Can Two Non-Christians, Involved in Adultery, Be Baptized?

Question:

I want to hear about your views on this particular topic. There’s this man who is married with kids. He had some problems with his wife — she being aggressive and abusive. He met another woman while he was still married to his wife and had sexual relations with her. He eventually divorced his wife, and now he’s planning to marry this new woman he is currently seeing. These two who are now involved in a relationship are not Christians. The question is: Can these two (admitting that they are in an adulterous relationship) seek forgiveness and be baptized for the remission of their sins and start going to church together serving God?

Answer:

Certainly, these two can seek forgiveness, be baptized for the remission of their sins and serve God the rest of their lives.  That is the only way they will ever obtain salvation.  However, they will not be able to find forgiveness if they continue in their adulterous relationship together.  The reasons are numerous:

  1. The only God-given reason for a divorce is adultery.  “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9).  Notice the person who is the one committing the adultery, as stated in your question, is not permitted to marry again.  In your given situation, the man’s wife may divorce him for adultery, but he, being the offender, will always be an adulterer unless he finds repentance.
  2. Baptism removes sins (Acts 2:38). A prerequisite to baptism is repentance. Repentance means “to regret” to “change one’s mind” [Vines Complete Expository Dictionary].  The man in your question will be unable to demonstrate his regret (repentance) for his sinful actions by maintaining the sinful relationship.  A man who takes another person’s money cannot repent unless he returns the money he took.  Likewise, a man who takes another person’s spouse cannot repent unless he returns the spouse he took.
  3. Just because a person desires to repent does not mean they will find it.  Esau was such a person who wanted to repent but wasn’t willing to do what it took to repent.  “For you know that afterward, when he [Esau] wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears” (Hebrews 12:17). The only way this man will find repentance is by having no further relationship with anyone other than his spouse.
  4. Marriage does not remove sin.  Forgiveness is not obtained by changing the civil relationship.  To God, the man who commits adultery and marries another is an adulterer in his new civil relationship (Matthew 19:9).  God only approves of the marriage He binds regardless of the number of civil relationships that person might have in the future (John 4:17-18).  To God, these two are “shacking up.”
  5. Hypothetically speaking, if the man was baptized (assuming he regretted his sinful conduct) and was forgiven at that moment in time, if he ever has sexual relations with another woman other than his wife, even in a newly created civil relationship, he once again has committed the sin of adultery.  It would have been better for him had he never been baptized (Hebrews 10:26-27; II Peter 2:20-22).

I’m sorry to say the man in your question will have to remain unmarried the rest of his life or be reconciled to his wife (I Corinthians 7:10-11).  If he is willing to repent of his adultery, then he could be baptized to have his sins removed (Acts 2:38).

Steve Hamilton
shamilton@rap.midco.net