On Punishment for Adultery

Sam Shamoun

Bassam Zawadi claims that the blessed Apostle Paul contradicts Jesus regarding the issue of adultery (here). He writes:

Paul makes it quite clear that adulterers will be punished...

1 Thessalonians 4:3-6

3It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4that each of you should learn to control his own body[a] in a way that is holy and honorable, 5not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.

Hebrews 13:4

4Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

 

Lets see what Jesus says...

Matthew 5:17-19

17"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus says in verse 19 that if anyone broke any least of the commandments and teaches others to do so, then he will still go to heaven however in a lower position than those who abide by the commandments. The point is that the person who breaks the commandments still goes to heaven! If we read further down until verses 27-30 you see that Jesus is talking about adultery. So it is clear in the context that adultery is one of the commandments of the law. So Jesus said in an indirect way that if you commit adultery, you can still go to heaven. (Of course this is assuming that the person is a believing Christian)

However, Paul says that sexually immoral people will be punished for their sins and will not inherit the kingdom of God. But Jesus gives no indication that they would get punished. Some may tend to argue that Paul was referring to sexually immoral people who have not accepted Jesus as Lord, however his statements in 1 Thessalonians 4 is a general claim that men who commit these sins will be punished. He also said in Hebrews 4 that ALL sexually immoral people will be judged and obviously adulterers fall within that category.

RESPONSE:

First, Paul wasn’t alone in saying that adulterers will be punished in hell, since even the author of Hebrews says that (despite Zawadi thinking that Paul wrote this epistle), as does the Apostle John:

"But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral (pornois), those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death." Revelation 21:8

"Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral (pornoi), the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood." Revelation 22:15

Depending upon the context, the word pornos covers a whole range of sexual sins especially adultery.

Furthermore, Zawadi conveniently chose NOT to quote Matthew 5:20 since he seems to be aware that this text soundly exposes how desperate his case truly is:

"For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."

As the foregoing shows Jesus didn’t simply say that a person who breaks the least of the commands would be called least in heaven. He also plainly said that a person’s righteousness MUST EXCEED EVEN THAT OF THE PHARISEES if he or she is to enter heaven.

In fact, Jesus also warned of the judgment of hellfire in this very same sermon:

"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell." Matthew 5:21-22

Jesus even warned that those who do not produce good fruit, and continue to produce bad ones, would be condemned to hell:

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" Matthew 7:15-23

Some of the bad fruits that Jesus condemned include adultery:

"Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." Matthew 12:33-35

"‘Are you still so dull?’ Jesus asked them. ‘Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man "unclean." For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man "unclean"; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him "unclean."’" Matthew 15:16-20

The fruits are that which the heart produces, which means that an evil heart produces the bad fruits of adultery, immorality etc., whereas a good heart produces goodness, holiness etc. Paul agrees completely with the Lord Jesus:

"So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." Galatians 5:16-26

Thus, those whose lives are characterized by sexual immorality will be burned in hell according to Jesus.

More importantly, JESUS EVEN SAID THAT ANYONE WHO COMMITS ADULTERY WILL END UP IN HELL:

"You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body THAN FOR YOUR WHOLE BODY TO BE THROWN INTO HELL. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body THAN FOR YOUR WHOLE BODY TO GO INTO HELL." Matthew 5:27-30

How in the world could Zawadi think that he could lie to his readers and conceal the fact that Jesus expressly warned his followers of the judgment of hell in reference to committing adultery is beyond us? Did he think that his readers were that na´ve that they wouldn’t go back and check these references for themselves? It seems so.

Thus, it is simply erroneous for Zawadi to claim that Jesus didn’t mention the threat of hellfire for those who commit adultery.

Now, this is not to say that a person who commits adultery and repents will not be forgiven. The Scriptures are clear that God will forgive any person who sincerely and genuinely confesses and turns away from sins such as adultery:

"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. AND THAT IS WHAT SOME OF YOU WERE. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 1:7-10, 2:1-2

"My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins." James 5:19-20

As we can see from the foregoing, both Jesus and Paul perfectly agree regarding the issue of sexual immorality. It is Zawadi who has to distort what Christ and his beloved Apostle actually taught.

All scriptural quotations taken from the New International Version (NIV) of the Holy Bible.


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