Bible Question:

When adultery occurs by remarriage, is the adultery an ongoing sin?

Bible Answer:

The question we are concerned with is, “If adultery occurs by remarriage, is the adultery an ongoing sin?” That is, when someone divorces his or her spouse for non-biblical reasons and then marries another person, they commit adultery; but will they be continually committing adultery while married to their new spouse?

Is The Sin of Adultery Ongoing?

Adultery Is A One Time Act

In Matthew 5:31-32, Jesus said,

It was said, “WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE”; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Matthew 5:31-32 (NASB)

Here we discover that Jesus said the sin of adultery is committed if a man divorces his wife for unbiblical reasons and then marries another woman.  Also, the woman who marries the man commits adultery. The same is true if a woman divorces her husband without a biblical reason and marries another man.

It is important to notice that Jesus reveals God recognizes the second marriage. God considers it a contractual agreement (Malachi 2:14). In Matthew 19:6 Jesus tells us that every marriage is to be permanent.

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” Matthew 19:6 (NASB)

The second marriage is recognized by God as the new permanent relationship, even if the sin of adultery was committed in the process. If adultery occurred, it was a sin. It was a one time event. In this context where adultery occurs because the divorce was without a biblical reason and an individual has married again, the sin of adultery is not continuous, never-ending or forever.  The sin of adultery occured just once. The Greek word “commits adultery” is moicheuo. It is in the aorist tense. This tense refers to a completed action. That is, the adultery occurred but it is not a continuous sinful condition. It may be helpful to know that if Jesus had used the perfect tense that would imply the sin had occurred and was ongoing. But Jesus used the aorist tense which refers to completed action. If an individual divorces his or her new spouse for non-biblical reasons, just as he or she did with the first spouse, he or she will commit the sin of adultery again.

The Sin of Adultery Can Be Forgiven

When some individuals understand they committed adultery by remarrying, they want to dissolve their second marriage. They believe that divorce would then end the sin of adultery. There are two reasons why this would just be another sinful act. The first reason as we have already learned (see above) is that the sin of adultery was a one time event. The second reason is that Jesus has told us that no marriage should be dissolved (Matthew 19:6). The new marriage must remain permanent. If a man or woman dissolves his or her second marriage for any reason except for sexual immorality or because an unbeliever divorces them and remarries, then they will commit adultery again.

How can a man or woman obtain forgiveness and blessing after committing the sin of adultery? The answer is to sincerely confess the sin of adultery. A person confesses a sin to God when they name the sin and admit that they sinned. Confession must come from the heart and be sincere. Then God will forgive the sin of adultery. That is the message of 1 John 1:9.

 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:9 (NASB)

Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 1:18; 38:17; Jeremiah 31:34 and Micah 7:19 are God’s promises of forgiveness.

As far as the East is from the West,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12 (NASB)

Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool. Isaiah 1:18 (NASB)

You have cast all my sins behind Your back. Isaiah 38:17 (NASB)

I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more. Jeremiah 31:34 (NASB)

He will again have compassion on us;
He will tread our iniquities under foot.
Yes, You will cast all their sins
Into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19 (NASB)


Our God forgives when we sincerely grieve our sins and seriously seek His forgiveness.  Psalm 32:5 is a wonderful promise,

I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin.
Psalm 32:5 (NASB)

Suggested Links:

Biblical Divorce and Remarriage
What is the meaning of the Greek word porneia in the Bible?
If you are divorced and remarry, are you living in adultery?
What does God say about a person marrying someone who has been divorced?
Is it a sin to divorce if you profess to be a Christian?
Does Matthew 5:31-32 say that even the non-adulterer is guilty of adultery?
Why does one have the “right to remarry” after a “Biblical Divorce”?