Fornication is any sexual act done outside of marriage. This includes pornography, which comes from “porneia,” the Greek word for fornication. Even something you may not consider pornography (such as a swimsuit catalog) can make you guilty of fornication if you view it with lust, since lust alone is a sin (Prov. 6:24, 25; Matt.5:28; Gal 5:16, 17). Depending on what translation of the Bible you’re reading, “fornicator” may be translated as “whoremonger,” but the Greek word it comes from means someone who has sex outside of wedlock.

While sex outside of marriage is a sin, there’s nothing wrong with sex between a married couple. “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). There are those who believe sex is only for procreation and not for pleasure. There is no scriptural support for this, but there is Scripture that supports sex for pleasure between husband and wife (Prov. 5:18, 19). Paul addressed the Corinthians on this issue (I Cor. 7:1-9) and told the unmarried to marry if they weren’t able to exercise self-control because “it is better to marry than to burn [with desire]” (v.9). Verses 3-5 also encourage husband and wife to maintain sexual relations for no other reason than to avoid the temptations of adultery.

A common question that’s asked is why two people who love each other have to be married before having sex. “Is it really necessary to have a piece of paper saying they’re a couple?” It all depends on the time and place in which you live. In modern times most people live under a form of government that doesn’t consider a couple married unless it’s made official according to the current law. These laws shouldn’t be ignored because we aren’t to resist the authority that we’re governed by (Rom. 13:1, 2; Heb. 13:17; I Pet. 2:13-15). We’re only permitted to disobey these laws if they contradict God’s laws (Acts 5:29). If you truly love someone, you should have no problem with making it official.

God’s intention for sex is to be between a man and a woman after marriage (Gen. 2:24), and their relationship should be for life (Rom. 7:1-3; I Cor. 7:39). Jesus said you commit adultery if you marry someone who was divorced for any reason other than someone in the previous marriage being unfaithful (Matt. 5:32). However, this doesn’t mean a new marriage is invalid if you or your new spouse was divorced for a reason besides infidelity. Jesus told a woman, “Thou has had five husbands and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband” (John 4:18). I have ruled out the possibility of her husband’s dying rather than being divorced because the context indicates she wasn’t able to commit herself to one man. Yet Jesus acknowledged each marriage as valid when He said she’d had five husbands. And even if you ignore this, Scripture clearly teaches that adultery can (but doesn’t have to) end a marriage contract. If a person divorces and marries another, that is an act of adultery that ends the previous marriage. This means it is impossible for a new marriage to lead to repeated acts of adultery. Regardless, this should not be used to justify committing adultery “just once.”

Some Christians falsely believe we are all required to have children. They base this on God saying, “Be fruitful and multiply.” This was first said to Adam and Eve when they were the only ones in existence (Gen. 1:28), and then to Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives after the global flood killed everyone else on Earth (Gen 9:1). In both cases they were told to multiply to fill the Earth. There are now billions of people on our planet, so it’s ridiculous to assume this applies to us. If God expected everyone to reproduce, Paul wouldn’t have told the unmarried Corinthians that it would be good to remain as they are (1 Cor. 7:8). Genesis 38:8-10 is sometimes used to teach that reproduction is required of us. It says that God punished Onan with death for not impregnating his brother’s widow, whom he married after his brother died. Onan was supposed to maintain that family line, but out of selfishness he “spilled [his seed] on the ground” for fear that it would carry on his brother’s name instead of his. This was about Judah’s bloodline and nothing else.

The Bible alone should determine what is acceptable and what is not. Some Christians have a “feeling” that it’s sinful to have sex for a purpose other than procreation, so they ignorantly teach others that it is. Scripture says to “abstain from fornication,” which strictly means sex outside of wedlock. That’s why Paul said, “To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband” (1 Cor.7:2). It couldn’t be any clearer that husband and wife are allowed to have sex with no intention of reproducing. When certain people say, “The only scriptural birth control is self-control,” they are replacing the Bible’s doctrine with a doctrine of their own. This makes them guilty of what had been practiced by the Jewish sect called the Pharisees. They made up their own doctrines based on customs and tradition, and they were sometimes in direct opposition to inspired Scripture (Matt. 15:1-6). There’s a lesson to be learned from them.

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