Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com

Must I confess past adultery I committed to my spouse?

QUESTION:

I have read many of your articles and they make so much sense and yet my mind keeps convicting me to the point of me actually feeling sick.  I really do hope you can help.  I did the unthinkable and cheated on my husband three years ago.  I absolutely feel terrible about it, repented and totally turned around. I feel so sic about what I have done to the point of hating myself.  I know God has forgiven me but I am struggling with the fact that my mind keeps telling me I need to tell my hubby. Also we have been struggling to fall pregnant for six years and it has been living hell for me as the only thing in my life I ever want is to be a mommy.  I have absolute fear in me that God might be withholding me from falling pregnant until I actually come clean with my hubby and tell him?  Could you maybe please try and help me to understand?  Am I totally wrong? Must I confess past adultery I committed to my spouse?

J.

ANSWER:

Wow! By your words I can tell you are in a world of hurt! You mentioned that you have read other articles I wrote regarding the issue of past adultery. Those principles still hold. I don’t know all the issues regarding the past adultery you are writing about, so I must respond with generalizations based on the information you have given. There is hope for you, so stay with me. Here are several things that come to mind. My main point: keep the affair between you and God. Massive and tortured wreckage will explode if you tell your husband. Here are my reasons.

1. You mentioned that my articles make sense to you. That is good, because it means you are sincerely looking for an answer to your dilemma. 

2. To summarize your situation: you committed adultery three years ago of which your husband does not know about. You repented, turned around, and are walking with God. However, your mind and feelings make you feel fear and terrible – a living hell, and you even hate yourself. You also believe God is punishing you by making you barren, and your biggest goal is to have children. 

3. Well, let’s walk through this quagmire. First things first: have you accepted Christ as your Savior, and are you a born again Christian? I will go on the assumption that you are; however, if not, then you need to receive Christ. There are other articles on the website that give you more detail, but it is simply admitting you are a sinner (which you have), believing there is a penalty to sin (hell), believe that Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is sufficient to take away for all time all the penalty of all your sin – period, and giving you eternal life. Faith is casting your full trust on Christ’s work like you would place your full trust in a parachute if you jumped out of an airplane. You simple talk to Him in prayer, asking Him for salvation, and believing His work is applicable to you personally. 

The Bible states, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9).

John quoted Jesus, “Behold, I stand at the door (of your heart) and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door (of your heart) I come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). Salvation is by faith alone through Christ alone.

4. With this, we can go on to other issues. I think the next issue is to understand emotions. I guarantee you that if you experience the emotions you describe (fear, terror, guilt, depression, despair, hopeless, and sick), then you are thinking those thoughts. You even say that your “mind” is telling you such and such. This is to be expected, because feelings always follows thoughts. For example, if you are feeling mad, then you are thinking mad; if you feel fear, then you are thinking fear. You are letting your emotions define reality for you. Your emotions are not God, God is God. The solution is to replace the condemning thoughts with accurate thoughts from the Bible.

5. The next issue is to understand your ultimate position in Christ. Paul wrote, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). As to the issue of forgiveness, the writer of Hebrews writes, “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time…For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:10, 12, 14; cf. 1 Peter 2:24; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Regarding your position, you stand forever forgiven from God’s standpoint. To say otherwise is insult the work of Christ and call God a liar.

There is also your relationship to God. You are His child, and He deals with you as His own child. Paul wrote, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16, 17). 

These are the facts of your case, regardless of what your thoughts may be telling you. If you condemn yourself, then you are exalting yourself over God. Remember what Jesus told the woman taken in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on sin no more” (John 8:11).

6. Finally, we need to come to the issue of confession to God. Granted, as a child of God, you have sinned. It is true that as children of God we will be disciplined (Hebrews 12:5-11), just as you and I were disciplined by our parents when we did wrong. God has removed the eternal punishment of sin from us through Christ, but not the discipline. Discipline carries the idea of correction while punishment carries the idea of being thrown into prison with no reprieve. 

The issue then comes to how to handle the discipline God gives regarding our sins while being His children. Our part to restore that family fellowship is to come clean with God to gain our Father’s forgiveness. In other word, we confess our sins to Him with the determination not to sin again (although I recognize that in our sinful nature, we will). 

Here is how John put it, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 1:8-2:2).

Two big words stand out: advocate and propitiation. Advocate means that Jesus is our defender or lawyer. The image is of being in a court, and being accused of a crime and us standing before God the Father who is the Judge. Jesus is defending us; Satan is our accuser (cf. Revelation 12:10). Propitiation simple means satisfaction. That is, God the Father is “satisfied” with the sacrifice Christ made on the cross to cover any penalty for our sin. Any charges against us are dismissed. 

The confession is to God, because it is Him we have sinned against. In light of his sin, King David said the following, “I acknowledged my sin to Thee, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’; and Thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5). I would suggest that you dwell, meditate and even memorize this Psalm along with Psalm 139. You must realize that you will experience His discipline for a while, but learn from you sins and mistakes. 

It is vital that you believe God. He promised that He has forgiven you. Believe Him. When those feelings of fear and guilt come to you, recall His promise. If you keep on beating up on yourself, naturally you will feel miserable. It also means you don’t believe God. Paul reminds us, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?...Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies” (Romans 8:31, 33). If we continue to condemn ourselves, then we are overruling God – we make ourselves to be greater than God. If God does not punish you, don’t punish yourself.

THE ISSUES WITH CONFESSING PAST ADULTERY

7. With this background in mind, I now come to your situation. I admit it is quite complicated. You said you repented and totally turned around. Evidently the affair is over for good. Great. I think it is good to say a word about “repentance.” Sometimes we think to repent we must grovel, cry, punish ourselves, or have some kind of intense emotional experience. The word (metanoeo) simply means to change one’s mind. In your case, you changed your mind about your sin, agreed with God as to its evil, confessed to Him, put away your sin, and learned from your mistake. 

I would not suggest that you confess your sin to your husband. It is wrong to think that if you confess your sin to your husband then God will give you children. That is not the way God works. A very good Vietnamese pastor friend once told me this Vietnamese proverb: “leave the dead chickens buried, if you dig them up they will just stink.”

If you confess your affair to your husband, it will surely “stink.” In fact, your husband may not ever want to have sex with you again, and actually divorce you. As the news comes out into the open public (and it will) you will wreck the family of the man you had an affair with. Your church will find out, and the news of the scandal will ripple through giving people juicy gossip to savor. Your own family will be shamed and lose face. The church may even want to publically “discipline” you. It seems selfish to put all those people through grief just so you might feel better and fanaticize that God will give you children. Put the matter behind you and get on with life. If having children is critical, then consider adoption.

There is also a spiritual element. Satan would love to keep you miserable. John wrote, “for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10). He accuses us, and even before God, but Christ is our defender and has paid the penalty for our sin.

If you choose to confess the affair to your husband, which is your choice, then I would suggest you do so in a counseling session with your pastor, or a professional counselor. But be ready to be emotionally slammed by many. 

I do hope you can get these matters resolved, and I know you will. Stay strong in the Lord, and rely on His love, mercy, and grace. Stay as close to Christ as you can. Stay in the Bible to put things perspective. Remember, God has your best interests at heart. 

Finally, nurse your soul on these comments by Paul, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:29). Believe Him.

Yours,

Dr. Newman

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