By David Watts
“Fornication” is a word that describes a class of sins that seem to be growing more and more common in this land. If fornication is not more prevalent today than at other times, then at least it is being committed more brazenly than in recent times. Many who are guilty of this sin speak of their actions without shame. Many who are not themselves guilty of fornication condone and excuse those who are guilty.
Some have been confused about the meaning of fornication. Authorities on the language of the N.T. define fornication as “illicit sexual intercourse in general.” This definition includes, “prostitution, unchastity … every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse.” Fornication is a broader word than adultery. It sometimes includes adultery (as in 1 Cor. 5: 1), and it is sometimes distinguished from it (as in 1 Cor. 6:9).
Since fornication includes any and all sexual cohabitation outside the bonds of lawful marriage, it includes the sin of premarital sex. By definition fornication includes the sexual intercourse involved in prostitution. In its broadest sense, fornication includes any and all adultery. And as a synonym for adultery, it includes the sin of all who are unscripturally divorced and remarried, or are married to someone who is unscripturally divorced.
God’s Law Is Unchanged
Some may consider censure of fornication as old-fashioned and irrelevant today, but actually no modern-day condition or circumstance alters, negates, or changes in any way God’s condemnation of fornication. If everybody in the world-committed fornication, it would still be iniquity. In fact, the ancient world was “filled with . . . fornication” (Rom. 1: 29), but the frequent commission of sin does not make it lawful.
Youthful passions are no excuse for fornication. The Bible says, “Flee also youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22). Those who wink at sexual promiscuity in young people are winking at a sin that will damn souls, young or old, to bell! The sickness or death of one’s marriage companion does not justify or excuse fornication. Paul said, “it is better to marry than to burn” (1 Cor. 7:9), but Paul did not say, “it is better to commit fornication than to burn.” The temporary or permanent deprivation of sexual liberties of lawful marriage does not justify fornication. The laxity of a church in disciplining fornicators does not excuse the sin. The church at Corinth was remiss in their disciplinary duty, but that laxity did not justify the fornicating brother (1 Cor. 5:1f).
The reply Jesus gave the Jews who brought before Him a woman taken in the very act of adultery (John 8) does not excuse fornication. After saying, “Neither do I condemn thee,” Jesus told the guilty woman, “Go and sin no more. ” Be assured that that same woman will be condemned in the judgment if she continued to persist in sin. Likewise, the fact that no one is perfect does not excuse fornication. It is true that we all sin against God, but that fact no more excuses fornication than it excuses stealing, rape or murder! Fornication is not justified by successfully hiding the sin, or by avoiding pregnancy, or by getting married after the sin has been committed! Nothing can make fornication right.
Some Facts About Fornication
(1) It is a sin that originates in the heart. Jesus said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications … These are the things which defile a man” (Matt. 15:1.8-19). (2) It is a sin against one’s own body. The Holy Spirit said, “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body” (1Cor. 6:18). (3) It is a sin against our Creator. Joseph in the O.T. knew this, and answered the seductress, “how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9). (4) It is a sin that CAN be resisted and avoided. God says, “Flee fornication,” and Joseph in the O.T. shows us how to do it. God does not require more than we can do, but “this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication” (1 Thess. 4:3). (5) It is the only sin permitting divorce and remarriage by an innocent husband or wife. Jesus condemned all divorce and remarriage-, except it be for fornication” (Matt. 19:9). (6) It is a sin that will keep those guilty of it out of the joys of heaven. “Let marriage be had in honor among all. and let the bed be undefiled: for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). Fornication is a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21), and those guilty of it must face the wrath of God (Eph. 5:3-6). (7) It is a sin specifically mentioned in teaching on church discipline 0 Cor. 5:9-11). The sin of fornication may have its appeal to the lust of the flesh, yet when viewed in the light of God’s word it is seen as an act of iniquity that will drag those stained by it into the depths of hell.
“Rahab the harlot” was justified (Jas. 2: 24). Jesus spoke of publicans and harlots going into the kingdom of God (Matt. 21:31-32). Some at Corinth had been fornicators before being washed, sanctified and justified (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Fornicators can be forgiven of this sin. But that forgiveness is not secured by merely ceasing to commit fornication, or by trying to outlive its guilt. Those out of Christ must believe and obey the Gospel in order to be forgiven of this, and every other sin. Wayward disciples must repent of their sin and pray for God’s pardon. Jesus spoke of one who was given “space to repent of her fornication” but “she repented not” (Rev. 2:22). May it not be so with any who read these lines!
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 28, pp. 11-12
May 17, 1973