1 Corinthians chapter 7 verses 1 to 7 - What's so bad about Fornication? - JS Gillespie 

Part of our series of bible studies on the subject of the biblical teaching on divorce, sexual immorality and marriage in 1 Corinthians chapter 7: 

In response to the Corinthians questions about marriage; Paul appears to agree with their suggestion that 'it is good for a man  to touch a woman,' but only good for those so gifted and not everyone is (7:7). 

Sometimes we don't see gift as gift! 

Some people are naturally fitted for a particular life of service: 

Jacob – the father of 12 boys; you need your wits about you for that job, you would need eyes in the back of your internet router; Jacob the schemer; the wheeler and dealer. Jacob could spot a made up story when he heard one; how a wild beast had ripped his youngest son to shreds, devoured him whole without leaving so much as a finger nail, having carefully first removed only his outer coat of many colours!! – Jacob was suspicious. 
Moses 40 years with the grumbling nation of Israel in the wilderness, you would need a lot of patience! Moses is peculiarly fitted for the task as the meekest man in all the earth; “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.”  (Num 12:3) 
Samson and his strength 
David – “the sweet psalmist of Israel,” (2Sa 23:1), a man of deep emotions and reflection is also a man after Gods own heart; nothing superficial about him. 
Paul – the Theologian and thinker, taught by Gamaliel, a Pharisee, a man peculiarly suited to expounding the Word of God. 

Each individual is a unique mixture of grace, gifts and abilities. 

'To avoid fornication' (7:2) 

What's so bad about fornication? 

Does the media of our day, the stars of the day, the films of the day, the celebrities of the day not attempt to normalise / glorify these extramarital relationships? 

Do we take our values from society / from God? 

Do Gods standards change over time? 

Does God accommodate the changing attitudes of men? 

To hold to that we would need to hold to polytheism – for mans values change not only with time but with geographical location. 

If we have one God we have an unchanging set of standards 

Some suggest Paul had a low view of marriage; a functional view – just to prevent sexual sin. 

Actually the truth is: 

He has a low view of the Corinthians 
It is because Paul has a high view of marriage that he is keen to preserve and protect them from fornication. If we have a purely functional / rudimentary view of marriage then fornication will hardly be an issue! 

Notice how prevalent a sin fornication is in the bible; how often it is recorded: 

Abraham and Hagar 
Judah and Tamar 
Dinah and Shechem (Gen 34) 
Reuben and Bilhah (Gen 35:22) 
Lot and his 2 daughters 
Israel in the wilderness 
Samson and the Harlot from Gaza 
Samson and Delilah 
David and Bathsheba 
Absalom and David's concubines 
Tamar and Amnon 

If we include the polygamies there are even more cases of fornication. 

A sin affecting not only the ungodly Canaanites but equally the great and the good: Judah, Lot, David, Samson and not just the carnal Absalom, Amnon and Herod. 

It was frequently through fornication / sexual immorality that the great and the good blotted an otherwise unsullied copy book. 

What's so bad about fornication? 

Frequent / common problem affecting both the great and the good and the godless alike. 

It is a problem with spiritual consequences: 

1 Corinthians chp 6:15ff : the physical affects the spiritual 
David Psalm 51:1-12,17 
Solomon (1 Kings 11:4) – cuts across the spiritual strata and the generations; 'It came to pass when Solomon was old...” (1 kings 11:4) 

It is the corruption of Gods creatorial order 

'let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.' (1 Co 7:2) 
One man and one woman – the original creatorial order and pattern 
'for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife and these twain shall be one flesh.' (Gen 2:24) – word spoken by Adam? From Matthew 19:5 it becomes clear that these are actually words spoken by God and quoted by Christ. Whilst it might appear from the text of Genesis 2:23-24 that Genesis 2:24 are the words of Adam, according to Matthew 19:5; the are in all probability the Words of God Himself, drawing a conclusion from from the creatorial work of Genesis 2. In other words, because of what I have done with Adam and Eve this is henceforth how the whole of human society will be organised and arranged. Marital relationships are a reflection / consequence of Gods creatorial work. Genesis 2:24 is a reliable commentary to read on the Word of God; it is Gods commentary on His own work! All subsequent marital relationships, the structure of society would be patterned after Gods creatorial work. 
Marriage is one of the few remnants of Eden. No wonder it is under such attack. 

It is important to see that the Divine ordinance of marriage in Genesis 2:24 for all subsequent humanity is patterned on the creatorial order of God in Genesis 2:23-24. This is important for our understanding of 1 Corinthians chp 7. Some will suggest that there is a difference in the ministry of chp 7 depending upon wither or not a marriage or divorce was pre conversion or post conversion. It is quite clear that the nature of marriage / validity of marriage is not altered by conversion. It is quite clear that marriage is a creatorial ordinance and as such is not materially altered by conversion; any more than your chronological age is altered by conversion or your health status is altered by conversion. 

A conjugal ordinance rests on a creatorial order. 

It is an attack on Gods character 

To understand this you must appreciate what is so special about the creatorial order. 
Man looks at creation and considers; wow isn't that nice: 

Fruit for me to eat 
Water for me to drink 
Flowers for me to see 
Beaches for me to go on holiday to. 

Well here is a shocker, creation is not all about me! 
Creation is all about God. 
From our studies in Romans chp 1:18-23 we are aware that creation is and was Gods first means of communication to mankind. 
Of significance in Creation Gods character is revealed: His eternal power (Rom 1:20) and Godhead (1:20) and His Glory (1:23). 
Creation is Gods first means of revealing His character. 

You will have noticed, as you read through Genesis chapter 1 how the character of God, is subsequently progressively revealed in the Word of God and finally and fully revealed in Christ. The seed plot is here in Genesis chapter 1: 

'let there be light' – a reflection of the nature and character of God; 'I Am the light of the world' – Gods creation is infused with light because of His Character. Life can exist deep in the Marianna Trench, 10km deep, in total darkness, at 1000 atmospheres of pressure, but this is not good enough for the God who is Light! 

'God saw that it was good,' (1:4,10,12,18) – Gods creation is a reflection of Himself – Good. 

'Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed and fruit tree yielding fruit.' God is the source of all fruitfulness; 'I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; because apart from Me you can do nothing.'  (Joh 15:5) 

'Let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and for years' (Gen 1:14) – God is a God of order; 'declaring the end from the beginning,' and 'To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:'  (Ecc 3:1) 

'Let the waters bring forth abundantly, the moving creature that ahth life,' - He is the God of Living waters; 'He that believeth in me as the scriptures have said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.' 

'let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle and creeping thing and beast...' (Gen 1:24) God gives life. 'In him is life and that life was the light of men.' 

'let them have dominion...' (1:26) – God is a God of order; 'The most High God ruleth in the Kingdoms of men and giveth them to whomsoever He choseth.' 

So too in marriage – a creatorial order; Gods character is seen; God is faithful; 'yet He abideth faithful' (2 Tim 2:13); God is reliable; 'I change not.' 

God is a God of union and communion; Christ and the Church (Eph 5). 

God likes what He is. God is what He likes. There is no sin in Him. 

God hates what He is not – Sin 

v2 “let every man have his own wife and let every woman have her own husband” - By implication if I am going to hold to this and respect this I am going to also reject 'divorce and remarriage' – no adultery; this is my wife, this is your life. 

V3 “due benevolence” - favour, goodwill, notice there is an equality of favour and a difference of function. 

In NT times marital rights were very much skewed in favour of the man, with Roman and Jewish men able to have multiple wives. Jewish laws on adultery differed for the man and the woman. A woman who had a relationship out with her marriage was guilty of adultery. A married man was only guilty of adultery if he had a relationship with a married woman. This perhaps answers the question often posed from John chapter 8 – what about the man taken in the act of adultery? He may not have been guilty of adultery! 

Biblical recognition to the sexual needs of both husband and wife. 

V5 'That Satan tempt you not for your incontinence' 

think of those times in the Word of God when men failed, when women failed too. 

Those episodes were not totally unpredictable: 

Judah and Tamar (Gen 38:12ff) 

Judah left widowed – unmet sexual needs 
Tamar left without husband – unmet needs 
This fall does not occur in a vacuum but in a setting in which Judah and Tamar are open to temptation, to some extent the scenario is predictable. 
If predictable then it is preventable. 

David and Bathsheba 

Occurs when Bathshebas husband is away from home 

Samson (Judges 14ff) 

Consider Samson, the character perhaps more than any other in the OT we might associate with sexual immorality and fornication. 

Samson had a series of illicit relationships; Judges 16 – Harlot from Gaza and Delilah 

It was ultimately that final relationship with Delilah which would destroy him. 

We have drawn many a lesson from Samson over the years – a story replete with lessons and teachings for us today – lessons on the attack of Satan, on the restoring Grace of God, lessons on final recovery, lessons on the slippery slope of compromise – Samson is drawn deeper and deeper into the trap of Judges 16; physical, emotional and ultimately spiritual. 

Consider the background to Samsons downfall – his first relationship; his first marriage, whilst it was to a Philistine woman, which would ultimately be its undoing, yet in other respects every ting was done properly and above board: 

Judges 14:1 'and saw a woman' 
Judges 14:2 – goes to his father and mother 
Judges 14:7 – Talked with the woman 
Judges 14:10 – marriage ceremony 
Judges 14:15 – legitimate marriage 'husband' 

After the marriage and riddle – Samson leaves (Judges 14:19), but naively – maybe child like returns for his wife (15:1-2) whom he fully expects to be waiting for him! 


He even respects his father in laws instruction (Judges 15:1) 

His wife, having been taken by another is now burned to death by the Philistines 

It is against this backdrop that we can / ought to appreciate the failings of Samson: 

A broken marriage 
A wife taken by another 
An adulterous wife 
Ending in the violent and cruel death of his wife 

Yet Samson did seem to love her: 

'she pleaseth me well' (14:3) 
'she pleased Samson well' (14:7) 
Returned for her in Judges 15:1 

Samson was the big man with the soft heart, a broken heart 
Note how his final downfall unfolds – with words re-echoeing of his first love; Judges 14:16; 16:15 

“lest Satan tempt you for your incontinence” 

Samson failed in the testing and tempting 

Yet the temptation did not occur in a vacuum


Notes from a sermon preached on the biblical teaching on marriage, divorce, remarriage and sexual morality, as part of our systematic bible study series on 1 Corinthians. 

Free audio, mp3 downloads  available above, of these messages as we expound verse by verse through the first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians. 

Yours by Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie