For too long pastors and other ministers have avoided speaking frankly about sexual sins. Perhaps we’re afraid when psychologists tell us that those who do speak out, have some kind of hidden problem themselves, a subliminal obsession that rises to the surface every time one speaks on the subject. Therefore many have remained quiet for fear of being accused of “having a problem.” Well, first, I think such psychology has become a ploy of Satan, and second, being now in my sixties, I can speak out regardless of what naysayers may say. And besides, there are no greater sins of our generation than sexual sins and the Bible is clear about what God thinks of them.
“No sin that a person commits has more built-in pitfalls, problems, and destructiveness than sexual sins. It has broken more marriages, shattered more homes, caused more heartache and disease, and destroyed more lives than alcohol and drugs combined. It causes lying, stealing, cheating, and killing, as well as bitterness, hatred, slander, gossip, and unforgivingness.”1 In our day it is not only destroying societies and cultures but is destroying individuals and families within the very church of Jesus Christ.
When the apostle Paul told the Corinthians to “flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18), he meant it! When I pastored in Ft. Collins, CO, just down the street from Colorado State University, a single Christian student, living in the dorms (something a believer should not do at a state university), told me that he now felt premarital sex was OK because, after all, God had made him that way. I asked him if he was a believer and he said he was. I asked him why. After a brief explanation he replied “because that’s what God told me I must do.” I then asked him why he stopped believing God. He was taken back by that question, so I took him to 1 Cor. 6:18 and asked him why he could believe God when He spoke about salvation but not when He spoke about fornication.
It has not been many years ago now that promise programs such as True Love Waits for teens were popular. Eventually even supporters like Christianity Today had to admit that all the pledge did was postpone teen promiscuity a few months.2 Why do Christians need to make human promises when they have commands in God’s Word? I could never participate in Promise Keepers for men for this same reason. If a Christian will not obey God when the command is clear in His Word, no amount of pep-rally atmosphere is going to overcome the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
“Fornication” is a general term in Scripture. It is translated from the word porneia from which, obviously, we get our English prefix porn as in pornography and pornographic. Whereas adultery refers to unfaithfulness among married couples, fornication refers to any and all sexual activity that is against the Word of God and the holiness of God. Its various forms give us the words fornication, harlot, whore and whoremonger, and the action of committing fornication.
“Adultery,” moicheia, in its various forms gives us the words adultery, adulterous, “adulterers and adulteresses” (Jas. 4:4), and the action, to “commit adultery.” These two words describing sexual sins are often combined in the same condemnation from God. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders” (Mk. 7:21). “Now the works of the flesh are these, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness” (Gal. 5:19). “But whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4).
It is tempting to fill this article with statistics showing that sexual promiscuity is rampant in our society but I’m sure the reader will agree that this is not necessary. One does not need to go looking for such evidence; it invades our lives at every turn. Pornography is so available today on television, in theaters, on the internet, that the conscientious believer must constantly guard his/her eyes from what is obvious, rather than sinfully seek out what is hidden. God’s Word says, “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee” (Prov. 4:25). “I have made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” (Job 31:1).
In addition to the visual pornography, the language of promiscuity is wallpapered all around our lives. The music industry, the commercial world, the language of the street, the internet, even the tedious noise of most restaurants, keep the believer on constant guard to protect his/her ears. “Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge” (Prov. 23:12). Who will dwell with God? “he that walketh righteously . . . That stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil” (Isa. 33:15).
Added to this sad cultural environment is the whole world of fashion which advertises its pornography even on the bodies of immature believers. Again, because psychologists warn us not to, we seldom say anything to the girl showing cleavage or the boy with his pants on the ground. Such a person has committed two out of the three sins here. Yes, it is wrong for any believer to look with lust at such things, but the believer who dresses like that both promotes nakedness and causes his/her brother or sister to sin.
There are two biblical truths that, when combined, are a most powerful force in this world: the lust of the flesh and the love of money. This demonical partnership feeds on itself. Until we all stand before God there will always be the lust of the flesh within human beings. And since this market is always available and thriving, there will always be those who will give it what it wants and peddle their wares for a price. It doesn’t matter that lives are shattered and homes are broken, or that a whole country is sold down the drain; the market is ready and the profit is there. Can you go anywhere in the world where this is not the case? This doesn’t mean the Bible and Christianity are not true, it rather proves the Bible true! “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:10). “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity” (Ecc. 5:10).
A growing problem is the promotion of homosexual behavior and a laissez-faire attitude toward premarital sex by some so-called Christian leaders. Brian McLaren, the leading voice within the postmodern, emergent church now tells his thousands of young followers, “Premarital sex is the norm, not the exception, for Christians as well as non-Christians and for Evangelicals as well as other brands. And it is the norm not by a few percentage points, either.”3 This statement was not given as a warning but as a fact of life for the postmodern Christian.
So what is a Christian to do?
How about this: pull up your pants, button up your blouse, turn off the movies, don’t visit those web sites, throw away the trash music, keep your hands off your boyfriend or girlfriend, and occupy your time with spiritual things! “What! Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
Of the 35 forms of moicheia and the 56 forms of porneia, more occur in 1 Corinthians chapters five and six than in any other Biblical context. Chapter five is the well-known reproof of the church by Paul for allowing known fornication to continue to take place among church members. They must quit feeling proud of their non-judgmental attitude and actions and make the judgment they should have made long ago—put the unrepentant one out of the church (1 Cor. 5:12-13).
But chapter six is the strongest admonition to sexual purity, perhaps, in the New Testament epistles. Within this chapter Paul says, “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid. What! Know ye not that he which is joined to a harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (vss. 15-17). Before we come back to those verses, let me take a short sidetrack.
God made two distinct persons when he created human beings (the multitude of ways and reasons can’t be discussed here). In this account in Genesis the Scripture also emphasizes the Tri-unity of the Creator God, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). Wayne Grudem writes,
There is some similarity here: just as there was fellowship and communication and sharing of glory among the members of the Trinity before the world was made, so God made Adam and Eve in such a way that they would share love and communication and mutual giving of honor to one another in their interpersonal relationship. Of course such reflection of the Trinity would come to expression in various ways within human society, but it would certainly exist from the beginning in the close interpersonal unity of marriage.4
Now we also have a great mystery in the New Testament, that believers are united to Christ in such a supernatural way that we are called the Bride of Christ. “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Eph. 5:32-33). So when Paul tells the Corinthians that “your bodies are the members of Christ,” and that they must not “make them the members of a harlot,” there is much at stake both in the divine-human relationship as well as the husband-wife relationship!
A husband and wife are both one body and one spirit. They experience, on a human level, fellowship not unlike the very Tri-une God Who created them. But two fornicators are only one body and that but for a brief time. They are not one spirit. However, the Christian man or woman is one body and also one spirit with Christ (vss. 15-17) and this oneness never wanes. The introduction of a foreign body into this divine-human fellowship is spiritual adultery (see Jas. 4:4). “Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (vs. 20).
And So . . .
The believer in this world is in for a fight. As long as he/she lives there will be war between the flesh and the spirit (Gal. 5:16-26). But there is victory for the believer who will yield himself/herself to God and not to the lusts of the flesh. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Rom. 6:12). “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (Rom. 6:16)?
The Bible also gives much practical advice. Joseph of old, when confronted by the advances of Potiphar’s wife, “left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out,” saying, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God” (Gen. 39:7-12). We are to “flee youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22) as Joseph did. We can “resist the devil” (Jas. 4:7) and at the same time “Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you” (Jas. 4:8). We can, with David, “set no wicked thing before mine eyes” (Psa. 101:3). It may be a struggle, but you can turn off the things that tempt you and not go to places that offend the Spirit which is in you.
David knew, as Joseph, that his sin with Bathsheba was against God. “Against thee and thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight” (Psa. 51:4). In addition, the prophet Nathan reminded David, “thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme” (2 Sam. 12:14). That is why Paul exhorts Titus to remind the young women to be chaste, “that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Tit. 2:4-5). Our perspective must be kept at all times. We are saved and kept on this earth for God’s glory and purposes, not our own. Let that be our glory and joy.
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Put away from thee a forward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.”
1. John MacArthur, First Corinthians (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984) 147.
2. “Virginity Pledge-Breakers,” Christianity Today, May 2004.
3. Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity (New York: Haprer One, 2010) 186-187.
4. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994) 455.