Vol. 4, No. 8
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It is certainly no secret that we live in a permissive society. The "anything goes" mentality seems to be the rule. The word "fornication" is rarely, if ever, spoken, let alone understood. And yet the Bible is clear. "Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4). The American Standard Version words it, "Let marriage be had in honor among all, and let the bed be undefiled: for fornicators and adulterers God will judge." The term fornication is defined by Webster's dictionary as "Consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other." This modern definition does nothing to connote the unlawful nature of such an action. Vines Expository Dictionary renders its definition, "Illicit sexual intercourse." From Bible times, the original language conveyed the meaning of the word as being all encompassing sexual sin. In other words, fornication is anything of a sexual nature that is practiced without God's sanction or blessing, and God's Word has plenty to say on this subject. Yet, it is still a delicate topic due to the deeply personal nature of the male/female relationship. One needs to strike a balance as he teaches or preaches on this touchy issue. As Tom Holland put it, "I don't want to be crudely frank, nor naively evasive." With this statement, we concur.
However, whether we should preach on this subject is not an option if we desire to do the work of the Lord. Paul told Timothy to "reprove, rebuke, and exhort" in 2 Timothy 4:2, suggesting various levels of reprimand. We are past the stage of warning what might happen; we are in the stage of convicting those who are already caught up in the problems of unchaste thinking and actions with regard to sexuality. Today in our society, adultery is only mildly objectionable. Pre-marital relations are considered the norm, and even encouraged. Homosexuality, which was regarded as deviant and unwholesome in the 1970's, came to be tolerated in the politically correct 1980's and since the 1990's it has not only become acceptable, it is touted as being trendy! Mankind has changed his thinking, but be assured, God has not! In speaking to Timothy of the importance of the study of God's Word, and those who deviate from it, Paul concluded his thoughts in 2 Timothy 2:19, "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
What does the Bible say about marriage, and the male/female relationship? Plenty, but what is said will not be popular with today's thinking. "Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4). Why is marriage honorable?
We seem to get the notion that sex was created by some seedy character in a back alley somewhere. Hear the Word of God! "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (Genesis 1:27, Emphasis mine, sps.). This is foundational! When Jesus was asked about divorce in Matthew 19, twice he refers his querists to "the beginning" (Matthew 19:4, 8). God, by creating one male and one female, has demonstrated his plan for marriage and sexuality. He further commanded Adam, "Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth" (Genesis 1:28). God is the author of sexuality, not some sleazy character in a dimly lit barroom. This makes the marriage relationship of the highest order, sacred and blessed in God's sight.
Further, it was not experimentation with sex that led to expulsion from Eden. The connotation of the words, "forbidden fruit" today point toward a "pleasure or indulgence that is thought to be immoral" (The American Heritage Dictionary). According to the Bible, there was an actual tree in the midst of the garden that was forbidden to the first couple. They ate of that tree, died spiritually on that day and were driven from paradise. There is no clue given as to what kind of fruit this was (i.e. an apple) except that it was good for food, pleasant to the eyes and desirable in that it was supposed to make one wise (Genesis 3:6). Nowhere in the text is there any reason given to assume this story is only metaphorically referring to the sex act. Besides, we must remember that God had already commanded them to "be fruitful and multiply." This required Adam and Eve to have sexual intercourse with each other, and so the activity could not have been sinful.
It should also be noted that God called the first couple, "The man and his wife" (Genesis 2:25). This forever seals God's law on marriage and sexuality. Within the boundaries of lawful marriage only is human sexuality to be fulfilled. Paul later wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:8, "flee fornication," and in 7:1-2, "Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: it is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." (Emphasis mine, sps.) Lawful marriage then is the only approved outlet for sexual expression, according the Gospel.
The apostle John reminds us, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous, (burdensome, Young's Literal Translation)" (1 John 5:3). Everything God commands us to do will ultimately result in our betterment. Resisting God's law on the subject of marriage will only result in our suffering in a variety of areas.
We will suffer emotionally. Moses wrote in Genesis 2:24, "For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined unto his wife and they twain shall be one flesh." This is again repeated in Ephesians 5:31. Exactly how, and to what extent two human beings are joined to become one flesh is not fully understood, as is the subject of the Trinity. But suffice it to say that when flesh is separated, there is pain. God's law on marriage "from the beginning" is that one man and one woman form this union in marriage for life (Matthew 19:8). It is a mystery to this writer how many sincere Christians can justify divorce as a needed "safety valve" for marriage, and that it is a perfectly acceptable alternative. "For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away (divorce) ..." (Malachi 2:16).
We will suffer physically, if we fail to heed God's law on marriage. The so-called "social diseases" run rampant, not to mention the promises of medical cures that have fallen far short of expectations, especially with regard to the AIDS virus. Paul wrote to the Romans in 1:26-27:
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
We will suffer socially. As the home goes, so goes the nation. The very foundation of society itself is the God-designed family unit. Marriage begins the family. God commanded the Israelites of old to instruct their children, "... when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes" (Deuteronomy 6:7-8). God knows that the upbringing of children in the home is the foundation for society itself and commanded his people accordingly.
We will suffer spiritually. As our text in Hebrews 13:4 states, "Marriage is honorable," but those who rebel against God will find themselves in a state of condemnation. "Whoremongers" or "fornicators" are those who engage in sexual relations with anyone they choose. Such promiscuity falls into condemnation and will cost one his/her soul. "Adulterers" are those who engage in sexual relations with someone other than their spouse, or those who are involved with another's spouse. Again, this infraction will result in the loss of one's soul.
Remember that God created one male and one female to live together as husband and wife. It is significant that he did not create two males, or two females. It is also significant that he did not create one male and several females, or vice versa. This monogamous relationship is ordained of God and fornication is whatever this is not. Casual sex, multiple partners, homosexuality and more, are not a part of God's plan for us. This kind of behavior is de-humanizing, reducing man who was made in God's image to the level of the beasts. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 4:2-5:
For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, (desire for what is forbidden, lust, Thayer) even as the Gentiles which know not God.
Just think about this for one moment. If everyone abstained from sex until they were married, and if everyone was faithful to his/her spouse, how much better would the world be? There would be no more "social diseases," no more homes shattered by divorce, no more hearts broken by unfaithfulness, etc. Is this over simplifying the problem? Well the Scriptures give simple answers to all of man's problems if we would only heed them.
Christians are not to be like the world around them. Ephesians 5:3 tells us, "But fornication and all uncleaness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints." Unfortunately, many within the church have succumbed to the world's thinking with regard to sexuality. This is a definite problem but it is not, however, an unsolvable one. God constantly urges us in the Scripture to repent of such things and come to him for forgiveness. It is the hope and prayer of this writer that the church will purge its ranks of such unlawful activities where necessary and return to the true and pure manner of life that God has intended for us. "Marriage is honorable in all, but whoremongers and adulterers, God will judge."