Introduction: In a biblically illiterate society, many Bible terms either lose their meaning or have them replaced. "Fornication" is a classic example. Some say fornication can be simply passionate kissing; sexual intercourse with prostitutes (multiple); and premarital sex only.
I. The biblical meaning of fornication
A. The Greek word translated "fornication" is porneia. Porneia is found 26 times in the Greek New Testament.
a. W. E. Vine states porneia (fornication) "is used of illicit sexual intercourse ." (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).
b. Henry Thayer defines "fornication" as "illicit sexual intercourse in general distinguished from adultery (moicheia) in Matt. 15: 19 used of adultery in Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9 (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, pg. 532).
c. The granddaddy Greek work says of fornication, "The N. T. is characterized by an unconditional repudiation of all extra-marital and unnatural intercourse" (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 6, pg. 590).
II. Illicit sexual intercourse
A. As you can see from the definition of porneia, all illicit sexual intercourse is condemned.
a. Illicit sexual intercourse is that involving a married man with one other than his wife
b. Sexual intercourse between two unmarried people (Matt. 5: 32, I Cor. 7: 1 ff).
c. Sinful sexual intercourse can and does include sodomy or homosexual activity (Jude 7, cp. Gen. 19).
III. Fornication is a work of the flesh (Gal. 5: 19)
A. We are to abstain from fornication and not use our body for fornication (I Cor. 6: 18, 13).
a. Fornication is the only acceptable reason for divorce and remarriage (Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9).
b. Corruption and filthiness are associated with fornication (Rev. 17: 4; 19: 2).
c. Moreover, those who fornicate can not go to heaven (I Cor. 6: 9).
B. There is no doubt about it, the following are engaging in fornication:
a. Pre-marital sex (I Cor. 7: 1 ff)
b. Extra-marital sex (Matt. 5: 32; 19: 9)
c. Those in unscriptural marriages (Matt. 5: 32; 19: 9)
d. All who engage in unnatural sexual intercourse are committing fornication (Jude 7).
Conclusion: The good news is all sin, including fornication, can be forgiven (Acts 2: 38; I Jn. 1: 7; I Cor. 6: 9-11). However, some sins, such as fornication, can especially have long range consequences (children conceived, venereal disease, one put away for sin, the dissolution of a marriage, etc.).