“I am afraid that when I come again, my God may humiliate me in your presence, and that I will be grieved over many of those who sinned in the past and have not repented of the impurity, fornication and debauchery that they have engaged in” (2 Corinthians 12:21 CJB).
2 Corinthians chapter twelve closes with Paul the Apostle’s list of concerns for the members of the Corinthian church. Paul expressed those apprehensions by focusing on three specific types of conduct…
Impurity or uncleanness (NKJV). This phrase does not refer to physical cleanliness but is associated with those who act in a sexually immoral manner. It also expresses the idea of someone who acts from an impure motive that seeks to use others to meet his or her needs.
Fornication. In the original language of this passage, the word translated “fornication” is porneia. As you might suspect, this is the word from which we derive the modern-day term “pornography.” In a general sense, this word refers to any kind of sexual activity that occurs outside a Biblical marriage commitment. More specifically, it is used to identify two unmarried persons who are engaged in a physical relationship with one another.
Debauchery. “Debauchery” is a word that does not see widespread use today but serves to communicate a number of inappropriate behaviors. For instance, words like “promiscuous,” “immoral,” and “lewd” are all associated with the general idea of debauchery. A person who is undisciplined and unrestrained in his or her moral behavior is someone who might fit this description.
This list provided a warning to the congregation regarding the attitudes and behaviors that would motivate Paul to respond in a manner he would prefer to avoid. These descriptions also bring to mind something that Paul wrote in the Biblical letter that follows this epistle to the Corinthians…
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).
So while Paul has focused upon the actions of the false apostles in Corinth over the last few chapters of this letter, the other members of the Corinthian congregation were certainly not exempt. God-dishonoring choices would lead to negative consequences for the unrepentant and Paul issued a fair warning in the final verse of this chapter.