By Wayne S. Walker
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators…[will inherit the kingdom of God]” (1 Corinthians 6:9). There are certain Biblical subjects which are not necessarily pleasant to discuss, but they need to be considered, and gospel preachers have generally tried to deal with them as sensitively as possible. One such topic is fornication. The word translated “fornicators” refers to individuals who commit fornication or unlawful sexual intercourse, sexually immoral people. “Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright” (Hebrews 12:15-16).
The term “fornication” can be used of illicit sexual activity in general. “But that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood” (Acts 15:10). In such contexts, most newer translations render it simply “sexual immorality.” However, sometimes it is distinguished from other forms of immorality, such as adultery. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19). In such cases, it refers to sexual relations between unmarried people.
There is a notable example in the Bible of fornication which took place right here among the church in Corinth. “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!” (1 Corinthians 5:1). The King James Version uses the word “fornication” instead of “sexual immorality.” This was probably a young man with his step-mother. Using our usual definitions, we would likely say that for the woman it was an act of adultery, but for the son one of fornication.
Fornication is still a serious problem in our nation today. When I first prepared material for this study nearly thirty years ago, the latest statistics I had were from the Cleveland [OH] Plain Dealer, May 13, 1986, which reported, “By age fifteen, one girl in five is no longer a virgin; by age seventeen, half of all girls have had sexual intercourse.” No figures were given for boys, but they would probably have been similar or worse. Has it gotten any better? My friend Wilson Adams, a gospel preacher in Murfreesboro, TN, recently cited these statistics. “Our culture is in a sexual free fall. The average age for first time sexual intercourse for boys is 15.9 (girls 16.2). The vast majority of students are sexual by the time they are high school seniors. By the way, the percentage of ‘Christian’ kids is no different.”
I do not know where Wilson obtained these numbers, but I suspect that they are fairly accurate. My first response when I read them was, “That’s disgusting.” However, that reaction of disgust very quickly gave way to the feeling, “That’s sad!” because so many young people will never know the sublime beauty and joy that God planned for sex in marriage. Furthermore, every ten years, the census reports ever higher numbers of households made up of unmarried couples cohabiting together. Let me tell you what our young people need to be hearing—from their parents at home, from Bible classes in church, from sermons in the pulpit—over and over and over again, because they will not be hearing it from their friends, from school, from television, from movies, from their music.
From those sources, they will hear only, “Sex is just a part of growing up and being a teenager. Everybody does it. And if you’re still a virgin at eighteen, there’s something wrong with you. You’re weird!” So this is what they need to hear. The following is from a scene in a fictional story where a father is explaining to his twelve year old son about “the facts of life.” Though the story is actually fiction, the advice is very much the truth.
The boy, who is telling the story, reports, “He said that sex, as God intended it, isn’t something that’s dirty and shameful unless it’s abused. Rather, it’s designed as the unique, loving expression of the wonderful and beautiful relationship of a husband and wife and therefore is a blessed gift from God in a committed marriage that’s definitely worth saving yourself for. But as such, it’s very private, to be experienced only in marriage, and not intended for casual recreation, or something to be joked about, laughed at, or made fun of.” Parents, it may be uncomfortable and even a little embarrassing, but please do not be afraid to talk to your children about God’s plan for sex.
What does the Bible have to say about this? “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 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? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). While the application of this passage may not always be easy, the instruction is simple. “Flee sexual immorality” or fornication. Why? Because those who engage in it “will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
—in Search for Truth, 5/10/2015 (Vol. VI, No. 40)