Adultery is a terrible sin. Acquiring a full understanding of the sin of adultery and the commandment against it cannot be gained without first understanding of God’s plans for marriage and sexuality. Like an ink stain on a white blouse (or a blood stain on a white lab coat!), when we grasp the beauty, holiness, and intimacy God intended for marriage and all that marriage represents and symbolizes, the sin of adultery can be seen as the tragedy it is.
When we read the story of Adam and Eve it is clear that God had beautiful intentions for marriage from the beginning. The language that God used to describe the bond between this first man and his wife gives us insight into God’s design for the marriage relationship.
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (Gen 2:24–25)
In this brief passage we see that the initiation of the marital bond is characterized by two processes. First, the individual separates from his or her parents, permanently altering the structure of that previous relationship. The parents are no longer to be the primary source of intimacy, affection, and encouragement. The connection with the parent is replaced by a new and more powerful bond, the bond with the spouse. The passage explains that this leaving of parents and uniting to one’s spouse is at the heart of God’s plan for marriage. The terminology used to describe this new family, “They will become one flesh,” is incredibly powerful.
The second process in the formation of the marital bond is the cleaving, or uniting together, of the man and his wife. God proclaimed that the two individuals would become “one flesh.” The bond between husband and wife is so strong, the couple so united, that there is a blurring of individual boundaries. God intended there to be oneness of purpose, heart, thought, and of physical intimacy, even while individual personalities remained.
The oneness of the marital relationship between man and woman is unlike any other. The depths of commitment and love that should characterize this union are far beyond that seen in any other relationship. Implicit in this oneness is that there are aspects of marriage that are unique. There are things shared between a husband and wife that are not, and in truth should not, be shared with anyone else. I know this to be true in my own marriage. My wife knows many things about me that nobody else does. She knows things about me physically and emotionally that I have never shared with anyone else. This is the very definition of intimacy.
The incredible intimacy of the marital bond finds its ultimate expression in the act of sexual intercourse. The bond of sexual intimacy is the tangible, physical expression of the oneness of flesh that God designed. I believe the primary intent of the sexual act, the primary reason God created sexual intimacy, is to form a physical bond that holds a relationship together. Although sexual intimacy happens to be both pleasurable and the means of procreation, neither of these ends represents the ultimate purpose of the sexual union.
The ultimate purpose is stated in Genesis 2. Two individuals join and become one flesh. Sexual intimacy unites a man and a woman in a powerful way. So powerful is the bond that significant emotional harm results when a sexual relationship dissolves.
In the next post we will explore this harm more deeply.
This is part two in a multi-part series on adultery taken from my book, Life Medicine. Your comments and thoughts are welcomed, and shares are appreciated. If you want to receive the rest of the posts in this series in your email, subscribe to the blog. Churches interested in using the book for small group study can contact me to receive books at cost. A small group study guide is available through the book page on this website.