Fornication – The Acceptable Sin?
By Dr. Michael Henderson
In the Bible there are several sexual sins that are categorized under the term,”Sexual Immorality.” Not the least of these is, “Fornication.” However fornication has become an outdated, and in many places, acceptable sin in the late 20th and 21st centuries. As a matter of fact, many do not even know what the term “fornication” means. Many have never heard it since the advent of the modern Bible translation. This article focuses on what the Scripture says about this seemingly acceptable sin.
Fornication is mentioned 36 times in the KJV Bible, 32 times in the New Testament. In almost all modern translations the word has been substituted with, “Sexual Immorality” and has come to mean any number of sexual sins. However, sin is still sin and sin still separates a person from God. So why has this sin become so acceptable even in modern churches????
Have Christians Place a Low Value on this Sin?
It seems so. Many churches are at a loss as to how they can deal with the blitz of couples living together as “partners” instead of husband and wife. The issue goes much deeper than just a cultural acceptance being brought into the church. Understandably, like any other sin that non-believers practice, the church deals with the baggage of the non-believer as they turn to make a decision for Christ. But so-called “Christian Co-habitation?” This should rarely be an issue for the church! If the leadership in the church were to do something novel like teach the Bible and impress upon young and old the doctrinal reasons for sanctification and why it is so important to live withing the boundaries of biblical marriage that God has set forth in His word we wouldn’t see this mass acceptance. What it tells me is that the culture has a greater impact upon the lives of church-goers than the church does!! How sad!! What an indictment!
This co-habitation of so many couples and the churches penchant to turn the other cheek as a form of “acceptance” is one of the reasons the church has lost its impact in society. According to a April 2013 article from the Health Day website: Nearly half of women aged 15 to 44 years old “cohabited” outside of marriage between 2006 and 2010, compared with 43 percent in 2002 and 34 percent in 1995. The report is based on in-person interviews with more than 12,000 women in that age group. Can we expect to reach the world for Christ if we live just like them? They see nothing to be forgiven for. Dan Delzell, in an article entitled, Five Myths about Living Together Before Marriage listed the following as reasons given by cohabiting couples for doing so:
– Living together first will tell us if we are right for one another
– Living together will show us if we are sexually compatible
– We are just as committed to each other as a married couple
– Our friendship won’t suffer by moving in together
– We can love one another just as much without marriage
All of these are subtle deceptions (lies) meant to keep a person aloof of responsibility to God and others and soften the impact it has on those who disapprove. As my wife would say, “Why buy the cow if the milk is free?” That seems to be the attitude of this deception in society and the church is accepting it wholesale.
1) Why is the church accepting it?
2) What does the Bible say about it? Is it a serious sin?
In the Old testament it was defined as harlotry or prostitution. Any type of sexual relationship outside of the bonds of biblical marriage for whatever reason is prostitution. While all sexual intercourse between others other than married persons was forbidden by the Mosaic law, special prohibition was laid upon Israelite women from hiring themselves as prostitutes (Lev. 19:29; comp. 21:9); and, with special reference to the Phoenicians, they were forbidden to abandon themselves to the use of men (Deut. 23:17).- (McClintock Encyclopedia) It was also a capitol offense, albeit a forgivable offense as with any sin, closely related to adultery, as is represented in John 8:1ff. Of which Jesus referenced by telling the woman caught in sin to go and sin no more.
Adultery is sexual relations with someone outside of the marriage bonds. Fornication is sexual relations with another when not married. It is like the thief trying to enter the home another way or the stranger showing up at the wedding feast without a wedding garment. It is a counterfeit of God’s defined purpose for sexual relations. It is an abomination to the Father.
The answers are many as to why the church has accepted it. Here are some examples: The culture says it is ok so the Taboo is removed. They might offend some other long-time family members if they broach the subject. They may lose out on tithes and offerings. The pastor likes his job and may have to find a new one if he stirs up the issue. The leadership does not believe it is sinful. The leadership and congregation does not fear God. And here is a good one, “I will let the Holy Spirit take care of it.” Now most of us know that most know it is a sin, but unless the Word is preached they may never take it as a serious sin. But is it a serious sin?
What does the Bible say?
1) John 8:41, 44 – “You do the deeds of your father.” Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father-God.” You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. — In the passage Jesus teaches that the Satan , the devil, is the father of lies and that any act of disobedience to God, spiritually or other, is directly or indirectly related to his lies. It also weighs the heaviness of the sin in the eyes of the Jewish leaders who held it to be unclean.
2) 2 Corinthians 12:19b-21 – …We speak before God in Christ. But we do all things, beloved, for your edification. For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced. — Paul was hoping when he came to the congregation that he would find them living the sanctified life but he feared this to be so. Conversely, he knew that if he found them living in sin (one of them being fornication) they would not enjoy his presence and rebuke for their way of representing Christ.
3) Ephesians 5:3 – But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; – Clearly God hates this sin as He does others.
4) Colossians 3:5 – Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
In the Bible fornication is also represented as spiritual harlotry. Why would God use that word in reference to a relationship to Him? Because when a commitment is made to be united with the church, the Bride of Christ, through the salvation Jesus has provided by faith in Him, the Christian makes a firm resolution to give themselves to the Lord and follow His dictates for life and living trusting Him for guidance, protection, provision, and wisdom. To follow after another teaching that flows contrary to God’s word is fornication. It is the creation of a relationship with another outside of the trusting bonds of an existing relationship to God. In the physical world the relationship of one man with one woman in marriage in obedience to God’s covenantal purpose for families represents God’s relationship to us spiritually. He is the Groom we are the Bride. To disdain that teaching by co-habiting with another is fornication. It is a sin and it is a sin that must be repented of.
The Church needs to get a backbone and start trusting Jesus to build His church instead of allowing a little leaven to leaven the whole lump. The depth of the faith of the leadership in the church can be measured by how they approach this issue and any like it. A church can still be very loving and kind yet issue forth a firmness God requires toward His word. At stake is the witness of the Body of Christ, a clear measure of the Fear of God, and whether we really desire to abide in Him. Couples that live in fornication are in direct disobedience to the Father. They in effect are saying I care more for pleasing myself and my partner than I do for pleasing the Lord.
4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. John 15:4-8 (NKJV)
My intent for this article is to glorify the Lord and see spirtitual growth in all who state they are Christian. You cannot grow in Christ when you do not listen to His words. May God give all of us grace to do all He leads us to do with fear and with trembling.