Fighting the Works of the Flesh: Adultery
This post, the first in a series covering the works of the flesh mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21, discusses several strategies for combating adultery.
One of the more famous portions of the Bible is the list of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. These two verses list nine fruits—or results—of the Holy Spirit at work in the life of an individual.
But immediately before this list is another list called the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). This list is the direct antithesis of the fruit of the Spirit, and it describes characteristics found in an individual who is not being led by the Holy Spirit. The works of the flesh are important to understand because they represent major weaknesses that every Christian must overcome and remove from his or her life.
This blog post begins a series of posts examining the works of the flesh, with the hope that understanding these sinful works will help readers overcome any of these works that may be present in their lives.
What is adultery?
The institution of marriage is commonly mocked, advised against, redefined and minimized in today’s world. It is no wonder that divorce rates are so high. This first work of the flesh focuses on one of the primary causes of divorce: adultery.
Happy marriages take work—and the solution to problems in the marriage is to diligently and lovingly work on making things better.Adultery includes lingering thoughts (usually of a sexual nature), as well as actions, that are disloyal to one’s spouse. It happens when one or both in a marriage union seek sexual and emotional fulfillment outside the marriage. This work of the flesh thoroughly destroys marriages and makes what should be a fulfilling relationship between a husband and wife deteriorate.
To understand why adultery is so alluring, we first have to tackle some of the many lies that society has used to excuse unfaithfulness to one’s marriage vows.
Lies about adultery
Lie No. 1: “Marriages need a little something extra. It is ridiculous to expect people to have all their sexual needs met by just one other person. We are not built that way.”
This lie disconnects sex from love and marriage. It makes human beings out to be like animals—with uncontrollable sexual urges. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, taught that the sexual union in marriage is to make a couple “one flesh” (Mark 10:8). A marriage relationship is cemented when all factors are strong—the emotional connection, the friendship, the deep love and the sexual union. The idea that people have sexual needs that must be fulfilled outside of marriage is a misunderstanding of the purpose of sex.
Lie No. 2: “Marriages can be constricting. If you are unfulfilled in your present marriage and another person enters your life who is your real ‘soul mate,’ it is better to ditch the spouse holding you back and be with the person who can truly make you happy.”
The root of this lie is people blaming the institution of marriage—rather than themselves—for deficiencies in their lives. If one is unfilled in his or her marriage, the solution is to work on improving oneself and the marriage. Happy marriages take work—and the solution to problems in the marriage is to diligently and lovingly work on making things better.
One of Satan’s greatest deceptions is to characterize the marriage relationship as a prison. It is a beautiful commitment that should be made freely and wisely. This is one reason it is so important to truly get to know the person before you enter the marriage covenant.
Strategies to overcome adultery
The key to preventing adultery is to both strengthen your marriage and be aware of the possible threats to marriage. Here are some strategies to consider:
- Don’t let others define your marriage. Whatever discontented friends or bitter divorcees tell you about marriage, make up your own mind. And use biblical instruction and guidelines! Marriage can provide the greatest possible human joy available to us—if we work at it. We can have the most fulfilling sexual relationship imaginable within marriage, if we work at it. Society can mock marriage all it wants, but we ultimately determine what our marriages will be. Celebrate every little success and adventure in marriage, because there are many every day that we take for granted.
- Watch for early warning signs and talk. Though it can be an awkward and very touchy subject to one or both spouses, talk about your sexual relationship. Adultery hides in secrets and temptations, and is often precipitated by discontent. Discuss emotional needs as well, since not all affairs and brushes with adultery originate from the sexual realm. Anything that you consider keeping as a secret from your spouse is an automatic red flag that needs to be discussed. Better to be embarrassed about dangerous thoughts right away than to come clean only after years of a pornography addiction or after an affair. Our marriage is in danger if we can’t talk openly about sex with our spouse.
- Despise and hate adultery because of its consequences. Adultery, whether in thought or deed, weakens and can destroy a marriage and a family unit. It also thoroughly degrades what God intends us to learn from the marriage union (Ephesians 5:22-32). On top of all those negative consequences of adultery, “whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; he who does so destroys his own soul” (Proverbs 6:32). The selfishness and unfaithfulness that accompanies adultery destroys an individual’s character. These are all reasons to hate adultery and to avoid it at all costs.
Though the listing of the works of the flesh does not necessarily imply an order, it is interesting that the first listed is adultery. Perhaps that is because of the destruction that breaking the Seventh Commandment causes in so many lives.
Avoid adultery in all forms at all costs!
This is the first in a seventeen part series on Fighting the Works of the Flesh. For part 2 in this series, see “Sex Outside of Marriage.”