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The New Testament On Sexual Sin
8 January 2014
As I discussed in my last article, not all sins are created equal. All sin is destructive to humans, but some sins are more devastating than others. Because sexual sin is among the most destructive and dangerous of all, the New Testament uses 14 different Greek words a total of 111 times in order to address this critical issue!
All throughout the Old Testament, and especially in the prophetic books, the language of physical sexual sin is used in a metaphorical way to describe the spiritual sin of idolatry — see Ezekiel 16 as just one example among many. This sexual symbolism is carried over into the writings of the New Testament, particularly in the prophetic book of Revelation.
But for the most part, probably close to a hundred times, when the New Testament is using one of these 14 Greeks words, it is referring to literal, physical sexual sin. So let's spend a few moments to take a closer look at these Greeks words and what they mean. You can click on any of the Greek transliterations to find out more about that word as well as see every verse in the New Testament where that word occurs.
There are good reasons why God spent so much time and energy in the Bible warning us about sexual immorality. The Apostle Paul wrote:
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18)Not only is a person sinning against God and themself, but they are also sinning against the one they are engaging in sexual immorality with. God designed sex so that when two people come together sexually, they are joined together in a deeper sense than the merely physical — somehow their inner persons are connected together as well. This is what Paul referred to as he continued:
The body is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Master, and the Master for the body. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Messiah Himself? Shall I then take the members of Messiah and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is written, "The two will become one flesh." But whoever is united with the Master is one with Him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, Who is in you, Whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:13b,15-20)It is obvious that when the Bible talks about a man and a woman becoming "one flesh" through sex, it does not literally mean "one body." Apparently God is using this phrase to mean a deeper, unseen spiritual union between two people. Because of this spiritual power of sex, God ordained that it be experienced only in marriage between one man and one woman. Paul continued:
Since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2)
Every other experience of sexual activity outside of this heterosexual, exclusive marriage relationship is outside of God's plan for humans, and is therefore forbidden for our own well being. It's because of God's loving, logical limits, and the inherent power of sexual relations, that Satan works overtime to facilitate and propagate sexual immorality on the earth. God's great gift to humans also has a great potential to be misused and perverted, causing great pain and devastation in human hearts, minds and bodies.
Another reason Satan wants to promote all sorts of sexual immorality is because God has designed marriage to be a symbol or illustration of the relationship between Yeshua and His people. Paul wrote elsewhere:
"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Messiah and the Church. (Ephesians 5:31-32)This spiritual symbolism is surely one important reason why God is so against divorce. Yeshua Himself, God in the flesh, took a pretty hard line against divorce:
Some Pharisees came to Yeshua to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"Much of the divorce that takes place in our time is not the result of sexual immorality, but mere selfishness and an unwillingness to remain committed. Therefore, according to Yeshua, such divorces and remarrying result in the sexual sin of adultery. Yet even many Christians dismiss this teaching of Yeshua as old-fashioned and irrelevant to our modern age! Obviously they know better than God!
"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?' So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."
"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"
Yeshua replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality [porneia #1 above], and marries another woman commits adultery [moichaō #6 above]." (Matthew 19:3-9)
This brings to a close our brief overview of what the New Testament says about sexual sin. In my next article we will consider the specific sexual sin of homosexuality, while in the article after that we will take a look at sexual sin in the Church.
This article is 10th a series of articles on this Web site related to Exploring New Testament Realities which also includes (scroll to see the entire list):
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