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Fornication - The Acceptable Sin?

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 However fornication has become an outdated, and in many places, the acceptable sin in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries. As a matter of fact, many do not even know what the term "fornication" means. Since the advent of the modern Bible translation, many have never heard of it. This article focuses on what the Scripture says about this out-of-control acceptable sin.

Fornication is mentioned thirty-six times in the Bible (MT), thirty-two 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 (missing the mark) is still sin and sin still separates a person from God. So why has this sin become so acceptable even in modern churches????

UPDATE: Here is a testimony of life after living together:

Have Christians Placed a Low Value on this Sin?
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. But, the issue goes much deeper than just a cultural acceptance being brought into the church. Now, pastors and counselors must tangle with the strong emotions these couples display when the truth is proclaimed. The leadership in the church has a great need to teach the Bible in its fullness so that proper instruction is given to both young and old, including the doctrinal reasons for sanctification (spiritual growth). The importance of living withing the boundaries of biblical marriage that God has set forth in His word is part of this process. When it is not taught or avoided, the culture of darkness will have a greater impact upon the lives of church-goers than the church. When the whole counsel of God is abandoned we reap the consequence. How sad!! What an indictment against us! Has God called us to please Him or man? Brothers and Sisters, we need not fear the culture (Luke 12:5).

This ever widening practice of co-habitation and the churches penchant to turn the other cheek, is a form of "acceptance" and 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? In their minds, there is 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.

Three Questions:
1) Why is the church accepting it?
2) What does the Bible say about it?
3) 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 couples, was forbidden by the Mosaic law, special prohibition was laid upon Israelite women from hiring themselves out as prostitutes (Lev. 19:29; comp. 21:9). According to the McClintock Encyclopedia, with special reference to the Phoenicians, they were forbidden to abandon themselves to the use of men (Deut. 23:17). 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 adultery to go and sin no more.

Adultery is a married person who has sexual relations with someone outside of the marriage bonds. Fornication is anyone who has sexual relations with another when not married in the sight of God. 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 marriage. It is an abomination to the Father above

The answers are many as to why the church has accepted it. Here are some examples:

a. The culture says it is ok, so the Taboo is removed.
b. They might offend some other long-time family members if they broach the subject.
c. They may lose tithes and offerings if they offend.
d. The pastor likes his job and may have to find a new one if he stirs up the issue.
e. The leadership does not believe it is sinful.
f.  The leadership and congregation does not fear God.
g. And here is a good one, "I will let the Holy Spirit take care of it."

Now most Christians know, that most people 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?
  • 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 otherwise, 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, thus the word, fornication.
  • 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 Corinthian congregation that he would find them living the sanctified life, but he feared this not 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. (When pastors take a stand they must do it in humility. Even so, many church-goers living in sin will not like it, and may leave the church.)
  • 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.
  • Colossians 3:5 - Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. To live a sanctified life in Christ, one cannot be living in open rebellion to God.
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 one committing to Christ makes a firm resolution to give themselves to the Lord with the intent to 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 and spiritual adultery. 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, represents obedience to God's covenantal purpose for families and models God's relationship to believers. He is the Groom we are the Bride. To disdain that teaching by cohabiting 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 to those on the outside, 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. My judgments are better than God's. Many also do not fear any retribution, even though, we must all give an account of ourselves before God - 

"And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account" (Hebrews 4:13).

Jesus stated:

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 spiritual 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.

God Bless,
Pastor Mike


What an excellent article. Jesus said ''he who has not sinned cast the first stone''and they all went away. Is this the reason no one has commented on this excellent article because it is too near to the truth, that many will not accept. That is biblical in itself.
That is a very good point. I believe you are probably in the Ballpark. It is something swept under the rug that too many desire to keep under the rug. Then they wonder why they do not see the power of God working in their midst. Pray for God to raise up a harvest a leaders that will make a stand regardless of what the outcome in the short term is.
Unknown said…
This is an excellent article,which I recommended on Google+, which means that the recommendation and a link will go to my circles -- which include the 5th grade parents at our church. "Backbone" -- why is it so lacking?
Thank you George! I believe the answer is because parents,society and churches have placed such a low value on biblical marriage. Parents are going with the flow of the culture because they are either ignorant of the will of God and think it is ok for people to live in sin or they are afraid to confront the issue for fear of offending their children. This would not be so if we, as parents, would settle it in our heart to raise our children with biblical standards impressing on them the need to be holy as the Lord is holy. Churches have to make a stand as well but they receive into the congregation the fruit of poor parenting. They, for the most part, also fear offenses. We have lost the fear of God in America as a foundation for morality and ethic. The society just like sex and does not fear God. Eric Metaxas wrote an excellent commentary yesterday. It is well worth the read.

Brother Adamson, I totally agree. Truth hurts but it must be told. Although I am big on grace, there are specific sins that cannot be ignored. We must all strive, in the Spirit, to be conformed to the image of Christ. One day we will all stand before Him. As a pastor I want to exhibit the love of Jesus in all things but that does not mean sacrificing truth on the altar of error. For that i am accountable.
God Bless

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