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Are you mistaken on the meaning of important biblical words?

Of all the words in the Bible, perhaps one of the most misunderstood in modern times is “adultery”—and if we had to list other misunderstood Bible words, “fornication” would probably rank right up there.

People in our modern society have a different meaning in mind for “adultery” than what the word meant to the Bible’s writers and to its original readers. Also, the meaning of “fornication” is pretty much just as “muddy” in modern minds as well.

Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, by Jay E. Adams, available on Amazon.com
Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, by Jay E. Adams, available on Amazon.com

In an excellent book titled Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible author and scholar Jay E. Adams shows the original meanings of these words, and sheds light on Scripture verses that are often misunderstood because our modern meanings of the words don’t match the original ones.

The book is only 100 pages long, and well worth its weight in gold. Every Christian should read the book, and especially every minister and/or pastor should read it.

In biblical use and meaning, “fornication” refers to any and all sexual sins (not just “unmarried people having sex” – which is the modern misunderstanding of the term). “Fornication” refers to and includes all types of sexual sin: incest, rape, homosexual acts, lesbian acts, bestiality, any sex act by a person who is not married, and, of course, any sex act by a married person to/with someone other than their spouse.

Also, in biblical use and meaning, “adultery” refers to a sin against a marriage vow (that which violates it, or damages, undermines, or weakens it). Such sins can be “lighter” or “heavier” in the nature of the transgression. Jesus taught that a man simply looking with lust upon a woman who is not his wife, is committing a sin against the marriage vow – Jesus said that lust is adultery. He did not say it was “like” adultery. He said it is adultery. (See Matthew 5:27-28.) For a married person to even flirt suggestively with someone other than their spouse is an act of adultery. Even simply becoming emotionally entangled with someone of the opposite sex other than your spouse is a violation that undermines your vow.

There are many, many ways to sin against a marriage vow. Just to name a few: lying, abuse, abandonment, mind games, inciting jealousy, etc. You get the idea. There are lighter attacks and heavier attacks. However, of all the ways a person can sin against their wedding vow, the worst would be to include the sin of fornication (sexual sin) in the “cheating,” which is actually two sins: adultery by fornication. This is the worst kind of adultery. And it is the only kind that Jesus said could qualify as proper grounds for one believer to divorce another. To wit:

In Matthew 5:32, Jesus said, “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of _____________, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

If you recite this verse and ask someone to fill in the blank, most people will say “adultery.” But that is not what Jesus said! He said “fornication”!

“But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

By our Lord requiring fornication as grounds, that means not just any act of adultery (such as lusting in the heart, or flirting with someone else, or inciting jealousy, or instances of dishonesty) warrants two believers severing their marriage vow. It has to be that worst kind. However, just because the lighter kinds of adultery are not grounds for divorce does not mean they are not wrong and harmful. Over time, repeated instances of the lighter violations of the marriage vow can slowly destroy a marriage relationship.

While we are at it, another misconception in modern society is that an unmarried person cannot commit adultery (since they are not married). That is simply not true. If an unmarried person has sexual relations with a married person, the unmarried person is sinning against the marriage vow of the other two people who are lawfully married to each other. Both the cheating spouse and the sexually involved unmarried person are committing two sins: adultery and fornication.

As you can imagine, the book contains much more than just these words explained. It is a wonderful resource about marriage and the complicated topics of divorce and remarriage, which are covered in Scripture in much greater detail than many people realize.

Again, I heartily recommend that you get and read this book!

PS: Below is a description of the book from Amazon.com:

“If the church is going to use the Bible to decide whether divorce is legitimate in certain cases and whether divorced couples have the right to remarry with the approval and blessing of God’s people, then the Bible must be studied without prejudice toward a particular answer. The author examines the relevant passages in both the Old and New Testaments so that his readers can consider the many issues and interpretations that arise in trying to establish a consistently biblical position. As a result, readers can see more clearly and accept more firmly the truth of Scripture. The book succeeds at being exactly what the author wanted it to be: ‘a comprehensive, lucid, accurate study presented in a readable and practical style. . . .’ It is a valuable resource for the pastor, counselor, church leader, and others who are struggling to understand and apply scriptural principles to the problems of divorce and remarriage.”

Are you guilty of this very common doctrinal error?

Are all sins truly “equal” in God’s eyes?

Heart issues (inward sins) lead to outward sins (wrongful acts, hurtful crimes, etc). The Bible shows that both inward and outward sins are wrong, but it does not anywhere teach they are equal in God’s eyes. Thinking they are equal is like saying, “I already hate him, so I might as well murder him. Same thing, right?” or “I already lust after her/him, so I might as well have sex with her/him. Same thing, right?” These are not the same! One is cause, the other is result; but dealing with the cause before committing the result is clearly much different than “going ahead and doing it!”

Many people think that all sins are equal in the eyes of God, yet that firmly-held notion does hold up well under biblical scrutiny. If you are like me—one of many that has thought that way—read the following with an open mind.

Yes, the Bible does teach that it only takes one transgression against the law to make someone guilty of all the law. But don’t read so much into it that you go into false doctrine. Look at the Bible’s teachings “on the whole” to see the bigger picture.

The easiest way to prove that not all sins are equal is to read the New Testament, in John’s first epistle, where he writes of “sin not unto death” and of “sin unto death” (1 John 5:16-17). So, at the very least, we can prove that not all sins are equal in God’s eyes because some warrant harsher judgment or penalty.

This concept is clearly seen when studying the Mosaic Law in the Old Testament, in which some sins were minor and carried very light consequences, such as waiting a certain number of days before being able to do some aspect of worship, while other sins required a repentance that involved the sacrifice of an animal (and for some it was a small, inexpensive animal, while for others it was a larger, more expensive animal), and ranged all the way up to (in some cases), death (no repentance was adequate and there was only a death sentence)!

Consider, also, an Old Testament legal restriction, said as “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” This doctrine is called the Law of Retaliation (lex talionis, in Latin). The Believers Study Bible commentary says this about the Lord Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:38,39:

(vv. 38,39) Jesus does not deny the law of retaliation (lex talionis, Lat.) as a valid principle of legal justice. While insisting upon adequate punishment, this law safeguarded justice by not permitting excessive punishment. Jesus advocates a desired response more characteristic of a regenerate citizen of the kingdom.

Lex Talionis shows clearly that in God’s eyes, in a just legal system, the punishment must fit the crime—with our point being that not all crimes are equal.

In a future installment we will address the common misunderstanding about what adultery is (in the biblical sense) and why inward adultery (lust of the heart) is not equal (in God’s eyes) to outward adultery by fornication (sexual infidelity by a married person), even though both are wrong. Again, one is cause, the other is result, and if the cause is not dealt with, the result that happens is much worse than dealing with the cause before the result occurs.

3 Huge Tips For Drawing Closer to God

These three huge tips about how to “pray through” will really help you draw closer to God:

  1. To “pray through” has nothing to do with praying until you force God to change His mind and help you. God’s mind does not need changed. To “pray through” means to pray until you get through your own insecurities, until you get past your own carnal desires, until you get past your own doubt, complacency, and fear. To “pray through” is to pray until you’ve allowed God to change not just your mind but your very nature; to pray until your carnal nature is mortified, put to death.
  2. God already wants to help you; He wants, more than you can comprehend, to help you. There is nothing about prayer that is twisting God’s arm and making Him say “Uncle.” It is one’s own carnal nature than needs to be compelled and controlled. There is a point as one prays where his or her own spirit is helped and strengthened by God to the point that, together with God’s Spirit, the inward man triumphs over the outward man. This is the moment of victory; the moment of breaking through; the moment of being able to lay aside the bitterness and grant forgiveness; the moment of seeing past earthly, sin-cursed values and weighing matters truly according to eternal values.
  3. “Praying through” is the moment of getting through all that must be gotten through if we are to become like our Lord. We cannot become (as He is) the very image of God, the very human manifestation of God, but we can hope to become (as He is) a glorified and perfected man. That is the goal, and we desire to pray for His help until we reach it. Let us endeavor to “pray through.”
Praying Through
Brian Murphy Jr, a young minister at Christian Apostolic Church, praying and worshiping during the 2013 Youth Week at CAC, Clarksburg, WV. Photo by Doug Joseph, copyright (c) 2013 by Doug Joseph / Christian Apostolic Church. All rights reserved.

In Lieu of Flowers, God Gave Us a Miracle: The True-Life Story of Zach Sandy

Front cover of the book "In Lieu of Flowers, God Gave Us a Miracle"
Front Cover

We are pleased to announce that the new book about Zach Sandy from Whitestone Publishing, “In Lieu of Flowers, God Gave Us a Miracle: The True-Life Story of Zach Sandy” is now available for pre-ordering at a discount! Order from either Amazon.com or AuthorStock.com — Save money and be assured to have your copy in hand for the HUGE LAUNCH PARTY scheduled for July 11, 2013, the 1-year anniversary of Zach’s miracle!

With high school behind us, this was supposed to be a last chance for summer fun with family and friends before heading into the real world of college and work. Tragedy never strikes us, always the Jones family down the street, right?

Brandon and I had just finished a basketball tournament, which we lost in an inglorious fashion, and we were sitting in the gym. His youth pastor ran up to him and said he had a call from his dad.

Brandon took the call and then looked at me and said, “Zach was struck by lightning.”

According to the light-hearted mood, I answered, “Well, good for him.”

The blood drained from his face as he replied, “No, Zach was actually struck by lightning.” I ran outside and found my sister. We immediately began praying with a group of friends, and after that I made a few phone calls, asking friends to pray. I turned around and saw Brandon walking out into a field. With emotions running high, and my world falling apart, I followed him. We spent about 15 minutes with our faces in the grass travailing and pleading before God that he would perform a miracle….

—Samuel Vaughn (cousin to Zach and Brandon)

Forever Fighting Bad Guys (or Eternity with the Good Guys)

Our most beloved stories focus on times of crisis. Humans may say and think that we long for peace, but as a species we secretly think such times would be too boring. We are drawn to drama, to the aid of the underdog. Something deep inside elicits exciting existence — times of horror haunting us, of evil evolving in our midst, and of crisis crushing us unless we can vanquish the demons and go from victims to victors.

This is perhaps why some scoff at the Bible’s promise of eternal life. Some supposedly wizened teachers’ words betray an obtuse opinion that God never made any cosmoses prior to or after our own — except, they happily confess, His endless maintenance of a dull, fabled home of harp-strumming angels floating on cumulus clouds. How boring.

Yet the Holy Scriptures paint a different picture: war in the heavens, fought amongst angelic species predating us, and who (like humans) have broad capacity for choice, even to rebel against God. The prospect of counting epochs like days and millennia like hours, as we develop continually through aiding young, unique, future species, is enthralling to this whispering warrior, who is quite certain that Eternity with the Good Guys will be far more exciting than even our grandest imagination can grasp.

War-in-the-heavens
“War in the heavens”

One academic type has argued that it is proof of our evolution that we have grown from caring about family to village, from village to caring about state, and from state to feeling patriotic about nation. He argued that the next step in our evolution is to care about our global populace. Listen: It is neither evolution nor good when the expediency of the masses overrules the conviction of conscience of the individual or minority. Finally, in the end, it will be maturity, not evolution, that truly takes us even further than caring about all humans and creatures globally, onward to caring for new species God has not even created yet. There will be battles against evil. Wars against tyrants. Epic excitement. Crisis. Are you up for it?

The King Who Sees (a reminder from the altar)

There is something so powerful about the way God’s presence puts everything in proper perspective when we approach Him openly and honestly. Bowed before His glory, no petty rationalization, biased justification, defensive argument, or attempted distraction can be offered. What’s the use of such antics when one is beholden to the King Who Sees your heart’s deepest crevices?

“Have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3b).

The way up is down. The death of the carnal is the end of the curse. When we lay our carnality on the altar, He helps us to mortify the sinful nature’s deeds (Romans 8:13).

Don’t try to hide that which cannot be hidden from Him. Don’t waste life’s days refusing to acknowledge or confront the innermost defects and problems resulting from unwise choices. We are all casualties of the curse. Yet when, through humble repentance before Him, we divest ourselves of carnal aspects that harbor the curse, we see Him work a change that overpowers the curse and delivers us from “the body of this death.”

If you have not offered yourself before Him in this way—or perhaps you have, yet not for a while—then don’t delay. Mere moments of true openness before Him does more than could ever be accomplished by going through “religious” motions. The stench of flesh is not that which ascends while the carnal nature is burning on the altar. A thousand times no. The true stench of flesh is that odor of sin, pride, and self-will, that foulness that oozes from our pores as we attempt life on our own, without trusting Him by building an altar and laying ourselves upon it. Cry out with Paul, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:10).

“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:13).