- The Bible strongly condemns adultery and sexual immorality as sins.
- Jesus said that lusting after someone who is not your spouse is akin to adultery.
- God expects faithfulness in marriage and complete devotion to one’s spouse.
- Cheating goes against God’s design for marriage between one man and one woman.
- There are consequences for cheating mentioned in the Bible, but God offers forgiveness to the repentant.
Infidelity and cheating on one’s spouse is unfortunately a common occurrence today, even among Christians. With the proliferation of dating apps, pornography, relaxed societal mores regarding sex and marriage, opportunities for adultery abound. However, the Bible has strong words regarding marital faithfulness and sexual purity.
God’s design for intimacy is that it occurs only between a husband and wife within the sacred covenant of marriage. Violating that covenant through cheating is a serious sin that damages the marital bond. While the Bible offers forgiveness and redemption to the repentant, it makes clear that adultery has no place among God’s people.
Old Testament Verses About Adultery
The Old Testament laid the foundation for God’s plan for marriage and sexuality. The seventh of the Ten Commandments given to Moses states plainly, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14 NKJV). This commandment came directly from God Himself, underscoring how seriously He views marital faithfulness. The punishment for adultery under the Mosaic Law was death for both the adulterous man and woman (Leviticus 20:10). This reveals how detestable cheating is in God’s sight.
In addition to the seventh commandment, other verses in the Old Testament condemn adultery and extramarital affairs:
- “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4)
- “For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.” (Proverbs 5:3-4)
- “Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; he who does so destroys his own soul.” (Proverbs 6:32)
- “My son, keep my words, and treasure my commands within you. Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’ and call understanding your nearest kin, that they may keep you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words.” (Proverbs 7:1-5)
King David’s affair with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) demonstrated how a lapse in moral judgment can spiral into deeper sin. David committed adultery, lied to cover it up, and ultimately had Bathsheba’s husband killed. Nathan the prophet confronted David, forcing him to admit his grievous sins that brought dishonor to God. While David repented, the consequences reverberated through the remainder of his life.
Adultery in Jesus’s Teachings
In the New Testament, Jesus affirmed the Old Testament commandment prohibiting adultery and expanded its definition:
- “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)
Here Jesus elevated adultery to include not just actions but motivations. Cultivating lustful thoughts about someone who is not one’s spouse is akin to actually committing adultery. This stringent standard gets to the heart level and underscores how seriously God takes sexual purity.
Jesus also permitted divorce in the case of marital unfaithfulness:
- “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9)
This indicates that adultery fundamentally breaks the marriage covenant. When one spouse is unfaithful, the offended spouse may initiate divorce since the cheater has already shattered the covenant. However, remarriage after divorce also constitutes adultery in God’s eyes unless the divorce was for sexual immorality.
The New Testament writers frequently listed adultery together with other serious sins:
- “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness…” (Galatians 5:19)
- “For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 5:5-6)
- “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4)
- “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)
These verses paint a bleak picture of the eternal destiny of unrepentant adulterers. They face God’s judgment, wrath, and eternal damnation. The good news of the gospel is that God does forgive sexual sin, including adultery, for those who turn to Him in repentance and faith. But His Word makes plain that cheating has no place among His people.
Biblical Stories About Adultery and Consequences
Scripture contains many cautionary tales about the ruinous consequences of adultery:
David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) – As mentioned previously, David’s affair with Bathsheba bore bitter fruit. Their child died shortly after birth as punishment for David’s sin. David’s family was subsequently plagued by turmoil, including rape, murder, and insurrection by his own sons.
Samson and Delilah (Judges 16) – Samson’s dalliance with Delilah cost him his legendary strength, his eyesight, and ultimately his life. His demise illustrates how adultery can make a righteous man vulnerable and blind to truth.
Herod and Herodias (Mark 6:17-28) – Herod divorced his own wife to illegally marry Herodias, his brother’s wife. Despite knowing John the Baptist’s condemnation of this adultery was valid, Herodias manipulated Herod into executing John to silence the rebuke. Their adultery ended up costing a righteous man his life.
The Woman Caught in Adultery (John 8:1-11) – This woman was caught in the act of adultery and dragged before Jesus by the Pharisees, who sought His judgment. But Jesus showed her grace and forgiveness, saying “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” Still, her public shame was the natural consequence of her sin.
The Adulterous Woman in Proverbs (Proverbs 5, 7) – In this extended metaphor, the adulterous woman lures a foolish man to her bed. While enticing at first, her end “is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword” (Proverbs 5:4). She warns young men to avoid her path, which leads to death.
Corinthian Church Member (1 Corinthians 5) – Paul chastised this church for proudly tolerating a man committing incest with his father’s wife. This horrendous adultery necessitated the man’s expulsion from the church. Sexual immorality could not be condoned among God’s people.
These stories reveal how cheating destroys trust, marriages, families, reputations, ministries, and lives. While forgiveness is available, adulteryalways bears negative consequences.
God’s Purpose and Design for Marriage
Undergirding the Bible’s prohibition against adultery is God’s perfect design for marriage. In Genesis 2, God created woman to be man’s “helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18) and the two became one flesh (Genesis 2:24). His template was for one man and one woman to be joined together for life in an intimate, exclusive covenant.
This is why the Old Testament prophets frequently portrayed idolatry as spiritual adultery. God desired His people to be faithful to Him just as a spouse should be faithful to their marriage partner. Adultery represents a grievous betrayal of the marriage covenant. It defiles the marital bed and intimacy created exclusively for husband and wife.
The New Testament expands on God’s perspective on marriage. In Ephesians 5, human marriage is compared to the relationship between Christ and the church. Just as Christ sacrificially loved the church and gave Himself for her, husbands ought to love their wives. Wives are instructed to submit to their own husbands as the church submits to Christ. This pictures the unity, love, and service that should characterize Christian marriage.
Hebrews 13:4 explains that the marriage bed is to be “undefiled” or kept pure. Any outsider defiles that sacred consecrated space designed for husband and wife. God sanctions sexual activity exclusively within marriage, with marriage defined Biblically as the lifetime union of one man and one woman. Violating that sanctity through adultery is abhorrent to God.
Therefore, the Bible’s unambiguous prohibition against cheating stems from God’s ideal for marriage from the beginning. Adultery violates God’s mandate for faithfulness, unity, and lifelong devotion between husband and wife.
Forgiveness and Redemption for Adultery
Though strongly condemning adultery throughout Scripture, the Bible also offers forgiveness and redemption to adulterers who repent. If one confesses and forsakes sexual sin, God promises to forgive and cleanse them (1 John 1:9). However, consequences may still follow.
For example, after David confessed his adultery with Bathsheba, he was forgiven. Yet Nathan told David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die” (2 Samuel 12:13-14). Though pardoned, David still faced the death of his and Bathsheba’s child.
Paul warns that believers must flee sexual immorality because it uniquely defiles one’s very body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). Sexual sin scars individuals, marriages, and families in deep ways. But walking in the light and turning away from adultery opens the door for healing through God’s grace.
The Corinthian man engaging in incest was directed to repent and seek forgiveness to be reconciled to the church. Through God’s mercy, he was granted another chance to live righteously. Paul pleads with believers to offer erring brothers and sisters such grace:
- “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)
Believers wounded by adultery need support and wise counsel. Couples may require therapeutic interventions to rebuild broken trust. But the redemptive blood of Christ covers sexual sin, including adultery. No compulsion to sin is insurmountable through the empowering grace of God (1 Corinthians 10:13).
By following the Bible’s guidelines for purity, faithfulness, honest confession, and forgiveness, marriages can be healed even after the devastation of infidelity.
Practical Tips for Avoiding Adultery
In a fallen world rife with sexual temptation, believers must be proactive and vigilant to keep their marriages pure. Here are some practical tips for avoiding adultery:
- Cultivate your relationship with Christ through prayer, Bible study, church involvement, and Christian fellowship. Do not attempt to resist temptation in your own power.
- Do not spend extended time alone with members of the opposite sex other than your spouse. Institute safeguards like leaving your office door open when meeting with the opposite sex.
- Bounce your eyes and do not gaze at members of the opposite sex. Job said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?” (Job 31:1)
- Do not flirt with married persons or those in a dating relationship. Do not hug, touch, or conversate intimately with non-family members of the opposite sex.
- Avoid environments with alcohol, dim lighting, and intimacy like bars, nightclubs, or private spaces. Do not ride in a car alone with someone who is not your spouse.
- If married, devote time and effort to meeting your spouse’s emotional and physical needs. Be transparent with phones, email, and social media.
- Consume media promoting purity like Biblical podcasts and films. Install filters blocking obscene content. Turn off shows or films presenting adultery positively.
- If tempted toward an affair, immediately cease contact with that person. Seek prayer support, pastoral counseling, and marital intervention as needed. Confess urges toward adultery to your spouse and accountability partners.
The Bible says we reap what we sow. Those who sow to please their flesh from that flesh will reap destruction (Galatians 6:7-8). But those who sow to please the Spirit by living righteously will reap eternal life. May all married believers purpose to remain faithful to their spouses in mind, body, and spirit.
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible condemns adultery as a grievous violation of God’s design for marriage. Cheating contradicts God’s plan for intimacy to occur exclusively between husband and wife within marriage’s sacred covenant. Though forgiveness is offered, infidelity damages trust and brings enduring consequences. Yet by following biblical principles of sexual purity, mutual devotion, openness, and reliance on divine strength, Christians can keep their marriages undefiled. The church must lovingly but uncompromisingly call those ensnared in adultery to repentance and healing through Christ. By God’s grace, lives, marriages, and families can be redeemed even after adultery’s devastation. May the Lord Jesus keep His bride – the church – pure and faithful as together we await His return.