No, I am not talking here about various aberrant religious groups, including some Mormon subgroups today. There may be a few nutters out there who claim to be Christians and actually promote bigamy, polygamy and the like, but they are not the focus of this piece.
Instead I am looking at the issue as a spiritual metaphor. The Bible everywhere speaks about our divided religious loyalties in terms of sexual sin, adultery, unfaithfulness, and so on. More on this in a moment. But first let me mention two things I just came upon this morning – the first from a young but wise person.
Out of the mouth of babes…. You never know where the next word of wisdom is going to come from. The first two things I read this morning very nicely tied together, and one came from a young Christian who seems to be wise beyond her years.
So let me speak to both, as both are much needed words for the church today. In my morning Bible reading I am now going through the book of Leviticus, and I just read this in Leviticus 18:2-3:
“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices’.”
As I read that I immediately thought of the rather sad state of the church today and how so many Christians most certainly ARE doing what the surrounding culture is into. God warned the Israelites not to be like the surrounding nations, but we know they failed miserably in that respect, and we see the same thing happening with Christians today.
The second thing I read – and made me think of the Leviticus passage – came in the form of a comment to my website. One young commentator sent in a lengthy and very useful comment to a recent article I had penned. She offered a “flow chart” as to how godlessness has spread throughout our society. It is found under this article: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2019/02/07/the-attack-of-the-50-foot-trans-tyrants/
Her fifth point really stood out to me: “The church married the culture but it was already married to Jesus so was in a bigamous relationship.” I replied: “Yes quite right” and I shared the Leviticus text I had read moments earlier. The two certainly go together.
As mentioned, the Bible repeatedly looks at the idolatry, unfaithfulness and disobedience of God’s people in terms of marital and sexual unfaithfulness. Spiritual adultery is certainly occurring when we say we love God but end up really loving the world.
Indeed, that is really spiritual bigamy. Israel was married to Yahweh, and Christians today are married to Christ. But to the extent that we love the world, dabble with the sins of the surrounding culture, and try to have our feet in both camps, we clearly are being spiritual bigamists.
Let me offer just a few of the references to spiritual adultery and unfaithfulness – out of many – as found in Scripture:
Jeremiah 3:8-9 She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. Because she took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree.
Jeremiah 13:27 I have seen your abominations, your adulteries and neighings, your lewd whorings, on the hills in the field. Woe to you, O Jerusalem! How long will it be before you are made clean?”
Ezekiel 16:38 And I will judge you as women who commit adultery and shed blood are judged, and bring upon you the blood of wrath and jealousy.
Hosea 2:2 “Plead with your mother, plead— for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband— that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts;”
2 Corinthians 11:2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.
James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Revelation 2:22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works.
For those who want to take this much further, see the important 200-page treatment of this topic: Whoredom: God’s Unfaithful Wife in Biblical Theology by Raymond Ortlund (Apollos, 1996, later released as God’s Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery, IVP, 2003).
The idea of physical adultery being used as an image of spiritual adultery is a powerful one indeed. And it is a very concrete image. A husband and wife commit to each other for life, but when they break those wedding vows and go after strange flesh, they are violating a sacred trust and a holy covenant.
All husbands and wives who have had a spouse cheat on them, stray from them, or act unfaithfully to them, know all about the pain of betrayal and the agony of such treachery. Yes, the good news is, those who sin this way can find forgiveness with repentance, confession and turning from that sin.
But the spiritual imagery here is usually about long-term and consistent unfaithfulness, not just a few once-offs. Israel was seen as an ongoing adulterer and unfaithful spouse to the Lord, and many Christians today are in the same boat. As they cozy up to the world, seek to be friends with the world, and desperately try not to upset or offend worldlings, they are in ongoing rebellion against Christ.
So they really are spiritual bigamists. I am sure other Christian commentators have used such terminology, but I again thank my young commentator for her wise words. They are worth repeating: “The church married the culture but it was already married to Jesus so was in a bigamous relationship.”
Let me conclude with a few powerful quotes about worldliness:
“If you profess to be a Christian, yet find full satisfaction in worldly pleasures and pursuits, your profession is false.” Charles Spurgeon
“When will Christians learn that to love righteousness it is necessary to hate sin? That to accept Christ it is necessary to reject self? That to follow the good way we must flee from evil? That a friend of the world is an enemy of God?” A.W. Tozer
“The true man of God is heartsick, grieved at the worldliness of the Church…grieved at the toleration of sin in the Church, grieved at the prayerlessness in the Church. He is disturbed that the corporate prayer of the Church no longer pulls down the strongholds of the devil.” Leonard Ravenhill
“A wife who is 85% faithful to her husband is not faithful at all. There is no such thing as part-time loyalty to Jesus Christ.” Vance Havner
“People who claim to be Christians while their lives look no different from the rest of the world are clearly not Christians.” David Platt
In sum, we all need to ask ourselves: ‘Am I a spiritual bigamist?’