Is Adultery the Unpardonable Sin?

“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” -Jesus to the Disciples, John 20:23, ESV

Is Adultery the Unpardonable Sin?


Short answer: No. Adultery is pardonable.

But an awful sin has happened that needs pardoning.*

What does obtaining a pardon mean?

Pardon in the legal and political sense requires someone who has already been convicted of a crime. They are seeking a pardon. I am thinking especially about the sense of how a president can pardon a criminal and clear him of his crimes. The pardon is about wiping out the sentence already handed down with the conviction of the criminal as I understand it.

When it comes to forgiving adultery, Christians too often skip over the conviction part.

Has the adulterous spouse owned that they deserve their marriage to end by committing adultery (e.g. Deut. 22:22, Jer 3:8, Mt 5:32, etc)? Do they agree that they have done a grievous thing wounding many and defying God’s commands? Have they embraced that they do not deserve mercy? Are they in a humble place to receive forgiveness?

Or do they just want a quick pardon so that they can keep on sinning against God and their families without worrying about the consequences of that sin?

One does not pardon someone who is already free of ever being convicted. They have to be liable for wrongdoing to need a pardon. In other words, you did something very bad if you need a pardon.

Yes, adultery is a pardonable sin. However, the sinner must recognize she did something that needs a pardon and then humbly seek it. If adulterous spouses think they do not need a pardon, then adultery is for them an unpardonable sin as they lack both the insight and humility necessary to obtain it.


*Partly inspired by thoughts in the Relevant Magazine Online article entitled, “How Do I Recover From Being the ‘Other Woman’?” In particular, I was inspired by this line: “This isn’t the unpardonable sin, but it does need to be pardoned.” Read more here.

***Forgiveness is important for the faithful spouse regardless of the adulterous spouse’s state of mind. The faithful spouse needs to let go of the pain handing it over to God so that what was done no longer controls or continues to cause suffering for him or her. We do not need to punish our adulterous spouses. God sees it all, and He is both wise and just. And this process of forgiveness will take time for such deep wounds. Pardon as I use it here is more about reconciliation in marriage. I do not think pardons ought to be granted in that sense without clear conviction and evidence of humility in the adulterous spouse. It is not wise or safe to return to a marriage where the adulterous spouse remains arrogantly tied to his or her adulterous ways. Doing such knowingly keeps the door open to further sin and causes damage to both partners emotionally and spiritually as I see it.

10 thoughts on “Is Adultery the Unpardonable Sin?”

  1. Thanks Divorce Minister for the scripture quotes.
    I have benefited so much from following the Holy Ghost. My church had disciplinary counsels… But they exiled and punished me! the victim & kept him.
    Then they had the audacity to ask me to humbly submit to their judgment.
    No. So long as I have a conscience, I will not go to hell by agreeing with what I know is wrong. Let them follow their conscience, but I have too much at stake.

    1. That’s awful on their part, Mountain Lily. Glad you had the discernment not to submit to a group that already demonstrated a serious lacknof discernment themselves. So sad.

  2. Whoops sorry wrong button
    I guess as my husband is still with the other woman nearly 2 years on he is unrepentant and does not accept what he did as wrong. We will I hope soon be divorced, it has been a long drawn out process. Will it still be a sin for him to keep on with his adulterous relationship? In civil law I guess it will cease to be adultery. I do not think that he will repent then, he may regret it because I don’t think thing’s are turning out as he would want but that is different. When I spoke to him of repentance all he said was that’s pretty emotive isn’t it
    He can never undo the hurt he has caused so many people, not just me and the children but all his family and all mine, and many friends. But admitting he did wrong would be something
    I suppose if he is not concerned about his soul I should not worry about it either but it is hard

    1. ExH is still with the OW too. It has been a sad path. He has destroyed so much. I know we can choose mercy if we repent, but if he doesn’t then he has to deal with the just consequences of his choices.
      I chose to purify my heart through Jesus. I have learned so much in the process. The thing that I have been thinking about today, is how to swallow what I have learned about people.
      In particular, seeing their true, unpleasant selves (rather than their shiney projections) has been a paradigm shift.

  3. Divorce Minister, I have wondered too, can you explain how the Lord sees the continued affair relationship, even after the civil divorce has take place? Is that relationship, especially if they remarry the affair partner, now considered acceptable or is that relationship still “tainted”?

    1. My short answer, Spiritwoman: The remarriage of the adultery partner is prohibited following divorce by Jesus Himself (e.g. Mt 19:9, Mk 10:11-12). Remarriage for cheaters is adultery as long as the divorce is non-Biblical. The divorce obtained by an adulterous spouse is sinful and VERY non-biblical. I do not think adultery is unpardonable; however, I am not sure Scripture allows Christian adulterous spouses to remarry if they destroyed their marriage through adultery. The Bible seems clear that they do not get the option to remarry without sinning (i.e. committing adultery as Mk 10:11-12 indicates), which is another reason why cheaters ought to be incredibly grateful if a faithful spouse gives them an opportunity to rebuild that which they destroyed through adultery.

  4. For sure in our denomination remarriage after divorce is not permitted in church if the couple had an affair which broke up the previous marriage . so my husband and the woman he is with could not marry in church should they decide to marry.
    And even if it was with someone else the divorce papers will have the cause of the divorce is adultery so it would not be guaranteed that they would be allowed to remarry in church unless basically he had truly repented of his adultery

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