If a person commits fornication or adultery against their spouse are they obligated to reveal that fact to their spouse or can they just repent to God?
This question recognizes that all sins are against God and repentance before God is essential. The question raised is whether one must reveal that sin to the wife because the sin is also a wrong against her. There is no scripture that speaks directly to this issue in this context. In this context four persons have been sinned against – three human (the spouse, the unfaithful husband, and the woman with whom the act was committed) and one divine (God). Of the four, the wife is the only one who does not know. The husband and the woman committed the act and God knows all that is knowable. Is the wife entitled to know?
Perhaps the place to start is to learn what repentance means. The Greek word from which it comes means simply a “change of mind.” It is generally considered to have three elements: 1) intellectual; 2) emotional; and 3) volitional. The first is a change of view, including a recognition of sin as involving personal guilt, defilement, and helplessness. The second is a change of feeling, manifesting itself in sorrow for sin committed against a holy and just God. The third is a change of purpose, a turning away from sin, and a disposition to seek pardon and cleansing.
While the question did not ask whether the husband should also repent toward the wife as well as to God, that is an important question. Since the sin was committed against the wife the wife’s forgiveness is needed. When forgiveness is needed from another human, what needs to be done? The same three elements are present but there is a difference between those sinned against – God and the woman know what happened; the wife does not know. How then can she forgive? How can she ever know that she has been sinned against and that her forgiveness is needed? Obviously, she could learn of it from some person who knows (the woman involved, perhaps because she is upset that the husband did not divorce the wife and marry her, or because she is “getting even” with one who deceived her into thinking he was not married), or from someone who saw or was told what happened. Would it be better for the wife to learn from the husband and feel once deceived, or from a third party and feel twice deceived (the act and the cover up)? Is the cover up justified because “my wife isn’t strong enough to hear of the wrong and continue in the marriage, or my wife isn’t able psychologically to handle such a disclosure? Such an approach smacks of a selfish husband (already demonstrated) wanting to eat his cake and have it to, so he decides for the wife that she doesn’t need to know. Could it be that it is the husband who really can’t take the heat for his sinful misconduct?
Perhaps the parable of the Prodigal Son who sinned against God and his father speaks to the situation: “18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.” Luke 15:18-19.
That said, those reading this must realize that there is much information that is lacking. Was this a one time lapse? Did it happen before, the wife forgave, but said that if it ever happened again forgiveness would not be forthcoming? Had the wife indicated that divorce would be the result if it ever happened the first time and this was the first time? Does the husband wish to continue the marriage because divorce is expensive? Is he seeking to justify his unfaithfulness by blaming the “other woman” for vamping him, instead of recognizing that no man can be vamped who does not put himself in temptation’s way and who knowingly or unknowingly wants to be vamped? Often in questions like this such facts are omitted because the inquirer feels that omitting them will make it more likely that the answer will be to his or her liking. Whatever the answers to these and other questions might be, the husband still has a problem with God, his wife, and the other woman. He needs the forgiveness of all.
You Must Hear the Gospel
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
You Must Believe
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You Must Repent
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You Must Confess
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
You Must Be Baptized
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You Must Be Faithful Unto Death
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)