Even God Requires Repentance First!


“If you want to come back, O Israel,
    you must really come back to me.
You must get rid of your stinking sin paraphernalia
    and not wander away from me anymore.

-Jeremiah 4:1 (from 1-2 block), THE MESSAGE

This verse comes on the heals of the chapter where God declares His divorce of Israel over her adulteries (see Jeremiah 3:8). Here we see God talking about the need for repentance. God is willing to forgive and restore the relationship…


God requires a true turning of Israel from her idols. He requires an end to Israel’s idolatrous adulteries. And He requires proof via action on the part of Israel.

Lip service is not enough.

They have to throw away their idols!

A godly reconciliation–i.e. marriage restoration–after infidelity discovery requires following this healthy boundary model. This is the sin qua non (without this nothing) of godly marriage restoration. Complete turning from the adultery partner (OM/OW) with actual, action-based evidence to prove it.

No more being Facebook friends with the OM/OW.

No keeping of lover’s gifts (or secrets from one’s spouse) with the OM/OW.

No more coffee visits or drinks after work with OM/OW.

In fact, it may be a good idea to actually find another job if the OM/OW is going to remain there. The adulterous partner needs to rid himself/herself of all connection, as far as possible, with their idolatrous, adulterous relationship–i.e. a sinful relationship that they prioritized over God and His clear command against it (e.g. Ex. 20:14).

A turning in deed is needed.

Evangelical pastors and elders–of all people–ought to stand firm in supporting this boundary for faithful spouses. In fact–I maintain–they ought to insist on it as part of providing sound Biblical counsel for couples dealing with a marriage violated by infidelity.

After all, if God required it regarding unfaithful Israel, why would we not want to follow God’s own example in a similar situation?  

Reconciliation or marriage restoration at all costs is dangerous. It is dangerous because a real cost to such advice can be godliness. Further, it can cost the spiritual well-being of both partners (not to mention the emotional, physical, etc. well-being of the faithful spouse).

I say it can cost both partners spiritually when repentance is not prioritized over marriage restoration (following adultery) for good reason:

Without true repentance, the cheater may persist in sin to his/her damnation (e.g. Hebrews 10:26-27).  For the adultery victim, he/she may find his/her image of God damaged because he/she is experiencing God as someone who tolerates the continued rape of his/her soul with apparent indifference, which is a lie.

Even God requires repentance in action from the adulterous.

Why ought we to expect less?

  • A version of this post ran previously.

7 thoughts on “Even God Requires Repentance First!”

  1. I think I it needs to be stated that just stoping the adulterous relationship does not equal repentance. They may experience worldly sorrow. They may be wanting to avoid the consequences of divorce. It may have already been over when you hear the confession or discover the past adultery. It may have been a one night stand with no relationship, and that’s still marriage ending actions. Stopping an adulterous relationship does not equal repentance. What needs to be shown is repentence from the heart, which is action over time, not words, tears, and promises. When people qualify JESUS words that divorce is an obvious consequence for adultery with ‘if they would not stop the relationship’ that is missing the whole point of repentence. The faithful spouse may Biblically divorce even if there is repentence, just like the murderer goes to jail even if they repent. Certainly just ‘stopping’ the action does not equal a heart repentence a faithful spouse would need in order to be able to reconcile and stay, which would be a miracle brought only by true repentence by the cheater and the clear direction for the faithful spouse that is what God wants them to do, as scripturally it would not be required even then.

    1. Agreed. Stopping the sin is not repentance. It is only a necessary step down that path. And that does not change the faithful spouse’s permission to divorce over adultery.

      1. What are the practical signs of true repentance? I discovered that my husband of 25 years had been seeing prostitutes for the past 7 years. I was completely blindsided by this. He says that he has committed this to God and he will never do it again. He continually says that his infidelity had nothing to do with me. But why would he find it so easy to disrespect me over and over again? He says that forgiveness is between he and God only. He says that there is no need for personal counseling for him, because this is between he and God. He has asked me to forgive him. Is it wrong for me to want to see some concrete signs of true repentance? What should it look like? I cannot judge his relationship with God from the outside. But how could I ever believe that his repentance is real? Or is it just sorrow for incurring consequences?

        1. OpticChump,
          I’m so sorry your husband has been unfaithful to you in a very gross way. I don’t have any specific advice about what true repentance would look like in this situation. I think DM has some good posts on what it should look like generally. I do have some impressions though. I’ve got a feeling your husband is not repentant because he “continually says that his infidelity had nothing to do with me”.

          You are his wife, so if he is having (or had) sex with other women it has everything to do with you. It’s a betrayal of your vows as a couple, and an intimate betrayal of you as a person. He is basically saying to you: *I* lived a double, immoral life as a husband and a lying adulterer. I admit that. However, *You* need to forget about that and keep living a singular, good, moral life; *you* need to continue to be the wife who is content to exist on only one side of my life. The respectable side you formerly thought was our real life together. However, now that you know there were two sides to me, I want you to just forget about the prostitutes and go back to status quo. That is your reward.

          To me it seems that he doesn’t see you as a real person and an equal in the marriage. He just wants you to cooperate in keeping the marriage together for his benefit, but it’s none of your business what he did behind your back and how he is going to resolve it in his mind (it’s between him and God).

          You were defrauded and put at high risk when he committed adultery. You’ve had real losses and hurt because of his adultery. He doesn’t seem to want to do anything to make it up to you. He only wants you to forget about it (no consequences). That doesn’t sound like repentance at all. I’m sorry that I don’t have more encouragement, but I do hope you find answers, and a path to a future filled with peace and truth.

        2. So sorry Optic Chump:(
          Songs of Joys response was excellent. I agree with it all…and yes, sadly that it does not sound like true repentence to me at all. Your husband should be doing personal counselling, marriage counselling with a tough counsellor of your choice, spiritual counselling (provided you have a church that would require repentence in order for them to support you staying *and* give you support if you righteously choose to divorce.
          Forgiveness and reconciliation are two separate entities and he will always have a relationship to deal with between him and God, but you are another matter, he is not guarenteed a restored relationship with you even if he repents! It sounds like he wants out of consequences and wants his words to be enough to convince you. No, you need changed actions over time, a demonstration of brokenness, openness, humility, willingness to have complete accountability to your church leaders, and a true account for what he did. Which he has not given you. This is about you. He was unfaithful to you. This IS personal.
          Have the knowledge from Gods Word that no adulterous can satistfy…it says they bring poison, as opposed to the wife who can satisfy and bring good.
          You could check out Chumplady.com that DM posts on too…lots of swearing going on there, but you will find that the words your husband said to you to try to convince you to stay etc have been said by hundreds of other cheaters and your situation and relationship are actually not unique. Face the truth and do hard things here. Tell the church leaders. Demand change. Require a separation where you can heal and see how his actions are. Start the process of legal separation. If there is true repentence he will not fight the consequences and you will not have to guess at repentence if he truly is. It would be obvious.

        3. OpticChump,

          My heart goes out to you. That is not right. And his response does not even register on the genuine repentance scale, IMO. Minimally, he ought to go to the doctor, get tested for STDs, and show you the results. Seven years with strange is risking your well-being as well! Sadly, I would recommend you going in as well for STD tests.

          Here is what I wrote about signs of real repentance a while back: http://www.divorceminister.com/signs-of-real-repentance/

          I think it would be unwise to take him at his word that he is done cheating. Remember he lied and cheated on you for SEVEN YEARS! That is a long time to live a double life. It reveals who he REALLY is that he could do that for that long. Changing from that does not normally happen overnight and without outside help, IMO.

          Glad you found your way here! You are not alone, and never forget that you are worthy of love.


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