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#5. BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF FORNICATION?

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Introduction 5.2

This is a bible study explains three biblical examples of what Jesus meant by 'except it be for fornication' as a condition for divorce and remarriage. Every one of them is something that applies to the marriage relationship itself, and not anything done by one of the partners outside of that relationship.

#5.2 Fornication within an incestuous marriage

LEVITICUS 18:16
16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother's wife: it is your brother's nakedness.

LEVITICUS 20:21
21 And if a man shall take his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing: he has uncovered his brothers nakedness they shall be childless.

MATTHEW 14:3-4
3 For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife.
4 For John said to him, It is not lawful for you to have her.

MARK 6:17-18
17 For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her.
18 For John had said to Herod, It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.

LEVITICUS 18:8
8 The nakedness of your father's wife you shall not uncover: it is your father's nakedness.

DEUTERONOMY 22:30
30 A man shall not take his father's wife, nor discover his father's skirt.

DEUTERONOMY 27:20
20 Cursed be he who lies with his father's wife; because he uncovers his father's skirt. And all the people shall say, Amen.

1 CORINTHIANS 5:1 (Paul)
1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife.

Note 1: The New Testament church council commanded four things for Gentile believers to abstain from:

(Acts 15:29) "That you should abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication:"
(Acts 21:25) "As touching the Gentiles who believe, we have written and concluded ... only that they keep themselves from things offered unto idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication."

James also quoted the same four things, in a different order (Acts 15:20), but where did they get them from? If we examine the Old Testament to see where these things were forbidden, we find this:

(1) Sacrifices to idols forbidden (Leviticus 17:7-9).
(2) Eating of blood forbidden (Leviticus 17:10-14).
(3) Eating animals killed without bleeding them forbidden (Leviticus 17:15).
(4) Fornication forbidden (Leviticus 18:6-23).

Thus the council at Jerusalem were quoting the Levitical laws of holiness, "without which no man shall see the Lord." (Hebrews 12:14); so it was important for the Gentile believers to receive this information. This being so, it gives us an excellent idea of what the early church thought fornication included, because the unlawful relationships covered by the word fornication, are listed for us to read (Leviticus 18:6-23; 20:11-17; Deuteronomy 27:20-23). These include various forms of incest, and specifically forbid a man taking his brother's wife (Leviticus 18:16; 20:21), which is what Herod had done (Matthew 14:3; Mark 6:17). It also forbids a man taking his father's wife (Leviticus 18:8; Deuteronomy 22:30; 27:20), of which we have three examples. Jacob's eldest son Reuben lay with one of his concubines (Genesis 35:22), for which he was cursed (Genesis 49:4; Deuteronomy 27:20). David's son Absolom lay with his father's concubines (2 Samuel 16:21-22), for which God saw fit that he should be killed by Joab (2 Samuel 18:14-15). The fornicator in the church at Corinth had his father's wife (1 Corinthians 5:1), for which he was cursed by being turned over to Satan (1 Corinthians 5:5). Significantly, when Jesus was challenged about divorce, he was near the border of Judea beyond Jordan (Matthew 19:1; Mark 10:1). This would be under the jurisdiction of Herod, who threw John the Baptist into prison for telling him it was not lawful for him to have his brother's wife (Matthew 13:3-4; Mark 6:17-18). It is quite possible that the Pharisees, who were "tempting him" (Matthew 19:3; Mark 10:2), were trying to get Jesus to make similar statements to John, so that Herod would throw him into prison also.

Note 2: There are certain reasons why we can say that this is certainly one thing that Jesus had in mind when he gave the exception clause, "from outside of a word of fornication," (Matthew 5:32 KJV), and "if not in fornication," (Matthew 19:9 KJV), to divorce and remarriage:

(1) The same word translated "fornication" (Gr. πορνεία, Gtr. porneia) where Jesus made this exception (Matthew 19:9 KJV), is the same word also used by the apostles (Acts 15:20; 15:29; 21:25) where they referred to the Levitical laws against incest (Leviticus 18:6-18), and the same word used by Paul referring to the incest at Corinth (1 Corinthians 5:1).

(2) The scripture declares that, "In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established." (2 Corinthians 13:1), and we have two clear examples to confirm this explanation in the New Testament: one is king Herod (Matthew 14:3-4; Mark 6:17-18), and the other is the fornicator at Corinth (1 Corinthians 5:1).

(3) The fact that this was specifically written to the Gentiles (Acts 15:29; 21:25), as well as to the Jews (Leviticus 18:6-18), makes it equally applicable to everyone today.

All this confirms, that in the context of divorce and remarriage, "from outside of a word of fornication," (Matthew 5:32 KJV), and "if not in fornication" (Matthew 19:9 KJV), refers to the fornication being committed inside an unlawful marriage relationship, which has to be forsaken for a person to escape the sin. The apostle Paul commanded it: "Flee fornication." (1 Corinthians 6:18). It does not refer to some other interpretation of fornication, such as adultery with someone outside of the marriage relationship by one of the partners: there are no examples of that.

#5.3 Fornication within an adulterous marriage

LUKE 16:18 (Jesus)
18 Whoever puts away his wife, and marries another, commits adultery: and whoever marries her who is put away from her husband commits adultery.

Note: Suppose that a man who had not been married before, married a woman who had been divorced, and whose husband was still alive. When he finds out that according to the words of Jesus, he is living in adultery (See #4.2), he has a decision to make. He can stay in the relationship and be excluded from the kingdom of God:

(1 Corinthians 6:9-10) "neither fornicators ... nor adulterers ... shall inherit the kingdom of God."
(Ephesians 5:5) "For this you know, that no fornicator ... has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God."

On the other hand, he can repent, and put her away to escape the fornication that he is living in with her. In this case, it is proper for a person to put away their partner, and seek for a God ordained lawful relationship:

(1 Corinthians 7:2) "Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband."

Notice that to avoid fornication a man must have "his own wife", not somebody else's wife, because having somebody else's wife was also forbidden in the Levitical laws of holiness:

(Leviticus 18:20) "Moreover you shall not lie carnally with your neighbor's wife, to defile yourself with her."

We can see then, how the provision of Jesus, "if not in fornication" (Matthew 19:9 KJV), makes it possible for a man to escape from a relationship that would defile him and condemn him, without being sentenced to celibacy for the rest of his life. Thus in this context, "if not in fornication" (Matthew 19:9 KJV), refers to the fornication (and adultery) being committed inside an unlawful marriage relationship, which has to be forsaken for a person to escape the sin. The apostle Paul commanded it: "Flee fornication." (1 Corinthians 6:18). It does not refer to some other interpretation of fornication, such as adultery with someone outside of the marriage relationship by one of the partners. Jesus' words are still applicable to us today:

(Matthew 24:35) "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."
(Luke 16:18) "whoever marries her who is put away from her husband commits adultery."
(John 12:48) "He who rejects me, and does not receive my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day."

The apostle Paul also confirmed the importance of Jesus' words:

(1 Timothy 6:3-4) "If any man ... does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, ... He is proud, knowing nothing,".

#5.4 Fornication within a homosexual marriage

LEVITICUS 18:22
22 You shall not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination.

LEVITICUS 20:13 (The LORD)
13 If a man also lies with mankind, as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Note: We can see from these scriptures, that just as incest was forbidden by God (#5.2), so homosexuality was also forbidden. In the beginning, God created one male and one female to be his wife (Genesis 1:27; 2:22-25). He did not create two males to be together, or two females, and these relationships both oppose the command of God, "Be fruitful, and multiply," (Genesis 1:28). Although there may be no record of homosexuals or lesbians marrying in the scripture, it is certainly a modern day possibility which God foresaw. Such relationships are an abomination to God, and forbidden by him, therefore a homosexual or lesbian marriage is not lawful in the eyes of God, even if it is legal according to secular law. In such cases people are living in fornication, so when they become believers, and delivered from that lust, they would certainly not be expected to continue in a relationship that is an abomination to God:

(1 Corinthians 6:9-10) "Do not be deceived; neither fornicators ... shall inherit the kingdom of God."
(1 Corinthians 6:18) "Flee fornication."
(Ephesians 5:5) "For this you know, that no fornicator ... has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God."

In context, homosexuality and lesbianism are referred to by Paul (Romans 1:24-29), where he refers to them as "Being filled with ... fornication," (v29). Jude also refers to homosexuality as fornication:

(Jude 7) "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."

In such cases, it is proper for a person to put away their unlawful partner, and seek for a God ordained lawful relationship:

(1 Corinthians 7:2) "Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband."

Notice that, to avoid fornication, every man should have his own wife, not "his own husband", and that every woman should have her own husband, not "her own wife". Thus in this context, "except it be for fornication" (Matthew 19:9 KJV), refers to the fornication being committed inside an unlawful marriage relationship, which has to be forsaken for a person to escape the sin. The apostle Paul commanded it: "Flee fornication." (1 Corinthians 6:18). It does not refer to some other interpretation of fornication, such as adultery with someone outside of the marriage relationship by one of the partners.

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