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What is adultery?

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The word adultery means, according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband.” In other words, adultery occurs when one or two married people have sex with someone they are not married to.

God included a command against adultery in the Ten Commandments: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14 Exodus 20:14You shall not commit adultery.
American King James Version×
). “Since God's law sanctions sexual relationships only within a legitimate marriage, the command to not commit adultery covers, in principle, all varieties of sexual immorality”.

Why does God hate adultery? Because He places heavy emphasis on the sanctity of marriage, and He knows adultery is a terribly destructive attack on marriage. God uses the marriage relationship as a metaphor to explain Christ's love for His Church (Ephesians 5:25 Ephesians 5:25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
American King James Version×
). When a husband or wife commits adultery, it shatters (sometimes irreparably) the bond that the two share and fills the relationship with distrust and bitterness.

God also uses adultery as a metaphor for when we as Christians turn our backs on Him (see Jeremiah 3:8 Jeremiah 3:8And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.
American King James Version×
). When we put other priorities before God after we've dedicated ourselves to Him, we, too, damage the bond between us. However, unlike humans, God is always willing to welcome us back after sincere repentance on our part (Isaiah 1:18 Isaiah 1:18Come now, and let us reason together, said the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
American King James Version×

Still, adultery is a sin that causes incredible physical, emotional and even spiritual damage. We should take great care to avoid it, whether in our human or spiritual relationships.

For more information, please read our booklet Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension .

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