“Live in Moral Purity”


This lesson investigates one of the most profound gifts with which God blessed the creatures made in his image. For that reason, it is capable also of the most egregious misuse and corruption. It can give and perpetuate life, joy, wholeness and mutual love, respect, and faithfulness; it can lead to bitterness, corruption, death, and effect as well as symbolize broken relationships, lack of trust, and hatred. Augustine called the entire corruption of humanity’s nature concupiscence. It refers to our universal propensity to seek enjoyment and pleasure from the created order (Romans 1:23, 25) apart from a primary focus on the glory of God. Idolatry always is the fundamental rot of sin, and it nowhere expresses itself more energetically than in the realm of sexuality (Romans 1:24, 26, 27). The unruliness of this aspect of our being, both individually and corporately, gives evidence of how deeply lies the rebellion of the entire race against God and his original, revealed intent for us.

Consistent with Solomon’s insistence for serious-mindedness about vital issues, Solomon calls on his sons to “give attention,” to “incline your ear.” His instruction is characterized by four words: wisdom, understanding, discretion, and knowledge. The result should be that the son [sons] will “observe,” that is, live in accordance with the words of instruction, and that his lips will “reserve,” that is will be able to pass these vital, life-giving instructions to others.


I. A deception of Sexual Allurement (verse 3).–

A. Promises pleasure and contentment – verse 3: Note how the writer expresses the allurement in both physical and metaphorical terms. The words and conduct of a woman seeking personal pleasure by promising it to others brings destruction to both.

  1. Lips of an adulteress – The temptation clearly is to a perverse use of a God-given relationship of the most intimate sort. From the beginning (Genesis 2:22-25) to the end (Revelation 19:6-10) the sexual intimacy of marriage serves as a symbol of the sovereign mercy and faithful relationship of God to his people (Hosea 2:19-23). Idolatry in the Old Testament is regularly called “whoredom.” (Jeremiah 13:25-27) Any suggestion of merchandising sexual intimacy in a way that bypasses the commitment to faithfulness in marriage and as a seal of such vows of faithfulness is in itself “forbidden,” and the woman that tempts to such use of display is a “forbidden woman.”
  2. ESV translates “Forbidden” (also in verse 20).
  • The most obvious meaning is an adulteress who seeks to lure a person into a sexual relationship that is clearly forbidden by God’s law in the Ten Commandments.
  • The term also could refer to a non-covenant female See Nehemiah 13:20-27 for an instance in which the forbidden woman is a pagan woman. Nehemiah makes reference particularly to Solomon’s devastating errors in this matter. It is possible that Solomon has in mind the events of Numbers 25:6-9, where an Israelite brought a Midianite woman to his family tent for intimacy, even during a time when God was judging Israel for dalliance with Baal worship [25:5], and Phinehas killed them both with a spear and was commended by God for his action (10-13). Malachi 2: 5, 6 refers to this event with the commendation, “The law of truth was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and equity, and turned many away from iniquity.”
  1. Any woman that is forbidden – any woman not one’s wife.

B. Delivers the opposite

  1. Not sweet and smooth, like the honey set forth in the image and so imagined by the person tempted, but bitter and sharp and killing with the quickness and depth of a two-edged sword [2800 teenage girls get pregnant every day; 2500 people contract sexual transmitted disease every day]. The contrast is clear in the image of promise and expectation [her lips drip honey] and actual result [“she is bitter as wormwood”].
  2. verses 5, 6 – Death, not life- the temptation promises the enhancement of life, the granting of pleasure, but in reality opens the road to sorrow, tragedy, and eventual eternal punishment. (Revelation 21:8; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10).
  3. Instability, not wholeness – Her perverse life has led her to think that sexual pleasure, particularly that of the random adventure, gives just that edge of pleasure that life needs to make it full. She is fragmented in soul, wanders without light and leads her victims into darkness and destruction both here and hereafter.


II. Results of Sexual Impurity 5:7-14

A. The results come when advice is ignored 5:7 [cf. 7:1-5; 6:20-24; 1 Thes 4:1-8] All of these texts give this instruction with an obvious intensity both because of the power of the temptation and the corresponding intensity of the dire consequences. Paul shows that all this instruction is the direct command of God (1 Thes 4:8).

B. Resolve to stay removed from any allurement to sexual sin 5:8; 7:6-8; 1 Peter 2:11 – knowing the power of such enticement and the corruption of life that is the result, do not even go in the vicinity of the “forbidden woman” no matter where she is or what form this forbiddenness takes. Peter points to the reality that the passions of the flesh wage war against the soul.

C. Multiplication of problems and increasing corruption of life 9-14. Sexual wantonness results in loss of concentration on one person, one love, one covenantal relationship and consequent dissipation of life. It is a direct violation of divine law and places one under the discipline of God in the present and the possible damnation of God in eternity.

  1. Verse 9 – The life of casual and uncommitted sexual relations results in loss of the strength (“vigor” NASB) and dignity of life (“honor” ESV, NKJV) and robs the experience itself of its broader dimensions of joy and unity gained in such committed obedience to God’s intention.
  2. This kind of pursuit of pleasure commits one’s time to service of the ultimate cruel one (9b) who has come to steal, kill, and destroy. Peter wrote, “The time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry” (1 Peter 4:3). These activities only pile up greater judgment before “him who is ready to judge.”
  3. Succumbing to the intents of an adulteress obliterates the purpose of a “one flesh’ relationship (10). The “alien” and the “foreigner” are non-covenantal persons. A sexual relationship outside the covenant of marriage throws away the investment of life that should be a testimony to God’s blessing—your wealth and your labors. Paul discusses this with some intensity in 1 Corinthians 6:15-20. The sexual act on making two bodies one is both ontologically and emblematically an act also of spiritual union. It denotes a desire to function together with spiritual unity and singleness of purpose. Indwelt by the Spirit of Christ in the person of the Holy Spirit, the Christian involved in this sin commits the gross act of uniting the purpose of the Spirit of Christ in the Christian with the perverse purpose of a sexually wanton person.
  4. Both conscience and physical health are harmed (11). One who commits this sin will find that he “mourns,” and can find no peace of conscience. David said, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long” (Psalm 32:3). Paul warned against the physical corruption that comes with sexual promiscuity: “receiving within themselves the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:27)
  5. The person who falls into this trap loses self-respect and is filled with regret (12, 13). He laments his own stupidity and dimwittedness at ignoring the wise counsel he had received. Ruled by senses rather than reason and truth, instruction seemed like an attempt to rob the pleasure and excitement from life. Too late the victim discovered that his teachers of revealed truth and godly virtue gave their instruction for his well-being, enduring joy, and true life.
  6. This sin brings about loss of public respect and possible exclusion from the comfort and assurance of Christian fellowship (14).


III. Counsel against illicit sexual relations is not an effort to spoil one’s pleasure, but in reality to increase it. (15-19). Solomon uses the analogy of the satisfying character of water to introduce the satisfaction derived from sexuality according to God’s intention.

A. When one digs his own well, verifies its source and its purity and controls its flow, it will provide refreshment whenever it is needed or desired (15-18a).

B. Even so, the delight and pleasure of sexuality should be concentrated upon the wife with whom the man has a committed covenant relationship. All that God intended in sexual pleasure will be found in increasing measure, both physically and in spiritual unity and purpose, in the “wife of your youth.” In all times and always the pleasure God intended in this gift of the union of a man and a woman will enrapture and satisfy.


VI. Corruption of Divine Intent

A. Concentration on one’s marriage partner delivers pleasure and fulfills the purpose of God. Again, the Proverbialist points to the reality that this is a “forbidden woman,” even an adulteress. This is a woman who is purposefully and aggressively in violation of the law of God [the seventh commandment], an adulteress, and will bring the one that follows her into that same disobedience and under the same judgment. “We must not indulge in sexual immorality,” Paul wrote the Corinthians, “as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.” (1 Corinthians 10:8)

B. Why invite God’s judgment by ignoring His Purpose? 5:20-23; 1 Thes 4:6; Heb. 13:4

  1. No matter how secret this might appear at the moment, all is open to God. Though hidden from men, and perhaps from all other persons that could be concerned in the matter, it is yet “before the eyes of the Lord.” In fact, it is so known by God that the writer pictures God as pondering the path of such a despicably weak and sensuous person.
  2. Sexual sin carries its own punishment – It ensnares the transgressor and holds him fast in cords.
  3. God punishes sexual sin by giving one up to its perversion 5:23. “He dies for lack of discipline.”
  • Rebellion against divine revelation often is specifically for the purpose of ignoring the divine law on sex – Romans 1:24-27; 2 Thes 2:12 – In justice, God may clearly remove any restraining mercies on the lust of men and give them up to pursuit of their pleasures. The result is a more frenetic pursuit of the ever-fleeting promise of happiness and fulfillment in pure physical pleasure with the result of greater fragmentation of life and hardness of heart.
  • Heresy involves sexual perversion – 2 Tim 3:4-7; 2 Pet. 2:1, 2, 10, 14. There are those who work to get into positions of religious authority just so that they might gratify their propensity for sexual adventure. Religious idiosyncrasies can create a fascination with the charisma of a teacher that leads to sexual involvement.


V. Inevitability of Judgment – “He will die for lack of Instruction.”

A. Verse :23 – The commandment is not an attempt to destroy pleasure but to give joy and save life. It is “a lamp and the teaching a light.” Sexual aggressiveness, both heterosexual and homosexual, is quite acute in our day and sexuality is seen as being totally a matter of the discretion and will of each individual sexual being. It seems never to occur to the modern that we did not invent sex, nor is it simply the accidental result of a long chain of evolutionary developments. To the contrary, it is original with the creation of man and woman. This relationship is given by God for the consummation of pleasure and unity for a married couple with the normal consequence that the human race is propagated through that act of emotional, spiritual and physical union. It is designed to cement and sanctify the devotion that a couple pledged to one another and to be the vital stream of life that is the fountain of all the natural affection that characterizes family life. “The reproofs of discipline are the way of life.” These commandments “preserve you” from the evil woman.”

B. Disobedience at this point does not indicate shrewdness or independency of thought but “greatness of folly.”


VI. Grace cleanses and makes whole – The magnificence of the grace of God is seen in that even this sin can be cleansed in the purifying crimson of Christ’s pierced body.

A. David in Psalm 51

B. Prodigal Son – Lk 15: 13, 30

C. The Woman at the well in Samaria – John 4:16-18, 39

D. John 8:1-11 Woman taken in adultery

E. First century Christians from a pagan culture – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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