Questions From Readers
● How is it true, as stated at 1 Corinthians 6:18, that “every other sin that a man may commit is outside his body, but he that practices fornication is sinning against his own body”?—U.S.A.
The apostle Paul prefaced the above quotation with the command, “Flee from fornication.” It is apparent that he felt very strongly about this subject, for he went from his previous observations to this command “Flee from fornication” without any connectives. And he put it in the present tense, as can be seen from the interlinear reading of The Kingdom Interlinear Translation: “Be you fleeing from the fornication.” He tells us that whenever the temptation or the opportunity presents itself to commit fornication, we are not to temporize or debate about it but flee at once. Joseph, the son of the patriarch Jacob, set a fine example for us in this regard. He fled when importuned by the wife of his master Potiphar.—Gen. 39:12.
Why did the apostle Paul feel so strongly about this matter when writing the Christians at Corinth? Because of its being such a licentious city with temptations for immorality prevalent. It was a center of the worship of Venus, the goddess of sexual indulgence. No wonder Corinth was regarded as the most immoral city of ancient Greece. From this worship of Venus comes the name for the diseases caused by promiscuous sex relations, namely, venereal diseases. Concerning these we are told that gonorrhea is among the oldest and most widespread of all the diseases that afflict the human race, while syphilis is described as among the major afflictions of humankind.
How terrible are the effects of these venereal diseases! They can cause sterility in women, blindness to one’s offspring and senility in old age, to mention but a few of the more tragic effects. In spite of these dire effects, venereal diseases are increasing, are even said to be reaching epidemic proportions. No question about it, while a few other sins, such as drunkenness, may harm the body to some extent if persisted in, by committing fornication one sins more grossly against one’s own body.
That fornication is sinning against one’s own body in this sense was appreciated by wise King Solomon of old. Commenting on the aftereffects of relations with a harlot, he says: “The aftereffect from her is as bitter as wormwood; it is as sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet are descending to death.” “An arrow cleaves open his liver, just as a bird hastens into the trap, and he has not known that it involves his very soul.” Yes, venereal disease often strikes the liver, the largest organ in the body and wreaks havoc upon it.—Prov. 5:3-11; 7:23.
In certain respects fornication might be likened to the breaking of a beautiful piece of china. The china can be mended, but the evidence of the break will always be there. Then again, fornication might be likened to a serious third-degree burn. Repentance might be said to cause the wound to heal but not without leaving scar tissue that would always remind one of the sin. Yes, fornication is a unique sinning against the body, for the whole body and personality are involved.
This also applies to adultery, which would be included if the apostle Paul used the word pornéia, here translated “fornication,” in its broader sense as it sometimes is used in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Thus Jesus Christ spoke of a man divorcing his wife on grounds other than fornication, pornéia, meaning grounds other than adultery. The English word pornography with its broad meaning comes from this Greek root.—Matt. 19:9.
A parallel scripture that throws light on this subject is Romans 1:26, 27, where Paul shows that homosexuals sin against their own bodies: “That is why God gave them up to disgraceful sexual appetites, for both their females changed the natural use of themselves into one contrary to nature; and likewise even the males left the natural use of the female and became violently inflamed in their lust toward one another, males with males, working what is obscene and receiving in themselves the full recompense, which was due for their error.” In fact, the words of Paul at 1 Corinthians 6:18 could include homosexuality, for Greek writers also used pornéia to refer to homosexuality.
However, the apostle Paul also says that not only is pornéia a sinning against one’s own body, but that, by contrast, ‘every other sin is outside the body.’ How can this be? This particular aspect has puzzled Bible commentators for centuries and they have offered various explanations. In the main their comments have been in line with the foregoing, namely, that the apostle was speaking in a relative sense. But as we examine the contents we can see that his words can also be taken in the absolute sense. Note what he says:
“Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I, then, take the members of the Christ away and make them members of a harlot? Never may that happen! What! Do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body? For, ‘The two,’ says he, ‘will be one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit.”—1 Cor. 6:13, 15-17.
Yes, the anointed Christians to whom Paul was writing were promised in marriage to Jesus Christ, even as he noted: “I personally promised you in marriage to one husband that I might present you as a chaste virgin to the Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:2) In the case of ancient Hebrew betrothals, unfaithfulness was punishable the same as adultery. But as Paul notes, “the Lord is for the body.”
So the Christian who practices fornication sins against his body in a unique way in that he takes his body away from Christ and makes it one with a harlot. No other sin of itself can or does separate the body of a Christian from union with Jesus Christ, making it one with another, a harlot. In this respect it truly can be said that ‘every other sin is outside the body.’ And while the words of Paul have primary application to the anointed Christians promised in marriage to Christ their Lord, the principle also applies to his “other sheep” today.—John 10:16.
How wise and forceful the command of the apostle Paul, ‘Be you fleeing from the fornication!’ It can have the most terrible effects upon the physical body. Like no other sin, it renders those practicing it unclean. It is indeed a unique sinning against one’s own body, for like no other sin it takes the body of the Christian away from being one with his Lord Jesus Christ and makes it one with a harlot.