The consensus of modern dictionaries states that fornication is consensual sexual intercourse between people who aren’t married to one another. This encompasses adultery and all forms of pre-marital sex.
But then, what’s the correct meaning of fornication in the Bible?
It’s common for believers today to ask themselves the correct meaning of fornication in the Bible.
The Bible strictly forbids fornication, especially in the old testament of Mosaic and Jewish customary laws. In Hebrew, the word transcribed for the sin of fornication is also in the meaning of the words for idolatry.
This means that fornication is associated with the worship of heathen idols, many of which had rituals that involved forms of deviated sexual intercourse.
In the new testament of the Bible, particularly the epistles, Paul and the writer of Hebrews waste no words forbidding fornication. To members of the first church on sexual immorality in Colossians 3:5, Paul asks them to consider their bodies as dead to such evil lusts as which amount to idolatry.
In Hebrews 13:4, the author condemns those that defile the marriage bed, calling them adulterers and fornicators.
In modern Christian culture, these words have lost meaning. A lot of values are now rooted in norms of culture and trends that change like the wind.
Looking at the literal biblical text at the meaning of fornication
The Bible doesn’t leave it to believers to figure out what sexual ethics to keep and how purity should be observed. As early as the chronicles by Moses of Hebrew interaction and purification procedures, fornication is mentioned in reference to prostitution.
It’s derived from the Hebrew word ‘Zanah,’ which, according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, is also committing adultery. This definition is, however, of the female, and is also rarely of involuntary ravishment or simple consensual fornication.
Zanah, as fornication, was initially used to signify idolatry or spiritual prostitution in heathen worship.
In the New Testament, there was rampant immorality in the early church at Corinth. Paul calls it in 1 Corinthians 5:1 as immorality that’s not practiced by even the gentiles.
The word used here is Greek porneia, a word that also appears over 20 other New Testament scriptures. Denoting sexual immorality, this is also the word from which we get porn or pornography in English.
When the Greek text was translated into the Latin Vulgate, the word porneia was translated to fornication. This is how the English word fornication arrived in the original King James Version of the Bible.
Is adultery a part of fornication, or are they distinguished in the Bible?
In today’s society, many believe that the prerequisite of marriage is fornication. Believers cohabit with someone before deciding to get married and even have children in the process.
Biblically, this is setting the cart before the proverbial mule. It appears that either the church isn’t teaching the correct meaning of fornication, or the world views it as something that’s not implicitly mentioned in the Bible.
According to 1 Corinthians 5:1, fornication is included as illicit sexual conduct, which includes prostitution, unlawful contact, or being unchaste. Fornication and adultery are sometimes intertwined in the Bible, and at other times, distinguished from one another like in 1 Corinthians 6:9.
Paul sets the record straight in his letter to the Roman church, asking them not to be conformed to the world’s norms. He gives those that hold to scriptural authority a standard by which to discern good against what isn’t acceptable in God’s sight.
Paul clearly understood the system of his day and the world to come, warning believers to condemn and avoid conformity to sinful behavior.
What does the Bible implicitly warn on fornication?
Defined as the sin of pre-marital sex, fornication includes all cohabitation outside the bonds of marriage. Another definition takes it as the sexual intercourse involved in prostitution, while a broader sense includes all forms of adultery.
When the term fornication is viewed synonymously with adultery, it encompasses all unscriptural divorces and remarriages or marrying someone that’s been divorced in such a manner.
According to the Bible, there are no contemporary circumstances that can change, negate, alter, or in any way, reduce God’s condemnation of the sin of fornication. However, popular mainstream society tries to make fornication appear commonplace. It’s still a harmful sin biblically.
The frequency of its commission doesn’t make the sin of fornication lawful in God’s eyes, either. Romans 1:29 uses the phrase ‘filled with fornication’ while 2 Timothy 2:22 warns against using youthful passions as an excuse for fornication.
The apostle Paul preferred that believers marry than to burn in hell in 1 Corinthians 7:9. Many accept it as the norm when they see promiscuity in young or old people, a sin that damns the soul.
Being temporarily or permanently deprived of sexual liberties shouldn’t justify fornication. Neither should sickness or demise of your marriage companion until you can be lawfully remarried.
The modern church has been lax in punishing fornicators, much as the church at Corinth was. Paul straightaway observed in 1 Corinthians 5:1f that their laxity or remiss in doing their disciplinary duty didn’t justify the brother accused of fornication.
What was Jesus’s view on fornication, according to the Bible?
In John chapter 8, Jesus is confronted by a mob of Jews who brought to him a woman caught while committing fornication. His silence to the scribes and Pharisees, who sought to ensnare him, can be elaborated in many ways.
To the woman, Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you,” and “Go and sin no more.”
You could rest assured that while the woman was forgiven for the sin of fornication, or adultery, judgment and condemnation did befall her if she persisted in her acts. Jesus at first touted the crowd to throw the first stone, indicating that no one is perfect.
This didn’t excuse the sin, but signified that fornication or adultery was no more excusable before God than rape or homosexuality.
In the same vein, fornication won’t be justified by avoiding pregnancy or attempting to hide the sin by marrying after it’s been committed.
Is fornication a sin of the flesh or the heart?
In Matthew 15:8-19, Jesus said, “Out of the heart proceeds evil thoughts, of murder, adultery, and fornication, things that defile a person.” Paul also warns that fornication is a sin against your body in 1 Corinthians 6:18, urging believers to flee from it.
In the Old Testament book of Genesis, chapter 39: 9, Joseph tells his seductress, Potiphar’s wife, that he can’t possibly commit such grievous wickedness against the Creator.
Joseph then proceeds and shows believers how to flee from fornication.
The Bible states that God can’t require more from you than you’re capable of. 1st Thessalonians 4:3 urges believers to do the will of God, even your sanctification, by abstaining from fornication.
Fornication, according to the Bible, is the only cause that would permit an innocent partner to divorce their spouse and remarry without sinning. In Matthew 19:9, Jesus doesn’t mince words in declaring that fornicators won’t be embraced by the joys of heaven.
A person leading another into fornication is preaching to them, to themselves, and the world a different gospel that’s not of Christ.
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