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Can a person “living in sin” be forgiven?

Can he be forgiven? Yes, he can be forgiven if he stops the sinful behavior. However, it must be noted that adultery is a legitimate ground for a Christian divorce, which either he or his wife should seek, if they cannot reconcile. 

For the Christian we believe that there are only two circumstances by which a marriage may be dissolved. The first circumstance is adultery (which is apparent in this situation). The second is desertion by an unbelieving spouse. 

(1) Adultery: “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife [husband], saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her [him] to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her [him] that is divorced (for a reason other than fornication) committeth adultery.” (Matthew 5:32) 

(2) Desertion by an unbelieving spouse: “But if the unbeliever leaves let him [her] do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.” (1 Corinthians 7:15) 

Obviously, the first of the above circumstances applies and the second may also apply if the Christian’s wife is an unbeliever who happened to desert him. Regardless of the circumstances, no matter how sad, until a divorce is finalized the Christian must stop knowingly living in the sinful state of continual adultery if he wants the Lord to forgive him. 

The Bible is clear that sexual relations are allowed only within the bonds of marriage. The vows to love, cherish and be faithful for better or worse, in sickness and health unto death are serious promises to Christians who choose to live in accordance with God’s will. The marriage covenant requires wholehearted commitment, exclusivity, and unswerving loyalty to one’s partner. 

Jesus tells us just how sacred the institution of marriage is in Matthew 19:6,

“So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Matthew 19:6

Since the Christian marriage is also an earthly picture that symbolizes the heavenly union between Christ and his bride, when marital problems arise it is the obligation of both parties to prayerfully ask the Lord for guidance to find a way to set matters right. 

It is, therefore, important to remember that when a Christian strays and engages in fornication outside the marriage covenant, he is putting his own personal desires or perceived needs ahead of God’s sacred laws. This behavior is sinful, unacceptable to God, and must be ended if the Christian desires forgiveness.

For more on how to deal with a challenging marriage listen to, “I Don’t Think I Love My Spouse Anymore. Now What?”