Abstain From Fornication

By Mike Willis

Immorality has always been a problem to society. Through the centuries, God has destroyed nations, cities, and the world population because of immorality. The flood (Gen. 6-8), Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19), the Amorites (Gen. 15:16), and Israel (see the prophets) are examples of God’s punishment of immorality.

In America, sexual immorality is widespread. “The latest figures in a highly respected new study by Johns Hopkins University professors Melvin Zelnik and John F. Kantner indicate that nearly 50 per cent of the nation’s 10.3 million young women age 15 to 19 have had premarital sex. The percentage has nearly doubled since Zelnik and Kantner began their surveys in 1971” (Newsweek [1 September 1980], p. 48). The Alfred C. Kinsey report which interviewed 17,500 people between 1938 and 1956 demonstrated that sexual immorality has been commonplace for many years. However, in the last two decades, that which was committed in secret and covered up is now practiced and discussed without shame. “Once chastity was something to be guarded – or lied about when lost. Now an uncommonly virtuous teen-ager lies to protect the dirty little secret that she is still a virgin” (Ibid., p. 49).

American society is troubled by sexual immorality. Not only are our teenagers experimenting with sex, our adult population is also promiscuous. Couples decide to live together without the marriage ceremony and the couples range in age from college students to those on social security. Many marriages are destroyed or damaged by an adulterous affair by one or both marriage partners. If there is ever a time and place for preachers to be preaching against fornication as a danger to the souls of men, now is the time and America is the place. America resembles Israel in Jeremiah’s day. He described his society saying, “the land is full of adulterers” (23:10) and “every one neighed after his neighbor’s wife” (5:8). The situation in America is no better. Perhaps some of us have been reserved in our preaching because of our own reservations associated with modesty; though we must not allow the pulpit to become a place for vulgar speech, we must use the language of Scripture to teach what it says about the sin of fornication.

Fornication Is A Sin

Inasmuch as those who deny that there are absolute standards for ethical conduct have made progress in our society, we need to reemphasize that fornication is sinful. Fornication is sinful today just as it was in the first century; there is no circumstance in which fornication is not sinful. Those who say that “fornication may be sinful for you but it is not for me” are mistaken; fornication is sinful for every man (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 6-18; Gal. 5:19; etc.).

Fornication is a grievous sin. The punishment for adultery, under the Mosaical law, was death (Lev. 20:10); premarital sexual relations demanded that the man marry the young maiden or pay the dowry (Exod. 22:16-17). In the New Testament, fornication is the only sin which frees the innocent party from the marriage vow and gives him the opportunity for remarriage. Indeed, fornication is a grievous sin.

Fornication Has Disastrous Consequences

The consequences of fornication are so serious that the wise man warned repeatedly of its dangers:

. . . To deliver thee from the strange woman . . . which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God. For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead (Prov. 2:16-18).

But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword (Prov. 5:4).

Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be bumed? . . . But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul (Prov. 6:27-28,32).

The effects of this sin include the following:

1. The sin of fornication separates a person from God (Gal. 5:19-21). The physical consquences of fornication formerly deterred some from committing the sin; the fear of an unwanted pregnancy and the public shame and embarrassment of an illegitimate baby prevented some from committing fornication. That deterrent to fornication has been removed by the various contraceptives and abortion clinics. Consequently, many more people are involved in the sin of fornication.

We need to be reminded that an unwanted pregnancy might be prevented or terminated. No one on earth may know about the sin except the two participants. However, “the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Prov. 15:3). He knows when the sin is cominitted. The sin separates the sinner from God, bringing him into a state of spiritual death and in danger of eternal damnation in hell.

2. The sin of fornication endangers the physical body. Trying to deter the young in his day from the sin of fornication, the wise man warned, “And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed” (Prov. 5:11). Fornication leads to several venereal diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea, and more recently AIDS. Because of the dangers to the physical body, some immoral people have changed their lifestyle; casual sex is not as popular as it once was.

3. The sin offornication damages the emotions of man. When a person engages in pre-marital or extra-marital sexual relationships, he violates his own conscience; a burden of guilt weighs heavily upon his mind. Until the sinner repents or becomes calloused in his sin, he will undergo the same inner turmoil as did David when he committed the sin with Bathsheba. He described this turmoil saying,

When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer (Psa. 32:3-4).

Young people who decide to experiment with sex find their feelings of guilt linger long after the momentary pleasure of the sin has past. Even the psychologists are recognizing this.

“Sex before 16 or 17 is counterproductive emotionally, ” says Claudette Kunkes, a clincial psychologist at The Door, an adolescent treatment center in New York. “Younger kids haven’t developed the ego functions which are crucial in making their own choices about sex. The younger girls I’ve interviewed never really enjoyed it” (Ibid.).

Tender young things are sampling sex before its season before they are out of dental braces – and then feeling the anguish of remorse (Ibid., p. 53).

The psychological troubles from fornication will be brought into the marriage. One’s husband or wife will have trouble accepting that another has committed fornication with his/her mate. The participant will have trouble blotting out the remembrance of his involvement in that sin.

4. Fornication damages and destroys the marriage. When fornication is committed by someone who is married, his sin frequently causes the destruction of the marriage; if the marriage is not totally destroyed by the sin of fornication, pain and anguish which leave deep scars result. Some become so inflamed by passion that they throw away 20 years of committment to their spouse and children. Their children suffer through the agonies of a divorce and then are raised in a single-parent home which, however conscientiously managed, is not the ideal home which God ordained as an environment in which to rear children.

Yes, fornication has its consequences. Even its temporal consequences should lead a person to abstain from fornication. Its eternal consequences make the commission of fornication a form of spiritual suicide.

Fornication Is Not Gratifying

I do not mean to indicate by this statement that there are no pleasures in fornication; even the Scriptures recognize that sin has its pleasures (Heb. 11:24-25). However, sin’s pleasures are fleeting and momentary. The way of sin is not the way of deep and abiding happiness.

Those who are searching for sexual happiness are looking for it in the wrong place when they search for it in the bed of fornication. The psychologists are just now beginning to write about the dissatisfaction which people are finding in sex without committment. Those who have disregarded the commandments of God and engaged in fornication are now finding that their casual sexual relationships – one night stands with strangers and acquaintances – do not satisfy their emotional needs.

Those who are seeking sexual happiness need to quit looking for it in the bed of fornication and recognize that it can be found only in a monogamous relationship in the marriage bed (Heb. 13:4). The wise man advised,

Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets. Let them be only thine own, and not strangers’ with thee. Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love. And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger? (Prov. 5:15-20)

Truly, God’s way is best for mankind. One will find more lasting and gratifying fulfillment in the sexual relationship in a marriage than he will find in fornication, adultery, homosexuality, incest, bestiality, polygamy, polyandry, or any other immoral sexual relationship.

Lust Leads To Fornication

I would hope that those who are reading this have been in agreement with me that fornication is a soul-damning sin which also leads to temporal sorrow. We need to consider what induces men and women to commit fornication.

Some younger women do not understand that a man’s sexual desires are aroused through looking at the nakedness of the female body. Both experience and the Scriptures say as much.

Lust not after her beauty in thine heart (Prov. 6:25).

But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart (Matt. 5:28).

Some are described as having “eyes full of adultery” (2 Pet. 2:14). Adultery and fornication proceed out of the heart of man (Matt. 15:19).

This being the case, there are some things which we should avoid which are provocative and stimulating by nature. Here are some of them:

1. Lewd books and movies. Pornography is a scourge to our society. The lascivious magazines such as Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler arouse the desires of men. Many of the movies on television and available at the video rentals depict scenes of passion which arouse the lusts of men. Pornography leads to other forms of sexual immorality including fornication, adultery, rape, incest, homosexuality, etc. If we are going to possess ourselves in sanctification and holiness, we must abstain from pornography.

2. Immodest dress. We men must avoid places where women are scantily dressed and women must be sure to dress modestly. The woman sins when she dresses like a harlot (Prov. 6:10) or in such a manner as to arouse the sexual appetites of men. She should not wear sexually arousing clothing in the presence of any man other than her husband. Some clothing is sexually stimulating, including swim wear (whether one or two-piece), shorts, halter and tube tops, skin-tight pants, low neckline blouses, and any other garment which might be too revealing. Men need to avoid places and circumstances which might be tempting. Though there is nothing wrong with the exercise of swimming, the public beach and swimming pool are places where scantily clothed women dress in lascivious attire. A Christian will avoid such places.

3. Petting. The dating practice of prolonged petting frequently leads to fornication. Teenagers who find some secluded road to go “parking” and engage in long sessions of petting and necking are playing with fire. Sometimes the petting goes on at the house while the parents are both away from home at work. Christians will avoid heavy petting.

4. Dancing. The modern dance has as its attraction sex appeal. It is lascivious or lust producing. The modern dance is not more pure than the dance of the 1950s and 1960s; it is more lewd and provocative. Christians will not engage in dancing.

5. Drinking. When David tried to get Uriah to go in to his wife Bathsheba that he might think that the baby which was conceived in adultery was Uriah’s own child, he used wine to get Uriah drunk. He did it for the same reason it is used today. David wanted to get Uriah to do while drunk what he would not do while sober. Alcohol breaks down one’s inhibitions. To preserve one’s moral purity, a Christian should abstain from strong drink.

Sometimes young people and weak Christians get the idea that old folks just do not want them to have any fun when they are told not to dance, drink, watch R and X-rated movies, and other such things. That is not the case. Rather, we want to guard our children from the sin of fornication – to protect their souls from damnation, their bodies from disease, their hearts from anguish, and their homes from destruction. We urge young people not only to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, ” but also to avoid those things which create temptation.


We live in an ungodly age. So has every generation of Christians since the ungodly world crucified Jesus. Like the Christians before us who lived in ungodly eras of time, we must not be conformed to this world (Rom. 12:1-2). We must be willing to be different, strong enough to walk according to the revelation of God instead of according to the course of the world.

As Christians, let us “flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18) and “abstain from fornication” (1 Thess. 4:3). Should the temptation to commit fornication present itself, let us flee from it like Joseph. To keep the temptation as far removed as possible, let us avoid those things which create and stimulate one’s inordinate desires and passions. “But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil” (2 Thess. 3:3).

Guardian of Truth XXX: 9, pp. 258, 278-279
May 1, 1986