What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
We live in a land today where sin is discussed and displayed daily. Some of our own major cities could easily compare to Sodom or Gomorrah because of their blatant depravity. Even some of our smaller cities and towns have homosexual mayors and commissioners who flaunt their perversions in public. "Gay rights" is a major social concern to those who practice such degeneracy.
Though sexual corruption is the sin most associated with Sodom, the people of that city displayed other evil traits. Ezekiel 16:49-50 lists some of their other sins:
Look, this is the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.
The Sodomites also resorted to violence quickly when they were crossed. In a December 3, 1995, article in The Charlotte Observer, Linnet Myers reported:
Within the Western industrialized world, the United States not only is the undisputed leader in murder, but in rape as well.
According to the International Criminal Police Organization's 1990 statistics, England reported 6.7 rapes per 100,000 population; France, 8.1; the Netherlands, 8.9; Switzerland, 6.2; Germany, 8.2; Poland, 5.9.
The United States reported 41.2.
Former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, author of the popular Book of Virtues, spoke of other shameful categories in which the U.S. leads the world:
But, during the same thirty-year period [1960-1990], there was a 560 percent increase in violent crime; more than a 400 percent increase in illegitimate births; a quadrupling of divorces; a tripling of the percentage of children living in single-parent homes; more than a 200 percent increase in the teenage suicide rate; and a drop of 75 points in the average SAT scores of high school students. . . .
Consider, too, where the United States ranks in comparison with the rest of the industrialized world. We are at, or near, the top in rates of abortions, divorces, and unwed births. We lead the industrialized world in murder, rape, and violent crime. (Imprimis, November 1995, p. 3)
Our society is certainly similar to the one into which Lot led his family. In his selfishness and greed, he purposely chose to expose his children and servants to the depravity of Sodom where Satan lay in wait like a hungry lion (I Peter 5:8). We, already living in Satan's world, are commanded, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues" (Revelation 18:4). God wants us to make strides to overcome the ungodly practices that we have absorbed from "this present evil world" (Galatians 1:4, KJV).
Ted E. Bowling
Remember Lot's Wife
As far as we know, the crisis of AIDS has been with us since 1981, although blood samples from as early as 1959 show evidence of the HIV virus. Already, tens of thousands have died from it in the United States alone. Although the disease can be spread by other means, the primary vehicle for the contagion is sexual contact.
Before AIDS, sexually transmissible diseases (STDs) like gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, and chlamydia—politely called "social" or venereal diseases—raged around the world for centuries. Like AIDS, these are primarily spread by sexual contact, usually of an illicit nature. Today, the Centers for Disease Control reports, 87 percent of all reportable disease is sexually transmitted!
This means, of course, that 87 percent of all disease is preventable—by keeping the seventh commandment, "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14), which includes all forms of sexual immorality. Mankind could eliminate nearly nine-tenths of all disease by changing sexual behavior to conform to the standard of God's law! Imagine the health, joy, and peace this would cause!
What a breakthrough, right? Wrong! The medical establishment worldwide—except for a few "radical" countries, most of which are Muslim—utterly rejects behavioral changes in favor of the politically correct "safe sex" procedures. Dr. Ed Payne, a faculty member at the Medical College of Georgia, calls the medical community's attitude of rejection of moral values "deliberate naiveté" (World, November 1, 1997, p. 5). Like children, they believe that if they just shut their eyes to the underlying cause of the problem, it really does not exist.
Dr. Payne writes:
The crisis of American medicine is not tobacco, AIDS, silicone, the Gulf War Syndrome, breast or any other form of cancer. . . . The crisis of American medicine is far greater than any one of these problems; indeed, it is far greater than all of them combined, because the answers to these problems do not come from within them, but from medical ethics. It is the same crisis that faces our culture in every other area: How do we decide ethics? That is, how do we decide what is right and what is wrong? (ibid.)
What is the result? In the case of STDs, the medical establishment actually promotes promiscuity and immorality. Rather than "weigh in" on pre-marital sex, it provides sex education, condoms, and birth-control pills to adolescents. To the majority of "health professionals," homosexuality is not wrong, but unsafe homosexual sex is "at-risk behavior." The risk is not that God will punish for sin but that a person might get a fatal disease.
Wrong becomes right, and if it is so right, their actions say, we should do more of it!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
"You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14) is not limited to sex outside of marriage. God commands us to abstain from all sexual immorality, including premarital sex (fornication), homosexuality, incest, voyeurism, bestiality, public nudity, and much more (see Leviticus 18 and 20). In the New Testament, Paul adds licentiousness, uncleanness, and lewdness (Ephesians 4:19), which largely deal with liberal attitudes towards sexual matters.
Men seem to "get away" with adultery while unfaithful women are considered tramps. This double standard is ancient. In John 8:3-11, a crowd was ready to stone a woman caught "in the very act," but where was the adulterous man? God's Word, however, deals with both sexes equally.
It does not take sexual sin lightly either. Leviticus 20:10 commands death for both participants for adultery, as well as for sodomy and homosexuality (verse 13). Paul reminds us that God killed twenty-three thousand Israelites in one day for sex sins (I Corinthians 10:8). In Abraham's day God destroyed five entire cities by fire for their aberrant sex practices. God sent the Israelites and Jews into captivity for immorality, among other reasons.
Jesus struck the heart of the matter in His Sermon on the Mount. Christians must not even lust after another—fantasizing or committing sex with them mentally (Matthew 5:27-28). Nowadays, many psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors actually advise people to fantasize, or perhaps even have a "little fling." Advertisements and fashions all play to the lust of the flesh, making it increasingly more difficult to obey Jesus' command. Teens sometimes scorn their peers if they are still virgins by fourteen. This topsy-turvy world has completely lost its understanding of this commandment.
Much like our big cities today, ancient Corinth was filled with sexual temptations. Paul advised the brethren there to "flee sexual immorality" (I Corinthians 6:18). Too often we flee, yet leave a forwarding address! It is unwise to hang around people, places or situations that tempt us into sex sins (Proverbs 5:3-14; Genesis 39:7-12). When we flirt with temptation, we can end up as an ox going to slaughter (Proverbs 7:6-27).
Why should we flee temptations? Revelation 21:8 states that God will sentence the sexually immoral to the Lake of Fire, right along with murderers, idolaters, liars, and other unrepentant sinners. Paul adds
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites . . . will inherit the kingdom of God. (I Corinthians 6:9-10)
Sex, Sin and Marriage
The Creator God directly devotes two of His ten great laws to protecting family relationships. In the fifth commandment, we see how important honoring parents is in maintaining a Christian family relationship. God gives the seventh commandment, "You shall not commit adultery," to protect the honor and sanctity of marriage. It is through marriage and the family that we learn how to conduct proper relationships, both with other people and with God. Since it is such an important institution to character development, God does not tolerate its defilement. Within marriage, sex is fully sanctioned by God, but otherwise, its practice causes great harm. In principle, this commandment covers all forms of illicit sex, including fornication, homosexuality, bestiality, and pedophilia.
Martin G. Collins
The Seventh Commandment
Israel fell into idolatry through fornication. The physical fornication produced spiritual fornication, which is idolatry.
In Revelation 2:14, within the comments to the seven churches, we find this problem still haunting the church. It actually surfaces in Revelation 2:6, where it speaks of the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which God hates, but it is more clearly stated in verse 14 to the church in Pergamos.
But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.
It is a problem in two of the first three churches, and it surfaces again in verse 20, this time in Thyatira.
Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
Today, we are bombarded on every side with sex. It is something that, even if one is blind, cannot be escaped because we hear about it. It is presented to us as an inducement to do something.
In Numbers 25, the inducement is to idolatry. Today, the inducement is to get us to buy, to get us in debt, to get us to be slaves of the lender. So sex is thrown at us in things in which it should not even appear—selling pipe wrenches or automobiles. It is used as an inducement, and we have to be very careful because it is so incessantly shoved in our faces.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10
2 Samuel 13:1-15
Here we have the story of the lust-driven affair of Amnon, one of David's sons, and Tamar, one of David's daughters, a half-sister of Amnon. Amnon was sick with love for Tamar, but the fruit of the relationship shows it was not love but lust. He greatly desired to take her to bed, so much so that he deceitfully conspired with his cousin Jonadab to arrange matters. He then compounded that sin by lying to his father to be alone with her and raping her when he finally was. The fruit of his shameful deed was further defiled when his feelings for her reversed to a hatred against her that was greater than his former "love." Two years later Amnon was dead at the hand of Absalom, Tamar's full brother.
What piling of sin on sin coveting produced! It destroyed Tamar's virginity and possibly a future marriage. It destroyed the cohesiveness of David's family. It produced burning hatred, and everyone felt great sorrow. All of this blossomed from an uncontrolled desire in the mind of one person. Its effects impacted on David's family for many generations.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Tenth Commandment (1998)
2 Samuel 13:1-2
The strong desire to be unfaithful to one's clearly stated and understood responsibilities is a drive we have to deal with and overcome. We must learn that there is a living principle that God activated and still enforces in His creation. When this drive controls a person, retribution will automatically follow. Thus, the person is considered faithless. Any time a thing—in this case, sex—becomes an end in itself, it creates an idol, which will provoke a response from God. In addition, as this illustration shows, it also ceases to give the satisfying pleasure God intends. Like a drug, the individual constantly needs more to achieve the satisfaction he desires.
Solomon shows clearly in Ecclesiastes 1:8 that human nature cannot be satisfied: "All things are full of labor; man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing." This is not the way God made us; it is the way we have become as a result of Satan broadcasting his spirit and us following its promptings. We have become perverted in our tastes, and our tastes have to be converted in order to enjoy the benefits God intends.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Seventh Commandment
After Jacob's ten sons sold their brother, Joseph, into slavery in Egypt, they spent two decades haunted by an ever-present feeling of guilt. Whenever Egypt was mentioned, they experienced a pang of culpability for what they had done. The English Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, poignantly expresses the mood of this menacing memory: “From the body of one guilty deed a thousand ghostly fears and haunting thoughts proceed.”
Most people believe sin occurs only between themselves and some impersonal, arbitrary law made up in former times to keep people from enjoying themselves. The only reason today's youth seem to have been given for moral integrity is “because the church says the Bible tells us so.” For this reason, many waste their time trying to undermine the credibility of Scripture and the authority of the church. If they can overturn them, they reason, they will be free to have all the fun non-Christians supposedly have.
In this progressive culture, people believe that morality changes from age to age and culture to culture. Society decides what is right and wrong. Under this reasoning, sin depends on the circumstances of the moment. Through the media and entertainment, the world promotes quite a different level of moral acceptability than God's standards, illustrating Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
What happens to our sense of sin when God's standards seem no longer to be valid? For an answer, all we need to do is take a look at our global society—its violence, sexual immorality, greed, stealing, and lying resulting in mass deaths, horrible diseases, rampant fraud, massive distrust, and misery. Why is it like this? “Where there is no revelation [divine vision], the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18). This is why the standard of right and wrong can only come from one who is perfect—our Creator, the Almighty God.
The apostle Paul writes in Romans 7:14 that God's law is spiritual. The average person, however, considers laws as strictly physical guidelines that were invented to restrict him. But in the widest sense of the word, man's relationship to God, affected by sin, is what constitutes guilt. Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2), and guilt is the result of that separation.
Martin G. Collins
Should We Ignore Our Feelings of Guilt?
A lack of self-control is commonly shown in lust, greed, gluttony, alcoholism, conceit, sexual sins, gossiping, violent quarreling, and false and reckless speech, and many other sins that Satan can tempt us to commit if we allow him.
Martin G. Collins
The Hebrew word zanah, translated as "harlotry," is not the word used to indicate a single act of adultery. Instead, it means "sexually wanton," meaning something done repeatedly as a way of life. Ultimately, it is understood spiritually to signify idolatry. Hosea 4:11-12 defines it in this manner: "Harlotry, wine, and new wine enslave the heart. My people ask counsel from the wooden idols, and their staff informs them. For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray, and they have played the harlot against their God."
By linking zanah, harlotry, with wine and new wine, God is showing that this spiritual harlotry has addictive power. "Enslave the heart" illustrates that this faithless spirit bends the heart to obey its desires, and in the process, it destroys discretion and understanding. Recall that Psalm 119 repeatedly states that meditating on God's Word and obeying His commandments give understanding, indicating a major way in which we come to know God. However, if a person practices faithlessness, loss of understanding results. No constructive wisdom ever results from breaking any of God's commands.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Seventh Commandment
God charges that all categories of sinners are adulterers! He uses the normal word for adultery. He then provides insight into one way the spirit of harlotry entered into Israelite culture: "They do not consider in their hearts"! Is this not also true today? Despite all the evidence of how destructive sexual sins are, people will not change! Within marriage and society at large, we see syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, chlamydia, AIDS, broken homes, rebellious children, and children being raised by single parents. How many children are not even sure who their parents are? These sins are tearing the nation apart!
The Hebrew word underlying the word "king" in Hosea 7:3 is sometimes used to indicate leaders in business, education, and government, not just the head of the government. God is pointing an accusing finger at those whose own evil ends are to profit from this cesspool of faithlessness—to make money and gain power. This list can include doctors, lawyers, hospitals, pharmaceutical houses, pornographers, booksellers, moviemakers, etc.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Seventh Commandment
Christ's instruction in His Sermon on the Mount is exactly what He gave to His servant Moses for Israel. Both teach us that marriage is permanent, its ties so binding that they can be broken only by death—or something worse: physical infidelity, moral abandonment, or sustained abuse by either spouse, all of which Jesus encapsulates in the term porneia, translated as "sexual immorality."
The Pharisees tested our Lord on this point, but His response leaves no doubt on how binding the institution of marriage should be, a standard set from creation:
And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." (Matthew 19:4-6)
Because marriage is a creation of God, it possesses a sacredness that no man-devised institution can ever have. This world is trying to exchange the sanctity of marriage for its complete opposite, the profane, but this secular approach will never produce a healthy society.
The Sacredness of Marriage
Jesus heaps great honor on marriage by using such an event to manifest His glory. The apostle Paul writes, "Marriage is honorable among all" (Hebrews 13:4), but society increasingly scorns marriage, a fact clearly seen in rampant premarital sex and divorce upon demand. Like Christ's coming, a wedding is a joyous celebration.
Jesus and at least six of His disciples were invited to the wedding, suggesting that the wedding couple were concerned about the character of their guests. As His blessing and presence are essential to marital happiness, Christ must be involved in our marriages. However, those who desire His involvement must invite Him in. Had Jesus not been invited to this wedding, a serious problem would have marred the marriage feast. We can learn that couples in whose marriage Christ is involved have a great advantage in solving problems that arise later.
Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Water Into Wine (Part One)
What are the results of rejecting God?
1. Uncleanness, meaning moral impurity;
2. Longing or desiring, especially what is forbidden;
3. Disgracing each other by mutual consent, meaning unlawful and impure connections with one another. Verse 24 contemplates not just a perversion of sex—homosexuality—but any use of it outside of God's law, such as fornication.
Paul describes more of what rejecting God leads to:
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (verses 26-27)
Should we be shocked at the explosion of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in today's world? God tells those that reject Him that such diseases are fitting penalties for the wrong use of sex. Mankind has tried to "advance beyond consequences" in this area by advocating "safe-sex" through the use of contraceptives. However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently admitted that condoms do not prevent the transmission of most STDs. Mankind cannot outsmart God!
David C. Grabbe
What Evolution Really Means
1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Suppose you lived during the time that the Temple in Jerusalem was in operation. As a faithful Levite, you were given stewardship to maintain the Temple and its grounds. How would you take care of that responsibility, knowing it was God's earthly dwelling place? Would you approach it in an irreverent, slap-dash, careless, lackadaisical, "I am too busy with other things" manner? Or would you be highly respectful and orderly and do whatever your hand found to do with all your might?
Spiritually, God has already given us this responsibility. In fact, it is a double-edged responsibility, both personal and corporate. In I Corinthians 3:16-17, Paul uses "temple" as a synonym for "church," referring to the whole body of believers. This is clearly an extension of his earlier use of the building metaphor. By it, he illustrates that each person, as part of the building, has some effect on the quality of the whole building by how he conducts his life. This metaphor ties all of us together as a team with the specific responsibility of doing all we can to build up and strengthen the church. Undoubtedly, the ministry bears the greater burden, but every member is involved.
Paul begins in verse 6 by giving himself and Apollos as examples. The King James Version makes the first part of verse 8 unclear: "Now he who plants [Paul] and he who waters [Apollos] are one." The Revised Standard Version clarifies this: "He who plants and he who waters are equal." They are not one as if they are identical or bound together like a set of Siamese twins. He means that they are equally important to the result.
Paul frequently emphasizes the team aspect. He writes in verse 9, "We are God's fellow workers." In verses 10-15, 17, he refers to "each one" and "anyone" frequently. No one has any room to think that it does not matter what he or she does or fails to do to make the body spiritually healthy. A great, dominant theme of Paul's teaching is the individual's personal responsibility for his life and that—somehow, somewhere, sometime—each will have to give account to God for what he has done.
How can Paul say the various parts of the body bear equal responsibility? This thought hearkens back to the Parable of the Talents. The master does not expect his three servants to produce the same quantity, but he expects each to be equally faithful in what he entrusted to their stewardship.
In verse 17, Paul uses "destroy" twice (see margin). It is a strong warning to those committing the sins named in other parts of the epistle—advocating false doctrine, strife, jealousy, sexual immorality, and other permissive compromises—that God would hold them responsible despite how matters appeared at the time. He would destroy them because the church is holy because it belongs to God, and He has separated it from the world. Through their false doctrines or sinful conduct, whether they were aware or not, they were seeking or being used to destroy the spiritual health of the church. Each member bears responsibility for keeping himself holy and therefore spiritually healthy.
To understand this, perhaps we need nothing more than a deeper awareness that, despite the way things may presently look on the surface, our worldview—how we look at life and all its jumble of events—is quite narrow compared to God's. Once we see things from His perspective, we can see we bear a major responsibility to the body of Christ because God has included us in His great purpose.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part One)
1 Corinthians 3:16-17
One level of this concept of responsibility to the body is, of course, taking care of our physical bodies. Because we belong to God and are therefore holy and are integral parts of the body of Christ, this responsibility weighs upon us with greater intensity than upon those who are not. In John 14:23, Jesus introduces the basis for this concept to illustrate the closeness of our relationship with God: "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him." Under the Old Covenant, God is mysterious and distant and dwelling in the Temple. Under the New Covenant, we become the Temple, and God becomes knowable and personal.
In I Corinthians 6:15-20, Paul clearly confirms these concepts:
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "The two," He says, "shall become one flesh." But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 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 which is in you, which you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in you body and in your spirit, which are God's.
It is difficult to imagine how much more clearly he could express our responsibility to maintain good health! It is actually a fourfold responsibility:
1. To God because He bought us at a price;
2. To Jesus Christ because we are part of His body;
3. To ourselves to come out of sin; and
4. To our loved ones to serve them.
Meeting all of these glorifies God. Paul's concern is that debauching the body by involving it in sin threatens the continuation of the relationships. We normally think of sin as breaking a law. This is not a wrong understanding, but the Bible's usage is much broader. Biblically, sin is falling short of the glory of God, or turning aside from the path of what is right. It is also missing the mark. Sin is the Bible's term to indicate a failure to do things right, and right is the way God would do it. Of course, some failures to do what is right are far more serious than others are.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part One)
1 Corinthians 6:13-15
Maintaining good physical health is a stewardship responsibility that comes with our calling. We owe this obligation to our Creator God just as surely as we have spiritual responsibilities toward Him. We may deem these physical responsibilities as less important, but that does not nullify them.
Paul uses "body" in a dual sense, as both the spiritual body—the church—and the physical body of each member. Sin works to destroy both, and God did not create us to sin.
The sin here is fornication, porneia, which includes a broad range of sexual sins that pervert the right, godly use of sex. Paul uses it to illustrate sin's destructiveness. Sin is somewhat like junk food: It may "taste" good to the senses for a while, but before it is through, it will come back and harm us with its destructive properties. Junk food may taste good going down, but all the while, it is depriving the body of life-giving nutrients it needs to be truly strong.
In Genesis 1:28, God gave mankind dominion and responsibility to rule over His creation. Our own lives and bodies are the closest and most specific areas of God's creation over which we are to rule. In Genesis 2:15, God commands us to dress and keep His creation, giving us more specific direction in this obligation. To dress and keep means we are to beautify, enhance, embellish, and improve the raw product, along with maintaining it and inhibiting its decay and degeneration. In Genesis 4:7, God admonishes Cain—and us in principle—that a desire to go contrary to God's desires will always be part of this mix. Sin lies at the door, He warns, but we must master it. In essence, we must stir up the spirit in us to discipline ourselves. In combining these major principles, we can see that God means our major areas of operation in His purpose are those closest to us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Five)
1 Corinthians 7:3-4
Physically, you do not belong to yourself exclusively! If you are single, you belong to the one you are going to marry. And, even though you may not know that person, they have authority over your body. It is of such seriousness (see Deuteronomy 22), it can lead to the defrauding of that person. What is wrong with sex in this case is the timing. It is to wait until it is within the marriage bond.
In verse 4, another translation of "have authority over" would be "have rights over." Paul says we are responsible to give them what is due. The conclusion is that neither person—man or woman—has the right to use his body completely as he chooses because of the responsibility to the other person, married or unmarried. Even though a person is unmarried and may not have even met his future spouse, the latter has a vested interest in his body. Fornication is a defrauding of one's future mate because the fornicator is not using his body in the right way.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8
The phrase "possess his own vessel" can mean a number of different things.
First, the visual imagery corresponds to the theme of being faithful to a cup—to the marriage commitment we have made. It could be translated, "that each of you should know how to be faithful to his covenant in sanctification and honor."
Second, this phrase refers to self-control, specifically of one's own body. The New International Version translates this verse as, "that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable." Paul, in instructing the entire church—both male and female, married and single—shows it is the duty of all to preserve purity with regard to relationships.
Third, this verse refers to the way one acts with regard to a spouse, present or future. The Revised Standard Version translates this as "that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor." I Peter 3:7 likewise refers to the wife as a weaker vessel to which husbands are commanded to give honor.
Verse 6 includes the curious word "defraud." To get the full understanding of what Paul is teaching here, we have to examine part of the God-plane ideal of the male/female relationship.
God's ideal in this is that there is one (and only one) man for each woman, and one (and only one) woman for each man. It is very clear that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16); He hates the breaking of that covenant, as well as the emotional pain that accompanies it, the scars that the children will have to bear, etc. As loathsome as divorce is to Him, however, sexual immorality is one of the reasons He gives for allowing divorce. He repeatedly warns against promiscuity, and He is very explicit that sex and everything that it involves are only allowable between two people who have made the commitment to each other for the duration of their physical lives.
Seeing I Thessalonians 4:3-8 in this light, part of our responsibility as Christians is purity within our relationships. We are responsible to control ourselves ("possess his vessel") in an honorable way without lust or wrong desire. We also have to make sure we do not "go beyond"—cross the line—and defraud or cheat anyone in this matter.
The essence of what Paul is saying here is that even before a man is married, he can cheat his future spouse out of something! A man can be cheated out of the experience of completely sharing himself with a woman, who is in turn completely sharing herself with him, in a way neither of them has experienced before. Even if a man is not yet married, in essence he already "belongs" to the woman that he will eventually marry, and vice versa for the woman. Even when not married, we have to conduct ourselves as though we are!
It is clear, then, that a man's body belongs to his spouse—whether current or future. This is the principle behind the many warnings against physical promiscuity. But it can go even further than that:
Imagine a young man who is determined to remain physically pure, and yet shares the rest of himself—his emotions, specifically—with every girl he meets. Every girl in the county knows his hopes, fears, dreams, the innermost workings of his mind. When he marries, he will have shared everything about himself except his body. How would his wife feel, knowing that all the other girls had already "experienced" him in all but the sexual act?
In the same way, imagine a young lady who remains physically pure but shares her emotions with all the young men she meets. She will have shared parts of her innermost being, things that really belong to her future husband. This is one reason why God tells us, "Keep [guard] your heart with all diligence" (Proverbs 4:23)!
It is just as easy to be emotionally promiscuous as physically promiscuous, if not more so. And the dangers are significant: continually forming emotional bonds, only later to break them; make them again with someone else, then break them; make them, break them. It will not take long before emotional calluses begin to develop, and a person is unwilling to share him/herself anymore because of the inevitable pain that results. When these calluses develop, it is very difficult for any future relationship to be anywhere near as fulfilling as what God intends.
I Thessalonians 4:6 begins to take on an even deeper meaning when we consider that a basic definition of the word "defraud" is "to promise something one cannot or does not intend to deliver." Today, many practice flirting. Along the same lines as emotional promiscuity, this kind of defrauding promises—either blatantly guaranteeing or merely appearing to—one's emotions, commitment, affections, etc., without meaning to or being able to follow through. Flirting gives the appearance of interest, or it may even be genuine interest, where one cannot follow through with his "promises."
In the modern game of flirting, for example, a young man may behave in a manner that does not match up with his true intent. If he is demonstrating in his actions that a certain girl is the one (and only one) for him, yet is unprepared or refuses to follow through with that process, the girl has been defrauded or cheated. The man has been "promising" an emotional bond without following through. No wonder the Bible says, "Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing" (Proverbs 31:30)!
If we consider that individually we belong to our present or future spouse (physically and emotionally), we can see that certain actions are far from the ideal. That is, if it is inappropriate for a man to interact with a woman in a certain way if he were married to another, it is most likely still inappropriate even if he is not yet married.
This same principle applies on the spiritual level, and the stakes are much higher. Proverbs 19:14 tells us that a prudent (sensible, understanding) wife is a gift from God. When we apply this to the New Covenant church, it reiterates that it is God that chooses who will be a part of the Bride for His Son. God the Father will be faithful to provide a wife that is prudent, sensible, etc., for His Son.
David C. Grabbe
Strange Women (Part Three)
The structure of this paragraph ties together the doctrine of Balaam, the sins of eating things sacrificed to idols and committing sexual immorality, and the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. Christ implies that all three are the same basic heresy under different guises. This antinomian teaching affected the church in Thyatira as well (Revelation 2:20-21).
Moses records Balaam's story in Numbers 22-25, 31. Balak, king of Moab, hires Balaam to curse the Israelites, but every time he tries, Balaam instead blesses them. He then counsels Balak to send Moabite and Midianite women into the camp of Israel to seduce the men and invite them to the sacrifices of their god (Numbers 25:1-2; 31:16). Clearly, Balaam's instruction included getting the Israelites to commit idolatry and sexual immorality.
Interestingly, these two practices arise in the Jerusalem Council in AD 49. Paul and Barnabas, with Peter's help, convince the assembled elders that Gentile converts to Christianity should not be required to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses, Judaism's rigorous "yoke" of picayune laws (Acts 15:10). However, the Council enjoins the Gentiles on four points of typical Gentile religious practice:
For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell. (Acts 15:28-29)
Obviously, the Council's decree does not exempt Gentiles from keeping the Ten Commandments, for it is clear from many New Testament passages that Jesus and the apostles taught them to both Jews and Gentiles (e.g., Matthew 19:17-19; Romans 13:9; etc.). These two issues—idolatry and sexual immorality—became a flashpoint in the conflict between true Christianity and Hellenistic Gnosticism, and a person's stance on them exposed which side he favored. Thus, Nicolaitanism and Balaamism are biblical symbols or representatives of the larger Gnostic, antinomian influence on Christianity.
Is Nicolaitanism passé? Evidently not, for Jesus' admonitions in Revelation 2 indicate that this antinomian influence will remain until His return. Notice His warnings to Pergamos and Thyatira:
Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. . . . But to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, and who have not known the depths of Satan [another allusion to antinomianism], as they call them, I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast what you have till I come. (Revelation 2:16, 24-25)
This does not mean that the particular sins of eating meat sacrificed to idols and sexual license will pervade the church until the end, although idolatry and sexual sins will certainly exist in it. He is more concerned about the antinomian spirit, the attitude of lawlessness, that allows these sins to infest the church. When members of the church teach and practice that they are not obliged to keep the laws of God, sin will inevitably break out vigorously. When this occurs, Christians are no longer under grace but under the penalty of the law and the wrath of the Judge (Romans 6:11-23; Hebrews 10:26-31; 12:25).
Jesus, Paul, Peter, Jude, and John warn against the encroachment of antinomianism or lawlessness. In His Olivet Prophecy, Jesus says: "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Matthew 24:11-12). What will happen to such lawless people? Jesus Himself answers:
Many will say to Me in that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?" And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" (Matthew 7:22-23)
Among Paul's end-time prophecies is his prediction of a great apostasy that results from the unrestrained assault of "the mystery of lawlessness" (II Thessalonians 2:1-7). This comes
with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. . . . Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught. . . . (II Thessalonians 2:10-12, 15)
Peter and Jude use similar language in their books to counter the antinomian teaching extant in their congregations (II Peter 2:9-10, 12-13, 15, 18-19; 3:17-18; Jude 3-4). John's epistles are likewise full of warnings against antinomian heresies. For instance, notice these passages:
» Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (I John 2:3-4)
» Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. (I John 3:4)
» In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. (I John 3:10)
» By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. (I John 5:2-3)
» This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. . . . Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. . . . If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. (II John 6, 9-11)
» Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God. (III John 11)
In addition, the gospel of John uses Jesus' own words during His ministry to attack antinomian heresies in the church. This much scriptural attention along with its prophetic implications warrants our taking careful notice.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
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