When we hear the word “fornication”, or as some scripture translations put it “sexual immorality”, our thoughts tend to focus immediately on the physical act of sex outside of marriage. It’s understandable, and in-fact normal for us to think of that. It is true that sex outside of marriage is not in any way ideal, nor is it beneficial… in-fact it is harmful in many ways; it’s just plain not a good idea.

However, I would like to direct your attention to a much deeper kind of “fornication”, a kind that I believe the scriptures speak about in a variety of ways, but it is often overlooked because we are so quick of focus on the physical act, that we miss the spiritual act – and this is a mistake, because the physical is not the root of the issue, but the root is in the spiritual.

As we examine this truth today, in the light of the finished work of Jesus Christ, through the lens of Grace, I believe that chains will be broken, and eyes will be opened to see the truth of Christ, even when the scriptures speak on something so often assumed to be purely carnal, such as fornication.

Now as we begin today, allow me to reiterate that I am not advocating or condoning the physical act of fornication or any kind of adultery… I need to keep saying that because this is a touchy subject for a lot of people, and emotions tend to run high, and when that happens, sometimes what is being said is missed (or misunderstood) – so no I am not trying to excuse or allow adultery or fornication of any sort.

What I am saying is that I think we have done ourselves a disservice, by inserting our own assumptions into the scriptures that speak about fornication or sexual immorality, by assuming that they are always speaking about the physical act only. I say this, because as mentioned earlier, the physical act of fornication is really not the root of the issue… we tend to have this mindset that sexual sins are somehow much worse than any other sin; that they are “more evil” somehow – but the truth of the matter is that sin is sin regardless of what type of sin it is – and it’s okay for a Grace teacher such as myself to say that, because it doesn’t take away from the Gospel of Grace in Christ one single bit, in-fact, it magnifies Grace.

Because when we get right down to it, whether you commit the physical act of fornication or not, will not alter your eternal destiny – only Jesus Christ can do that. And that’s the first pillar of the main point of our study today, the truth about fornication as it is presented in the scriptures – is not primarily regarding the physical act, not so much physical fornication – but spiritual fornication.

As we examine the scriptures today, I ask that you look at them with open eyes, and an open mind, and fresh lenses – apart from the traditions and teaching and ideas of men that have been passed-down for years, that focus solely on the physical… because when we take a step back, we will see an amazing truth about Jesus Christ that we will miss if we try to fit the scripture in the two-dimensional box of carnal-minded thinking.

Take for example, 1st Thessalonians 4:1-6:

Furthermore then we beseech you, brothers, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as you have received of us how you ought to walk and to please God, so you would abound more and more.

For you know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you should abstain from fornication:

That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor;

Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.”

Now, on the surface, these verses appear to be speaking about physical acts of immorality, and that is the common reading of them. However, as I have said, I want you to see the spiritual truth of Christ here… because behavior modification is not the solution or the end goal… the end goal is Jesus Christ, and He is the solution!

Notice verse 1 of our text… most people read this as a sort-of how-to guide, or self-help book about becoming holy, when in-fact it is instead showing you who you are in Christ Jesus. And these two perspective are worlds away from each-other. One person is reading trying to become holy because they see themselves as unholy. The other is reading to see the proper picture of who they already are in Christ.

The problem is, we tend to get confused because we see that phrase “how you ought to walk”, and somewhere along the line, we got it into our heads that “walking” somehow means works, or efforts of ourselves. But allow me to present to you a different thought regarding the term “walking” as it is used in the scripture…

In Galatians 2:11-14, we see an example where Peter became afraid when the clan following James arrived, and Peter withdrew from eating with the Gentile believers. In verse 14, what Peter did was called “not walking uprightly according to the truth.”

So what we can conclude, is that “walking” is not referring to works or efforts, but to believing and living what you truly are! Acknowledging the truth of who He has made you to be – and this of course pleases God because it speaks of the finished work of His Son, Jesus!

Now this is key, because we must keep this in context… it is speaking about our belief, not works of our flesh, not our human efforts. In verse 3, we find this: For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you should abstain from fornication

Now stop here for a moment, and let’s consider a few things that people normally don’t consider… what if this actually was speaking about physical fornication? What if your actual sanctification (holiness) was dependent on your ability to never-ever commit sexual immorality? And while we’re at it, let’s remember Jesus’ words that to even look at a woman (or man, ladies) is to already commit adultery in your heart.

And then let’s just cut-to-the-chase, and remember that Jesus’ standard for holiness is to be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.

So, when we actually think about it, if we put all of the cards on the table, we see that if our holiness, our sanctification, relies on our own performance, then no-one except Jesus Himself can ever be holy / sanctified.

This is the point of our study today, that what the works-minded crowd typically tries to label as being purely physical, is actually very much spiritual. Remember that the context here is our belief on the truth of Christ, the place that we are in and who we are in Him – as per verse 1… then He says, it is the will of God, it is your holiness, avoid fornication.

What is spiritual fornication? Well, hold your place here in 1st Thessalonians 4, because we are going to go on a short journey through scripture, to see what spiritual fornication is. I want you to fully understand it.

1st Corinthians 6:17-18, says that we are joined together to God in spirit. We are one spirit with Him, and therefore we should (again) flee fornication – and again, the entire context is spiritual, not physical.

Now, who exactly should we avoid fornication with, in a spiritual sense? Turn to Galatians 4, and read verses 22-31:

For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a female slave, the other by a free woman.

But he who was of the female slave was born after the flesh; but he of the free woman was by promise.

Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which engenders to bondage, which is Hagar.

For this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.

But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

For it is written, Rejoice, you barren that bore not; break forth and cry, you that travail not: for the desolate has many more children than she which has an husband.

Now we, brothers, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

Nevertheless what said the scripture? Cast out the female slave and her son: for the son of the female slave shall not be heir with the son of the free woman.

So then, brothers, we are not children of the female slave, but of the free.”

So who is the one we are to avoid fornication with? It is Hagar, the slave woman, representative of the Old Covenant Law, who gives birth to bondage.

That is spiritual fornication, and it is the same type of fornication that Hebrews 10:26 speaks of as well – to willfully sin like this after having the knowledge of the truth of the gospel of Christ, has dire consequences.

It’s not about believers losing salvation as some say – but it’s about those who “have knowledge” of the truth, but reject the truth of Christ in favor of the Law and works. They choose Hagar instead of the free-woman.

Galatians 2:18-19, says this:

For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.

For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live to God”

And Romans 7:1-4, goes into greater detail:

Know you not, brothers, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?

For the woman which has an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he lives; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.

So then if, while her husband lives, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.

Why, my brothers, you also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that you should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit to God.”

So we can see clearly through all of these scriptures, that real spiritual adultery, is to choose the Law, over Jesus and His Grace; to choose Hagar and Mount Sinai, over Sarah and Mount Zion.

Now, go back to our verses in 1st Thessalonians 4, and look at verses 4, 5 and 6, with this fresh understanding of spiritual fornication and adultery:

That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor;

Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.”

Do you see the beauty here now? Instead of being a cold list of things to strive for, it is showing you your value and worth in Christ, and who you truly are in Him. Your real identity!

According to 2nd Corinthians 4:7, You have the treasure of Christ in you, the hope (that’s Biblical hope, confident expectation) of glory in your earthen vessel, your body, which is why idolatry, spiritual fornication is so egregious. You have the very Spirit of God permanently indwelling you, and you are united to God in one Spirit.

This is also why the literal Greek is phrased the way that it is… It says know your own vessel, to possess in sanctification and honor. In other words, know your identity! Know your worth and value! Own your holiness and honor as your true self in Christ!

Not as those people that don’t know God, but as someone that not only knows Him, but is in spiritual union with Him – as one!

Then, we end with verse 6, and verse 6 is so important, because there’s a lot of spiritual fraud going on today – even in churches!

Verse 6:

That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified”

Again, remember the context, it is all about belief on the finished work of Christ; living in that place; your identity in Him.

How do we defraud our brothers in this context?

By leading others into works-based performance-driven systems and mentality. In-essence, leading them back to Hagar and the Law, instead of encouraging them deeper into the Grace of Christ, and building them up in His finished work.

What I have shared with you today, is what God has shown me about the truth of fornication, beyond the mere physical.

And one more time I will re-iterate, that I am not advocating or condoning physical fornication adultery – in-fact I will say this right now: Even if you haven’t met your spouse yet, the best way for you to love them, is to save yourself for them. Trust me on that.

However, the physical act is not the heart of the matter, nor is mere behavior modification the solution. Only Jesus and His finished work is!

I encourage you today, live your true identity and worth in Christ and you will never succumb to Hagar.

Be blessed.

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