Question:

I want to hear about your views on this particular topic. There's this man who is married with kids. He had some problems with his wife -- she being aggressive and abusive. He met another woman while he was still married to his wife and had sexual relations with her. He eventually divorced his wife, and now he's planning to marry this new woman he is currently seeing. These two who are now involved in a relationship are not Christians. The question is: Can these two (admitting that they are in an adulterous relationship) seek forgiveness and be baptized for the remission of their sins and start going to church together serving God?


Answer:

Certainly, these two can seek forgiveness, be baptized for the remission of their sins and serve God the rest of their lives.  That is the only way they will ever obtain salvation.  However, they will not be able to find forgiveness if they continue in their adulterous relationship together.  The reasons are numerous:

  1. The only God-given reason for a divorce is adultery.  “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).  Notice the person who is the one committing the adultery, as stated in your question, is not permitted to marry again.  In your given situation, the man’s wife may divorce him for adultery, but he, being the offender, will always be an adulterer unless he finds repentance. 
  2. Baptism removes sins (Acts 2:38). A prerequisite to baptism is repentance. Repentance means “to regret” to “change one’s mind” [Vines Complete Expository Dictionary].  The man in your question will be unable to demonstrate his regret (repentance) for his sinful actions by maintaining the sinful relationship.  A man who takes another person’s money cannot repent unless he returns the money he took.  Likewise, a man who takes another person’s spouse cannot repent unless he returns the spouse he took. 
  3. Just because a person desires to repent does not mean they will find it.  Esau was such a person who wanted to repent but wasn’t willing to do what it took to repent.  “For you know that afterward, when he [Esau] wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears” (Hebrews 12:17). The only way this man will find repentance is by having no further relationship with anyone other than his spouse.
  4. Marriage does not remove sin.  Forgiveness is not obtained by changing the civil relationship.  To God, the man who commits adultery and marries another is an adulterer in his new civil relationship (Matthew 19:9).  God only approves of the marriage He binds regardless of the number of civil relationships that person might have in the future (John 4:17-18).  To God, these two are “shacking up.”
  5. Hypothetically speaking, if the man was baptized (assuming he regretted his sinful conduct) and was forgiven at that moment in time, if he ever has sexual relations with another woman other than is wife, even in a newly created civil relationship, he once again has committed the sin of adultery.  It would have been better for him had he never been baptized (Hebrews 10:26-27; II Peter 2:20-22).

I’m sorry to say the man in your question will have to remain unmarried the rest of his life or be reconciled to his wife (I Corinthians 7:10-11).  If he is willing to repent of his adultery, then he could be baptized to have his sins removed (Acts 2:38). 

Steve Hamilton

Thanks so much for clarifying this for me. I appreciate it a lot.

Hello,

I don't know if you can remember me, considering the numerous questions you deal with on a daily basis. However, picking up from the last time you responded, there were things that took place, that I need further advice on.

As stated earlier, my sister who is involved in this adulterous relationship with this adulterous man, wishes for both of them to start attending church and serving the Lord. They admit to their adultery but still has made plans to get married because of their love for one another. So I contacted the preacher at my congregation and he along with myself and two other brethren visited my parents and my sister to try to hear things out and provide some counsel. I printed all the relevant articles from your site including the ones you advised me on as my support in trying to deal with the situation. After much debate and trying to understand the nature of the situation, I stood my ground on the concept that if these two (my sister and her adulterous lover) gets married, they would still be in an adulterous relationship (being an ongoing sin) and therefore cannot be baptized for the remission of sins due to the fact that they would be entering their new life in sin.

The preacher along with the other two guys, brought up the fact that because my sister and her lover are non-Christians, they may be ignorant of what is required by them in God's word and if they enter into marriage not fully understanding why adultery is sin, they can be forgiven of their sins and their new marriage would constitute their new life in Christ. They went on to give various illustrations. They said suppose a woman unknowingly marries a man who was in adultery previously, and innocently marries him.  She therefore is in an adulterous relationship. Now if they both end up having three children and after some years, they hear the Gospel and want to serve the Lord. Would they be able to get baptized for the remission of sins and serve Christ or would they now have to separate themselves from the adultery before they turn to the Lord, and put their children through this stress.

They brought up extreme situations for example, suppose a 12 year old girl who is ignorant of the Word of God, is forced into marriage (as in some Muslim customs) and the person who she is forced to marry had previous marriages before, therefore making her marriage with this man adulterous. If she hears the Gospel and wants to turn to God, can she be baptized and become a member of the church while still married to her present husband?

They even went on to discuss the fact that if we as Christians go evangelizing, on approaching a married couple who has children to study the word of God with them, would we now be required before any study takes place, to ask the couple if any of them were involved in any adulterous relationship before they got married, so that we would know if we would be wasting time in setting up a study with them in trying to follow Jesus.

So in conclusion, they were confused as to what really has to happen in these cases. However, they leaned more to the fact that there is where the mercy of God comes in and we don't know the extent of God's mercies in who he can or cannot forgive. They say it's a very thin line and while they agree that the relationship that my sister is in with this adulterous man is unwise, they are unsure about if my sister and her lover can be saved when they wash their sins in baptism and eventually gets married. Because my sister and her lover are not Christians, they don't fully understand the bible and have never really studied it. One of the brethren used Matthew 19:10-12, which states, The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”  Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

So they hold to the view that those who can accept it (being Christians) can accept such an instruction, cause we have been given it. However my sister and her lover who are non-Christians would not be able to accept it because it wasn't given to them. They said the on who can accept it should accept it. Not everyone will, therefore maybe they can be baptized therefore washing away their sins accepting it as sin in repenting of it. They would now be forgiven and start their new life in Christ.

I went on to add to the discussion that even though the extreme cases as pointed out by them would facilitate the extent of God's mercy when it comes to forgiveness, the situation that my sister is in is the subject matter we are in fact dealing with and can therefore be controlled. I raised the point that my sister and her lover isn't married (according to civil law) as yet, but they have the opportunity, if they want their souls to be saved, to end their adulterous relationship. I have already advised them on that and told my both my sister and her lover about the condition in which God would be able to accept them and save their souls. They refused to accept it and still think that they can be saved and still get married.

We discussed the topic in great length, but arriving at a conclusion proved futile. The preacher suggested that he do further research into this matter as to really finding out how to deal with such situations, but he concluded that if adultery cannot be forgiven providing that the two people involved in it are still married to each other, then alot of people in this world cannot be saved because there are situations where people end up getting innocently married to the wrong people (adulterers).

So with all this said here, I thought I'd pass it to you with the hope of any advice that can be rendered.

Thanks.

The problem with made up examples is that they tend to be extreme and they are not likely to be something you run into in real life. They also tend to be distractions. They are not about your sister's situation.

The fact remains that the adulterer in a divorce who marries again remains in adultery and whoever marries the adulterer is also in adultery. "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).

The question is whether non-Christians are accountable to God's laws. Let us suppose they are not. Then there is no reason for a non-Christian to become a Christian because they are not in sins, since sin is the breaking of law (I John 3:4). That is a false conclusion; therefore, non-Christians are accountable to God's laws. That is why they are lost in sin. See: Are Non-Christians Subject to the Laws of God?

I totally agree with you as I initially stood alongside that same view. I read the link you directed me to and I printed it out as well. However, maybe I didn't explain myself too clearly in asking the question.

I understand what you said, but the preacher's view is that he agrees that all is accountable to the law of God, but there are instances where some people doesn't know about it. And he asks, how do you treat with such a case? I keep reiterating myself to him stating that we are talking about a given situation specifically here, namely that of my sister and it is fixable once they do the right thing if they want their souls to be saved. I told him the main point or bottom line is that in order for one to be saved, they have to give up their sins. If someone doesn't know about the law of God even though it is applied to them, on getting to know the law of God (that's where we as Christians come in where we tell them), they have to now make their choice in giving up their sins if they want to be saved. And the Bible states, if a man doesn't love God more than his father, mother, sister etc, he cannot enter into the kingdom.

Which leaves me to further ask your advice now: If the preacher eventually baptizes my sister and her lover and they get married and start coming to church, what would be the Chrisitan way to deal with such in my case? Should I find another congregation who holds to the truth to worship with or should I remain there uncomfortably. And mind you, I go to a church of Christ as well. I believe according to the scriptures that my sister and her lover, if they claim to have repented of all their sins before baptism, but still ends up getting married, they have not fully repented and, therefore, will not be forgiven of their sins. So what do you think I should do?

Thanks for listening, I really appreciate it a lot.

"Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:30-31).

See: The Lost Who Never Heard the Gospel and Sins of Ignorance!

Yet, none of this applies because your sister and her lover do know they are committing adultery.

When those in leading positions will not uphold basic truths, such as the need for repentance from sins, then this church will not remain faithful to God's teachings for long. A Christian, like those in Sardis (Revelation 3:4), can remain faithful even in a dying church, but it is a very difficult task. If there is another congregation in the area that is reachable, then it might be better to worship there even if it isn't quite as convenient. Another choice that is equally difficult is to start another congregation with those who wish to remain true to the Lord. I would not treat staying in such a congregation any more than a temporary condition.

In regards to your sister, you and I know she is in sin. Even if she is baptized and marries this man, she remains in her sin. Paul makes it clear that she and her adulterous lover cannot be a part of the kingdom (I Corinthians 6:9-10). But because she is pretending, I would cut all ties with her. "I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner--not even to eat with such a person" (I Corinthians 5:9-11). Perhaps it won't get to that point, but that is what you are facing.