By Ron Daly
You and I live in a very promiscuous society! Only a few years ago, men and women in this “great” country reverenced God and embellished their pattern of thinking according to the sacred principles of the Bible. Today it is different. Most of the inhabitants of this nation do not display any respect for the teaching of the Scriptures concerning morality – the quality of being pure in sexual conduct.
Many factors are contributing to the widespread sexual immorality which is rampant in our age. The communication networks such as television and radio networks, pornographic magazines. and false philosophies such as agnosticism, atheism, humanism, and the “New Morality” are responsible for disseminating the “do it if it feels good” syndrome! As a matter of fact, the sins of lying denominationalism, and racial prejudice are possibly the only transgressions which are more common than the gross sin of immorality!
Another factor which aids in the advancement of sexual immorality is immodest apparel. During the summer months, manufacturers distribute swimming attire such as bikinis (extremely brief two-piece bathing suits for women), and swimming “trunks” for men which are usually tight and enticing to individuals of the opposite sex and to men (?) who have homosexual tendencies. A person in his “right mind” will be properly clothed (Mk. 5:15), having understood the injunction of inspiration (1 Tim. 2:9-10) “that women adorn themselves in modest apparel . . . .
This same principle is applicable to men in their demeanor and character of dress. Miniskirts, low cut blouses and dresses, shorts, see through dresses, and tight slacks ought to be eschewed by all persons who have self-respect and who are determined to live discreetly in the midst of a crooked generation.
Definition of Fornication
The Greek word underlying the English word “fornication” is porneia, which is found 26 times in the Greek New Testament. Paul, in listing some of the evil works of the first century Graeco-Roman world includes “fornication,” porneid, in five of the references and puts it first on the list each time (1 Cor. 5:11; 6:9; Gal. 5: 19; Eph. 5: 3; Col. 3: 5). This undoubtedly emphasizes the type of sexually corrupt environment in which the Christians lived. The social, economic, political, and religious conditions of the first century were severely hostile towards Christianity. Each of these constituents posed a great threat to the stability of local congregations – especially in the Corinthian culture. If these factors are properly understood, it becomes imminently apparent why Paul so violently assailed the “works of the flesh. “
Porneia is defined by Arndt-Gingrich’s lexicon of the Greek New Testament (p. 699) as “prostitution, unchastity, fornication, of every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse.” The New International Dictionary of the New Testament Theology states (p. 497) that porneia means “unchastity, harlotry, prostitution, fornication.” Thayer’s lexicon (p. 532) has the following regarding porneia, “properly of illicit sexual intercourse in general. ” These quotations establish that porneia refers to the overt illicit sexual act.
There are several cognate forms of porneia found in the Greek text and they are: (1) porneuo (8 occurrences) and means “to prostitute, to practice prostitution, commit fornication, to give oneself to unlawful sexual intercourse, to prostitute one’s body to the lust of another, to practice sexual immorality in general.” (2) Porne (12 occurrences) and denotes “a harlot, prostitute, a woman who sells her body for sexual uses, any woman indulging in unlawful sexual intercourse, whether for gain or for lust.” (Note: A woman who is a prostitute has no morals, and thus cares not for her body, nor for* the stability of the society in which she lives. Her body is used for an instrument of gratification. Her spiritual consciousness has become saturated with putrification, slime, and rot.) (3) Pornos (10 occurrences) denotes “a man who prostitutes his body to another’s lust for hire, a male prostitute, a man who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse, a fornicator, the fornicator who has sexual intercourse with prostitutes, an immoral man.”
In the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology a very significant analysis is made on page 497, by H. Reisser as he states, “The word group (porneuo, porne, pornos, and porneia, RD) can describe various extramarital sexual modes of behavior insofar as they deviate from accepted social and religious norms (e.g. homosexuality, promiscuity, pedophilia, and especially prostitution).” Historical data leads one to conclude that porneid in its ancient setting also included the gruesome act of homosexuality. A discussion of porneia as it relates to homosexuality can be read in a book entitled Flesh and Spirit by William Barclay (pp. 24-28). Barclay cites historical sources which substantiates the homosexual tendencies of such men as Socrates and Julias Caesar who were lovers “of boys” and Caesar being a lover of King Nicodemes, of Bithynia.
In the New Testament we find at least four different usages of the term porneia which are as follows: (1) Of unlawful voluntary intercourse of an unmarried person with anyone of the opposite sex (1 Cor. 7:2; 1 Thess. 4:3). In the two texts, Paul by guidance of the Holy Spirit advocates marriage to help prevent a life of sexual immorality. (2) In at least two passages, fornication (porneia) is used in a broader sense as a synonym for adultery (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). All adultery is porneia (fornication), but not all porneia (fornication) is adultery (moicheia). (3) In other texts porneia refers to all forms of unchastity in a general sense (Acts 15:20,29; 21:25; Rom. 1:20; 1 Cor. 6:13,18; Eph. 5:3). (4) In other Scriptures, porneia refers to harlotry and prostitution (Rev. 2:14,20,21). The idea in these texts is the abandonment of the true worship of the true God, thus becoming harlot like. How porneia is used in a given text depends on the context.
Consequences of Fornication
As is true with all sin, sexual immorality has its consequences. Please note with me some of the effects of fornication upon those who participate in this work of the flesh.
One of the dangers involved in immorality is contamination of the body by the invasion of foreign organisms which under certain circumstances can cause rapid degeneration of vital organs. There are several kinds of venereal diseases that are capable of doing irreparable damage to important organs of the body such as the eyes, nose, mouth, heart, liver, spine, and brain. The crippling effects of venereal diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea, and herpes simplex virus are gruesome! Too, the effects which these diseases have upon the unborn child during its developmental stages can be terrifying indeed! The majority of babies born of untreated mothers suffering from the syphilitic germ are asymptomatic at birth, but around the third or fourth week they begin to sniffle, blisters appear on the face, buttocks, palms, and soles, and meningitis and saber shins (curved shin bones) develop. The disease can also cause deformed peg like teeth and loss of vision. In some cases an untreated mother will deliver a stillborn baby!
Secondly, shame attaches itself to all those persons who are recognized in a community as ones having contacted the diseases that are so common among the young generation. I must say, in all honesty that to a large extent parents are to blame. Many parents are not instructing their children in biblical principles, but to the contrary are endorsing their immoral activities by consenting to the use of contraceptives and other types of birth control which a single person should not need.
Thirdly, another heartbreaking consequence of fornication is that, in many cases it causes a disruption of the sacred marital union. Marriage is not only sacred, it is the closest intimacy which a man and a woman sustain to each other while robed in the flesh! There are certain privileges which marriage allows that are not right when participated in elsewhere; sexual cohabitation is such a privilege (Heb. 13:4; 1 Cor. 7:2-7). When one or both partners is guilty of fornication, the trust, sacredness, and bond of love deteriorates, and confidence crumbles. The greatest hurt, besides losing a loved and respected companion, which a spouse could feel is to discover that one’s mate has violated the marriage bed in having sexual union with a foreigner! Recognizing the magnitude (physical and mental capabilities) of fornication, the Lord specified it as the only reason why the “innocent” party could “put away” the guilty person and remarry (Matt. 19:9). And so often the children have to suffer the heartaches and anxieties of life without having their natural father and/or mother together to jointly rear them. Most adolescents are sensitive to any problems which fornication brings in the home. A great majority of young children have dedicated their lives to drugs, prostitution, violence, and insanity as a result of the disloyalty which they observe between the adults in the family.
Furthermore, when one is stigmatized as a “whoremonger,” reproach of the most abject kind is immediately placed upon him, his family, and the Lord’s church. This has certainly been done in the recent court case in Tulsa, Oklahoma involving a “sister” who admitted to having committed fornication with the former mayor of the town. The publicity has been tremendous. It seems that some believe that the elders and the local congregation acted as villains by reading a letter relative to her sinful actions before the local church in an effort to win her back to righteousness by love. Was this an invasion of privacy? What was private about it? She admitted to having “an affair” (which, in Bible terminology, is fornication)! She exposed herself. It would have been better for her, her children, the mayor, and the church had she repented and stopped fornicating!
When a congregation fails to discharge its duties faithfully toward fornicators and “withdraw” from them, irreparable injury is the consequence. Paul, the Lord’s apostle, understood the influence that immorality has within a community of believers and instructed the Corinthians to rid themselves of the brother who had his father’s wife (1 Cor. 5). It is quite possible that many unbelievers will not obey the gospel because they closely examine the lives of professed believers who are fornicators at heart. This causes the unbelievers to snarl at the truth and harden their hearts beyond the reach of God’s tender mercy, all because of the hypocrisy in the form of immorality in the life of a professed Christian.
Remedies For Fornication
There is help. All hope is not lost. Many were fornicators and came to themselves and decided to quit. They like Moses “chose rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season” (Heb. 11:24-26). The following is a list of things that can be done:
(1) Resolve in your heart that it is a sin against God (cf. Gen. 39:7-18). This will help you to see the severity of the act. If it is against God, then surely it is not desirable. For we should do things which glorify God, because we love Him.
(2) Do not place yourself in a situation where temptation is inevitable. Be wise. Be discreet. Watch the company you keep (1 Cor. 15:33; Prov. 4:14-19). Never be alone with a person of the opposite sex for long periods. When discussions are necessary for various reasons, have present your husband/wife or others who can witness that all is upright and above board.
(3) Preachers need to speak out and expose the sin from the pulpits, the bulletins, and radio programs. All sin must be condemned (2 Tim. 4:1-5). But, while condemning the sin of fornication remember to show concern and kindness to the one “caught up” in it possibly through weakness.
(4) “Flee fornication”! Concerning the emphatic words of Paul (1 Cor. 6:18) pheugete ten porneian, the Expositor’s Greek Testament (p. 820, Vol. 2) says “With vehement abruptness Paul turns from exposition to exhortation. ‘Flee fornication’ – other sins may be combated; this must be fled, as by Joseph in Potiphar’s house.” Friends, Paul gives a direct prohibition against fornication! There is not even one occasion for the Christian to consider committing the act of fornication, for it is, eis to idion soma harmartanei (against the body sinning). The word “flee” is from pheugete which is in the second person plural, present active imperative of pheugo which means “in a moral sense flee from, avoid, shun with accusative of the thing. . . ” (Arndt-Gingrich, p. 863). The fact that pheugete is present imperative connotes plainly the message of Paul. He literally says, “Be ye always fleeing sexual immorality! ” In chapters 5, 6, 7 of the First Corinthian epistle, Paul presents the case for abstinence from “sexual immorality.”
(5) Prayer is very useful. God will hear His children who are seeking to live right. Paul’s exhortation is “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). We are assured by the Hebrew writer, “For we have not a high Priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16).
The guaranteed way to receive forgiveness for immoral acts whether in or out of marriage is by means of repentance, confession, and prayer for the sin committed (Acts 8:22-24; 1 Jn. 1:7-9). This is the only way God will forgive any sin! Time is too short and eternity too long for us to take chances. Immorality should be avoided and the Christians must educate, exhort, and warn men about it in compassion, love, and concern for their souls! May God help us all.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 16, pp. 497-499
August 16, 1984