Is Fornication Worse Than Porn?

The following is a transcript of the audio.

Alex writes in to ask this: “Pastor John, is premarital sex worse than an addiction to pornography? Why or why not?”

Yes, it is. And, no, it isn’t. Is that helpful?

No. Well, so here. I have to explain. Both, both premarital sex—called fornication in the Bible, at least in the old translations—is sinful and pornography is sinful. Both are expressions of the God opposing sinful soul. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:18: Flee fornication. And then he gives reasons. It also says in Matthew 5:27: You have heard that it was said: You shall not commit adultery, but I say to you that everyone who looks upon a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. The cultivation of sexual arousal with someone not your wife is a corruption of a good gift that God has given of sexuality. So, yes, porn is sinful and fornication is sinful. Both displease the Lord. Both reveal a heart of rebellion against God and a heart willing to belittle God, because we say he is insufficient for our satisfaction. We have to have these other sinful avenues. So what do I mean when I say: Yes, premarital sex is worse than porn and, no, it is not worse than porn?

Well, here is the yes. Fornication is worse in the sense that a real woman is violated physically. Yes, a woman who is not your wife is violated when you use her body sinfully online in a picture or in video to gratify your desires simply in those pictures or videos. But the violation goes far deeper, to another level, when her actual, physical self is compromised. Just like anger is like murder, Jesus said. If you are angry you are like the murderer. Yet no one is killed. So killing is worse than anger in the outward sense that the heart’s sinfulness doesn’t go all the way in bringing another person to ruin. And I should say here it doesn’t lessen the man’s sinfulness that she may be willing in this sin and that she may be initiating. God holds men uniquely responsible for protecting her from this violation and he is guilty of violation even if she would never call it that.

Paul treats the sin of sexual union outside the marriage as uniquely evil. I was pondering this again just yesterday trying to figure it out. He says in 1 Corinthians 6:18: Every other sin a person commits is outside the body. But the sexually immoral person, the fornicator sins against or into his own body. What is that? There is something unique about this sin in Paul’s mind. He sins into... that is the literal translation. He sins into his own body. He had just referred to sex with a prostitute as making the two one flesh. So it seems that sinning into the body is a taking a person sinfully into union with your body that is utterly forbidden. It is a way of sinning, in Paul’s mind, that is uniquely damaging. There is something that when two unite who are not marriage, it goes into the body in a way that other sins do not. So don’t do that. There is a worseness about it in the violation of the woman and in the violation of you own body.

Yes, it is worse than looking at naked women in pictures in that sense. But, no. No, it may not be worse. For example, I can imagine a one night failure of moral restraint leading to the most profound remorse and contrition and repentance and forgiveness followed by a life of chastity that never falls again, compared to year after year after year of increasingly crude and violent pornography, resisting all calls to repentance and being indifferent to the women in you life, even your wife and hardening yourself more and more to the calls of purity and repentance. And when I compare that, those two things, then I would say: No, no, that pattern of sinning, that ugliness, that unrepentance is worse than that one night fall followed by profound contrition, repentance and forgiveness. No, that is worse. That pornography is worse than that.

But I would say, finally, don’t seek minimal sins. Seek maximal holiness and purity. Don’t ask: What sin is worse? Ask: What new levels of godliness can I attain? Listen to 1 Timothy 6:11. Oh, man of God, flee these things. And then he adds—and this is the most important: Pursue righteousness. Pursue godliness. Pursue faith and love and steadfastness and gentleness.

Thank you Pastor John, that’s a great reminder. Speaking of the destructive sin of pornography, we have two episodes in the Ask Pastor John series to recommend. One is titled: “Is Porn the Unforgiveable Sin?” (Episode 273), and the very popular episode, “Is My Boyfriend’s Porn a Marriage Deal-Breaker?” (Episode 122). Both are worth checking out. Tomorrow we talk about race relations and we’ll get an update from Pastor John’s recent trip to Memphis to speak at the Kainos conference with Tony Evans. Until then, I’m your host Tony Reinke, thanks for listening to the Ask Pastor John podcast.

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