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In the pages of the Bible, the concept of spiritual adultery is a recurring theme that carries significance for believers. This metaphorical expression is used to describe the unfaithfulness of God’s people when they turn away from their covenant relationship with Him. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the Bible employs vivid language to convey the gravity of spiritual adultery and its consequences.
The Covenant Relationship
The foundation of spiritual adultery lies in the covenant relationship between God and His people. In the Old Testament, the relationship between God and Israel is often depicted as a marriage covenant. Jeremiah 3:14 (NKJV) vividly captures this imagery, “Return, O backsliding children,” says the Lord; “for I am married to you.” Here, God portrays Himself as a faithful husband, and Israel’s unfaithfulness is likened to marital infidelity.
One of the primary manifestations of spiritual adultery in the Bible is the act of idolatry. Numerous passages condemn the worship of false gods as a betrayal of the covenant. Exodus 20:3-5 (NKJV) emphasizes, “You shall have no other gods before Me… You shall not bow down to them nor serve them.” This commandment underscores the exclusive devotion God expects from His people, reinforcing the spiritual adultery metaphor.
The prophets, inspired by God, passionately conveyed warnings about the consequences of spiritual adultery. Hosea’s personal life becomes a powerful symbol in this context. Hosea 2:16 (NKJV) declares, “And it shall be, in that day,” says the Lord, “That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer call Me ‘My Master.'” Hosea’s marriage to an unfaithful wife mirrors God’s relationship with His people, portraying the pain caused by spiritual unfaithfulness.
Adultery of the Heart
In the New Testament, Jesus expands the understanding of adultery beyond the physical realm to the matters of the heart. In Matthew 5:27-28 (NKJV), He declares, “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.” Jesus illuminates the spiritual dimension of adultery, emphasizing the significance of inner purity in the covenant relationship with God and man.
Revelation’s Warning to the Churches
The book of Revelation contains letters addressed to seven churches, each with a unique message. In Revelation 2:20-23 (NKJV), the letter to the church in Thyatira rebukes the toleration of a woman named Jezebel, symbolic of false teachings and idolatry. This passage underscores the ongoing relevance of the spiritual adultery theme in the New Testament context.
Restoration and Forgiveness
Despite the severe consequences outlined in the Bible, there is a consistent theme of God’s willingness to forgive and restore the relationship with His people if they repent. Jeremiah 3:22 (NKJV) offers hope, “Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.” God’s mercy and grace provide a path for reconciliation, emphasizing the redemptive aspect of the biblical narrative.
The Cure to Spiritual Adultery
To be healed from spiritual adultery, the Lord calls His children saying, “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see” (Revelation 3:18). The figurative “gold” represents the “faith which works by love” (Galatians 5:6; James 2:5), and the good deeds that result from faith (1 Timothy 6:18). The white raiment represents the righteousness of Christ (Galatians 3:27; Matthew 22:11; Revelation 3:4). And eye salve represents the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer (John 16:8–11).
The good news is that God does the work to cure spiritual adultery when the believer submits to Him daily through the study of His Word, prayer and obedience. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). God provides the spur that awakens our wish to be saved, He empowers us to make the decision, and He gives us the strength to make the decision effective.
Spiritual adultery in the Bible serves as a powerful metaphor depicting the unfaithfulness of God’s people in their covenant relationship. From the Old Testament’s marital covenant imagery to the New Testament’s warnings against inner adultery, the theme underscores the gravity of turning away from God. The Bible, through various passages and teachings, calls believers to repentance, highlighting the ever-present opportunity for restoration and forgiveness.
In His service,