The Expository Files

One Text: Nine Reasons Not To Fornicate

1 Corinthians 6:9-20

Just like us, New Testament Christians faced many temptations in trying to live up to the holy standard revealed in the gospel. While sin and temptation are universal, every place has some sin that is more common and accepted than others. When a group, or whole society, practices a sin it is even more difficult for the Christians called out of that group to avoid it. That sin surrounds them. They probably practiced that same sin before their conversion. And those who practice the common sin are well versed in the excuses given to defend it.

This principle can work to bring Christians into accept, practice and defend even the grossest immoralities. Racial hatreds, foul language and pornography are a few modern examples. In New Testament Corinth fornication was the prominent sin. Mike Willis summarizes the moral situation in Corinth this way: "Also, located on the Acrocorinth, was a temple to Aphrodite which housed one thousand sacred prostitutes, which naturally attracted "worshippers" from all over Greece. So profligate did Corinth become that the phrase "to live like a Corinthian" meant to live a life of drunken and immoral debauchery. Because of the immorality common to the city, the church which was established there was destined to encounter a variety of moral problems. Perhaps Paul's description of Gentile degeneration which appears in Romans 1:28-32 was inspired by what he saw while he stayed in Corinth; we do know that he wrote Romans while he was in that city (Rom. 15:26; 16:1)." Willis, Truth Commentaries: First Corinthians, page ii.

Then it is not surprising (although still sad), that Paul had to argue against the sin of fornication with a number of strong arguments. Some there even sought to justify it. Trying to justify the common sins of our own day is a bad habit easy to slip into.

In the text of 1 Cor. 6, Paul first urges the brethren to settle differences between them without resorting to the courts (vss. 1-8). Paul then made a general call to morality. These first arguments are universal, applying equally to all sins, but fornication was listed first among them.

1. Those who practice sin shall not inherit the kingdom of God. "Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God." (vss. 9,10) How truly satisfying and long lasting is sin? Is the passing pleasure of any sin a worthy exchange for the glories of heaven? So first realize that fornication, or the practice of any sin, will keep you from eternal glory.

2. You have been washed, sanctified and justified from such sin. "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 in the Spirit of our God." (vs. 11) These sins (vs. 10 listed many) are the very thing that we are saved from. Christ died on the cross, offered us grace and the cleansing waters of baptism, forgave all ours sins and made us to be saints. Our spiritual fresh start (new birth) is not so that we can keep on sinning but so that we can be freed from it.

Again, these two points apply to every possible sin. Now Paul continues on, not just to show that fornication wrong (a point already proven), but to refute every argument for it. Would people really argue that fornication is acceptable? Evidently they did. Would those around us, or even we ourselves, ever argue that our own sin is justifiable, or at least, not that bad? Experience shows us that we do.

3. Don't be brought under the control of anything outside Christ. "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." (vs. 12) This is not to say that fornication was lawful, but even some lawful things must be refrained from if they would take control of us. Good things become wrong when they control us. Fornication is a sin that easily traps people and drives them into further sins. So the "sex is a good thing" (even sex outside of marriage) argument is defeated because of its tendency to enslave us.

4. The body is for the Lord, not fornication. "Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food; but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body. Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power." (vss. 13,14) The statement about food may sound good and even have some truth in it, but some were applying it to justify immorality. "We were made to do it, so enjoy it," some said then (and say now). The stomach and food are temporal and will be done away with, but the body has a component that will not be destroyed - it is attached to a soul. So the two sides of their argument are not parallel. The body is not just made for sex, but for the Lord. He made our bodies to serve and glorify the Him, not to serve itself. Yes, sex is a part of the divine plan for the body, but only when used in the right way. Our hope is to have the Lord raise our bodies, so we must use the body properly (that is, for the Lord).

5. You are in the body of Christ and at one with Him, so you should not be one with a harlot. "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it never be!" (vs. 15) When we were baptized we were added to Christ, and we might say, "Christ was added to us." We were added to His body and our bodies became His. As Paul said in another place, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me..." (Gal. 2:20) Will we then be "made members," have fellowship with, whores as well as Christ? It is impossible to keep involvement in two things that are completely opposed to each other. "No one can serve two masters." (Matt. 6:24)

Paul continues on to say, "Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body with her? For He says, 'THE TWO WILL BECOME ONE FLESH.' But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him" (vs. 16) Sexual contact is the most intimate joining that humans can engage in. Husbands and wives are the ones who are to share in it and become one flesh. The sexual relationship, so intimate and personal, is a large portion of the one flesh relationship. To join yourself to a harlot in this way is to have this relationship with her, however fleeting the contact may be. Do you need more intimacy than the God established husband-wife relationship? This is a God ordained and blessed relationship. It has a spiritual component. How dare we then join the harlot, especially when we have become spiritually one with the Lord. This joining repudiates the Lord and His plan for the satiation of lusts.

6. We are commanded to flee from it. "Flee immorality." (vs. 18) Get away from it in haste. Run like you are fleeing a fire because sin is even more dangerous. Go to the Old Testament and read the example of Joseph fleeing fornication, Gen. 39:7-13.

7. It is sin against the body. "Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body." (vs. 18) No other sin is so intimate that it brings you into this one flesh relationship. Other sins do cause damage to the body - substance abuse damages the body, fighting causes damage to the body, etc. But few things can damage the body the way that fornication can. AIDS, and every other form of sexually transmitted disease can wreck you. But none of this compares to the great emotional damage and chaos caused (and Godly blessings missed) when people fornicate. Fornication wrecks homes and happiness. It robs innocence and security. Guilt and jealousy run rampant. Its pleasures are fleeting, but its effects can be lifelong.

Truly it is a sin against one's very own self. Yet many see the sex act as simply a physical performance that has no emotional or spiritual effect on a person. This is patently false. Fornication is the giving of oneself wholly to another that you have no right to give yourself to. This giving is good and honorable and proper and fastening in marriage. But to so intimately misuse the body in fornication is only degrading and entangling. It is a sin against the body itself. So "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge." (Heb. 13:4)

8. You are the Temple of the H.S. "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?" (vs. 19) We have already seen that our bodies are joined to the Lord, and now we see our fellowship is also with the Spirit. To be a temple for a pure Spirit, we must be pure. So if we are suitable for the Holy Spirit to dwell in, we "are not our own." Therefore we cannot set our own rules and do our own thing. The Spirit has the right to control our actions - and He tells us not to.

9. "For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." (vs. 20) This point is based on the same principle as the last one. We belong to someone else. Christ paid the price of His life and blood to save us. We made a promise to be faithful and repent of sins so that He would save us. If we want to continue in His offered grace we must stay under the control of the One who bought us. So we must serve and glorify Him, not live for ourselves. "I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice..." (Rom. 12:1)
Do you commit fornication? Stop. If you don't, never start. But then let us make broader application. Do you practice any sin? Stop. Do you justify any sin? Stop. Were such scrutiny given to any of our sins (and the excuses we give to justify them), we would all be as fully embarrassed as the fornicating Corinthian. Let us then examine ourselves and stop before such rebuke is made necessary.

By Jay Horsley
From Expository Files 8.10; October 2001