The one question that is extremely critical at this point is this: on what basis does God forgive sin? I believe the scriptures are clear that God forgives sin on the basis of the death of Christ at Calvary. We experience the benefit of Calvary when we come to Jesus in faith, acknowledging our need, and asking Him to forgive us for our sin. The results of faith will be evident by obedience (or deeds of repentance), for faith without works is dead. If it is only a "sorrow of the world," it leaves us still in our sin. In speaking to the Corinthians about this subject, Paul commended them for their "godly sorrow" that leads to salvation and explained that his commendation was based upon the fruit of obedience that he saw in their lives:
"For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (2 Corinthians 7:10-11).
The next question is this: what is repentance from adultery? If a second marriage after divorce is indeed adultery, as Jesus says it is, can the adultery be forgiven if we do not break the wrong relationship? Most find this very difficult to accept because of emotional ties, children, and the desire for companionship. But can we let our natural reasoning or desires direct our choices if they contradict God's written word?
Being absolute with truth is foreign to many in our age. Even those who agree that the second marriage was "wrong" commonly conclude that another divorce is certainly not the answer. Again, I believe this conclusion must be based on reasoning, emotions and desires, as I see nothing in the scriptures to back it up. If the second relationship is wrong (being joined to another person's mate), this is not marriage in God's sight, but an adulterous relationship. Breaking an adulterous relationship may be called "divorce" by the laws of the land, but in God's eyes it is repentance if it is done in faith. God only acknowledges the original relationship, and "divorce" only refers to the breaking of a union that God recognizes as valid.
Some may feel this view is too harsh or absolute. But before rejecting it, consider some other expressions of sin. If a man were an alcoholic when he came to the Lord, would we not expect him to stop drinking? Or what about a liar, a thief, or a fornicator (an unmarried person who engages in sexual activity)? Could the former behavior continue after repentance unto salvation? When we come into union with God, He gives us the power to change our sinful behavior. If we expect these things to change, why would we think differently about adulterers? Maybe some would claim ignorance of God's laws, but does scripture allow ignorance as a valid excuse for sin? Is the Holy Spirit not present at all times, convicting of sin and trying to stop us from entering into wrong relationships? God is faithful, but He does not force us to obey Him, and if we press past that conviction, we must bear the consequences of our actions.
If this view seems unsympathetic and inconsiderate of the potential consequences of breaking a wrong relationship, remember that we are dealing with a God who is holy and who also is completely good. He never fails us when we cast ourselves upon Him. I strongly encourage the reader to search the scriptures with an open heart, ready to do the will of God. God has designed marriage to be beautiful and right, but it is only for this lifetime. Our relationship with God is for eternity. If we look at marriage from an earthly viewpoint, we may allow things to affect us that God does not consider. But when we look from the perspective of a holy God, with a concern for His testimony and eternity in view, our conclusion must be different. The supernatural grace of God that is realized through faith will lift us to an entirely new level, and God will be experienced and glorified in ways we never dreamed were possible.
Adultery Defiles the Body of Christ
Adultery in the marriage relationship is a great expression of sin in the eyes of God. It defiles all it touches and brings a rottenness that grows and spreads. God hates it and will not dwell where it is tolerated. It is not just a personal offense, but an offense to God in the midst of His bride.
"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: "I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works"'" (Revelation 2:18-23).
The church is the bride of Christ, and the Holy Spirit is preparing the bride to be married to Christ for all eternity. Purity is of the utmost importance. Thus the Holy Spirit will not tolerate any kind of impurity in the midst of God's people. If God is dwelling in the midst, and defilement of some kind begins to enter in, we can expect the strong movement of the Holy Spirit to cleanse—either through repentance or removal. God will not dwell with sin.
"But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:17-20).
"Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.' ‘I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.' Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1).
Many seem to know very little about the purity and separation required of God's people. Many groups tolerate adultery in their midst and would question or dismiss the statements I am making. But so often men do not even know what it means to have God dwelling in the midst. They have interpreted religious activity (such as music, teaching, and meetings) for God's presence. God may not be in any of these things, but people may not know it. Brothers and sisters, we must be ruthlessly honest. What are the scriptural evidences that God is in our midst? Are we able to sense by the Spirit? Do we know what we should be looking for?