“Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
God warns against five sins. Of the five, the fifth (“covetousness”) can go to church and is rather fashionable. Mark the first of these five sins.
The Greek word for “fornication” is porneia from which we get the English “pornography.” It means to engage in sexual immorality of any kind, often with the implication of prostitution — to engage in illicit sex, to commit fornication, sexual immorality. It means any sexually evil activity. This term includes both fornication and adultery. “Fornication” is both an attitude and an overt sin.
The heathen temples of Colosse were filled with illicit sexual activity of all kinds. They committed illicit sex in the name of religion. They would worship Ishtar (fertility deity, goddess of love) or Aphrodite. That is another name for Easter, where they worshipped sex and fertility. The bunny is fertile. “Eggs” has to do with fertility.
On another holiday, they would worship Demeter (goddess of the harvest and fertility). The Phallic cult revolved around the worship of sex. You can see why the whole city was just about 100% in favor of this! Before they received Christ, all the Christians did this at each holiday. This is the way they worshipped their gods. It is not surprising that the Colossian church was pulled in this direction.
The New Testament uses “fornication” in several shades of meaning.
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles — that a man has his father’s wife!” (2 Cor. 5:1).
This young man was having sex with his step-mother. Corinth was the Paris of antiquity. It was notorious for its wickedness. Yet here was a case in the church that even offended the loose standards of Corinth — “that one should have his father’s wife.” This man was living in sin with his step-mother, and the church treated it indifferently! The situation was too touchy. He may have had relatives in the church. Or, maybe they had too much money. When word got to Paul, he exposed the whole thing.
“Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Cor. 6:13). Our body belongs to the Lord (Rom. 12:1), not ourselves. God wants us to have a clean, healthy body. The Holy Spirit does not want to live in a dirty house. Our Heavenly Guest likes clean accommodations (6:16; 6:18,19).
“Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18).
“Flee” means to become a fugitive. Run away from fornication. Don’t play with it. This is a warning to the saints.
The Bible plainly declares that immorality is sinful. It is not a debatable issue in the Bible. There are no two sides to the question. There are no extenuating circumstances that make it right (Gal 5:19; Eph 5:3; 1 Thes 4:3).
The New Testament uses “fornication” and “adultery” six times in the same verse; 20 times “fornication” stands by itself. There are 82 warnings in the New Testament against immorality of one kind or another. “Fornication” occurs 34 times in the Bible, 26 times in the New Testament. Of the 8 times it occurs in the Old Testament, it is invariably figurative, referring to Israel’s apostasy. Jehovah was the husband of Israel. Whenever Israel worshipped idols, they committed fornication.
Victory over fornication comes by fleeing from it.
“Fornication” is a plague in High Schools and Universities, and other parts of our society. Immorality does not begin in High School any more; it begins in Grade School.
The church is not exempt either. Immorality is so common in society; it finds its way into the church as well.
Immorality appeals to people no matter their language, their educational background, or their economic status. It is rampant on every continent, as seen in the AIDS epidemic.
It is not necessary to take lessons to be immoral. All we need to do is do what comes naturally. Barnyard morality is the standard for our day. It is debatable whether there is such a thing as morality at all. Is it right to have premarital sexual intercourse? This is not debatable from the Bible. God has spoken; it is a closed issue.
The sin of fornication is so powerful that we cannot conquer it by will power. The only way we can gain victory over it is not to put ourselves in situations where we will be tempted.