The Foundation of Genuine Wisdom

The Bible teaches that the foundation, or beginning, of genuine wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Unwise people spurn the fear of the Lord by neglecting God’s moral absolutes, but wise believers walk in holy obedience to Him.

“The fear of the Lᴏʀᴅ is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10). Old Testament language scholar H. F. Fuhs wrote, “Fear of God becomes synonymous with reverence, worship, and obedience to God’s command.”1 He explained that God’s “absolute holiness”—belonging exclusively “to the divine realm” and “totally inaccessible to mortals”—prompts that fear.2

The word translated beginning means “the beginning of a process with a definite end or goal.”3 Born-again Christians should aim for the goal of becoming reflections of God’s holy nature through genuine reverence, worship, and obedience.

Ephesians 1:3–6 says,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

Colossians 3:12–14 declares,

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

1 Peter 1:13–16 says,

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

God’s Moral Absolutes
The Bible reveals that God is a moral being and that He created humans in His image as moral beings. He has revealed moral absolutes to humans and forbids them to violate them.

God appointed humans to administer His rule over this earthly province of His universal Kingdom in accord with His moral nature and the fixed order of moral law He established. These truths imply that God holds people accountable to be morally responsible.

Born-again Christians can reflect God’s holy nature by obeying the moral absolutes He presents in His authoritative Word. Disobeying them can have serious consequences—not only for the one who disobeys, but also for the family and others associated with that person.

Most people reject God’s rule over them and instead assert their own self-rule. In other words, humanity decided to exercise dominion over the earth in its own way, rather than in God’s way. People began to violate and pervert God’s moral absolutes and His fixed order of moral law, especially His institution of marriage.

Sexual Violations and Perversions
God instituted marriage because He created people with male and female sexuality (Gen. 1:27). Thus God alone possesses the authority to define marriage and determine the proper use of sexuality. God intends all human sexual relationships to take place exclusively within the bond of marriage, a lifelong union between a man and a woman.

One reason God created humanity and ordained the male-female union was to populate the earth. God blessed Adam and Eve and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (v. 28).

This fact indicates that, when God created humanity as male and female, He revealed the fixed, inflexible moral order He—the sovereign King of the universe—determined and established for human sexuality. Any deviation from that order violates and perverts what God intended and portends dire consequences for mankind.

The Bible addresses several kinds of violations and perversions of God’s design for human sexuality. Two are fornication and adultery.

Fornication. Scripture uses the term fornication both generally and specifically. In the general sense, it refers to any voluntary sexual intercourse outside male-female marriage.

For example, 1 Corinthians 5:1–2 refers to incest. The apostle Paul wrote, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.”

In the specific sense, fornication refers to voluntary sexual intercourse between an unmarried man and unmarried woman. Jesus said, “For out of the heart proceed…fornications….These are the things which defile a man” (Mt. 15:19–20).

Galatians 5:19 distinguishes fornication from adultery and homosexuality: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication.” First Corinthians 6:9–10 signifies that fornicators are distinct from adulterers and homosexuals: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites…will inherit the kingdom of God.”

The Bible clearly indicates that fornicators violate God’s moral order and, therefore, deserve judgment. Under the Mosaic Law, if a man discovered his wife was not a virgin when he married her, she was to be stoned to death for pre-marital fornication (Dt. 22:13–14, 20–21). Jesus said fornications defile a person and are evil (Mk. 7:20-23). Romans 1:29 and 32 declare that people who commit fornication are worthy of death.

The apostle Paul asserted that a Christian’s body does not exist for the practice of fornication. It exists for the benefit of Christ. Since believers are spiritually unified with Christ, their bodies are extensions of Christ in the world. Since fornication involves a one-flesh union with an immoral person, believers who commit fornication thereby unite Christ’s members with immoral people. Paul was so repulsed by that thought that he exclaimed, “God forbid” (1 Cor. 6:15, KJV), and commanded Christians to “flee” fornication (v.18).

Fornicators sin against their own bodies. Since the Holy Spirit permanently indwells believers, they must not defile the temple of the Holy Spirit through fornication.

In addition, since God purchased believers through the shedding of Christ’s blood, He owns every part of them. Therefore, believers should glorify God through the functions of their bodies and spirits (vv. 18–20).

Fornication is a lustful work that is divorced from the controlling power of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:17–19). It should never be associated with Christians (Eph. 5:3) since God’s will is for Christians to abstain from fornication and to be sanctified (1 Th. 4:3).

The Scriptures clearly indicate that no one guilty of fornication will inherit the Kingdom of God. Rather, such people will be thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone (1 Cor. 6:9; Gal. 5:19–21; Rev. 21:8) unless they genuinely seek God’s forgiveness for that violation and perversion of His established order for human sexuality. God will forgive and deliver from judgment those who personally trust Jesus Christ as their Savior (1 Cor. 6:9–11).

Adultery. Adultery is another grievous sexual sin against God. The American College Dictionary defines adultery as “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and any other than the lawful spouse.”4 Webster’s New International Dictionary defines it as “sexual unfaithfulness of a married person; voluntary sexual intercourse of a married man with another than his wife or by a married woman with another than her husband.”5

The Bible clearly emphasizes the fact that God regards adultery to be a grievous sin. One example is God’s response to the situation that resulted when Abraham and Sarah misled Abimelech, king of Gerar, by hiding the fact they were husband and wife.

Abimelech innocently took Sarah for himself (Gen. 20:1–2, 5). But before he even touched her, God warned him he was about to die because he had taken another man’s wife (vv. 3–4). In addition, God closed the wombs of all the women in the king’s household (vv. 17–18).

The warning was to prevent Abimelech from sinning against God (v. 6). God ordered Abimelech to restore Sarah to her husband or he and all of his household would die (v. 7). The king recognized that Abraham’s deception had brought a great sin upon him and his kingdom (v. 9). King Abimelech heeded the Lord’s warning and restored Sarah to Abraham.

God’s response revealed two things: First, adultery is a sin—not only against a spouse, but also against God. It violates what God ordained for marriage and sexuality. Second, adultery can cause serious consequences.

  1. H. F. Fuhs, “yare,” Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (hereafter cited as TDNT), ed. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren, trans./ed. David E. Green, translated from Theologisches Worterbuch zum Alten Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990), 6:298.
  2. Ibid., 300.
  3. S. Rattray and J. Milgrom, “raysheeth,” TDNT, ed. G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry, trans./ed. David E. Green (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 13:269.
  4. The American College Dictionary (New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1948), 18, s.v. “adultery.”
  5. Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd ed., unabridged (Springfi eld, MA: Merriam, 1939), 37, s.v. “adultery.”

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