The Bible and Sexual Immorality

The 21st century doesn’t have a monopoly on sexual sin. Sexual wickedness has haunted every age since the fall of man. God has used water, fire and the sword to scrub previous civilizations clean of their moral rot. The Greek and Roman cultures were both so morally corrupt that they finally imploded – weakened and destroyed by their own lust. But what does seem to be unique to our day is that professing Christians – Bible toting, Bible believing Christians – have become quite at home in a culture deeply entrenched in all manner of sexual evil.  It doesn’t shock us. It doesn’t upset us. It doesn’t offend our consciences. The truth is, that unless it is really bad, sexual immorality just seems normal – even entertaining to many present day church folks! Many would even admit to telling dirty jokes, viewing pornography and watching sexuality explicit movies! This, however, is not the biblical norm.

Sexual Immorality (porneia) is Sub-Christian

Sexual immorality [any illicit sexual behavior including adultery, fornication, homosexuality, incest, prostitution, rape, lust, bestiality, pornography , sexual touch with someone who is not my spouse and voyeurism] is included on every list of “sins” in both Old and New Testaments. Jesus, Paul and all the Biblical writers understood and taught that sexual activity outside of marriage between and man and a woman was wrong. The first Jerusalem Council made it very clear to the new converts coming out of paganism and into the Church that sexual immorality is “sub-Christian” and is unacceptable. Sexual immorality is so incompatible with the Christian life that Paul tells the Ephesian church that it is not enough to just not do these sins , “but among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place . . .” (Eph. 5:3-4).

Sexual Immorality is a Sin against the Body

The culture of our day insists that the freedom to express ourselves sexually in any way we choose is essential to our identity has human beings. But God’s Word plainly says that the body belongs to Him and immoral sexual behavior is a sin “against the body” (I Cor. 6:15-20). Many sins bring defilement and destruction to the body but sexual immorality goes further and desecrates the body in the same mystical way that the temple is desecrated by bringing an idol into it.

Sexual Immorality is so Highly Contagious that we dare not have

Intimate Fellowship with People who are Sexually Immoral

In I Cor. 5: 6-7, 9-11 Paul tells the Corinthians, “your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world … since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality—not even to eat with such a one”. Paul is quite blunt here. He makes it plain that we don’t “coddle” but rather “cut off” the sexually immoral person who claims to be a Christian yet chooses to persist in their immorality. The Corinthian man who pursued an incestuous relationship was to be handed “over to Satan.” This does not mean we do not show them love. It means we show them “tough love”. Love and grace are redemptive and transformative – not just accepting and tolerant.

Sexual Immorality has Irreversible Consequences

Proverbs 6:27-33 says, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished. People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry, but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house. He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away”.

How does the church deal with Sexual Immorality?

1. Create a zero tolerance for all sexual immorality. This means condemning all inappropriate sexual behavior and all sexual relations outside of marriage between a man and a woman.

2. When sexual immorality happens within the body of Christ, discipline should be administered fairly and without impartiality.

3. Preach the Gospel. It is only the Gospel of Jesus Christ that can free anyone from the bondage of sexual sin. Counseling has many good things to offer in the healing and helping processes, but only the power of the gospel and walking in the Spirit frees from the “lust of the flesh.”

4. Lead – don’t just react. Teach people, especially young people, how to establish Biblical guardrails in their life. Guardrails are established in a safe zone to keep us from going into an unsafe zone. The idea is to help them choose behavior that keeps them some distance away from disaster.

5. Be redemptive. Create an environment that makes it easy to confess failure, seek help and find forgiveness.

The Bible Says…

– November 2011

The Bible Says . . .

When my boys were very small I would often give them their “Saturday night bath.”  This weekly ritual involved a long warm soak, a robust scrubbing and a vigorous shampoo – leaving them squeaky clean.  The boys loved the playful soak, tolerated the scrubbing, but became quite agitated when I would reach for the shampoo.  It may have had something to do with the fact that I used such copious amounts that rinsing it out of their hair became an experience close to drowning. One Saturday night all was going well until I reach for the bottle of shampoo.  My older son, who obviously had had enough, stood up in the front of the tub pointed his finger at me and with evangelistic fervor shouted, “The Bible says, ‘Thou shalt not wash a little boy’s hair with shampoo’!”  My son had a remarkable grasp of the authority of scripture, yet at the tender age of three he had not yet acquired an exact understanding of how to use it – or more accurately how not to use it for his own designs and purposes.

A less—than—careful use scripture is a slippery slope for both men and movements.  Most religious traditions, including our own Conservative Holiness Movement, have not escaped this pitfall.  As the Aldersgate Forum’s Call to Biblical Fidelity states, “we have often focused on issues and made demands which we cannot legitimately establish from the Scriptures. As a result, trivial notions and speculations at times have marred our witness”.  The CHM has, for the most part, comprised a group of people who have placed a very high value on scripture.  Our willingness to live out many unpopular biblical values is a testimony to this.  However, we have not always had an equally high commitment to the careful exegesis of scripture which is crucial to preserving Biblical fidelity.

Webster has defined fidelity as “the quality of being faithful; of accuracy in detail; exactness.”  The dictionary adds an interesting modern analogy to explain fidelity: “the degree to which an electronic device (as a record player or radio) accurately reproduces the original sound.”  With this in mind we can define Biblical fidelity.

Biblical fidelity then is to reproduce faithfully and accurately the thoughts, meaning and intent of scripture in both our preaching and practice.

                Every tradition, including the CHM, works in a sub-culture of its own. These subcultures gravitate toward certain theological, cultural and religious biases that inevitably serve as lens through which scripture is viewed and applied to Christian living. For the most part this is healthy and normative.  It is not, however, without problems. For all Biblical and theological biases must be held in check by an unyielding commitment to be both honest and faithful to the Biblical text. If this does not happen Biblical fidelity is compromised or even lost.

Are there any particular ways the CHM needs to be more careful?  Yes. Let me offer a few that I believe are especially applicable to the CHM.

  1. The CHM must be careful not to practice eisegesis instead of exegesis.  Eisegesis is an interpretation of scripture that expresses the interpreter’s own views rather than the text’s true meaning (exegesis). When we impose our own theological, cultural or personal views on a text, despite knowing that faithful scholarship will not support our interpretation, we compromise the truth and fail to honor God’s word. The CHM must regularly remind itself that scripture is the standard by which we test all other truth claims, not the other way around.
  2. The CHM must be careful not to blur the line between Biblical principle and religious tradition.  Tradition is a valuable part of our Christian life. Traditions may certainly be taught in our homes and churches, but they should be taught as traditions, not as divine revelation. Traditions must never be confused with God-given commands or given the same authority and weight as scripture.  When this confusion occurs the end result can be a church that has replaced the authority of God’s Word with the deadening weight of traditionalism or, worse, just trivia.
  3. The CHM must be careful not to misinterpret “questions” as “questioning” and inadvertently discourage honesty!   It is impossible to respect the God’s Word too highly, but it is possible to respect it wrongly.   We must let people know that it is not irreverent to see difficulties in the Biblical text and allow them to think hard and honestly about how these difficulties can be resolved. You have not truly studied the Bible until you have asked hard questions of it.   However, in some people’s minds asking hard questions is the same as “posing problems,” and we have been discouraged all our lives from finding problems in the Bible. Let me assure you, the Bible can handle scrutiny. Honesty is a vital part of Biblical fidelity.  God would rather have honest disagreement from one committed to His Word than forced affirmation of something we don’t really believe or understand.
  4. The CHM must be careful not to allow the externalization of Biblical standards to substitute for the internalization of Biblical character.   The Bible was not written to be a curiosity shop from which we pick and choose certain things to obey in our lives like one might pick and choose an article of clothing.  Rather, it was written to transform us from the inside out!  One can know and honor the Bible in visible ways (especially those that make us look spiritual in our setting), yet fail to demonstrate the character it commands. One can be meticulous, even legalistic, about his tithe and yet fail ever to develop the spirit of generosity. One can dress modestly and still have a sensuous  spirit. Sheer knowledge of the Bible doesn’t make one godly.  The mere application of a few visible commands doesn’t mean we have cultivated holy character.   One can read the Bible daily, acquire significant amounts of Biblical knowledge, adopt standards of dress and behavior– yet have no straight-line correspondence between that and real Christlikeness.

It would be helpful for all of us to remember that the “sounds” our lives make on earth reach heaven either as the scratchy, tinny, garbled clanging of carnality, or as harmonic, melodious, pleasant reproductions of Christlikeness.  Our success at being like Jesus will be determined by not only knowing with a high degree of accuracy what the Bible says, but also by honestly living it out.

The Clothes I Wear–Does God Care?

–March of 2002

The Clothes I Wear – Does God Care?

Biblical Principles for Attire

Personal adornment is not one of the greatest issues of a godly life, but it is one of them.  With the rapid decline of Western culture and its abandonment of time-honored values and morals, the gap is widening between contemporary fashion and what is appropriate for a Christian.  The message that the fashion industry seeks to communicate through current fashion trends is often in direct conflict with what a Christian is comfortable in wearing.  For the Christian teenager, or for a new Christian, this conflicting viewpoint between the Word and the World may become the occasion of a temporary personal struggle which can distort the whole issue of dress entirely out of proportion to its true spiritual significance. To prevent this from happening, the church should faithfully teach each generation the Biblical guidelines for adornment.   Without this instruction, many will succumb to the pressure of a secular society’s imposing view or struggle with what may appear to be, and sometimes is, man-made rules.  Young people must know the difference between biblical principle and the traditions or convictions of the Church.  Knowing the difference will give them greater freedom to accept both.

At the beginning of this discussion it must be repeated that God’s Word and this present world present conflicting points of view about attire.  But it must also be noted that there is one thing that both the world and the Word agree on.


Fashion expert John T. Molloy said, “What you wear signals what you are.  Your clothes speak a body language.  You can elicit any effect you desire through the way you dress.  You can look successful or impoverished, honest or sinister, sexy or puritanical…all depending on what you wear”.   The business world uses this principle of dress to portray confidence, leadership, honesty and professionalism in its executives and sales staff.  The fallen world uses it to portray its message of lust and rebellion.  The Bible utilizes this principle as well.  When God wants to make a statement about the character, attitude or personality of an individual, He often uses a description of their attire to do it.

In today’s world, the message communicated is often a moral one. A person can convey the language of their soul through what they wear. They can make an outward statement about their inner-held values just by the way they adorn themselves

This explains why opinions are often formed about a person simply based on the way they dress.  More seriously, moral judgements are often made about people based on how they dress.  Clothing that overly accentuates or exposes the body can bring with it a moral judgement about a person’s character.  Teenagers with baggy, falling pants, heavy chains, studs in their ears and lips, brightly colored hair, with a cap perched on their head in the wrong direction, send out a message  they often gives them a low rating in areas of honesty, industry and morality.  Some styles of clothing are made deliberately to attest to the sexual perversion of the wearer.   Clothing styles that push the edge make anyone within mainstream civilization nervous or uncomfortable around the person that wears them.  Clothes communicate a message.


Manufacturers of clothing must address the need for clothing in a way that makes the clothing both popular and profitable.  So, leading fashion designers are motivated by two things:  Money and message.  To insure that they succeed on both, they are guided by four principles.  First, the utility principle.  This principle addresses the need for various types of clothing.  For example: uniforms, athletic attire, seasonal clothing, etc. Second, the hierarchical principle.  This guides the designer to design clothing in such a way that appeals to human pride.  Designers seek to create styles and options that enable the wearer to feel proud and haughty when wearing them, giving him the feeling that he is better than others who do not wear this particular label.  Third, the autonomy principle.  The point here is to design clothing that gives the wearer the ability to feel free from all inhibitions; a sense of total self expression.  This allows the wearer to rebel against societal and Biblical norms, shocking his observer with the clothes that he wears.  Fourth, the seduction principle.  Sex appeal is the strongest motive of all in designing clothing, particularly women’s clothing. The point here is obvious.  Create clothing that accentuates the sexuality of the wearer. This principle is maintained from year to year by changing the area of exposure, called erotic zones.  Designers go from see-through clothes, to a tight wrap around, to mini skirts, to long skirts with long slits, or to a dress with serious cleavage exposure.

The last three of these principles are utilized to the extreme to communicate a message – the message of a fallen world.


God doesn’t make the issue of personal adornment one of the greatest issues in the Bible.  To elevate it to such a place is dangerous.  But He does raise the issue and lays down principles to govern the Christian’s adornment. To apply those principles in our lives is not legalism but love.

Before I offer this list of Biblical principles, let me preface them with some statements that are drawn from a logical study of God’s viewpoint on the subject.

  1. God speaks through basic principles rather than rules when it comes to our adornment.
  2. These principles are given in the context of Christian growth rather than as evidence of conversion.
  3. Individuals and Churches are responsible to take these principles and apply them to their lives through personal convictions (individual) or collective convictions (churches).
  4. The desire to look nice is legitimate and God-given.  An attractive and neat appearance is glorifying to God and an asset in all walks of life.
  5. The love of colors and variety is a God-given part of a person’s personality.
  6. Attention to current modes of dress is not necessarily wrong. (If so, we would have to adopt a uniform or settle on an antiquated style of attire.)  If current practices and Christian principle disagree, we must side with Christian principle.


  • The principle of covering the body rather than exposing it.  II Timothy 2:9.  Clothes should never be worn that expose (see through), or unduly accentuate body parts, or do not cover our nakedness (Biblically we are naked when we expose the torso or thigh).
  • The principle to dress so as to identify the sexes rather than confuse them.  Deuteronomy 22:5.
  • The principle of stressing the inward rather than the outward.  I Timothy 2:9, I Peter 3:3.  The Bible tells us our beauty should not depend on outward adornment, but should flow from within from our spirit.  This is not to minimize adornment but to rather give it a very special place.  Adornment becomes a servant to us, used to reflect the grace of God within.
  • The principle of moderation and simplicity rather than ostentation and showiness.  I Timothy 2:8-10, I Peter 3:3-4.  Christian should seek to dress modestly and in moderately.  They should avoid an ostentatious display of riches, either to show off their social standing or to call attention to their person.  All extremes should be avoided.  In these two passages, the Bible clearly prohibits the ornamentation of the body.  Christians should be careful that they do not invest an unreasonable amount in clothes.
  • The principle to be transformed by the Word rather than to be conformed to the world.  Romans 12:2, II Corinthians 6:11-71.  The Bible is quite clear about separation, and that call to separation will ultimately find its way into the way we dress.
  • The principle of propriety.  Romans 14:16.  As a matter of good culture, some forms of clothing should not be worn in certain places and at certain times that may be appropriate under other conditions.

As a Christian, we are guided by the leadership of the Holy Spirit and a sincere desire to please God and obey His Word.  All earnest Christians want to reflect God’s objectives and biblical values in both their inner and outer person.  We should be motivated at all times to communicate the message of godliness and holiness in our walk, talk and spirit.

In evaluating this matter of what we wear, we should ask ourselves these two questions: First, “What do I want to say with my life?”  Second, “Do the clothes I wear communicate the Biblical values that I seek to live by?”