CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Why is Fornication Wrong?

Jul 25, 2019

That the church in the West is going down the tubes at an alarming rate should be evident from the fact that I even have to pen a piece like this. Of course every Christian knows that fornication is wrong – or at least they should know. But as more and more churches go apostate, and more and more believers run with how they feel instead of what the Bible teaches, nothing can be counted on any longer.

As churches and church leaders fully water down the gospel and push having your best life now, or Jesus is your buddy, or live an “authentic” life, or don’t get hung up on rules and regulations, we will see this happening more and more. Obviously the various “progressive” churches and the “emerging” churches have gone in this direction.

But increasingly evangelical and Bible-believing churches are heading this way as well. So many church leaders are so afraid of charges of being intolerant and unloving and legalistic that they have thrown the Bible out and just latched onto the world’s values and agendas.

So we end up with so many folks who say this – or at least have this mindset: ‘Hey, who am I to say that fornication is wrong? Who am I to judge? The only thing that matters is love. We need to go beyond rules. Besides, Jesus accepted everyone just as they were, and we should too!’

If you think all that sounds like utter rubbish, you would be right. But this way of thinking is now rife in our churches. And I am not just being theoretical here. It really is happening all around us. Let me offer a concrete example of this. I just received a comment from a distraught mother.

She said her daughter is a pastor’s kid who was home-schooled in a conservative and biblical home, but she now attends a progressive church. And she has decided to move in with her boyfriend, and now believes that the Bible is open to all sorts of interpretations and cannot be taken literally.

Worse yet, the daughter says that the notion of sexual immorality does NOT apply to committed long-term relationships. The mother says the daughter still loves Jesus, and concluded by pleading with me for a good response that she could give her daughter.

Wow! How would you reply to a concerned mother such as that? What would you say? I of course was asked for my help, so I sought to provide that. What follows is what I said in response:

Thanks ****. This is so sad to hear, and I really do feel for you. But sadly there would be many others like her. She is of course just using her shoddy “understanding” of Scripture to make excuses for her sin. This happens all the time as we know. The simple truth is, sexual faithfulness in marriage and abstinence outside of it is the clear biblical norm.

Since sexual unfaithfulness is so often used as a picture of Israel’s sin against Yahweh in the Old Testament, just image him saying: “Yes my people, you can go right ahead and worship other gods – as long as it’s a committed, long-term relationship with just one false god. That is just peachy. But you cannot have a lot of short flings with a bunch of pagan gods. That is a no-no.”

And if these progressives who no longer believe the Bible respond by saying that this is from the Old Testament, and therefore not relevant, we simply remind them that the very same imagery is used in the New Testament. For example, Revelation 19:2 (as but one example) speaks of God who “has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication, and he has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” The same term is referred to here, and God does NOT approve of it.

And lest this trendy church tries to tell us that Jesus is just a tree-hugging hippy who is into a vague and amorphous “love” that accepts everyone and everything, we need to remind the false shepherds there that God is praised here for bringing judgment on the unrepentant sinners and evil nations. Indeed, it is none other than Jesus who is doing the judgment. Simply read a bit further on in Revelation 19 – verses 11-16:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses. From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Moreover, when we have a verse such as 1 Corinthians 6:18 which commands us to “flee fornication,” (or “flee sexual immorality”), there is no hint at all of this meaning only short-term sexual sin, and that long-term committed sexual sin is just fine. Talk about reading into the text something that is just not there. Talk about making cheap excuses for sin.

Plenty of other verses can be appealed to here. Just four more:

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness…

Ephesians 5:3 But fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints

1 Thessalonians 4:3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable.

Hebrews 13:4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

Unfortunately, when people want to sin, any excuse will do, and the Bible will be the first thing they attack and seek to discredit. So the problem goes further than simply running with lousy biblical interpretation. And if this “church” is teaching these blatant falsehoods and promoting all this sin, then your daughter needs to flee from there as much as she needs to flee from her sexual sin.

Lastly, it may be hard to hear this or say this, but we know that if a person is living in known deliberate defiance of God and his commands, then it cannot be the case that they love Jesus. Jesus himself repeatedly made this crystal clear. Consider five passages from the gospel of John:

John 14:15 If you love me, you will obey what I command.

John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.

John 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

John 15:10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

John 15:14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

And so many other gospel passages say the same thing:

Matthew 7:21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 12:50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.

Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”

Luke 11:28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

So this is all rather serious business as you full well know. It is hoped that she will realise this as well. Whether she is just really deceived here, or in fact does know the truth but is ignoring it, she needs to make a choice. Which does she love more: Jesus, or her sin? She cannot love both of course. It is one or the other. She needs to make a choice.

It is always tough when a family member or loved one turns away from the faith and decides that sin is preferred over obedience and faithfulness. That is always so very painful to go through. But I will keep you folks in prayer. And hopefully other readers here will do just the same. Bless you.

[1507 words]

27 Responses to Why is Fornication Wrong?

  • If my daughter or son came to me with this kind of sticky situation, I would answer him or her as follows; God gave each of us a conscience and the knowledge of right and wrong. You are now an adult and responsibility for your actions is part of your inheritance. Available to you is holy scripture, read and make of it as your conscience dictates for God knows your heart and mind better than you do and will not be lied to. ask others for help but ultimately, this is your test to put God or yourself first. If you think that God does not test each of us, recite the Lords prayer and contemplate the part: ‘AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION’.

    John Abbott

  • Thank you Bill for another informative and it seems necessary essay. The title ” Why is Fornication Wrong?” should be able to be answered in a few words never mind paragraphs but I find myself increasingly having to go into greater detail with people, including family, as time goes by. Seems even basic Truths have been lost.

  • Sexual immorality has always been the cause of nations collapsing. If one wants to bring down a nation, it is not done by attacking its out fabric . It is brought down by burrowing into the most sensitive, delicate and vulnerable part of its citizens. It is not done with bombs and bullets or even corrupting a nation with alcohol, or getting it to lie and cheat. It is done through persuading its citizens to commit adultery and fornication. Above all it is sodomy that has been the destruction of past nations. Homosexuality has always been the hallmark of the death of nations.

    As Malcolm Muggeridge put it so eloquently:

    ‘So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, laboured with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over–a weary, battered old brontosaurus–and became extinct.”

    As Psalm 1 suggest the pastors daughter presently walks with the fornicators. Next she will stand with the feminists and liberals and finally she shall sit amongst the abortionists and homosexuals.

    David Skinner UK

  • Wow, Bill, these words of yours today are a message I haven’t heard espoused in church in a very long time. Too hard for pastors to say, these days? Thank you Bill for standing in the gap.

  • Yes, it is sad when professing Christians are ignoring the teaching of the Bible and are failing to live according to social conventions. You mentioned the young lady who is moving in with her boy friend because she believes “immorality does not apply to long-term committed relationships.” When a relationship is moving toward this stage, it is time to get engaged and then married.

    I remember a co-worker who came to work and proudly showed everyone her engagement ring. She explained, “We thought we should get engaged because our son is graduating from high school next week, and he would feel so out-of-place if his parents were not at least engaged.” I thought, “How about making something legal before the son’s conception?” It is amazing how people can justify just living together and waiting to see “how it all will work out first.”

  • I can only imagine how hard this is for the mother. And in saying that, how many mothers have faced a similar situation: knowing clearly that their daughter (or son) is disobeying God and deliberately and repeatedly choosing to do what is against God’s word. There is so much pressure on young people these days when it comes to sexual temptation, and this is only exacerbated by the fact that so many of their peers are ‘doing it’. We no longer live in a culture where sin is clearly defined, and that makes it even harder for Christian youth living in a pagan culture.
    Praying for both mother and daughter, that God would speak clearly to both, giving the mother great wisdom and the daughter the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And in the future, believe me, that young woman will be so glad that she listened and obeyed. Also, changing to a biblically conservative, God-fearing church would be a really good idea!

  • Such a timely message Bill.
    Due to circumstances over the past few years I have visited a number of churches and I have yet to hear a Pastor say that living together before marriage is a sin.
    I frequently chat to young couples and am so disappointed when I hear they are living together.
    Yes rarely do you hear secular couples wait till their married before they live together but for a professing Christian to take their guidance from their their ungodly friends is disobedience to the scriptures.
    Terry Hill Trafalgar

  • The daughter needs to be told that all our behaviours effect the whole of a society. This is not just a matter of her personal relationship with God, her behaviour acts as yeast which as the Bible says goes through all of the dough. More over when any “closetted” gays in her church see her drifting away from biblical morality, they will be able to say justifiably, why should we maintain our abstaining from sex any longer?

    Joshua 7: 24 – 25 is relevant. Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the cloak, and the bar of gold, his sons and daughters, his oxen, donkeys, and sheep, his tent, and everything else he owned, and brought them to the Valley of Achor. “Why have you brought this trouble upon us?” said Joshua. “Today the LORD will bring trouble upon you!” And all Israel stoned him to death. Then they stoned the others and burned their bodies.…

    David Skinner UK

  • Sadly people can be fluent in reading and understanding what the Bible actually says but simply ignore inconvenient bits.
    Why?
    Partly because that’s what they choose: Partly because no one has trained/taught/convinced them that the Bible is factual history.

    An anecdote I’ve reported here several times, but still very relevant:
    In the newspaper debate with theologian Peter Jensen, agnostic Magnusson agreed that the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality – but since Jensen didn’t believe that God created the universe in six days, why should he (Magnusson) take any notice of the rest of the Bible.
    Similarly, many churches either avoid Genesis 1-11 or try to explain it away as not literal history. So if the Bible is not based on real historical events “In the Beginning” but is interpreted as “Once Upon a Time in the mythical Garden Of Eden”, then is it surprising than many people think they can interpret the rest of the Bible to suit their sin?

  • The worst aspect of preachers going silent re sexual sin is that those who choose to do what they know to be right are often on their own, or made to feel like they are freaks. A church community should be a place where such ‘Christians values’ are encouraged and supported, and never undermined.

  • Sexual sins are listed in almost every group of sins in the Bible. God’s first work after initial creation was to form a family. Faithfulness to God’s law regarding sexual sin is a good indication of faithfulness in inward, un-seeable sin.
    Our real problem is that the concept of sin is rarely preached anymore. Osteen may be the most honest in his refusal to teach about sin but he is far from alone!
    Without the recognition of sin there is no reason for forgiveness or redemption. The plan of salvation is the plan to deal with man’s sin. The “falling-away” in Christian denominations is roughly parallel to the loss of conviction for sin. When we lose the sense of God’s condemnation of sin we lose our reason for existence.

  • The quote ‘the notion of sexual immorality does NOT apply to committed long-term relationships’ makes no sense. Relationships can break down, so what do they do after that, move onto another ‘long term relationship’, and just keep not getting married?

  • This is not directly relevant but it is indirectly relevant. In the Roman Empire the people were very permissive sexually. Incest, homosexuality and adultery were common. Sometimes these things were even approved of. They had orgies. Sometimes when children were born their parents did not want them. The parents would leave them in a cave or somewhere to die of exposure. Sometimes the parents left the newborn in a place where a stranger might rescue it. Later on there were Christians. They were rescuing the abandoned children. I am not a history expert. This story shows us that Christians were showing people the right way to live. Christianity was saving these children. The daughter should be able to see that Christianity is important. Christianity should be taken seriously.

  • I grew up in a fundamentalist church that many today would criticise for being too legalistic. Yet as teens we had weekly in depth bible studies that we were expected to attend, led mainly by pastors who were well versed in scripture. What I learnt about scripture as a teen boy has stuck with me all my life. So many times the Holy Spirit has put words in my heart and mouth from what I learnt over 40 years ago.

    As I speak with family who are still at this church, I am told the Bible studies stopped years ago. Their youth are now sparse in numbers.

    What if not scripture, are our youth who are now taught at schools that any sexual behaviour is to be enjoyed and celebrated, supposed to base their morality on?

    We, the older members of our churches, the mature in Christ and the guardians of the faith, need to accept the responsibility for, and be active in, ensuring the youth of today are thoroghly grounded in scripture.

  • I’m not surprised “80% of Unmarried Evangelical Young Adults Are Having Sex”.

    The problem isn’t the progressive churches. They are a lost cause.

    The problem is even most conservative evangelical churches do not preach the Gospel Truth and turn a blind eye to sin inside their own walls. How else can you explain the 80% number?

    This one conservative evangelical church I visited last year I was shocked to learn they had youth leaders who were “dating” each other and what’s more the pastors and parents not only encourage this but also turn a blind eye when these youth leader couples go on holidays just the two of them without chaperones and even share hotel rooms (to save money I was told.. Yeah right!)

    I spoke to the mother of one of the girls and I asked how she and her husband allow this sin. She said oh well as long as it helps her daughter on the path to marriage she doesn’t mind. My daughter spoke to another one of the girls in this church and she told my daughter that it’s ok to have sex when you get engaged (“Because he’s made a commitment to you”) but it’s not ok to move in together until after the wedding.

    That is how even the good churches go rotten.

  • “They only thing that matters is love”? Leaving aside the typo in the original text, doesn’t that then raise the question of what is love? How are churches defining or explaining love?

    I confess I’m rather fuzzy on the subject myself but attribute my confusion to genetics\background. Hollywood seems to define it as either romance, or jumping into bed with someone. Elsewhere it’s usually understood as self explanatory – love means love, but what does God define it as?

    If you look at how Scripture uses and defines the term I think rather a lengthy thesis, or book could probably be written but even in the article above Bill notes love is obedient. Yes we all struggle with that but can you lovingly persist in willful disobedience?

  • One’s approach to the most intimate of human relationships is liable to wash over into one’s approach to the spiritual relationship with the Lord Jesus. Christ is the Heavenly Bridegroom of His people – Sadly, it is much easier be His “fair-weather friends” than to publicly declare one’s undying allegiance to Him in the face of the current tides of popular thought and practice. “Long-term” doesn’t mean the same as “until death do us part”. “I do” is much more definite than “Maybe I do”.

    D.H. Lawrence in his essay, A Propos of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1929) surprisingly understood only too well the inescapable nexus between the loosening or abolition of the sacred marriage bond and the demise of the Church as a positive force in human society:

    “…The Church really rests upon the indissolubility of marriage. Make marriage in any serious degree unstable, dissoluble, destroy the permanency of marriage, and the Church falls. …

    The reason being that the Church is established upon the element of union in mankind. and the first element of union in the Christian world is the marriage-tie. …. Break it, and you will have to go back to the overwhelming dominance of the State, which existed before the Christian era.” …

  • I agree Charles B: “The ‘falling-away’ in Christian denominations is roughly parallel to the loss of conviction for sin.” That ‘falling away’ also roughly correlates with rejection of Genesis as true history. The desire to reject Genesis started before Charles Lyell wrote that he wanted to “rid the science (i.e. Geology) of Moses (i.e. Gen 1-11)”. Lyell popularised the deep time geology that allowed Charles Darwin to claim there was enough time for simple organisms to become complex.

    As long ages of evolution weakened belief in the Bible, the meaning of truth and life were greatly devalued. E.g. Aldous Huxley (Ends and Means 1937, p270-273) admits his sexual motivation for seeking no meaning in life:
    “I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find gratifying reasons for this assumption. … Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know. … We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.”

    From Darwin until today, long ages of evolution increasingly compromises many Christians’ ability and desire to defend Genesis 1-11 as true history. Atheists often win the debate against compromising Christians with arguments such as:
    “Now that we know that Adam and Eve never were real people the central myth of Christianity is destroyed. If there never was an Adam and Eve there never was an original sin. If there never was an original sin there is no need of salvation.”
    And as for Adam and Eve, it was not until about 1970 (just after the pill and the sexual revolution) that some English translations started corrupting Gen 1:27 to refer solely to ‘mankind’ ignoring the fact that the Hebrew in 1:27 contains both a’dam (man or mankind) and ha-a’dam (man or a man or the man, but not mankind). This corruption facilitates false beliefs that pre-Adamites lived and died long before sin and death entered the world.

    Christians need to get back to belief in the Bible, beginning with “In the beginning God … .” All scripture rests on Genesis. Ignore it and Christian values crumble as we now see.

  • I write more on this issue here – What Jesus said about the Thyatira church is fully applicable to today’s church where sexual immorality is rife:

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2019/07/26/the-church-of-thyatira-is-alive-and-well/

  • Michael, some interesting points. I have no issue with youth leaders dating one another, but it depends what you mean by ‘dating’ – there seems to be a culture chasm around modern dating however. Courtship is archaic language but largely what I think of as dating – a relationship formed with the intent to pursue marriage. Another definition however appears to be a close friendship with a person of the opposite gender with marriage being at best an accidental consequence.

    I can appreciate your concern about your 2 youth leaders going away on holiday together and sharing hotel rooms – it seems a surprisingly common practice. A close relative of mine went overseas with his girlfriend and slept in the same room as her. Some time before that I was away with friends and they suggested I spend the night with their female cousin. I can appreciate that nothing is intended to happen but man+women+temptation=children.

    Regarding intimacy before marriage, a girl I knew was pressured into sleeping with her fiance. She walked away with a child and no marriage. The fact a commitment has been made doesn’t mean that commitment will be kept. Nor is commitment the Biblical model – marriage is.

    Perhaps churches need to teach young people, and the young at heart, on how to conduct themselves wisely and Biblically since society has failed in that regards?

  • There is too much of the “i” world here. The reason Muslim cultures are strong, especially in standing out against the sexualisation of their children in schools though LGBT programmes is because they realise that their whole community will disintegrate if their children stray from Mosaic law. The fifth commandment to children to obey and respect their father and mother so that things will go well for them, is more respected by them than the so-called British Christian community which surrounds them. A little yeast send the whole dough rotten.

  • There is another scripture that is a further key to our understanding of this.
    Fornication is not wrong only because we are commanded to abstain from it, by Jesus and then by the very first church council in Jerusalem Acts 15.17,29, confirming the genesis ideal, and giving the basis for the considered traditional stand by the church down through the ages.
    It is wrong for two other reasons.
    1. It is wrong because it is a basic component for the breakdown of civil society, which has been illustrated many times through history.
    2. It is wrong also because it violates the spiritual nature of our personal being and the relationships that we have with others.
    The scriptures give clear testimony to this a number of times, and one of the key passages is perhaps Gen 2.24 “and they shall become one flesh”.
    The other is 1 Cor 6.15-20. “Do you not know that ??your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! ?16? Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ??“?the two,?” He says, “?shall become one flesh.?” ?17? ??But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
    ?18? ?Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins ??against his own body. ?19? Or ??do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, ??and you are not your own? ?20? For ??you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body ??and in your spirit, which are God’s”. The New King James Version. 1996.
    Now this deserves much more discussion than can be given here.
    Sufficient to say for now, is that, contrary to current common beliefs, there is a mystery in sexual intimacy. Some have described it as a “soul tie”, which gives us some idea that the physical is not all there is.
    This “one flesh” cannot be contained either within the idea of having children together.
    There is something extra when Paul strangely (to us Westerners) says “every sin…. is outside the body”. We are not inclined to agree with that quickly. And then he adds, to confound our Western thoughts, and to confirm his first phrase, “he who commits sexual immorality, sins against his own body.” This needs to be unpacked for us, for I’m afraid that our modern Christian Church has lost any idea of its meaning.
    As an addition; this is the reason why we encourage a person who has been unfaithful sexually before marriage, to deal with this whole stronghold before he gets into marriage.

  • I would want to know what the daughter considered to be immoral.

  • As a counsellor who sees a lot of couples it seems to me that God’s way is right. no premarital sex and once married only sex with your spouse (only a male & female can be married). What would be the result? STD’s would disappear (health budgets would be millions better off), abortions would go close disappearing as the baby would be most likely be wanted, no affairs/infidelity. That would be a very different world to live in. I tell my clients to wait 365 days after first meeting someone before having sex. If you wait that long and the other person still likes hanging out with you then probably the relationship has a chance. Because if you have sex straightaway the hormones kick is and you become blind to their faults/bad points. The left will say this is all about stopping them form having fun but you can’t tell me having to go to a STD clinic every couple of months to see if you have caught anything is not flawed = my life style is risky!

  • I don’t know about this situation but in general preachers kids tend to be the toughest. many times they are stubborn as can be believing they know the exact truth because there daddy is a pastor so they will argue with anyone who thinks different on any issue no matter how secondary they just cannot accept any other POV then their own as being the truth and they have nothing to learn from anyone. OR you sometime end up with ones who seem to have had their education lacking because the parent felt them being raised in a church and in a pastors home would instill everything in them and they end up going astray having never learned anything substantive. NOT ALL preachers kids are like either of these but too many are. it can be hard to see them stray like this but even though it isn’t a popular thing to say one has to look first at what kind of job they did as a parent. did they teach the bible to them?? did they help keep them from temptation?? keeping away the bad influences??? I am not trying to play the blame game but if you know where thing went wrong you can be in a better position to fix them. The first step toward solving a problem is assessing it and with family problems that can mean tough and uncomfortable questions. with regard to sex did you teach them all the dangers involved in sex and that abstinence is God’s way of protecting us??? if you had sex before marriage did you discuss it with them and why it was wonderments and what emotional thing happen after sex etc????

    As a side not so many baby boomers tried drugs in their youth but did want to discuss that use with their kids afraid of being hypocrites yet so many of the boomers kids could have benefited from those experiences and maybe would have tried drugs if they had been told about their parents experiences. Children should be able to benefit from your wisdom and part of that wisdom is the knowledge you gained from making mistakes.

  • Is it just possible the push for same-sex marriage gave homosexuals the perfect answer to the fornication problem for homosexuals who profess the Christian faith. Homosexual sex is therefore no longer fornication in a marriage of two homosexuals.

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