Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
Avoiding Sexual Sin
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18NKJV
Today we complete our examination of Question 139 of the Larger Catechism, which asks, “What are the sins forbidden in the seventh commandment?” The final part of the answer states, “The sins forbidden in the seventh commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are… idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, unchaste company, lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage plays; and all other provocations to, or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others.” Last time we looked at biblical marriage and divorce. Today we consider how we are to avoid all temptations to sexual sin.
The verse at the head of this article commands Christians to flee from sexual immorality. In another passage of Scripture we are commanded to abstain from it (1 Thess. 4:3). Sexual immorality is the phrase usually used to translate the Greek word porneia, which is the broadest of terms, covering all forms of sexual sin. As with all sin, the job of the Christian regarding sexual immorality is to repent of it and avoid all temptations to it. We know that real Christians are never perfect, we continue to sin in all areas of life, but the important thing is that we continue to fight against sin, never condoning or excusing it, never giving ourselves over to it. According to Jude 1:7, it was when the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had “given themselves over to sexual immorality,” that they “went after” the sin of homosexuality bringing God’s judgment upon them.
Temptation can be subtle, especially sexual temptation. Therefore, in order to fight against sinful sexual temptation we need to keep our wits about us. We need to guard against “occasions of sin.” Occasions of sin refer to any and all circumstances that allow temptation to come to us in a more powerful way. Some occasions of sin are personal or subjective. That is to say, one person’s occasion of sin may not be another person’s. So for example, that second white cream-filled donut might not tempt you to break your diet, but I would rather not find myself in a room alone with it! White cream-filled donuts are my weakness. Perhaps yours is chocolate sprinkled, or Oreo cookies. Likewise, the Steelers are particularly weak against the pass this year. The Seahawks are not. The point is we all have our weaknesses, with respect to food, football, and with respect to sin. Personal weaknesses to sin are addressed in the Catechism’s injunction against “all other provocations to or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or in others.” Love demands I look out for your weaknesses as you look out for mine.
However, because we are all human beings with the same ways of thinking and feeling, we need to especially be on guard against those objective occasions of sin, which time and experience have revealed to be dangerous. The Catechism lists idleness first. Surely, our nation will go down in history as a nation ruined in a large part by idleness. When our government pays people not to work, who are able to, it contributes to the destruction of their souls. Idle thoughts truly are the devil’s playground. America is living (dying) proof of it. Listed next are gluttony and drunkenness. Once again we only have to look at the history of nations to see that whenever people begin to sinfully indulge in one kind of physical pleasure, others become easier as well. So also intoxication, whether from alcohol or drugs, lowers one’s inhibitions to the point where we are open to doing things we would not do if we were in our right minds. Finally unchaste company reminds us of the infectious nature of sin. Morals in a group will almost always descend to the lowest common denominator. As Paul warned in 1 Cor. 15:33: “Do not be deceived, evil company corrupts good morals.” You have been deceived if you think you are the exception.
Finally the remaining items, “lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage plays,” all refer to what our culture has excelled in like no other: pornography. We mass produce pornography of every kind: perverse or suggestive lyrics in songs and in stories, perverse or suggestive pictures, videos, or live shows. These all stoke the fires of sexual sin, transgress the law of God, and lead to greater acts of wickedness. They are dragging our country into ruin. May God deliver us from these and all occasions of sexual sin!