking to those who know the law,” (vs. 1). To reference this code

does not establish it as regulative for NT believers, any more than

to reference any OT ceremonial/sacrifice/holy day code would

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become regulative for Christians. Jesus ended the law’s rule over

believers (Rom. 10:4). This emphatic statement from the Holy Spirit

ends any validity to arguments that the OT law is regulative for our

conduct in any way.

But this very truth is stated in the very text of Rom. 7:1-4. Verse.

4 is transparently clear: “You were made to die to the law through the

body of Christ.” Then Paul says, “Now we have been released from the

law, having died to that by which we were bound,” (vs. 6). Likewise, “if

the husband dies she is released form the law of the husband” (vs.

2) and “if her husband dies she is free from the law,” (vs. 3). The entire

section is written specifically to prove that our spiritual death with

Christ (Rom. 6:1ff) has ended our relationship to law, and it never

again can “bind” us to its rules, restrictions and penalties.

So Paul’s use of this OT law of “adultery” is an appeal to their

understanding of how that code operated for as long as they were

under it, in order to demonstrate that they had been set entirely free

from law by the death of Christ. Their freedom from the rule of law

was just as total as a widow’s freedom from a dead husband.

Regardless of what harsh laws he may have laid down, how severe

his treatment of her, or how controlling he might be, once he is

dead the widow owes no more allegiance to him or his laws. We

feel pity for a widow who cannot escape the emotional scars left by

a harsh, demanding husband. Yet spiritually, we find millions of

believers doing the same thing relative to the law, their dead

spiritual husband. We must walk away from all vestiges of that

former relationship and never look back. The law is dead. We are

set free. Our new Husband, Jesus, demands only that we “love God

with our whole heart, and love our neighbor as we love ourselves,” (Matt.

22:36-38). His “new commandment” is that we love each other just as

He has loved us, (Jn. 13:34; 15L12, 17; 1 Jn. 2:7f 3:11, 23; 2 Jn. 5). If

we will love God and neighbor, we fulfill all commandments God

ever gave, (Rom. 13:8, 10). Thus Christ’s one new commandment

has effectively replaced all God’s former individual

commandments. This includes all God’s commandments about sex.

We are not under that old husband’s rule anymore. We are under

the rule of our New Husband, Jesus. His law about sex and

everything else is singular: “In sexual matters do nothing that will

harm others. This will fulfill all God’s previous laws about sex.”

 

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To return to Rom. 7 then, the OT “code of marriage” is a part of

that which we “are made free from,” (vs. 4). Therefore the “wife as

possession” regulative principle no longer exists. All NT believers

are “made free from” that law. Since the death and resurrection of

Jesus, marriage no longer makes a wife the property of her

husband. Therefore all the regulations that served to enforce that

concept, have no validity. The heart of that concept having been

killed, the extremities must also die.

It should go without saying, but we will say it anyway: that

code never eliminated God’s prima facie acceptance of polygamy and

concubinage. The God who gave that marriage code, still accepted

multiple sexual relationships. Paul does not attempt to explore the

ramifications of the OT marriage code. His sole interest is to

establish the basic OT principle of “bondage” of a woman to man in

marriage for the purpose of illustrating how NT believers are freed

from all such bondage, to be joined to Christ in a life of liberty.

Paul did not mention the fact that even under that code, one

could divorce his wife and marry another, but a wife could not thus

divorce her husband to marry another. Divorce and remarriage, in

OT, was a one sided privilege: for the man only. In making divorce

a privilege for the woman also, Jesus opened to her the same

advantages the man always had.

Paul himself, in 1 Cor. 7:15, releases a woman from “bondage”

to a husband who merely leaves her. He is still living, yet she is

“free.” Thus re-marriage is an option for her with no fear of

“adultery.” Paul’s point here demonstrates that his use of Rom. 7:4

is from the OT perspective for the sole purpose of persuading Jews

of the abrogation of the law. It is not, in any sense, an attempt to

enforce as an eternal, universal law what God mandated only in the

temporary setting of Jewish patriarchy.

We have no justification for trying to apply the OT law of

marriage to NT believers in such a way that we bind NT believers

to something even that OT law did not bind them to. Paul’s use of

this code cannot possibly be employed in a way that goes beyond

the bounds of its original OT application. Nor can his use of this

code contradict his own revelation that saints are set free from that

very code. Since OT law allowed multiple sexual relationships then

it is “unlawful” to use that law in an attempt to outlaw multiple

sexual relationships today. Paul’s use is in strict harmony with OT

application: he deals solely with the “woman” side of the issue to

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make his point about being free from the law. Any use of OT

marriage code by NT believers must necessarily incorporate Jesus’

alteration of its basic regulation of women.

The “Open Marriage”

It is unfortunate that we no not have a good word to describe

the sexual activity of married couples who mutually agree to

enlarge their “circle of love” to include others in their sexual

activity. By now we can see that the word “adultery” is utterly

inappropriate to describe this activity. “Infidelity” is also

inappropriate, inasmuch as neither partner is being “unfaithful” to

the other. Both have agreed to explore sexuality with others than

their marital partners. As such, extra-marital sex becomes in fact a

manifestation of their true “fidelity” to each other; a demonstration

of their strong trust in each other and their mutual delight in the

spiritual, emotional and sexual growth and fulfillment of their

partners. Infidelity, like adultery, is much more involved than mere

sexual behavior. It is an issue of constriction of love; false security,

dishonesty; mistreatment, deception and general lack of respect for

the other’s person-hood. It grows out of suffocating possessiveness

which is life-destroying. Infidelity is manifested in many ways

other than in a sexual sense. It is a lack of trust and honesty. It is

based on fear of the other, and uncertainty about oneself. It shows a

disregard for truth, integrity and trustworthiness.

The open-ended marriage respects the integrity of the other

mate and values sexual liberty. Infidelity is as much an issue with

those who pursue open marriage as is adultery. Open marriage

advocates are careful to protect their primary relationship with

each other. They are committed to their vows of permanency and

mutual nurturing. Each works at encouraging the growth and

fulfillment of the other. Both partners are sensitive to the need for

truth and honesty in their sexual practices and in all other aspects

of their relationship. And at the same time they refuse to constrict

themselves and their partners to exclusive intimacy.

It is ironic and hypocritical for courts to grant divorce on the

grounds of “adultery” while refusing to accept and honor the

testimony of couples who wish divorce on the grounds of mutual

incompatibility, unhappiness, or on irreconcilable infidelity in the

broader non-sexual sense. Such incongruity often consigns people

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to enduring hellish conditions in an exploded relationship, on the

theory that only “adultery” (restricted meaning: sex with another

than one’s mate) makes divorce acceptable. This ignores the reality

that many more lives are destroyed by the non-sexual lying,

deceiving, conniving, hurtful behavior of mates, than is the case

with “sexual infidelity.”

Open marriages are monogamous: the couple maintains a

primary one-to-one relationship based on mutual commitment and

intended to last a lifetime. But it does not exclude the possibility of

other intimate and sexual friendships. It may or may not involve

formal “marriage” (i.e. license, minister, public ceremony). We

understand that there are risks and challenges involved in open

ended marriages. But so are there risks in traditionally

monogamous marriages. But there are a significant number of men

and women who are ready and eager to face those challenges and

take those risks because they know that a more joyful and loving

marital lifestyle is possible and attainable. Open-ended marriage

promotes risk-taking in trust. It encourages the warmth and joy of

loving without anxiety. It fosters the extension of affection beyond

only one person in the universe. It proclaims the excitement and

pleasure of knowing a variety of persons in a sensual way. It

experiences the enrichment that a variety of personalities can

contribute to each other. Open marriage makes it possible to be

fully alive in every encounter with other people.

Christians desperately need an ethic of sex for enjoyment,

pleasure and interpersonal enrichment, all of which aligns with the

“goodness” of sex as God created it and as it is seen practiced

throughout the Bible. We need to discard the non-biblical notion

that sex is utterly forbidden except to married people and only for

purposes of reproduction. The subject of sexuality is so frightening

and threatening that few parents, educators or church leaders are

willing to do the hard work of trying to understand what the Bible

actually says about it and then allowing sex to have an unhindered

place in the human experience. If we could arrive at a sex ethic for

pleasure along the lines suggested by the Song of Solomon for

instance, it might include at least the following:

1. Consistently positive attitudes toward sexual pleasure.

2. Eradication of the double standard as harmful to both male

and female sexuality.

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3. Learning methods of non-coital mutual orgasm as a birth

control option and as forms of enjoyable and healthy sex.

4. Openly joyful celebration of the human body and all its

sexual possibilities, with none of the hiddeness, shame and guilt

that currently shrouds human sexuality.

5. Education that values and encourages personal responsibility

and decision making, with integrity, sensitivity and love for the

other person.

6. Honest, non-judgmental information about options for

relational styles and modes of sexual behavior.

7. Enjoyment of what “turns one on” sexually without judging

those whose personal choices do not coincide with ours.

Traditional monogamy is in a crisis. It has been cheapened by

the double standard, is mocked by the high divorce rate and is

seriously threatened by the incredible weight of the functions it is

forced to serve. Parents and children teeter on the beguilingly

frosted tiers of unrealistic expectations, and many of them crumble

under the weight of failed expectations. We expect too much of

ourselves, of each other, of the community and of the fragile

complexity of marital and family obligations. To attempt to be all

things to each other at all times and under all circumstances is to

beg for defeat. We can begin the reparative work by teaching our

children the truth about the pain, frustration, agonies and puzzles

of married life. We must not shield them from the truth that they

will love and live in the midst of crises and tragedies that will make

their loving and living difficult. We can attempt to pull the fangs of

jealousy by truthfully telling them that their self-esteem and

confidence in self and others is in no wise damaged or threatened

by the naturally human desire to reach out intimately to other

people. We can help them immensely by teaching them that they

can be sexually faithfully to each other while at the same time

giving each other the freedom to explore openness and sexual

intimacy with others. In short, our young people have the right to

know that there is an option for their desire for a stable, long-term

relationship. Traditional monogamy is acceptable for all who desire

it. But the option is open for all who wish to explore the openended

marriage.

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Open marriages preserve the values and commitments of

traditional monogamy while overcoming its main limitation –

sexual exclusivity. There are many who do not automatically

equate sexual exclusivity with marital fidelity. Repudiating the

double standard, they enjoy intimacy, sensuality and often sex with

other friends. With no shame and with full trust in each other, the

partners in an open marriage enrich each other through their

mutual gift of sexual liberty, through encouragement to each other

to learn and grow sexually and through delight in each other’s joy

in loving other people. Their loving of others does not diminish

love for each other. Rather, it opens new vistas of love that only

enrich their mutual love and commitment. Open marriage offers

the possibility of a vibrant, committed monogamy that also

embraces the being of other persons, sharing with them the grace of

human caring and touch.

Finally, those who decide to pursue open-ended marriage must

be prepared for the social consequence. Most of those who learn of

your practice will not be able to exercise sympathy with your

lifestyle. Our cultural/religious training virtually prohibits most

people from seeing the morality of sex with someone other than

one’s spouse. “Infidelity,” “adultery,” “promiscuity,” “sick,”

“immoral,” “degenerate” and other such words will be the staples

of choice for accusers, judges and finger pointers. Traditional

morality focuses so much on the act that it can make no room for

relationships that are not sexually exclusive. Traditional morality

focuses on the number of sexual partners without reference to the

more important matter of the quality of relationship. Those who

practice open marriage must be prepared to be judged as immoral,

blasphemous and degenerates. But perhaps it will help to know

that this places you in the same category as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob,

David and a host of other mighty saints. In our society they would

be judged as severely, with the same epithets. But God accepted

them and their non-sexually-exclusive practices. If it is good

enough to pass God’s inspection why worry overmuch about

passing human inspection? We trust that we have demonstrated

that what God defines as “adultery” does not fit at all the practice

of including others into the circle of our commitment to each other

as a couple-married-for-life. We have demonstrated that the most

godly of Biblical saints did not practice sexual exclusivity within their

marriages. This is simply an indisputable matter of the Biblical

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record. We can safely follow their example without fear of

committing “adultery.” And our lives can be wonderfully

enhanced by mutually granted sexual liberty without the

judgmental baggage heaped upon it by an ignorant and prejudicial

church and society.

 

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