Overcoming Sin through Christ: Immorality and Fornication

Overcoming Sin through Christ

A Comprehensive List of Sins

(Alphabetically Arranged)

Richard Hollerman

The plan of this study is simple.  We will look at a large number of sins, one by one, alphabetically.  We will define the sin, describe it, and comment on it, along with noticing Scripture references on the particular entry.  Some illustrations will be offered along with the description.

Immorality and Fornication

In our present age, many people have virtually eliminated these terms from their working vocabulary. People talk about “living together” and “shacking up.” They may refer to “premarital sex” or other more neutral terms. They seem to want to deny the immoral acknowledgement in using a term like fornication.  Although some people may way to candy coat sexual immorality, still it is sinful and wrong.

In our vernacular, fornication means “voluntary sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons or two persons not married to each other.”[1][1]  Another definition has, “sexual intercourse between partners who are not married to each other, especially when considered as a sin.”[2][2]  Although some people use “fornication” to refer to sinful sexual relations between unmarried people, we see that it actually means any wrongful sexual relationship between people who are not married to each other.

The Greek noun porneia means “illicit sexual intercourse,” and the noun pornos refers to “a man who indulges in fornication, a fornicator.”  The verb porneuo means “to commit fornication.”[3][3]  “It relates to any kind of sexual immorality or fornication.”[4][4]  While some might limit the word to immorality among the unmarried, this is not the true meaning.  It is “a quite general word for unlawful and immoral sexual intercourse and relationships.”[5][5]  In the Old Testament world, worship of false gods was accomplished by sexual immorality with cult prostitutes—both male and female.  In the New Testament world, prostitution was also employed as a means of worship.  Furthermore, sexual immorality of a general nature was very common in the first century Greco-Roman world.

William Barclay emphasizes that the gospel of Christ came into a world that was filled with porneia, sexual immorality.  He wrote, “When Greek laxity invaded Rome, it was sadly coarsened. . . . Roman women, says Seneca, were married to be divorced and were divorced to be married. . . . ‘Chastity is simply a proof of ugliness’ [wrote Seneca]. Innocence, says Seneca, is not rare, it is non-existent.”  “The upper stratum of Roman society had become largely promiscuous.”[6][6]

What about our own age?  The levels of premarital sexual immorality has increased dramatically over the past number of years.  One report says:

In the last four decades, the norms of our society have undergone vast changes in the area of premarital sexual permissiveness. Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, society has become more permissive towards premarital sexual intercourse. Whereas the percentage of men engaging in premarital sex has remained stable throughout most of the last century, the percentage of women has increased tremendously, from 1 in 10 to 7 out of every 10 (Macionis 1987:543), bringing them at nearly the same percent as men.[7][7]

Another report shows the rise in sexual immorality between the 1960s (when the “sexual revolution” began) and the 1980s:

  1. In the 1960s, 25 percent of young men and 45 percent of young women were virgins at age 19; by the 1980s, fewer than 20 percent of males and females were.
  2. In the 1950s, roughly 9 in 10 young women got married without living with their partner, compared with 1 in 3 in the early 1990s.
  3. The percentage of white women married from 1960-65 who were virgins was 43; from 1980-85 it was 14.[8][8]

Indeed, sexual immorality is no longer a rare experience for unmarried men and women.  It has increasingly become commonplace, with a great percentage of unmarried couples “living together” in fornication without marriage and before marriage!

It was God’s original intention and His good plan that one man would marry one woman, to become husband and wife, and that this union would last for a lifetime or as long as they both would live.  “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).  We also read, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (2:24).

It was not God’s will that a man be joined to another man, or that a woman be joined to another woman, or that a man be joined to two or more women, or a woman be joined to two or more men, or that a man or woman have extramarital relations.  Nor was it God’s desire that a man and woman have a sexual, one-flesh relationship before marriage.  Jesus said, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6).  Needless to say, modern life has served to degenerate sexuality and marriage in our day and it almost seems like we are returning to the gross immorality of the Mediterranean world of the first century!  Moderns have debased, perverted, and twisted the good design of God in the beginning.

The Lord Jesus said that fornication or sexual immorality comes “from within, out of the heart of men” and will “defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23).  In the early body of Christ, the apostles and others strictly charged that the Gentiles must abstain from fornication (Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25), probably because fornication connected with idolatry was so common among the Gentiles.  Paul wrote, “This is the will of God, your sanctification [holiness]; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality [porneia]” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).  He said that “God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification” (v. 7). This was Paul’s consistent teaching again and again in his writings.  He says that “immoral men” violate “sound teaching” of Scripture (1 Timothy 1:10).

In an extended discussion on the need to avoid sexual immorality (or fornication), Paul emphasizes that “the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13).  He says that taking our body and uniting to a prostitute would actually be to “take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute” (v. 15).  He plainly says, “Flee immorality” for “the immoral man sins against his own body” (v. 18).  We should not commit this sexual sin since the Christian’s body is “a temple of the Holy Spirit” who is in us, whom we have from God, and we don’t belong to ourselves (v. 19).  Since we have been bought with a price—the blood of Christ—we are to “glorify God in [our] body” (v. 20).  One reason after another should settle God’s view on sexual immorality.

Much more is given to us about fornication or sexual immorality.  Paul gives a number of lists of sins, with fornication (porneia) heading the lists.  He says that “fornicators” “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).  No so-called “brother” must be guilty of fornication.  Paul says that we are “not to associate with . . . an immoral person” (1 Corinthians 5:11), and must not even “eat with such a one” (v. 11b).  He also calls “immorality” a “deed of the flesh” that will prevent one from inheriting the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).

Sexual immorality must not even be “named” among believers (Ephesians 5:3), and those who commit this sin have no “inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God,” and, in fact, will receive the terrifying “wrath of God” (vv. 5-6; Colossians 3:5-6).  The Hebrew writer puts it this way: “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (13:4).  Finally, in Revelation we learn that all “immoral persons” will be cast into “the lake that burns with fire” which is the dreaded “second death” (Revelation 21:8).  “Immoral persons” will be forever banned from the glorious City of God (22:15).

We are glad to know that sexual immorality may be forgiven, through a God of grace and through the forgiving death of Christ Jesus.  Paul says that some of the Corinthian believers had been fornicators in their past, but he goes on to say, “You were washed [from their sins], but you were sanctified [set apart from sin], but you were justified [declared righteous from sin] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

The Colossians also had formerly “walked” or “lived” in such sins as fornication, but they had put such sins aside (3:5-9).  Yet the apostle knew that neither fornication nor any other sin could be forgiven apart from genuine repentance (2 Corinthians 12:21).  Although the gospel went out to a world filled with sexual immorality, Christ was able to forgive this sin and make people into holy, pure, and separated men and women! Thanks be to a God of grace!


[1][1] Random House Webster’s College Dictionary.

[2][2] The American Heritage College Dictionary.

[3][3] W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary

[4][4] Mounce, Expository Dictionary.

[5][5] Barclay, Flesh and Spirit, p. 24.

[6][6] Flesh and Spirit, pp. 25-26.

[7][7] idris43.tripod.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/presex.pdf

[8][8] catholiceducation.org/articles/sexuality/se0087.html



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