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Jimmie Smith

Not only is there a trend in our society toward immoral actions, but there also seems to be the development of a tolerant attitude even toward that which is specifically condemned in the Bible. I’m persuaded that many are allowing themselves to be brainwashed into overlooking situations which strike at the very foundation of moral standards. Perhaps greater than an ignorance of God’s Will as a contributing factor, is a “don’t care” attitude and a rebellion against the known truths.

People today are likely to boast about doing acts which were unmentionable just a few years ago. I read in one of our digressive brethren’s journals where one said, “Before long it will be hard to find men to consider for elders and deacons who have not been involved in adultery or some immoral or questionable activity,” and sad to say, such is not limited to their ranks alone. Condoning unscriptural relationships will have a leavening effect in the church today just as it did in Corinth (I Cor. 5). Perhaps the most serious fact is that one who is guilty of adultery and who dies with that guilt will lose his soul (I Cor. 6:9-10; Rev. 21:8).

Truth proclaimed often brings temporary heartache in most instances. Considering the “high stakes” it is surely time we get things in proper focus and look at immorality from the vantage point of the judgment, realizing the vast difference between “enter ye in” and “cast him out” (Mt. 25:21-30).


Both “fornication” and “adultery” are used in the Bible to name sins of immorality, with “fornication” normally a more inclusive term. 

The Hebrew word for fornication is “zanah.” It is used “of  a married woman, to commit adultery. Jer. 3:1” (Student’s Hebrew Lexicon, Davies & Mitchell, p. 185). In Amos 7:17 a married woman is a fornicatress, (zanah) (Young’s Analytical Con- cordance p. 452). “Fornication. Heb. zanah, to commit adultery. Every form of unchastity is included in the term ‘fornication.’ Mt. 5:32.” (New International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Vol. 2, p. 746).

The Greek word for fornication is “porneia.” “In Mt. 532; 19:9, it stands for, or includes adultery.” (W.E. Vine Vol. 2, p. 125). “Fornication”- ‘prostitution, unchastity, of every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse … adultery appears as fornication … of the sexual unfaithfulness of a married woman. Mt. 532; 19:9 “‘(A Gk-English Lexicon of the N.T., Arndt & Gingrich, p. 699.)  “Fornication must be taken to mean sin, not only before marriage, but after it also, in a wider sense, as including adultery likewise.”(DeanAlford, ‘The N.T. for English Readers,’ p. 33). Thayer p. 532 defines it,  “Porneia.a. prop. of illicit sexual intercourse in general.”

I will not deal in this article with the “thought of adultery” or with “spiritual adultery”, but rather the physical acts.

God made a way for man’s sexual appetite to have appropriate satisfaction within the marriage bonds. “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). Marriage that is not scriptural is not honorable and the bed is defiled, for John the Baptist told Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother Philip’s wife.” Married . . . but unlawfully in God’s sight. The very same act which is right with one’s own husband or wife is sinful under any other circumstances. “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 (I Cor. 7:l-2). One of the Ten Commandments was “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exo. 20:14). Desires for love and companionship are to be fulfilled with one’s own mate and with no other person. There is no exception to this rule! Any premarital or extramarital sexual act is sinful.


Many argue there is no such thing as “living in adultery or the state of adultery.” Col. 3:5-7 ‘Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye LIVED IN THEM.” (emphasis JCS).

Many argue today that this is outside of marriage, and since these people are married to each other they cannot possibly be guilty of “adultery.” The problem with this is in the statement “all people who are legally married are sanctioned in that marriage.” THAT SIMPLY IS NOT TRUE!

As proof: Rom. 7:2 … “So then if, while her husband liveth she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress..” Matt. 5:32 “But I say unto you, That whoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” Matt. 19:9 “And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and whosoever marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”

You can read similar statements in Mk. 10:12 and Lk. 16:18. Each of these passages reveal that adultery was committed in the act of sexual inter- course with one to whom the party was legally married.

Jesus taught that a faithful person may put away an unfaithful partner on the grounds of adultery and then be married to another eligible mate (Matt. 5:32, 19:9).

I conclude that the state of adultery is a sin for which there is forgiveness; however, requirements for that forgiveness are not easily met. God demands repentance and obedience as prerequisites to forgiveness; there is no exception to that rule (Acts 17:30). Repentance is a “change of mind which results in a change of conduct.” It is necessary to be sorry for the sin and let that sorrow lead one to cease the sin with no intention of committing it again. Relative to the state of adultery, there is no way to repent without ceasing the sinful relationship. Two people in such a state cannot repent while continuing in the union which causes the sin. Prayer will not cover an active sin. ‘What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein” (Rom. 6:1- 2). “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13). It is not possible to receive forgiveness for any sin while continuing to live in that sin. The dissolving of a sinful union does not free a father or mother from responsibility to the children involved, but neither does the presence of children alter the status of an adulterous relationship. The question is NOT, “Can an adulterer be saved?” He can if he removes himself from that state of adultery! “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Cor. 6:11).

The question is: Can he marry again? I believe not! As in the case of Esau, his act of selling the birthright had forfeited his rights to the same. Heb. 12:14-17 “…lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” Prov. 6:32 “But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.”

It is a sin against God (Gen. 39:9).
It is a sin against one’s own body (I Cor. 6:15).
It is a sin against one’s person (Prov. 6:33).
It is a sin against one’s family (Matt. 5:32; 19:9).

May God’s people give the world a good, concrete example of Christian morality in their lives. 2 Cor. 7:1, “Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

And may those who were overcome by these sins of the flesh, (some of whom have never been able to forgive themselves for succumbing to this sin on that night of temptation), and who have sorrowed and ceased such, lift up your heads and hearts, having been “washed, cleansed and sanctified” (I Cor. 6:11).

[This is from the July 1 1992 special issue of the Old Paths Advocate]

 Recommended articles:

Introducing the Church of Christ – Ronny Wade

God’s Sevenfold Unity – Jerry Cutter

Repentance – J. W. McGarvey


The Ancient Faith website is a thematic collection of scholarly yet simple Bible essays and sermons, many of which were composed by Restoration preachers such as J.W. McGarvey, Moses Lard, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Campbell. These courageous men of faith through hours of Bible investigation studied themselves out of denominationalism, asking for “the old paths” (Jer. 6:16) and seeking to return to “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We hope you will join with these men in their fervent plea to restore “the ancient order,” “the ancient gospel” or, as it was sometimes called, “the ancient faith.”