What Does the Bible Say about Sexual Immorality
Sex is not a dirty word in the Christian world. There is nothing immoral or unholy about sexual relations in a marriage. It is a blessing from God, in fact. It is meant to bond a husband and wife in a uniquely intimate way.
Sexual immorality is an entirely different story. There is nothing truly intimate, moral, or holy involved there. The Bible is clear sexual immorality is a sin. The Lord’s purity is like a white hot flame of fire. It consumes anything unholy in its path. The Bible reflects God’s character. It is also an exceedingly common temptation that calls to you at every turn. Think about how many of the dramatic falls in the Bible were a result of sexual immorality. God miraculously saved the Israelites from a life of slavery in Egypt. The next thing you know, they make a Golden Calf and have a sex party while worshipping it. David’s descent into adultery and murder was caused by his lust. Sexual immorality is an obvious path to ruin.
Yet, a problem has developed in our culture. The sheer volume of sexual content and messages has dulled our senses. The constant barrage of internet pornography has burned out our consciences. It can be hard to tell what is really sexual immorality anymore. The chorus of skeptics and those who seek to “redefine” the Bible to suit their own desires have further confused the issue.
Frankly, the Christian cultural response has been less than crystal clear at times as well. God does not intend there to be guilt and shame hovering over the entire issue. Sexual purity alone does not make a person better or worse than their neighbor. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. It is God’s grace that makes us holy.
So, what does the Bible say about sexual immorality?
What is sexual immorality, exactly?
The answer is the Bible says much about sexual sins and none of it is good. God’s righteousness is burns away the justifications of man. I list 33 Bible verses on the issue below. But before you begin reading, there is one immensely important thing the Bible does not say sexual immorality is – unforgiveable. It does not define your future with Jesus or with a potential spouse. You are not a used piece of chewing gum as some paint it. You are not an outcast or permanently blighted. Sexual immorality is sin. Jesus came to wash away sin and redeem us sinners. The entire Christian faith is about Him redeeming sinners. There is nothing beyond the power of this wonderful words – It is Finished – your debt is paid. So though the Bible’s words on sexual immorality are strong, please don’t run away if you feel convicted. God loves you and is abundantly merciful. He just does not want you stuck where you are!
That is the starting point of your 33 Bible Verses on Sexual Immorality:
And such were some of you.
33 Bible Verses on Sexual Immorality
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?
Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
This may seem like an abrupt starting point for this discussion. It may seem a bit scary if you see yourself in any of the descriptors. God views sin clearly in spite of all attempts to hide it. Do not be deceived by the claims to the contrary. Yet, it is also an amazing testimony to the power of the Gospel of Jesus. Paul wrote to a church filled with saints. They were beloved children of God. They had been sexually immoral, adulterers, drunkards, and extortioners before they were born again. They were in the process of committing those same sins and excusing them. God still loves them.
God sees the sins. He also redeems the forgives the repentant. He redeems all of you. And such were some of you…never forget this!
1 Corinthians 10:12-13
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Sexual immorality is not inescapable. You are tempted, sure, but God will provide a way out. You just need to take it. The message here is of hope. You have a way out if you are struggling with sexual sins.
You are also not alone. There is no temptation that other people don’t also have – though it may vary from person to person. This does not mean the temptations are good, just that others understand. They can be overcome through Jesus. It also explains why many try to explain away and justify sexual immorality. The desires to do them tempt everyone of us.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;
Would you like to follow God’s will for your life? Here is an easy and straight forward answer how to do that. Do you see how God associates fleeing sexual immorality with holiness, honor and knowing God in the verses? Strong language!
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Paul is very clear in these verses. Paul uses 4 separate terms that describe the acts of sexual immorality: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, and orgies”. He then throws in the catch all “things like these” in case he missed anything. This is a large category of things that can be defined easily – sexual activity outside of the marriage bed. He also explains why it is such an important problem:
Sexual immorality is a work and desire of the flesh. The flesh goes directly against the Spirit. The Spirit is God’s work in you. The flesh is your work in you. Which do you want? It’s a simple formula. If you want the Spirit then don’t choose what stops the Spirit from working.
But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Jesus says looking at a woman with lust is like adultery. This would apply to a woman looking at a man as well. Adultery is a sin. It means that Jesus identifies lusting after a person who is not your spouse as a sin. It is sexual immorality. Jesus has a high standard for you in this area. “Love means love” fits nowhere within His expectations for you.
1 Corinthians 7:1-40
Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me:
It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.
But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
“But what about single men and women”, many protest, “unmarried people cannot commit adultery”.
I appreciate the argument as a lawyer, in a way, as it does pay close attention to wording. It then claims pre-marital sex is therefore not sinful for unmarried people because Jesus did not specifically mention them. This misses Jesus’ entire point in the prior verse. But also look at Paul’s direction in 1 Corinthians. He says:
It is good to get married if you burn with passion for the opposite sex. Why? To avoid sexual immorality if you cannot exercise self control.
What does that tell you? Pre-marital sex is not a loophole. It is sexual immorality and therefore a sin. Please notice that Paul does not scold these saints. He did not shake a judging finger at them. He was a man subject to the same temptations. He helped them deal with the desire towards sexual immorality.
So sex outside of marriage for the married and unmarried is sexual immorality.
And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Jesus words again here. He calls sexual immorality both evil and defiling. This is the Lord and Savior speaking. Those who take issue with Paul miss the fact he just repeated Jesus’ message.
And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Jesus speaking here again. He is a God of love, yes. He is also the perfectly just and righteous Judge. You cannot truly understand Jesus unless you allow Him to be fully HIM – not the version you are more comfortable with.
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
Note here that sexual immorality and adultery are not synonyms. They are both sinful.
But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.
Do you notice the warning? There will be those who come and try to lie to you. They will use empty words meaning they are without truth or authority. They will try to trick you to agree that evil is good and good evil. Do not join in with them. How common is this today?
God’s wrath comes on the sons of disobedience. That is a strong warning.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
You see the reason for such a strong warning here. You are the Temple of God.
The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
The indication here is with time short before the Lord’s return, we do not need anything getting in the way of the Spirit. Sexual immorality wastes time.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.
Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.
God gives you the way out. It is not get control of yourself or cut down on sexual immorality. It is to put to death those things that tempt you into disobedience.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
2 Timothy 2:22
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
1 Corinthians 5:1
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.
1 Corinthians 6:13-17
13 Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.
15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
Romans 1 and Jude, above, answer clearly another big question for today. What does the Bible say about homosexuality. There is no mistaking the fact God does not approve. Romans calls them vile passions. This does not mean those who are tempted are sinning. It also does not mean the sin is different than other sins or is unredeemable, but you do have to start from a clear Biblical position if you seek to honestly see life in God’s eyes.
Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.
He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself.
“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Sexual purity starts here. It is not just avoiding things or not sinning. It requires filling your mind with the things of God so that He transforms your very thought process. It is walking by faith and grasping after Jesus that sets you free!
So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
1 John 2:16
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
These verses have been rocking my world for the past few months. They can transform your Christian life if you are willing to face them. James sets out something really simple – the sins and the negative emotions you experience in the Lord start with your heart. The world will always have temptation and pain. It is only when there is an inner issue you don’t submit to the Lord that you are dragged into pulled into sin. Deal with your heart and you will learn to be content in all things.