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Fornication In A Postmodern World

Because of the ever increasing amoral society in which we now live, the BIBLICIST has been receiving several inquiries pertaining to what the Bible calls "fornication." That is, the sexual or sensual activities two people of the opposite sex might enter into apart from, or prior to, marriage.

We live in what has been coined a "postmodern" society. That is, one which no longer recognizes or adheres to moral absolutes. Certainly not what we know as Biblical moral absolutes. In such a society the word fornication is deemed obsolete and conveniently disposes with the disposition that the activities associated with this word are "sinful" (another word banished by a postmodern society). It does not consider sexual conduct as something special, private or holy. But instead it adopts and conveys to the public an unconstrained, even crass, spirit regarding premarital sex or any premarital, sensual activities. Interestingly enough, however, it does retain the word "adultery." But not necessarily for its moral value (or lack of), but because of its legal value which one may use to his or her own advantage (monetarily) within the judicial system.

The world's various forms of electronic media have a formidable, yet subtle, power of influence over the lives and thinking processes of the masses. Therefore it is not surprising that even believers today, especially those who access themselves continually to the various forms of this world's entertainment, are being easily induced and increasingly confused, even callous, toward what the Bible considers inappropriate behavior for those redeemed and born again in Christ Jesus.

Allowing themselves to be saturated with the postmodern message, they have difficulty discerning the darkness it cultivates and consequently are blinded to the spiritual damage it intangibly inflicts upon them. For this reason it is eminent that believers grasp and consciously incorporate into their lives Biblical truths and realities regarding their "calling" by God. A divine calling which summons for a radical shift away from the behavioral patterns practiced by those who are enslaved to this postmodern, world system (1Cor. 1:2; Eph. 4:1; 2Thess. 1:11; 2Tim. 1:9; 2Pet. 1:10).

In His high-priestly prayer, just prior to His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus described in no uncertain terms what a believer's relationship to the world is to be. He said, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." And He prays to the Father, "Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth" (Jo. 17:17-18). Though the believer is "in" the world he is not "of" the world. That is, his identity is no longer akin to this world system and therefore the believer's life is not to be animated by its desires, philosophies and values. He has a new identity (in Christ), a divine calling and a heavenly citizenship (Phil. 3:20), sanctified (set apart) to live his life in accordance with God's infinite and immutable Truths revealed in His Word.


"Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
The Greek word "pornoi" in the above passage is correctly translated "fornicators" and is distinguished from "moichoi," translated "adulterers." Adultery is unfaithful sexual activity within a marriage, whereas, fornication, in its restricted sense, denotes a voluntary sexual communion between two unmarried people of the opposite sex.

But in its wider sense, the Greek "porneia" is rightly translated "immorality," as in 1Cor. 5:1,11 and 6:18. Denoting various sensual activities which the apostle Paul warns believers to "flee" as one would from impending danger. "Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man (i.e., one who practices immorality) sins against his own body" (1Cor. 6:18). He goes on to explain the personal nature of this sin in that the believer's body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in him and that he is not his own. Why? Because he has been bought with a price, the shed blood of Christ, therefore he is to glorify God in his body. In other words, the body is to be considered holy because of Who indwells it (the Holy Spirit) and Who has purchased us by His own blood (Christ Jesus). Therefore believers are exhorted not to "conform" to or deliver their bodies to the lustful practices of this world but instead be "transformed" by the renewing of their minds, by the truths set forth in the written Word of God" (Rom. 12:1).

Sanctification Versus Fornication

From the onset, the teaching of abstaining from fornication was an important theme for the believer's walk. When the gospel went out to the Gentiles it was reported back to the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem the amazing works that God was accomplishing amongst them (Acts 15). However there were believers there of the Pharisaic order who claimed it was necessary for the Gentile believers to be circumcised. Another way of stating that they were to submit to the Mosaic Law, i.e., become Jewish. But the council which came together rejected that notion and only required that they abstain from specific things that were deemed offensive to Jews and most importantly, fornication. A constraint repeated throughout the New Testament Epistles associated with our sanctification.

Paul was unequivocal in his first letter to the Thessalonian believers, exhorting them in the Lord Jesus Christ to continue to please God by abiding in the instruction they received from them on how they should walk before God in this world; "For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality (or, fornication); that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God....for God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification" (1Thess. 4:1-7).

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul feared of personal embarrassment because of the idea that he might have to personally confront them for not putting away, or repenting of certain impurities, immoralities or sensualities they had practiced in the past (2Cor. 12:21). To the Ephesians he wrote, "But do not let any immorality, or any impurity or greed be named among you," concluding, "as is proper among the saints" (Eph. 5:3). And to the Colossians he equated immorality (porneia) to that of the sin of idolatry. Even the risen Christ Himself had to warn the church at Thyatira to turn away from such practices.

The early Church grappled with the sin of fornication because it was being called directly out from the darkness of Gentile, pagan societies which, as a large part of their culture, practiced such things. But through the subsequent centuries many Gentile nations freed themselves from the entanglements associated with this sin. Their cultural mores changed through the influence of the gospel on the hearts of people and the preaching of God's written Word. But this Church age is waxing old and those nations which once considered themselves "Christian" are falling head long into an even darker culture from which the Church first came out. "Darker" because instead of coming out of darkness into light, "postmodern" societies have vehemently rejected the light of the Gospel and have again embraced the darkness that once enslaved them. And based on the following spiritual principle, a disorder far worse than their previous one :

"When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first" (Lk. 11:24-26).
The society that rejects the spiritual light it once possessed abides in a far greater darkness than the one from which it was once delivered. For if it turns its back to the True Light there is no other Light to once again illuminate it. Therefore, it is imperative that believers comprehend the times in which they are living and the depth of spiritual darkness their society is plunging. These days it is perilous indeed to approach the faith in a cavalier fashion and to flirt with the destructive, sensual practices our society unabashedly depicts as not only innocent but culturally healthy. We must daily put on "the full armor of God," that we "may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil," knowing that ultimately "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:11-12).


The Apostle Peter calls us a "chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession" for the purpose of proclaiming the excellencies of Him who called us OUT OF DARKNESS into His marvelous light. And in agreement with Christ's high-priestly prayer, he urges us as "aliens" and "strangers" to this postmodern, world system to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul." (1Pet. 2). And in response to the 1Cor. 6:9-10 passage cited above, the Apostle Paul concludes,

"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 Christ, and the Spirit of our God" (1Cor. 6:11)

Written by Gary Nystrom

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