Paul K. Williams
"Flee fornication," warned Paul (1 Cor. 6:18). And "flee" is what we must do if we are to succeed in keeping ourselves pure from sexual sins.
The Old and New Testaments are full of admonitions concerning sexual sins. These warnings are especially necessary, for the emotions involved are so strong that some of the mightiest of God's people have fallen victim to them. King David, whom God described as "a man after my own heart," fell victim to passion when he saw a beautiful nude woman. The adultery committed by the pair then led to a chain of sins, culminating in the murder of her husband and resulting in the death of the infant boy as punishment. The New Testament describes false teachers who used lasciviousness to entice newborn Christians (2 Peter 2:18), and some who taught their followers to commit fornication (Rev. 2:14-15, 20-23).
A number of sexual sins are enumerated in the New Testament, and it is noteworthy that all forms of immoral conduct are condemned, from the actual acts of illicit intercourse down to evil imaginations and "eyes full of adultery." A look at the terms used will help us to understand what Christians are to avoid.
Fornication and adultery are the two most often mentioned sexual sins. Adultery is used in its modern sense of sexual intercourse with the spouse of another. But fornication is used differently from its modern meaning. Vine defines it simply as "illicit sexual intercourse." Thus fornication is the more comprehensive of the two terms. I Cor. 6:12-20 deals in detail with this sin.
In Romans 1:26-27 and I Cor. 6:9, homosexual practices are condemned. ("Effeminate" is explained as "effeminate by perversion" in the margin of the New American Standard Bible.) These practices, which were so common among the Gentiles of Paul's day, are besetting sins of many in the United States.
Among the works of the flesh listed in Galatians 5:19-21 are three sexual sins: fornication, uncleanness, and lasciviousness. "Uncleanness" is a general term that includes all moral uncleanness. "Lasciviousness" is a word that is worthy of space in this article. Vine defines it as "unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, shamelessness, insolence." In the plural he defines it as "wanton acts or manners, as filthy words, indecent bodily movements, unchaste handling of males and females, etc." Thus, in this word are condemned many things common to our culture: modern dancing with its "indecent bodily movements" and "unchaste handling of males and females," petting, dirty jokes, scanty clothing such as shorts and bathing suits, pin-ups of nude or mostly nude women, and all the many other things which are calculated to arouse evil desires. In this category, also, is the enjoyment of lascivious things, the dwelling on them in the mind. "Standing on the corner, watching all the girls go bye is a form of lasciviousness.
Colossians 3:5 mentions passion and evil desire. "Passion" is defined as emotion rather than an act, an ungovernable desire in an evil sense. "Evil desire" is similar, being the active side of passion, a desire for what is forbidden, lust. Passion and evil desire are the results of indulging in lasciviousness.
2 Pet. 2:10 refers to the "lust of defilement," evidently unclean intercourse. And 2 Peter 2:14 talks about those with "eyes full of adultery."
As with all our God-given emotions, our sexual desires have both lawful and sinful uses. The lawful gratification of these desires in marriage is commended in the New Testament (1 Cor. 7:2-5; Heb. 13:4). But the Christian must shun the unlawful sexual practices.
Since the American culture is so sex-oriented and so filled with sex stimuli, the Christian must be vigilantly on guard against sexual sins at all times. Parents have an especially challenging job to guard and train their children that they may grow up free from the licentiousness so common in high school and college age young people. We must set examples of modest dress and conduct, and teach them to respect God's word.
It is apparent, too, that God does not approve the conduct of the majority of people. Dancing, mixed swimming, the wearing of too little clothing or clothing which is too tight, lascivious movies, books and magazines, and promiscuous petting are common. But the Christian must avoid them all. His standards must not come from the world, but from God.
May God help us to "be not fashioned according to this world: but be . . . transformed by the renewing of (our) mind." (Romans 12:2)
Truth Magazine IX: 1, pp. 4-5