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‘There is sexual immorality among you’ (1 Cor. 5:1)
‘Not to associate with sexually immoral people’ (1 Cor. 5:9)
‘The people of this world who are immoral’ (1 Cor. 5:10)
‘Calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral’ (1 Cor. 5:11)
nor men of passive homosexual acts [μαλακοὶ], nor men of active homosexual acts [ἀρσενοκοῖται] (1 Cor. 6:9)*
* The two Greek terms refer to passive men partners and active men partners in consensual homosexual acts.
- Evil Desire, lust, coveting, craving: (ἐπιθυμία epithumia) This is an inordinate, self-indulgent craving to have what belongs to another or engage in what is morally wrong, which displaces our affection for God. – 5:16; 1 Tim. 6:9; 2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Pet. 1:14.
- Shameless Conduct, Sensuality, Debauchery, Promiscuity, Licentiousness, Lewdness: (ἀσέλγεια aselgeia) This is one who indulges in sensual pleasure without any regard for morality. This is behavior that is completely lacking in moral restraint, indulgence in sensual pleasure, driven by aggressive and selfish desires, unchecked by morality, especially in sexual matters. This refers to acts of conduct that are serious sins. It reveals a shameless, condescending arrogance, i.e., disregard or even disdain for authority, laws, and standards. – Mark 7:22; Rom. 13:13; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 4:19; 1 Pet. 4:3; 2 Pet. 2:2, 7, 18; Jude 4.
- Sexual Immorality: (זָנָה zanah; πορνεία porneia) A general term for immoral sexual acts of any kind: such as adultery, prostitution, sexual relations between people not married to each other, homosexuality, and bestiality. – Num. 25:1; Deut. 22:21; Matt. 5:32; 1 Cor. 5:1, 9-11.
- Shameful Behavior: (זִמָּה zimmah) This is wickedness, shameful behavior or conduct that is lewd, shameless regarding sexual behavior. (Lev. 18:17; 19:29; 20:14; Judges 20:6; Job 31:11; Jer. 13:27; Eze. 16:27) It can also refer to the evil thought process that one goes through in plotting their wickedness. (Ps 26:10; 119:150; Pro. 10:23; 21:27; 24:9; Isa. 32:7; Hos 6:9) Finally, it can be the plans that result from thinking person’s evil desires. – Job 17:11.
Sex is big business. In fact, pornographic literature, films, internet, and videos are major items of export and import. These wicked wares are flogged openly in the streets of such cities as Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Frankfurt airport even has a sex shop indicated with a rude sign.
In recent times, two major acts have passed through Parliament to control the skin trade. The abuse of children by porn publishers was attacked in the 1978 Protection of Children Bill. (Previously, children as young as seven had been put before the camera to make blue films.) A further step in the control of pornography was Tim Sainsbury’s (1981) Indecent Displays (Control) Act, which has at least liberated us from the shop-window display of disgusting literature and toys.
A helpful contribution to this movement for reform came from James Anderton, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester. In conjunction with Mary Whitehouse, Anderton launched a campaign against porn. ‘Pornography is a dangerous threat to family life,’ the crusading Chief Constable asserted.
It is the little word ‘porn’, which gives us a key to the Greek text of 1 Corinthians 5. In verse 1 we have the word ‘immorality’ which is the Greek word porneia. The same root word occurs in verses 9, 10 and 11 as pornos (‘a sexually immoral person’).
In 1 Corinthians 5 the focus of biblical rebuke falls on immorality in the church. A man has taken his father’s wife (that is, his stepmother) as a concubine. This act of incest violates not only the Old Testament, but also pagan sensitivities. That it offended the Corinthian public shows just how outrageous was this sin, for the Corinthians were proverbial for their immorality.
Paul dwells heavily upon sexual sin in 1 Corinthians. For instance, in 1 Corinthians 6:7–18 Paul warns repeatedly that no immoral person will reach heaven. This immorality is broadened to include homosexuality. (In our day, this blanket rejection of homosexuality is sorely needed.) In the verses of 1 Corinthians 6 Paul tackles various sexual sins: adultery and male prostitution (v. 9), prostitution (vv. 15–16) and even a sidewise reference to venereal disease (v. 18).
The greatest bulwark against immorality, according to Paul, is marriage (1 Cor. 7:2). Despite his well-known commitment to celibacy, Paul regarded marriage as the main preventative against immoral relations. By implication, he condemned all sexual relations outside marriage.
Immorality is also seen to be an infectious dry rot within society. Because of moral laxity, more than 23,000 of the children of Israel died on one day (1 Cor. 10:8, compared with Num. 25:1–9).
This theme carries over into 2 Corinthians, where Paul still urges Christians to abstain from sexual sin (2 Cor. 12:21). In the early church, especially in Greece, immorality was a persistent problem, and Paul spoke out fearlessly against it.
Today within a few yards of our church, there are pimps, massage parlors, prostitutes and pornography. If we are to be truly biblical Christians, we too must speak out against such sin. Already this has produced threats and derision, but God’s Word is not rendered invalid by the sneers of sexual slave-traders.
Just now, we are seeing a most remarkable coincidence of events in our city. The number of sex shops has grown, and so has the number of sexual attacks. In fact, one young lady was attacked within a few feet of our church.
At the same time, educators are advocating sex education and experiments for children as young as five and six. A famous bishop has burst into print urging that the age of consent for sexual intercourse should be lowered to fourteen. This misguided liberal spirit only encourages the current trend towards anarchy on the moral level.
Our word porneia has two primary uses in the Bible. First, it is applied literally to sexual sin. In Ephesians 5:3 the apostle Paul warns the Ephesians, ‘Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality.’ This commitment to purity is not natural; it must be taught. In an excellent article which appeared in the Washington Star (3 July 1977), Eunice Shriver, sister of President Kennedy, said, ‘Intellectual virtues can be taught … moral virtues are formed by acts.’ Christian ethics concerning sex must be trained into the young of every generation. He who hesitates to teach this truth will lose the battle in very short order.
The Lord applied our word to adultery, the practice of sex by married people outside the marriage relationship. In Mark 10:19 Jesus repeats the Ten Commandments and thus approves and enforces them. In Matthew 19:9, he shows adultery to be a cause of marital breakdown.
The danger of extra-marital sexual relations is seen daily in the media, as actors and actresses dramatize the delights of adultery without showing the disasters it causes. Professor Ian Donald of Glasgow University stated the dangers most clearly. ‘Girls should be taught to value themselves more and not to enslave themselves to the “lusts and deceptions of male chauvinist pigs”,’ proclaimed the professor of midwifery. After all, he has the task of cleaning up the legacy of sorrow left by lecherous adulterers.
There is also a second use of our word, and this is the figurative application to spiritual unfaithfulness. In the Greek version of the Old Testament (the Septuagint), Hosea 6:10 contain this reference: ‘Ephraim is given to prostitution and Israel is defiled.’
The same application is employed in Revelation. The Lord gave to the church at Thyatira ‘time to repent of her immorality’ (Rev. 2:21). This may apply to actual sexual sin, but in Revelation 19:2 the reference seems to be spiritually, to the ‘great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries’.
This spiritual unfaithfulness emerged soon after the end of the apostolic age. One sees the fruit of it in the demise during the seventh century of the once-thriving Christian church at Thyatira. Internal rot had prepared the way for a Muslim rout of the church.
Now the major churches of Europe and North America are likewise involved in spiritual adultery. Unbiblical theology cuts away the foundation of truth and leaves the church crumbling. Unspiritual churches attract people to a show of pop music and pop preaching. Little cute sermonettes have produced a generation of Christianettes, miniatures of the real thing. Unfaithful leaders sell their souls and their pastoral charges for every conceivable reason, from political favor to imagined church unity. Lack of love for God leads to spiritual sterility.
Paul’s warning is doubly necessary: ‘do not associate’ with sexually immoral people.
By Wayne A Detzler and Edward D. Andrews