1. Introduction:
    1. The term is used many times in the Old and New Testament:
      1. Paul discussed the subject thoroughly with a number of the churches to whom he wrote (I Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 5:19; Romans 1:29–31).
      2. Jesus frequently discussed the subject (Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21; Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9).
    2. Definition of the term:
      1. Thayer defines it in the light of many New Testament as well as Old Testament passages (Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25; I Corinthians 6:12; Hosea 2:4; Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Matthew 21:31; I Corinthians 6:15; Luke 15:30; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25).
      2. Arndt & Gingrich defined the term as used primarily in such passages as Matthew 5:32; 19:9.
      3. Kittel defines and discusses it at length, using the same New Testament passages, and adding Hosea 1:2 and Ezekiel 16:23 from the Old Testament.
    3. Why fornication is wrong:
      1. It violates Christ's right to the Christian's body (I Corinthians 6:18-20; I John 3:9).
      2. The fornicator sins against his own body (ibid.; II Corinthians 7:1).
      3. Fornication is a sin against others (Deuteronomy 22:20-21). Joseph well understood this (Genesis 39:8–9).
      4. Fornication is a sin against God (ibid.).
        1. What makes it so strong is that it is an infringement upon the residence of the Holy Spirit.
        2. Moral rottenness produced by immorality renders the Christian's body an unfit residence for occupancy by the Lord.
        3. In Corinth was the temple of Aphrodite where fornication was practiced as a religious rite.
  2. Discussion:
    1. How to avoid fornication:
      1. Realize who we are and how we are to deport ourselves (I Corinthians 9:25–27).
      2. The love of Christ should constrain us to live free of such sins (II Corinthians 5:14). Couples test their


        sexual compatibility to decide whether they should try marriage!
      3. We should never forget to whom we belong (Galatians 2:20; I John 3:1).
        1. Fornication mars the noble name by which we are called (James 2:7).
        2. Sexuality, divinely established and approved, is to be expressed only within the God–appointed boundaries of marriage and the home.
      4. Inspiration mandates the proper channeling of the sexual relationship (Ephesians 5:3–5; Colossians 3:5–6; I Thessalonians 4:3–8).
    2. A re–emphasis of its sinfulness.
      1. It is an invasion of God's sovereign will.
      2. It is a human conquest of the Almighty's territory.
      3. No greater need for children today than fathers and mothers who love each other and work together to rear their offspring in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
      4. Stringent punishment placed on the commission of it.
  3. Conclusion:
    1. Forgiveness of sin is possible.
      1. To the guilty parties there is good news.
      2. God's grace is expansive enough to save unto the uttermost.
      3. There must be the understanding (I Corinthians 6:9–11). We know that licentiousness is prevalent, but Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10; Mark 2:16).
      4. Great hope is instilled and a spirit of urgency when we read Hebrews 7:25.
      5. It is a turning away from what we once were (Ephesians 5:1-10).
    2. It is a putting to death the man of the flesh (Colossians 3:5–10) as well as receiving His grace and forgiveness.



The word fornication, with its cognates (same family of words), is used fifty times in the New Testament, and in the Septuagint it is used more than one hundred times. We will be considering some of these passages in this study.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians and charged them to “Flee sexual immorality [fornication]” (I Corinthians 6:18). In his letter to the Galatian Christians, he listed fornication along with idolatry. “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness” (Galatians 5:19. To the Roman Christians, he spoke about the malignant spiritual condition of some people in former days: “Being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality [fornication], wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil–mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful” (Romans 1:29–31).

I have never read a more mournful, hopeless, desperate list in my life. I have never heard a more bleak and forlorn condition and fornication is high on that list!

Jesus placed fornication in a similar register: “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19). On more than one occasion, Jesus said: “But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery” (Matthew 5:32). When the Jews later asked Him about the grounds for divorce, He said to them: “Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality [fornication], and marries another, commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9).

Definition of the Term

It is not my desire or intention to over–define the term fornication. One does not learn much about a subject if it becomes monotonous; but I would like for you to have a sampling from different New Testament language scholars so that it may be understood how the term was used in that day. While the scholars


define the terms in the Old and New Testaments accurately, the Jews were not as generous in the application of these definitions to the male as they were to the female; but God always considered the rights of the woman for her protection.

Joseph Henry Thayer, in his Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament defines porneia thus: “Of illicit sexual intercourse in general” (Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25). Then, he makes the comment: “that this meaning must be adopted in these passages will surprise no one who has learned from I Corinthians 6:12 how leniently converts from among the heathen regarded this vice and how lightly they indulged in it.”

Later, Thayer says that it is “used of adultery” (Hosea 2:4; Matthew 5:32; 19:9). Then he defines the verb form of the word: “To prostitute one's body to the lust of another. To give one's self to unlawful sexual intercourse; to commit fornication.” Then he defines the word porne: A woman who sells her body for sexual uses; in the New Testament, any woman indulging in unlawful sexual intercourse, whether for gain or for lust (Matthew 21:31; Luke 15:30; I Corinthians 6:15; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25).

William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, in their Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament, gives us this definition of the term: “Prostitution, unchastity, fornication, of every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse. Of the sexual unfaithfulness of a married woman (Matthew 5:32; 19:9).” The verb form of the word he defines thus: “To prostitute, practice prostitution or sexual immorality, generally. Fornicator, one who practices sexual immorality.”

In Gerhard Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, we have these definitions: “In Non–Jewish World, porne ‘to sell,’ especially of slaves, ‘harlot for hire,’ ‘prostitute.’ Greek harlots were usually bought slaves; whoremonger who has intercourse with prostitutes; one who lets himself be abused for money, ‘male prostitute.’ ‘Fornicator,’ ‘licentiousness,’ of homosexuality.”

In the Old Testament: “To have intercourse with another, to be unfaithful; to play the harlot; used of the married woman who is unfaithful to her husband” (Hosea 1:2; Ezekiel 16:22–26).


In the New Testament: “An unconditional repudiation of an extra–marital and unnatural intercourse. In both verses (Matthew 5:32; 19:9) porneia refers to extra–marital intercourse on the part of the wife.”

Why Fornication is Wrong

“Flee sexual immorality [fornication]. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality [fornication] sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit that is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's” (I Corinthians 6:18-20).

There is a sizable roster of people against whom one sins when he or she commits fornication. And there is a rather lengthy column of other things involved in this wrongdoing of the offender. Such misdeeds seriously touch the lives of others, related and unrelated to the guilty party.

1.  It violates Christ's rights to the Christian's body and severs the one who committed the sin from Him. The Lord Jesus Christ will not continue to live in the life of a person who continues to practice sin (I John 3:9). This passage says that Christians have been bought with a price, and that price was the very life of Christ. So, they belong to another by virtue of the price that was paid for them. They do not belong to themselves. The fornicator takes his body which belongs to Christ and unites it with a harlot and thus breaks the bond between his body and Christ. What a deadly sin; an act of high treason for the Christian.

2.  The fornicator sins against his own body. It is true that the sin appropriates the person of another, but it is a self–violation. It engages and debauches the person, for such sin enters into the heart, and also proceeds out of the heart, touching the springs of his very being. The point is that these bodily sins “defile the flesh.”

Fornication makes the body the instrument of the sin and becomes the subject of the damage effected. And Paul here indicates that it ruins the body itself. It is a sin against the body.


“Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Corinthians 7:1).

3.  Fornication is a sin against others. It is a violation of the marriage bond because each partner, husband and wife, belongs exclusively to the other. In the Old Testament, fornication was a sin against a future companion and was considered with all the seriousness and solemnity that the marriage relationship implied. A man would take a woman for his wife, believing her to be a virgin, “But if the thing is true, and evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father's house; so you shall put away the evil person from among you” (Deuteronomy 22:20–21).

Joseph understood this well for he knew that his master's wife belonged exclusively to his lord and that the sin of fornication would have defiled her and would have infracted his owner's private and intimate right to her body.

You may call it a monopoly. It was a God–delineated restraint. “But he refused and said to his master's wife, ‘Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no greater in this house that I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you’ ” (Genesis 39:8–9).

This would have been a sin of sexual immorality; but, more than that, it would have been the sin of perfidy against his earthly sovereign—a deliberate breaking of faith, a betrayal of trust, and a violation of confidence, and, therefore, treachery in its most heinous form.

4.  Fornication is a sin against God. Though Joseph realized and, I think, thoroughly comprehended that such a sin would be a violation of his own body, a sin against the woman with whom the act would have been committed, a crime against his master, a shadow upon his father's family, and a transgression against his future wife, he recognized and was able to distinguish it above everything else as an offense against God. “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God” (Genesis 39:9). What makes it such an infringement of justice is


that the Christian's body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is God's dwelling place and for it to be cluttered with the deadly sin of fornication is not just an impropriety or an indiscretion, but a grave crime against God and His habitation. It is trespassing God's property, for Paul goes on to say, “... and you are not your own; for you were bought at a price” (I Corinthians 6:19–20). With our bodies as well as our spirits we are to glorify God.

The moral and physical rottenness produced by immorality renders one's body an unfit residence for occupancy by God. He simply will not lodge or stay over in a place peopled by those who have their hearts set upon sin. First, it needs to be realized that the domicile does not belong to the man who is committing the sin of fornication. It has been bought and paid for by the purchase price of the blood of Christ. It is an infringement of God's rights to one's body; it is an intrusion into His residence; and it is an overstepping of property lines. In the secular world such an incursion would be designated as thievery and a plundering of what does not belong to one. Thus, the sin is even more grievous.

In Corinth, there was the temple of Aphrodite and fornication committed within its sacred precincts was a consecration instead of desecration. History records that prostitutes were there as priestesses of Aphrodite to help men worship the goddesses by fornication. Jesus and the apostles uses these powerful arguments to which we have referred against all sexual uncleanness. It was a complete transformation of one's thinking and an unabridged changeover of the use of the body. In the New Testament, it is called regeneration.

Paul knew that sexual sins bear a vicious character all their own. He showed how unsavory they are and how they entail shame and disgrace. Fornication, he pointed out, has a deadly eminence. It desecrates the very sanctuary of God. Paul tells us it must be completely reversed. One truth he strongly impressed—the Christian's body is God's temple.

How to Avoid Fornication

There is an old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”


1.  We need to realize who we are and how we are supposed to conduct ourselves as Christians. “And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things [exercises self–control]. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (I Corinthians 9:25–27)..

We must be concerned about our own lives. Our deportment must be such as not to disqualify us in the end. We want to be saved and by keeping this uppermost in our mind the danger of falling into sin is lessened. Fornication loses some of its strong appeal. Setting our affections on things above is essential to keeping our feet in the path of purity and uprightness. We must make it our aim to be well–pleasing to God always in all things. One reason for this is that one day we must stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of what we have done in this body (II Corinthians 5:9–10).

The love of Christ should constrain us to live free of such sins (II Corinthians 5-14). The love He has for us should be so powerful in our awareness, in the consciousness of our hearts, and in our appreciation so as to dominate us in the path we walk and in the direction we take. He must overwhelm us, govern us, possess us, and prevail over us in the fleshly appetites which are common to this body. This is who we are and let us not be remiss for a moment!

There are many today who contend that it is just as natural to commit fornication as it is to eat and sleep. The sexual function, they tell us, God created for us to enjoy, and the perimeter of this action is measured by respect for one another and compatibility in the sexual act. Thus, in this Christian nation (?) even the sexual act takes precedence over marriage itself.

Recently, I watched a national television program where those engaged in the discussion maintained that it would be unwise to marry a companion until their sexual compatibility had been thoroughly tested over a period of time. It sounded like shopping for a garment of clothing, an automobile tire, or a household appliance, and securing a guarantee that assured satisfaction or


your money would be refunded! How blasphemous and impious can human beings become? How disrespectful of God's standard! What is their standard?

2.  We must never forget to whom we belong. Paul told the Galatian Christians that the Son of God loved him and gave himself for him (Galatians 2:20). There is no truth to which he gave greater emphasis in all of his writings to Christians than this. “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly ... God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us ... For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:6–10). “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God” (I John 3:1)!

One thing our parents impressed upon us children when we left our house for some school function or other activity was who we were and to whom we belonged. We were careful, therefore, not to bring reproach upon our family name by shameful or questionable conduct. There was pride in wearing our name. There should be great self–respect and dignity in wearing the name of Christ. Fornication in the life of the Christian mars that “noble name by which you are called” (James 2:7). Weak ones fall away and the world laughs and blasphemes.

In that day it was the church against the world and God and His teaching on the subject was ambiguous in defining illicit sex as completely unacceptable for His children. Sexuality, divinely established and approved, was to be expressed only within the boundaries of marriage and the home.

The Lord intended that sexual intercourse be the conjugal relationship between husband and wife that would amalgamate two personalities, blend into one identity two lives, surrender the private identity of each for the purpose of creating a confederated oneness. It was intended by God to be a melding of two beings in all the qualities under consideration. The affiliation is exclusive. It is limiting. It is prohibitive. It is special. It is a gift from God to be expressed with one person within the marriage relationship.


When I say the Bible teaches that the sexual act is exclusive, I mean that it is not only selective, but also segregative. When one chooses a companion it is for life, and that companion has exclusive rights to the other. This asserts that there is a shutting out of all other considerations. That companion is not to be shared or divided with someone else.

This is God's arrangement from the beginning; from the very creation of the marriage relationship. In expressing one consideration or facet of that right of the married party, Paul states: “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (I Corinthians 7:4).

So Paul, in his letters to the churches, mandates the proper channeling of the sexual relationship, ordering Christians into the course of ethical and, therefore, suitable behavior, and then warns them of the dangers of any deviation from that direction.

“But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:3–5).

The same instructions and warnings were given to the Christians in Colosse and Thessalonica: “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience” (Colossians 3:5–6). “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit” I Thessalonians 4:3–8).


Damage in committing this sin is done not only to one's self, but to others who may not be directly implicated in the transgression. Beyond that, the will and goodness of God have been violated.

He says, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19–21).”

A Re–emphasis of its Sinfulness

It is an invasion of God's sovereign will; it is a human conquest of the Almighty's territory; it is an intrusion into God's plan for the family; and it defeats God's purpose of sexuality. That specific purpose was to know intimate love in marriage and to give honorable birth to children.

There is no greater need facing us today than that children have fathers and mothers loving each other and working together to rear their offspring in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. If both father and mother do not work in uniformity of purpose and resolution, the goal to shape and fashion the child into a useful, productive, and happy citizen will never be reached. The far–reaching effects of the sin of fornication are crime, disfigurement of lives, deformity of character, and wretchedness of existence. Such distortion breaks the home, corrupts children, defaces society, and mutilates the future. No wonder the inspired writers placed such stringent punishment upon the commission of it. It is hoped that these strict and severe warnings will be both convincing and compelling.

Forgiveness of the Sin Possible

To those who have transgressed God's law and violated His design for sexual behavior, there is good news. Forgiveness is available if you desire it. God's grace is broad and He is able to save unto the uttermost all of them that respond to His invitation and proposal: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived.


Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:9–11).

McClintock and Strong, in their Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, tell us: “Among the Greeks and Romans of the apostles' day licentiousness was fearfully prevalent.” In the face of this we must remember and believe that Jesus came “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). He once told those who were listening to Him, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mark 2:17).

Great hope is instilled in us when we read from His inspired word this wonderful assurance: “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25). The term uttermost, in this context, indicates that He is able to save the largest number, all, and those who are remotest, the farthest away, and for the greatest length of time, forever. There are several translations of this passage that quite adequately convey the intended thought.

One says, “He is fully able.” Another renders it, “He is able to save completely and all.” “He is also able to save absolutely,” another translation depicts it. Still another version submits this rendering; “He is forever able to save all.”

In writing to the Ephesian Christians, Paul issued a combined warning and a pledge filled with happy anticipation: “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet–smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the


wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:1-10).

“Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all those: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Colossians 3:5-10).

What a beautiful reward to one who has been a vile sinner—to be renewed in the image of His creator! One who has been guilty of that great list of sins enumerated in these two passages can be fully forgiven and made into a new person which is a product of regeneration. What an incentive!

To briefly sum up our lesson, I think it may be said that God's word makes it crystal clear that although sexuality is good and a gift from God, it is to be expressed with one person within the relationship of marriage!