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The BIBLICAL Definition Of Sexual Immorality

Sexual sin and sex in general plays a big part in the world in which we live. Sex is the climax of all pleasure and it is the downfall of the greatest of men. The Bible is clear that sexual sin is a grave and dangerous road to travel. The Bible also draws a clear parallel between sex and idolatry. Idolatry is the ultimate betrayal of God in the form of worship, obedience, or adoration toward other false gods. The Bible calls this fornication in a spiritual sense. Fornication is another word for sexual immorality, or forbidden sex. Marriage depicts the relationship between Christ and the church. Sex depicts the oneness we have with God in possessing his Holy Spirit within our bodies. So any sexual perversion that goes against God's purposed design is an abomination. Yet sex that is in line with God's purposed design is holy. So there is no in between. It is either holy or an abomination. Let's break it down and see just how God's word defines sexual immorality, also known as fornication. 

Leviticus 18 - covers the vast majority of sins that encompass the word fornication.
No Adultery - sexual relations involving a married woman outside of marriage v20
No Homosexuality - people of the same sex having sexual relations v22
No Beastiality - a person performing a sexual act with an animal v23
No Incest - sexual relations within close relatives v6-18
No sex with women on their monthly period v19
No Idolatry-spiritual adultery against God by having spiritual relations with other gods v21

So all references of fornication or sexual immorality in the Bible should be defined as what is written in the law. We are not to add to it and forbid what God does not forbid. Let's define some words that we see in the Bible and make sure we are applying them correctly.

Sexual Immorality - forbidden sexual sin as written in the law of God
Fornication - forbidden sexual sin as written in the law of God
Fornication (spiritual) - worship, obedience, or adoration of false gods; idolatry
Adultery - sexual relations involving a married woman outside of her marriage
Whore/Harlot - sexual relations by a female who is unmarried
Whoremonger - sexual relations by a male to an unmarried female

Adultery Defined

Adultery is defined in the Bible as any sex involving a married woman outside of marriage. The married woman is depicted by the church. Any spiritual fornication against God is idolatry. So an adulterous church is depicted by a married woman having sexual relations outside her marriage. 

And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. Leviticus 20:10 
(
This is the biblical definition of adultery. It can only occur when involving a married woman. Adultery is a property rights crime against the husband. An unmarried woman can not commit adultery, that sin has a different name. So the married woman having sexual relations outside of her marriage is the adulteress. And the man having sexual relations with a married woman that is not his wife is the adulterer.)

What About Premarital Sex?

Premarital sex IS seen to be a sin in the scriptures, but it is not as straight forward as many might imagine. Let's take a look.

Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. Heb. 14:4 (This is the most straight forward verse there is on premarital sex being a sin. All sex within marriage is honorable. Adultery as defined above is clearly a sin. But what is a whoremonger? A whoremonger is one who mongers among whores. In other words, a whore is in reference to a female having sex outside of marriage, because sex inside of marriage is either classified as honorable or adultery. A whoremonger is referencing a male having sexual relations with a whore, or a female who is unmarried. That is the definition of premarital sex, and it is a sin.)

"I will not punish your daughters when they turn to prostitution, nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery, because the men themselves consort with harlots and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes-- a people without understanding will come to ruin! Hosea 4:14 (This verse is for those that think premarital sex is only a no-no for women. "Men themselves consort with harlots" is by definition a whoremonger, and this is said to be "a people without understanding" and will "come to ruin.")

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. 1 Cor. 7:1-9 (This text condemns premarital sex as sin. The Corinthians wrote to Paul about the problems they were having about premarital sex. Paul's solution was for them to marry and not withhold sex from one another so as to keep sexual relations within the confines of marriage as God had designed it to be.)

If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” then the young woman’s father and mother shall bring to the town elders at the gate proof that she was a virgin. Her father will say to the elders, “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. Now he has slandered her and said, ‘I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.’ But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.” Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, and the elders shall take the man and punish him. They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the young woman’s father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives. If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you. Deut. 22:13-21 (This verse is speaking more regarding the fraud that occurs if a woman and her father present the woman as a virgin, which makes for a much higher dowry amount to the father, but it is not true. This is fraud and is equated to theft. However, death by stoning is not the sentence for theft or fraud. It is because "she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father's house." Other translations say "playing the whore" or "playing the harlot." So this is premarital sex. Premarital sex does not warrant the death sentence either, see Exodus 22:16-17. The combination of premarital sex combined with the act of fraud rendered the death sentence as neither sin by itself would do so. So this is old testament proof that premarital sex is a sin because if it wasn't then the woman would not have received the death penalty for fraud alone.)

“If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wifeIf her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins. Exodus 22:16-17 (This is about not cheating the father out of the dowry. But the man should marry the woman and care for her as his wife. It is a matter of duty and not robbing the woman of her worth. Today virginity does not carry value so getting married may not apply unless they both wanted to marry. But the principle of premarital sex still stands from Deut. 22.)

If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 (This is about not cheating the father out of the dowry in the case of rape. The man is to marry the woman and provide for her the rest of his life. Again virginity today does not carry value today, so marriage in these cases today really aren't necessary.)

When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her. Deuteronomy 21:10-14 (This context of this text is situational. The woman is a captive of war and her family has died. She has no hope for survival without a husband. Men may take these women as wives. "Have no delight in her" is referencing finding her not to be a virgin. In other words, they are married at this point as the sex consummates the marriage, but if she is found to not be a virgin, it may be annulled if the man so chooses to do so. Because as a prisoner there is no way of knowing for sure if she is a virgin or not until having sex with her. But we see here that there is no sex before marriage in this situation.)

Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.” So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her. And Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter as her attendant. When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?” Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.” And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. Laban gave his servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her attendant. Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years. Gen. 29:18-30 (We see here that Jacob did not have sex with Rachel or Leah until after they were married. There was no "try it before you buy it." Jacob worked 7 full years for the right to marry Rachel and then have sex with her.)

Song Of Songs is a book to which speaks to premarital sex as well. Although the engaged couple fantasizes about sexual relations with each other, they refrained from doing so until after the wedding. 3 times it is warned "do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." So we see that the desire was there to have sex, but they had to wait until after they were married. The wedding night is when they have sex for the 1st time as the woman is a virgin.

What Is NOT Defined As Sexual Immorality

Lust - Is lust simply looking at a woman and thinking she's hot? Is it lust when you imagine sexual fantasies in your mind? But the Bible does not use this word as we use it today.

Polygamy - The mystery of Polygamy is a fascinating one. God must have made a mistake or simply allowed this silliness from the patriarchs of the Bible right?

Masturbation - Amazingly almost every commentary out there declares masturbation a sin by either saying the the Bible is clear in that declaration or that the Bible doesn't talk about it, but it's still wrong to do it. I agree that the Bible is clear. But I disagree that it is a sin.

Pornography - Pornography is obviously one of the darkest of sins we can commit according to just about everyone right? Is this what God's word says?

Sex Does NOT Equal Marriage

Some have falsely concluded that marriage is the result of having sex with someone. This can lead to other false conclusions such as there being no such thing as premarital sex since you'd be married to them as a result of the sex itself. While this could be concluded by taking a certain of versus by themselves. The error is, as is the case with many false doctrines, in not consulting the whole council of scripture. Let's look at a few versus that refute this.

The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD. Hosea 1:2 (Hosea took a wife who was not a virgin, but instead a whore. He could not have done this if sex equals marriage. Also, whores, harlots, and prostitutes would not exist at all if sex equaled marriage.)

Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and raped her. His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. And Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl as my wife.” When Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been defiled, his sons were in the fields with his livestock; so he did nothing about it until they came home. Gen. 34:1-5 (Here we see the act of sex taken place, but the result of marriage has not taken place.)

Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. Mal. 2:14 (Marriage is a covenant.)

We see that sex does not equal marriage. Sex does consummate the marriage, or make it complete, in the sense that that is what married people do. They have sex and create a bodily union between the two of them as "the two shall become one flesh." But sex by itself, without the vows of commitment that create the covenant, does not create a marriage. If a marriage covenant is created, yet no sex to consummate the marriage, then the marriage is annulled. The covenant was broken, as "the the two shall become one flesh." So you can't have one without the other.

The Scriptures Revisited

All verses that use the words "sexual immorality" and "fornication" are referencing the same thing as they are used interchangeably. These words are defined by forbidden sexual relations laws written in the law of God, primarily in Leviticus 18. What we have to be most mindful of is to not add to what the word of God defines as sexual sin. With this in mind, and from what we have learned from above, let's see if this changes the application of the verses below to what God intended.

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 1 Corinthians 6:9 (Let's not place our own definition on what a fornicator is. Let's let the Bible do that. See above.)

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18 

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. 1 Corinthians 5:1 (Fornication is defined as incest in this verse. Yes, Leviticus 18 covers this.)

He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” Mark 7:20-23 (Matt.15:17-20)

Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. Rom. 13:13-14 (Again we must be careful not to place our own definitions on words or phrases. "Desires of the flesh" is referencing the sinful nature. So let's be careful in how or what we define as sin so as not to wrongfully apply this verse.)

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. Matthew 19:9

Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 1 Corinthians 10:8

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Galatians 5:19 ("Works of the flesh" is referencing sin, not all pleasures as ascetics teach. Lasciviousness is overindulgence.)

Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. John 8:41

But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. Acts 15:20

That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. Acts 15:29

As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. Acts 21:25

But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Ephesians 5:3

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: Colossians 3:5

For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 1 Thessalonians 4:3

Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Jude 1:7 (Here fornication is defined as homosexuality. Yes, Leviticus 18 covers that.)

Whore, Whoredom, Whoremonger, Harlot, And Harlotry

All verses with the words "whore," "whoredom," "harlot," or "harlotry" are all feminine nouns referring to a woman. Only "whoremonger" is in reference to a man. 

For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit. Prov. 23:27 (A whore is used for a woman, not a man.)

There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel. Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God. Deut. 23:17-18 (Whore = daughters = feminine)

The Spiritual Depicts The Physical

Other places in scripture refer to fornication in a spiritual sense, which is idolatry. Whoredom and harlotry are the same meaning of fornication. Spiritual fornication is spiritual adultery toward God. It is the spiritual relations with other gods. Spiritual fornication is what is being depicted by the physical.

Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 1 Cor. 6:16-17 (The spiritual depiction of us communing with God and sharing his spirit is physically depicted in the act of sex in the body. Thus sexual immorality is the equivalent to betraying God and communing and uniting with another spirit. This is why idolatry is equated to fornication.)

They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD. Lift up thine eyes unto the high places, and see where thou hast not been lien with. In the ways hast thou sat for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness. Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore's forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed. Jer. 3:1-3 (The spiritual is likened to the physical. The wife(female) is represented in the harlot and whore.)

The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also. And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD. Jer. 3:6-10 (Notice all the feminine nouns and pronouns. God divorced Israel. It is all likened to physical fornication.)

And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth. Isaiah 23:17

But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was. Ezekiel 16:15

Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbours, great of flesh; and hast increased thy whoredoms, to provoke me to anger. Ezekiel 16:26

Thou hast played the whore also with the Assyrians, because thou wast unsatiable; yea, thou hast played the harlot with them, and yet couldest not be satisfied. Thou hast moreover multiplied thy fornication in the land of Canaan unto Chaldea; and yet thou wast not satisfied herewith. How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord GOD, seeing thou doest all these things, the work of an imperious whorish woman; Ezekiel 16:28-30

For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. Revelation 18:3

With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. Revelation 17:2

For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. Revelation 19:2

Ezekiel 23
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