Do Not Be Deceived

by David Ramirez

I always try to point out, especially in confirmation class, that the commandments guard particular gifts God gives us. For example, God gives us His name. The Second Commandment guards this gift by teaching us how to use it properly instead of misusing it. We call upon the Lord’s name in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.

The Sixth Commandment guards the gift of marriage and purity. In the Large Catechism, Luther said:

This commandment is aimed directly at the state of marriage. … First, understand and mark well how gloriously God honors and praises this estate. … He has approved it above in the Fourth Commandment, “Honor your father and your mother.” But here He has (as we said) hedged it about and protected it. (LC I 206)

I also often tell confirmation students that one of the devil’s most effective deceptions is to misdirect a good desire to twist and pervert what God has instituted. This is to say, the devil wishes us to be sexually promiscuous. The root meaning of “promiscuous” is to be indiscriminate. As children of God, trusting in His fatherly wisdom and love, we are to discriminate concerning when and with whom physical intimacy is appropriate. The Lord teaches us that a man and a woman are to become one only within marriage. It is good for a man to desire his wife but wicked for him to desire someone else’s. It accords with God’s creation for a young, unmarried woman to desire a husband but sinful for her to act as if she were already married to a particular man.

Winking at sin

Fornication, sexual intercourse between persons not married to each other, is strictly forbidden by the Scriptures. St. Paul sternly warned the Corinthians, “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9–10). While Christians often readily condemn homosexual behavior and other extreme deviancies, many “Bible-believing” Christians wink at premarital intimacy, living together before marriage, adultery and other forms of fornication.

While there are many reasons why this takes place, I would focus on two in particular. First, many parents and other authorities are indulgent. They often mistake indulgence for love, yet indulgence reflects a lack of love. Solomon said, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Prov. 13:24). Secondly, some parents believe they cannot chastise their children for behavior in which they also engaged. However, the parents’ duty to judge according to the Word of God and warn those in their care is not based upon their own moral perfection. Christ commanded us to “judge with right judgment” (John 7:24). Even if parents have sinfully fornicated, they still have the authority and responsibility to tell their children, “Don’t do it!”

Right discrimination

Just as lies beget lies, toleration of deviancy leads to further deviancy. Christians should not wonder how our culture arrived at the inability to recognize the absurdity of gay “marriage” and transgenderism. We arrived by way of no-fault divorce, toleration of engaged couples “playing house” and glorification of hook-up culture. The culture that surrounds us celebrates promiscuity — indiscriminate physical intimacy. As a people, we no longer know how to properly discriminate.

With the devil, the world and our sinful flesh conspiring against us, we can only turn to God’s Word. It shows us how to discriminate rightly, how to distinguish between truth and error. The sword of the Spirit, sharper than any two-edged blade, is “living and active … piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

The law of God cuts us to the heart. We have all failed to keep our thoughts, words and deeds pure. Lust, envy, covetousness and every sort of impurity come from our fallen hearts. Commenting on 1 Corinthians 6 in his Popular Commentary, P.E. Kretzmann wrote, “[St. Paul’s] readers were not to make the mistake that the liberty of the Gospel was equivalent to libertinism and license; free grace does not imply the right to sin.”

Fallen heroes

We are to be especially alert to the danger of promiscuity since some of the greatest heroes of the Scriptures fell into great shame and vice through their lust. The fall of David and Bathsheba is probably the best-known illustration. Another instructive example is the fall of Samson (Judges 16). Even before he became involved with Delilah, Samson demonstrated his slavery to sin and his idolatrous rejection of God’s Word by visiting a prostitute in Gaza. Samson viewed his great power and strength as things to be exploited to fulfill his lust and self-glorification. Samson’s pride and presumption led him to foolishness and ruin. He arrogantly believed he could play with fire, and so Delilah ensnared him for the Philistines.

Fortunately, that was not the end of Samson’s story. Even though the Lord delivered him into the hands of his enemies, the Lord worked good through Samson’s humiliation and suffering. The Lord brought him to repentance. And in his death, Samson gained a greater victory than any he won during his life (Judges 16:30).

Greater than Samson

Samson’s sacrificial death points us to an infinitely more precious victory. Like Samson, Christ died for the sake of His people with outstretched arms. Unlike Samson, Jesus had no sin, for He is the spotless Lamb of God. Upon the cross Jesus atoned for the sin of the world — including all of our sins against the Sixth Commandment.

As the Small Catechism teaches, we are to lead a chaste and decent life in what we say and do. We are to be discriminating, not promiscuous; we are to be faithful to whom God has called us to love and honor. St. Paul’s words for the church in Corinth should likewise spur us on in our lives of holiness, both warning us against sin and pointing to what makes us pure — Jesus’ holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death:

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:18–20)

This article originally appeared in print in the January 2021 issue of The Lutheran Witness.

11 thoughts on “Do Not Be Deceived”

  1. God’s timing, as always, is perfect. I needed this today, not in January. Yesterday I was told at work that I must complete “sensitivity training” by the end of the month on sexual orientation and the appropriate use of gender pronouns. For the time being, I will conveniently “forget.” When/if it is brought to my attention, I pray God will give my words the strength to convey why I will not do so. Is it worth getting fired for? Yes, I think it is.

  2. Instruction concerning any one of the commandments might be enhanced by anticipating the consequences of our obedience. Here we can ask: What benefits and joys might accrue to us, individually and collectively, when we follow the Sixth Commandment in particular? What injuries and sorrows might be avoided?

    With specific answers to those questions, we might better see in the commandment something of what our wise and loving God wants for us this side of heaven. And consequently we might better see how our adherence is not only a manifestation not only of our love for God, but also love for ourselves and for one another.

  3. John Joseph Flanagan

    The deceptions of which you speak are often culture driven forces which impact the Christian family incrementally. For example, progressive public school education, although it was once respectful of religious faith, has made formidable inroads into childhood indoctrination, and has been quietly shaping values. What are children learning in school these days? Besides the “new math,” they are being taught ‘gender neutral pronouns’ and being indoctrinated into secular humanist ideology. This is nothing new. Christian parents must compete with an ideology that omits words like ‘virtue’ and ‘sin,’ and replaces these terms with ‘tolerance,’ ‘diversity’ and identity politics. The leftward movement at the college level is even more troubling.
    By changing the language terminology, substituting euphemisms for truth, academic and media institutions blur or render obsolete the ideas and cultural values which formerly grounded this society. It is a perfect progressive deception, done quietly but incrementally over time, and it is transformative and unyielding.
    And what do pastors and their churches do about it? For the most part, they join in and conform. After awhile, the congregation will not here from the pulpit any mention of words like repentance, confession of sin, true humility, obedience to God, brokenness for sin. No, the church deserves a spiritual kick in the pants for failing to be more obstinate and unrelenting in defense of the Bible and in resisting cultural deceptions which have preyed on their sheep. When is the last time a Lutheran pastor preached on Matthew 7: 21-28? (Jesus said, “I never knew you….”). Carnal Christianity is alive and well in all denominations today, some worse than others, and it is one of the reasons the culture wins easily over professing believers who haven’t the slightest idea what the Gospel teaches. Lulled to sleep, apathetic, disinterested in striving against sin, never looking for sanctification or seeking personal holiness, many Christians prefer to live among the weeds. In my humble view, we need a reawakening in America, one Christian, and one church at a time. Otherwise, we will be suffocated by the society, and the light on the hill will continue to grow dimmer, and fade away into the darkness.

    1. I agree, John. We’re not hearing any hard truths from God’s Word about today’s cultural and moral decline from the LCMS pulpit (at least the two churches I’ve attended in the last few years–I’ve been Lutheran all my life.) My family is growing frustrated by the lukewarm preaching. Can’t even tell we’re in an LCMS Lutheran church most Sundays. (Don’t even get me started on the Christmas Eve service with no OT reading, no Epistle, no Gospel, no sermon–I was embarrassed that I had brought two unchurched people with me to see a forty-minute “play” in which Mary was a petulant teenager and time travel, a professor with a hillbilly accent, and oranges featured prominently–they had billed it as a church service in the previous Sunday’s bulletin. It was anything but.) During the last year, I’ve been listening to (non-LCMS) pastors on YouTube during the week to get the meat of the Gospel instead of the Pablum I’m getting in church. We need a strong voice crying out in the desert right now–one not afraid to proclaim God’s truth in a cultural wasteland. We need fearless pastors in the tradition of Martin Luther. “Here I stand, I can do no other.”

      1. Susan, do not be too quick to paint the LCMS so broadly. I agree there are problems within this Synod, yet I hear much faithful preaching every week. Many faithful pastors and congregations are doing the Lord’s work each week, and many of these are available for viewing and listening online. In your specific case, what has your pastor said in response when you have confronted him with your concerns?

      2. I would recommend KNNA Theological Programming, Brent Kuhlman Sermons and Table Talk Radio Show, Pastor Poppe Sermons, with Intrepid Heart – Lutheran Sermons and Bible Study, A Word Fitly Spoken Podcast. All can be found on google podcasts, anchor, etc. Otherwise daily devotions and services at Good Shepherd Lutheran Media on Youtube. All of those are excellent law and gospel lcms programs. Or

      3. Check the Issues Etc. web page and see if they list a church near you. Listen to their podcasts. They have weekly sermons too.

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