April 11, 2004 Q & A

Remarriage after adultery


Thank you for providing this forum which has been extremely helpful to me. My question/concern is as follows: After hitting rock bottom in my life and my marriage, I fell in love and had an affair with another man. Subsequently, I divorced my husband and have continued with this relationship. We plan to be married. I struggle with my guilt though I do not look at turning back as an option as we have all moved forward and come to a place of understanding and friendship. Will the OPC recognize and accept me as a member and will my new marriage be recognized by the church?


Not knowing anything at all about what conditions led to your hitting rock bottom in life and marriage, I can only guess that the path down was pretty painful and confusing. Still, the Word of God gives direction you need, though it will take great grace from God and humbling on your part to receive it at this point. Since your actual question concerns how the OPC will respond to you, I will start there.

As a general principle, every true church of Christ should gladly receive into its membership any sinner who repents of his or her sins, trusts in Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation, and desires to live in obedience to Him as Lord. If a serial murderer repented and sought God's forgiving grace in Christ and wanted to be part of our church, I hope we would rejoice with the angels of heaven and receive him. When our Lord Jesus was criticized for eating and drinking with "sinners," He replied that He had not come to call the righteous (He speaks ironically; there are no righteous apart from Him) but sinners to repentance (Mark 2:17). If the holy Son of God saves wretched sinners like me and receives us into His kingdom, we had better receive them into His churches.

The questions I would have in response to your situation, however, are these: Did your marriage end because of your sin? If so, have you repented of that sin? Is your current relationship based on righteousness and a desire to obey the Lord in obedience to His commands?

As you describe your history, you had an adulterous affair that ended your marriage. I suspect there was more to it than that, but your statement is that you "fell in love and had an affair with another man," and then after that you sought and obtained a divorce. Whatever mitigating circumstances might have been provided by your husband's behavior, you clearly admit responsibility for bringing your marriage to an end by your own sinful acts.

I can well imagine that you struggle with guilt. In the light of God's Word (7th Commandment, Exodus 20:14, Malachi 2:16, Matthew 19:3-9), unless and until you actually repent of the sins you committed, you are truly guilty in God's sight (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). The good news is God's promise through Jesus Christ His Son, that because Christ bore on the cross the sins of His people and the punishment they deserve, we may be forgiven and washed completely clean. This is how God states His promise in Isaiah 55:

Seek the Lord while He may be found;

   call upon Him while He is near;

let the wicked forsake his way,

   and the unrighteous man his thoughts;

let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him,

   and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. (vv. 6, 7)

Returning to the Lord to receive His abundant pardon (freely given, paid for by Jesus on the cross, Isaiah 53:5, 6) requires forsaking the way of sin which led away from the Lord. You say that you struggle with your guilt; and I think you will continue to do so as long as you do not face up to the sin of your actions and truly turn from it in repentance. Suffering with guilt feelings has no atoning value; it is not noble, but useless. You could end the struggle with guilt by repenting and seeking the Lord's forgiveness - His way.

Am I being too hard on you? Well, I am bringing your words to the Lord's Word so that you might learn His way of true peace and forgiveness. Why do I so obviously doubt that you have repented of your sin? Because it appears clear that you are continuing in it. "We plan to be married. I struggle with my guilt though I do not look at turning back as an option as we have all moved forward and come to a place of understanding and friendship." I gather that that means your husband "understands" and is being friendly. But the question is, what does God think? Can you say, "I repent of the sin of adultery and ask God's forgiveness and I repent of the sin of unlawfully [God's Law] divorcing my husband and ask God's forgiveness" - and proceed right ahead with the adulterous relationship? What does our Lord say in Matthew 19:9?

In his letter to the Corinthian church the Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says, "To the married I say (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife" (1 Cor.7:10,11). If you truly repent of your sins of adultery and lawless divorce, then this is the direction you must seek to go, not continuing in the adulterous relationship. There may be factors you have not shared which make it impossible to go back, and so reconciliation is impossible (maybe your husband has remarried or is himself now living adulterously with another woman whom he is not willing to leave). If your husband has closed the door to reconciliation, you and your new man still must face up to and repent of your sin.

Because of the brevity of your account you may have left some things out that would significantly change my understanding of your situation. Perhaps you have truly repented of your sin and are seeking to live in obedience to God's commands as a believer in Christ (but just did not communicate that clearly in your post). With the little I have to go on in your post, I cannot "pass judgment." But, based on what you have said, the issues and questions I raise above would concern me and the elders and pastors of any OP church.

Since you have been attending an OP church, I suggest you go to the pastor and ask him what you have asked me, tell him your story, and not just to know if the church will accept you, but to know the counsel of God's Word to you, so that you might have true peace with God, be confident of His forgiving mercy, and be living in submission to Him (imperfectly and only by His grace, of course).

And let me, in love, caution you: If you and the man you intend to marry turn away from a church which for biblical reasons will not accept your marriage and you go elsewhere looking for a church that will give you "peace" without your having to repent of sin, that church will not be serving your soul's eternal good. The Lord says, "There is no peace ... for the wicked" (Isaiah 57:21); and to the false prophets who promise peace to those who will not repent, He says, "Because they lead my people astray, saying, 'Peace,' when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall" (Ezekiel 13:10, 11). "They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious, 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace" (Jeremiah 6:14).

In contrast, Proverbs 27:6 says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend", and the Psalmist says (141:5), "Let a righteous man strike me - it is kindness; let him rebuke me - it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it." So I plead with you to let faithfulness in opening God's Word to you be the test of a church, and not whether or not you will be accepted if you are determined to go a way that is not God's.

Again, I admit that if I were told your whole story, I might see things differently (not things in the Bible, but how they apply in your case). And for that reason I urge you to go directly to the pastor of the OP church you have been attending and seek his counsel from God's Word.

May the Lord guide you in His paths of truth and righteousness.



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