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The works of the flesh are evident, which are..."
Lewdness
(Lasciviousness)
Mark Mayberry


Introduction

In this lesson, let us consider "lasciviousness" (KJV) and "sensuality" (NASU), identified by Paul as a soul-condemning work of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). The particular Greek word that Paul uses in this context is aselgeia.

According to Thayer, the Greek word aselgeia as "unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence&ldots; wanton (acts or) manners, as filthy words, indecent bodily movements, unchaste handling of males and females, etc." (1)

Kittel says that aselgeia [licentiousness] is defined as "'License,' mostly physical, figuratively spiritual. 'Debauchery' or 'licentiousness' is the sense in 2 Peter 2:7 (Sodom and Gomorrah) and Ephesians 4:19 (the pagan world). Sexual excess is probably meant in Galatians 5:19 and certainly so in Romans 13:13; 2 Corinthians 12:21; 2 Peter 2:2, 18)." (2)

Vine says that aselgeia denotes "excess, licentiousness, absence of restraint, indecency, wantonness." (3)

Arndt & Gingrich define aselgeia as "licentiousness, debauchery sensuality... follow the inclination to sensuality... Esp. of sexual excesses... indecent conduct... licentious desires." (4)

Louw and Nida say this word refers to "behavior completely lacking in moral restraint, usually with the implication of sexual licentiousness... In some languages the equivalent of 'licentious behavior' would be 'to live like a dog' or 'to act like a goat' or 'to be a rooster,' in each instance pertaining to promiscuous sexual behavior." (5)

The Revel Bible Dictionary defines "lasciviousness" as "wanton, licentious. The Greek word means unrestrained greed, or an animal-like indulgence in any passionate desire. Lasciviousness appears in several lists of immoral behavior (Mark 7:22; Galatians 5:19). Paul describes its nature well: 'Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality [lasciviousness, KJV] so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more" (Ephesians 4:19). (6)

Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines "Lasciviousness" as the "KJV word for LICENTIOUSNESS. In turn, it defines "Licentiousness" as "undisciplined and unrestrained behavior, especially a flagrant disregard of sexual restraints (Mark 7:22; 2 Corinthians 12:21); (lasciviousness, KJV). The Greek word translated as licentiousness means "outrageous conduct," showing that licentious behavior goes beyond sin to include a disregard for what is right." (7)

The New Unger's Bible Dictionary defines "Lasciviousness" as "(Gk. 'aselgeia, that which "excites disgust"). A term referring to unbridled lust, licentiousness, wantonness. See Sensuality." It defines "Sensuality" as "(Gk. 'aselgeia, that which 'excites disgust'; the term does not appear in the KJV, the Gk. term usually being given there as 'lasciviousness'). Unbridled lust, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness. It is included in the list of evil products named by our Lord (Mark 7:22), and is included with drunkenness and carousing (1 Peter 4:3) and 'the deeds of the flesh' such as immorality and impurity (2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 4:19). In Jude 4 the Gk. is rendered 'licentiousness' and is used to describe what ungodly persons turn the grace of God into. The #5 uses the word only in (Ephesians 4:19)." (8)

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915 edition) defines "Lasciviousness" (aselgeia) "licentiousness," "wantonness," "unbridled lust," "shamelessness," "outrageousness":

    1. Sources: Etymologists assign three probable sources of aselgeia, namely: (1) from a compound of the alpha privitive (negation) and selge, a Pisidian city whose inhabitants according to Thayer (New Testament Lexicon) "excelled in strictness of morals," but, according to Trench, a place whose people "were infamous for their vices"; (2) from a compound of "a" intense, and salagein, "to raise a disturbance or noise"; (3) from a compound of the alpha privitive a- and selgo, or thelgo, "exciting disgust or displeasure." It evidently means conduct and character that is unbecoming, indecent, unrestrainedly shameless.

    2. As Used in the New Testament: Mark uses it in (Mark 7:22) with uncertainty as to the vice meant. Paul (2 Corinthians 12:21) classes it with uncleanness and fornication as sins to be repented of; also (Galatians 5:19; compare Wisdom 14:26, "wantonness") puts it in the same catalogue with other works of the flesh; and (Ephesians 4:19) he refers to some aged ones so covetous, that they made trade of themselves by giving "themselves up to lasciviousness." The same word is translated "wantonness" in (Romans 13:13), meaning wanton manner, filthy words, unchaste movements of the body. Peter (1 Peter 4:3) mentions those who "walked in lasciviousness, lusts, winebibbings, revellings, carousings, and abominable idolatries." He speaks (2 Peter 2:2) of "lascivious doings" (the King James Version "pernicious ways"); (2:7) "lascivious life" (the King James Version "filthy conversation"); and (2:18) of "lasciviousness" (the King James Version "wantonness"), as a means "to entice in the lusts of the flesh." Jude 4 probably does not refer to any form of sensuality in using the word descriptive of "ungodly men" who perverted the faith of some and denied our only Master. WILLIAM EDWARD RAFFETY." (9)

In the KJV, it is translated as "filthy," "lasciviousness," and "wantonness." In the NASB, this word occurs 10 times in 10 Bible verses (Mark 7:22; Romans 13:13; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 4:19; 1 Peter 4:3; 2 Peter 2:2, 7, 18; Jude 4), where it is translated "licentiousness" (1x), "sensual"(1x), and "sensuality" (8x). Let us examine each of these occurrences in succession.

Mark 7:22, "...deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness." (NASU)

Romans 13:13, "...Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy." (NASU)

2 Corinthians 12:21, "...I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced." (NASU)

Galatians 5:19, "...Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality," (NASU)

Ephesians 4:19, "...and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness." (NASU)

1 Peter 4:3, "...For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries." (NASU)

2 Peter 2:2, "...Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned;" (NASU)

2 Peter 2:7, "...and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men." (NASU)

2 Peter 2:18, "...For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error," (NASU)

Jude 4, "...For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." (NASU)

Relevant Verses

Mark 7:22

First of all, Jesus reminds us that moral defilement occurs because of evil that lies within the heart. Included within his list of examples, relevant to the topic under discussion, are adultery, fornication, and sensuality (Mark 7:20-23). In this context, the word aselgeia is translated as lasciviousness (KJV, ASV), licentiousness (RSV), sensuality (NAS), and lewdness (NIV, NKJ).

Mark 7:20-23, "...And He was saying, 'That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.'" (NASU)

    Mark 7:22 #1 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: (KJV)

    Mark 7:22 #2 covetings, wickednesses, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, railing, pride, foolishness: (ASV)

    Mark 7:22 #3 coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. (RSV)

    Mark 7:22 #4 deeds of coveting {and} wickedness, {as well as} deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride {and} foolishness. (NAS)

    Mark 7:22 #5 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. (NIV)

    Mark 7:22 #6 "thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. (NKJ)

Romans 13:13

Children of light must disavow deeds of darkness, including carousing, drunkenness, sexual promiscuity and sensuality. Those who have put on the Lord Jesus Christ should make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lust thereof (Romans 13:12-14). In this context, the word aselgeia is translated as wantonness (KJV, ASV), licentiousness (RSV), sensuality (NAS), debauchery (NIV), and lust (NKJ).

Romans 13:12-14, "...The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. (NASU)

    Romans 13:13 #1 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. (KJV)

    Romans 13:13 #2 Let us walk becomingly, as in the day; not in revelling and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy. (ASV)

    Romans 13:13 #3 let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. (RSV)

    Romans 13:13 #4 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. (NAS)

    Romans 13:13 #5 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. (NIV)

    Romans 13:13 #6 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. (NKJ)

2 Corinthians 12:21

Writing a second time to the Corinthians, Paul remained fearful that many who had sinned would not have repented of their impurity, immorality and sensuality (2 Corinthians 12:19-21). Christians must not seek to blend in with the mores and manners of a decadent culture. Conversion is predicated upon repentance, a radical transformation of attitude and action. In this context, the word aselgeia is translated as lasciviousness (KJV, ASV), licentiousness (RSV), sensuality (NAS), debauchery (NIV), lewdness (NKJ)

2 Corinthians 12:20-21, "...For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances; I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced. (NASU)

    2 Corinthians 12:21 #1 And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed. (KJV)

    2 Corinthians 12:21 #2 lest again when I come my God should humble me before you, and I should mourn for many of them that have sinned heretofore, and repented not of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they committed. (ASV)

    2 Corinthians 12:21 #3 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned before and have not repented of the impurity, immorality, and licentiousness which they have practiced. (RSV)

    2 Corinthians 12:21 #4 I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they have practiced. (NAS)

    2 Corinthians 12:21 #5 I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged. (NIV)

    2 Corinthians 12:21 #6 lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced. (NKJ)

Galatians 5:19

In listing the works of the flesh, Paul first addresses sins of sexual immorality: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, and lasciviousness. The warning he offers is straightforward and worthy of repetition: those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21). In this context, the word aselgeia is translated as lasciviousness, (KJV, ASV), licentiousness, (RSV), sensuality, (NAS), debauchery, (NIV), and lewdness, (NKJ).

Galatians 5:19-21, "...Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (NASU)

    Galatians 5:19 #1 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, (KJV)

    Galatians 5:19 #2 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are (these): fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, (ASV)

    Galatians 5:19 #3 Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, (RSV)

    Galatians 5:19 #4 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, (NAS)

    Galatians 5:19 #5 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; (NIV)

    Galatians 5:19 #6 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, (NKJ)

Ephesians 4:19

Followers of an unregenerate lifestyle face an inescapable paradox: Sensuality and callousness operate in concert (Ephesians 4:17-19). An overemphasis on feeling inexorably leads to a loss of feelings. Excessive consumption diminishes the pleasure derived from satisfying the appetite. So it is with food: Gluttons greedily devour and savor not. So it is with sex: Addicts of sensual pleasure no longer cherish the warmth of hearth and home; nor do they relish the wholesome pleasure of the marriage bed. Instead of rejoicing with the wife of their youth, they seek after forbidden fruit, strange flesh, and exotic pleasures. In the process, their capacity for fulfillment is diminished. In this context, the word aselgeia is translated as lasciviousness (KJV, ASV), licentiousness (RSV), sensuality (NAS, NIV), and lewdness (NKJ).

Ephesians 4:17-19, "...So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness." (NASU)

    Ephesians 4:19 #1 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. (KJV)

    Ephesians 4:19 #2 who being past feeling gave themselves up to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. (ASV)

    Ephesians 4:19 #3 they have become callous and have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness. (RSV)

    Ephesians 4:19 #4 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. (NAS)

    Ephesians 4:19 #5 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. (NIV)

    Ephesians 4:19 #6 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. (NKJ)

1 Peter 4:3

Willingness to suffer for the cause of Christ is a true gauge of discipleship. Those unwilling to suffer are not truly converted. Those who are willing to pay the price of discipleship - "A servant is not greater than his master, if they persecuted me, they will persecute you." - also experience a reorientation of desires. Affections must be set on things above, not on things of this world. Conversion to Christ means cessation from sin. Accordingly, let us realize that the time already past is sufficient for us to have pursued a course of sensuality. It didn't bring lasting pleasure then, and it is incapable of doing so now. Let us, therefore, not waste any more time in such futile pursuits (1 Peter 4:1-6). In this context, the word aselgeia is translated as lasciviousness (KJV, ASV), licentiousness (RSV), sensuality (NAS), debauchery (NIV), and lewdness (NKJ).

1 Peter 4:1-6, "...Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God." (NASU)

    1 Peter 4:3 #1 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: (KJV)

    1 Peter 4:3 #2 For the time past may suffice to have wrought the desire of the Gentiles, and to have walked in lasciviousness, lusts, winebibbings, revellings, carousings, and abominable idolatries: (ASV)

    1 Peter 4:3 #3 Let the time that is past suffice for doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. (RSV)

    1 Peter 4:3 #4 For the time already past is sufficient {for you} to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. (NAS)

    1 Peter 4:3 #5 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do -- living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. (NIV)

    1 Peter 4:3 #6 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles -- when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. (NKJ)

2 Peter 2:2

In the worst of cases, false prophets are given over to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Not only so, their appeal is rooted in carnality, and many will follow their sensual ways (2 Peter 2:1-3). In this context, the word aselgeia is translated as pernicious ways (KJV), lascivious doings (ASV), licentiousness (RSV), sensuality (NAS), shameful ways (NIV), and destructive ways (NKJ).

2 Peter 2:1-3, "...But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (NASU)

    2 Peter 2:2 #1 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. (KJV)

    2 Peter 2:2 #2 And many shall follow their lascivious doings; by reason of whom the way of the truth shall be evil spoken of. (ASV)

    2 Peter 2:2 #3 And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. (RSV)

    2 Peter 2:2 #4 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; (NAS)

    2 Peter 2:2 #5 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. (NIV)

    2 Peter 2:2 #6 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. (NKJ)

2 Peter 2:7

Sodom and Gomorrah stand as eternal examples of God's judgment upon what is euphemistically called "an alternative lifestyle" (2 Peter 2:4-9). Lot was oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men. In a dramatic display of divine power, God delivered righteous Lot and destroyed the wicked inhabitants of Sodom. In this context, the word aselgeia is translated as filthy conversation (KJV), lascivious life (ASV), licentiousness (RSV), sensual conduct (NAS), filthy lives (NIV), and filthy conduct (NKJ). Can anyone seriously question God's critical and negative assessment of homosexuality?

2 Peter 2:4-9, "...For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment." (NASU)

    2 Peter 2:7 #1 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (KJV)

    2 Peter 2:7 #2 and delivered righteous Lot, sore distressed by the lascivious life of the wicked (ASV)

    2 Peter 2:7 #3 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the wicked (RSV)

    2 Peter 2:7 #4 and {if} He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (NAS)

    2 Peter 2:7 #5 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (NIV)

    2 Peter 2:7 #6 and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (NKJ)

2 Peter 2:18

Again false teachers are addressed: Superficially, they may seem impressive. Yet, being devoid of wisdom, they speak great swelling words of vanity. The bulk of their followers are weak, ignorant, and easily manipulated. Using every trick in the book, employing every tactic at their disposal, they entice men with fleshly desires - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the lust of a prideful heart (2 Peter 2:18-22). In this context, the word aselgeia is translated as wantonness (KJV), lasciviousness (ASV), licentious passions (RSV), sensuality (NAS), lustful desires (NIV), and lewdness (NKJ). For all involved, the latter end is worse than the first.

2 Peter 2:18-22, "...For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, 'A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,' and, 'A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.'" (NASU)

    2 Peter 2:18 #1 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. (KJV)

    2 Peter 2:18 #2 For, uttering great swelling (words) of vanity, they entice in the lusts of the flesh, by lasciviousness, those who are just escaping from them that live in error; (ASV)

    2 Peter 2:18 #3 For, uttering loud boasts of folly, they entice with licentious passions of the flesh men who have barely escaped from those who live in error. (RSV)

    2 Peter 2:18 #4 For speaking out arrogant {words} of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, (NAS)

    2 Peter 2:18 #5 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. (NIV)

    2 Peter 2:18 #6 For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. (NKJ)

Jude 1:4

Sanctification will result in preservation, if we remain faithful to our calling and earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints. Those who would fulfill this charge must beware of those who would turn the grace of God into licentiousness and deny their Lord and Master (Jude 1-4). In this context, the word aselgeia is translated as lasciviousness (KJV, ASV), licentiousness (RSV, NAS), a license for immorality (NIV), and lewdness (NKJ). Unbelief and immorality go hand in hand.

Jude 1-4, "...Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you. Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." (NASU)

    Jude 1:4 #1 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (KJV)

    Jude 1:4 #2 For there are certain men crept in privily, (even) they who were of old written of beforehand unto this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (ASV)

    Jude 1:4 #3 For admission has been secretly gained by some who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly persons who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (RSV)

    Jude 1:4 #4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (NAS)

    Jude 1:4 #5 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (NIV)

    Jude 1:4 #6 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (NKJ)

 
Relevant Application

As we have seen, lasciviousness involves the sins of debauchery, excess, indecent conduct, insolence, license, licentiousness, outrageousness, sensuality, shamelessness, unbridled lust, undisciplined behavior, unrestrained, animal-like indulgence in any passionate desire, wanton acts or manners, filthy words, indecent bodily movements, unchaste handling of males and females, etc.

In other words, this study is all about sex. Within the relationship of marriage, sex is wholesome, meaningful, and good (Genesis 2:24; 1 Corinthians 7:1-4; Hebrews 13:4). Outside the relationship of marriage, sex is dirty, cheap, and sinful (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 5:3-5). Unfortunately, in today's society, that which should be shared privately between husbands and wives is openly flaunted in public.

Genesis 2:24, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." (NASU)

1 Corinthians 7:1-4, "Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does." (NASU)

Hebrews 13:4, "Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge." (NASU)

1 Corinthians 6:9-11, "Or 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 effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." (NASU)

Ephesians 5:3-5, "But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." (NASU)

Salacious Literature & Sexually Suggestive Entertainment

There are many sinful situations that confront modern day disciples that are not overtly addressed in Scripture. However, we are not left without guidance. For example, Paul's catalog of the works of the flesh concludes with the statement, "and such like" (Galatians 5:19-21). While they are not explicitly identified, salacious literature, sexually suggestive movies, music and television shows, girly magazines, even the Sport's Illustrated "Swimsuit Issue" would all stand condemned by their obvious association with "adultery, fornication, uncleanness and lasciviousness."

Petting/Unchaste Touching

Petting, the unchaste handling of males and females, is by definition lascivious. Not only must overt the overt act of sexual immorality be avoided, but also the things that lead to it. We must also abstain from those things that tend to produce lust. Guard your heart against lustful thoughts, for that is where sin is conceived (Matthew 5:27-28). Do not place yourself in circumstances where you might be tempted to sin. Joseph showed respect for himself when he refused to lie with Potiphar's wife (Genesis 39:7-12). He understood there is a difference between right and wrong. He also understood that the best way to overcome temptation is to run from it. Some might say, "Yes, my boyfriend wants me to come over to his house while his parents are away. I'm sure we will hug and kiss. We might even engage in heavy-petting, intimate touching, but I won't let it go too far..." Don't kid yourself! Understand that petting and other acts of sexual foreplay will arouse passions that you may not be able to control. Therefore, make up your mind in advance. Determine to live as a Christian, every day and every hour and in every circumstance of life. For good reason, the Bible says "Flee fornication" (1 Corinthians 6:18) and "Flee youthful lusts" (2 Timothy 2:22).

Matthew 5:27-28, "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (NASU)

Genesis 39:7-12, "It came about after these events that his master's wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, 'Lie with me.' But he refused and said to his master's wife, 'Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?' As she spoke to Joseph day after day, he did not listen to her to lie beside her or be with her. Now it happened one day that he went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the household was there inside. She caught him by his garment, saying, 'Lie with me!' And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside. (NASU)

1 Corinthians 6:18, "Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. " (NASU)

2 Timothy 2:22, "Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. " (NASU)

1 Timothy 5:1-2, "Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity." (NASU)

Dancing

In his book, World History of the Dance, Curt Sach studies the background of dancing. He says that all dances, like any other art form, attempt to say something. The steps, positions and movements are designed to convey a message. According to Sach, the whole range of modern dances are designed to express "love-making." The 1956 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica confirms this by stating, "To a certain extent all dancing is sexually stimulating..." (10) Dancing's charm is based upon sex appeal. Someone once said that it is the vertical manifestation of a horizontal desire. Dr. Leta S. Hollingsworth, professor of education at Columbia University, confirms this view. Although she approves of dancing, she still says that dancing "affords a partial satisfaction to the sex impulse which (among the adolescents) cannot as yet achieve full and specific expression..." (11)

Again, consider what the 2000 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica has to say on this subject:

    "Within this broad spectrum of forms, dance fulfills a number of very different functions, including the religious, the military, and the social. Nearly all cultures have had, or still possess, dances that play an important part in religious ritual. There are dances in which the performers and even the spectators work themselves into a trance in order to transcend their ordinary selves and receive the powers of the gods or, as in the case of Indian temple dancers, in which the performers enact the stories of the gods as a way of worshiping them. In some early Christian communities, processions or formal dance patterns formed part of the prayer service."

    "It is possible to view modern military marches and drilling procedures as descendants of the tribal war and hunting dances that have also been integral to many cultures. War dances, often using weapons and fighting movements, were used throughout history as a way of training soldiers and preparing them emotionally and spiritually for battle. Many hunting tribes performed dances in which the hunters dressed in animal skins and imitated the movements of their prey, thus acquiring the skills of the animal in question and, through sympathetic magic, gaining power over it."

    "Dance also plays a number of important social roles in all cultures, notably in matters of celebration, courtship, recreation, and entertainment. Courtship dances, for example, allow the dancers to display their vigour and attractiveness and to engage in socially accepted physical contact between the sexes. (The waltz, a relatively modern example of the courtship dance, was banned at certain times because its flagrant contact between the dancers was considered indecent.) Such traditional dances often contain fertility motifs, where mimed (or even actual) motions of sexual intercourse are enacted. One motif in particular, the fertility leap, in which the male dancer lifts the woman as high as he can, is common to many courtship dances, such as the Tyrolean Schuhplattler." (12)

Some might respond, "O.K., dancing has sex appeal. What's wrong with that?" As we have already seen, sex is a gift from God, and in and of itself it is not evil. Yet, God-given desire also has God-given boundaries. Dancing arouses emotions that can have a rightful fulfillment only within the relationship of marriage. It is sinful for persons not married to each other to engage in those actions which inordinately stimulate their sexual desires (Ephesians 4:17-19; 1 Peter 4:1-4).

Ephesians 4:17-19, "So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness." (NASU)

1 Peter 4:1-4, "Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you." (NASU)

Even if a young Christian who wanted to attend a school dance was willing to accept certain restrictions on his/her dress and conduct so that he/she did not violate the principles of Christianity, another equally serious problem remains. Can a Christian jointly participate in an activity that blatantly appeals to the lust of the flesh? The simple answer is "No."

Immodest Clothing

Is it O.K. to wear bathing suits in public? Is mixed swimming acceptable? Would any self-respecting Christian visit a nude beach? No. However, many so-called Christians will go to a public beach or swimming pool where people wear the bare minimum of clothing. Yet amazingly, many people think that 1 ½ inch width of cloth in the crotch separates modesty from immodesty.

Even if a Christian who wanted to go to the pool was willing to accept certain restrictions on his/her dress and conduct so that he/she did not violate the principles of Christianity, another equally serious problem remains. Can a Christian jointly participate in an activity that blatantly appeals to the lust of the flesh? The simple answer is "No."

While bathing suits, shorts, halter-tops, and other forms of immodest attire may cover the generative portions of the body, they nevertheless, are categorized - at least from a Biblical standpoint - as nakedness. The Scriptures use this word to refer, not only to complete nudity, but also to a state of being inadequately clothed. Please consider the following article by Greg Gwin, entitled "State Prison Bans Shorts." It is a powerful commentary on the issue of immodest clothing. (13)

    Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary is strategically located in the hills of East Tennessee. It is considered nearly escape-proof because of the rugged terrain which surrounds it. Some notorious criminals have called it home, including James Earl Ray.

    If you go to visit at Brushy Mountain, you'll be given a copy of the "Visitation Handbook." It contains the rules and regulations which must be observed by anyone who visits an Inmate there. It mentions, of course, that visitors must submit to a search, and that proper identification must be shown. There are obvious restrictions stated about what can and can't be taken in to the inmates, etc.

    Of particular interest is rule 5: "All visitors shall dress in an appropriate manner . . . halter tops, tank tops, sundresses, shorts and other revealing attire shall not be acceptable on persons over age 10 . . ." Rule 6 follows which describes in full detail what is called "undue physical contact."

    Those who favor the wearing of shorts (including an increasing number in the Lord's church) need to explain to us why the officials at a place like Brushy Mountain don't want visitors wearing them. If shorts aren't immodest and don't provoke lascivious and lustful thoughts, then why the prohibition? It seems clear that the folks in charge of keeping order at a state prison know how such clothes can impact a person's thinking and actions -- and thus the rule.

    It's a sad thing when people of this world have the good sense to see the truth on this issue, and some of God's people can't -- or won't. Christian, are you being careful to dress in "modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety?" (1 Timothy 2:9)

Therefore, Christians should avoid clothing that is too short, too low, too tight, and too revealing. We should be mindful of how different positions and postures affect our modesty. Clothing that may be relatively modest when one is standing up may be quite immodest when one is sitting down. Accordingly, whenever we are in public, let us exercise due diligence so that our bodies remain properly covered under any and all circumstances.

Cheerleading

The issue of cheerleading stands or falls along with the aforementioned issues. First of all, it violates the issue of modesty. Paul said, "in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works" (1 Timothy 2:9-10). The typical cheerleading costume is immodest. The dresses are simply too short. Even if the length of a cheerleader's dress approaches the knees, her movements and twirling will inevitably expose her thighs and also her panties. The undergarments of a cheerleading outfit are the same as underwear in most cases. When cheerleaders kick their legs in the air or twirl about in circles, they expose their undergarments/underwear for all to see.

 
Cheerleading no longer is merely about shouting cheers, snap-precision movements, etc. Today it involves a good deal of dancing. Modern cheerleading, as commonly practiced in high schools and at most colleges, is simply a presentation of something to lust after. A man's sexual drive is stimulated by the sight of desire. This is how God created man. Yet, such desire can have honorable expression only in the context of marriage. Jesus said that the act of looking on a woman to lust after her is just as serious as actually committing adultery (Matthew 5:28).

Several years ago, I attended a high school football game where the cheerleader's dance routine was so suggestive - with pelvic grinds and thrusts - that I looked away in utter embarrassment. I remember thinking, "How could parents let their teenage girls engage in such a lewd and suggestive performance?" Even more astounding is that many Christians see nothing wrong with such conduct.

Even if a young Christian girl who wanted to be a cheerleader was to submit to certain restrictions on her dress and conduct so that she did not violate the principles of Christianity, another equally serious problem remains. What about her membership in the cheerleading squad itself? While she might be an exception to the rule, the typical high school cheerleading squad is known for immodest clothing, lascivious dancing, and occasionally suggestive cheers. These sinful excesses are not merely an occasional problem, but a regular and recurring problem. They are part and parcel of what a modern day cheerleading squad is all about. So, simply put, the question is this: Is it right for a Christian to be a part of such a group?

What if a young Christian woman joined the Dallas Cowboy's cheerleading squad? Instead of wearing the standard skimpy, suggestive uniform, she received permission to wear only modest clothing. While the other members of the squad performed their fertility ritual dances, she would stand at the end of the line, tapping her feet and snapping her fingers? Yet, she is an official member of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, a group known for immodesty and lasciviousness. Would this be right? Could she be a member of that particular group and still be a faithful Christian?

The typical high school cheerleading squad is really no different from the professional variety, except in the matter of degree. Each is immodest. Each participates in sensual and suggestive body movements. Each appeals through the lusts of the flesh. If it would be wrong for a Christian to be "godly" Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader, how is it right for a Christian to be a member of her high school football cheerleading squad?

What's the point of being a cheerleader if you are not going to act and dress like the rest of the team? Cheerleading is a team function. In some cases, it is called a team sport. If a Christian is a cheerleader, she is a joint participant in the functions of the team. She cannot be a part of a part, she is a part of the whole. What then does the whole squad do? In today's society, in most cases, high school cheerleaders are viewed as a dance squad. They wear immodest clothing and engage in immodest dancing. How can you disassociate yourself from these things when these actions are a real and substantial part of what cheerleading is all about? If a Christian is going to jointly participate in a squad that is known for immodest dress and dancing, she will to all intents and purposes be condoning it. How can a Christian participate to that degree? When it comes to joint participation in evil, the Bible clearly says, "Come out and be separate!" (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

The only way that I can see that it would be acceptable for a Christian to be a cheerleader on her high school or college cheerleading squad is for the whole squad to agree to dress decently and avoid suggestive motions. If the whole squad were doing right, then a Christian girl would not be fellowshipping error if she was a part of the group.

Conclusion

This study leads us to an inescapable conclusion: God intends for men and women to be clothed in public. We should realize that the very concept of modesty is tied to the sacredness of the marriage relationship (Hebrews 13:4). Not only is one's body to be preserved for his or her spouse in the sexual relationship, but the body is also to be covered until one enters into the marital relationship. Sadly, too many people miss the point of modest dress. When a person exposes their body in public, they are exposing something that belongs to their spouse or their future spouse. If you have exposed yourself to others, you have given your mate used goods. You are not giving him/her anything that hundreds of other men/women have not seen before. You cheapen yourself by exposing your body in public.

Adam and Eve were ashamed when they realized they were naked. Nakedness is not something shameful between a man and his wife, but it is felt when third parties are present. In the case of Adam and Eve, they were ashamed when God came to visit with them in the cool of the evening. God intends for men and women to be clothed in public.

Young people, boys and girls, don't engage in events that require you to expose or display your body to the public's eye. Some areas where this is done is cheerleading, drill teams, some athletic attire, school outings, mixed swimming parties, dances, and even formal occasions like the prom. Your body belongs to God in heaven, and to one person in this life. Therefore, strive to be pure and chaste in your appearance both before and after marriage.

All of us must consider the influence their decision will have upon others (Matthew 5:13-16). What sort of example are you setting for other Christians? Will your decisions in the area of modesty increase or diminish the respect that others feel for you and your family? What sort of influence will your decisions have upon the young people at church? Will the effect of your decisions encourage the young people to be set apart from the world, or will it encourage them to become more like the world?

Finally, let us make application of this lesson to leaders in the Lord's church. What if officers in the church are guilty of immodesty? What if they allow their family to dress or act immodestly? Such failures must be adamantly opposed. God has set a high standard for leaders in the church. Let us note that there are no double standards. There is only one standard. However, elders, deacons and evangelists must be the ones who set that high standard. Then, hopefully, other members will raise their standards to match those of their leaders. In time, hopefully those high standards will be passed on to those who are weaker. However, if the leadership of the church compromises its standards, how can we ever draw the line against sin?

James says, "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment" (James 3:1). The RSV says, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness." The NASV says, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment."

Leaders are in a position of influence above the ordinary member. Elders, deacons and preachers must be mindful of their influence. Condemnation will be greater if someone in a position of leadership is allowed to persist in a sinful condition because they will influence many others.

When an elder, deacon or preacher fails to control his family in the area of modesty, a harmful precedent is set. If such people could only know the damage they inflict on the church. They not only hurt themselves, but they also make it much harder for other young people to do what is right. A young Christian girl once sought to explain why she would not attend the school dance. However, her peers ridiculed her, saying, "Why So-And-So goes to the dance, and her daddy preaches for the Main Street church of Christ." This made it very hard for her.

Finally, if in doubt, please ask the question, "Would Jesus approve?" Would he approve of unchaste touching and sexual foreplay outside of the relationship of marriage? Would he be pleased with our participation in the various suggestive and sensual forms of modern dance? Does our Lord approve of immodest dress? Does he condone the public display of nakedness? Does our Lord ignore lewd and lascivious bodily movements that by their very nature are designed to incite lust in the viewers of such? To ask the question is to answer it. The Mosaic Law was completely different from the fertility cults of antiquity. The Covenant of Christ, founded upon the premise of personal morality and holiness, was also radically distinct from the decadent Greco-Roman culture. Christians are called unto holiness. Therefore, let us follow Paul's admonition to young Timothy: "Keep thyself pure" (1 Timothy 5:17).


  1. 1 Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, (1889; Reprint ed., Wheaton, IL: Evangel Publishing Co., 1974), s.v. "ASELGEIA," #766.
  2. 2 Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament, Abridged in One Volume, Trans. by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985), p. 83.
  3. 3 W. E. Vine, Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, (Seattle, WA: BibleSoft & Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985, 1996), s.v., "Lascivious, Lasciviousness," #766.
  4. 4 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament. Translated By W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. 2nd ed., (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, c1958, 1979), s.v. "ASELGEIA," p. 114-115.
  5. 5 Johannes Louw and Eugene Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains, (New York: United Bible Societies, 1988, 1989), s.v. "ASELGIA, #88.272."
  6. 6 Lawrence O. Richards, ed., The Revell Bible Dictionary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1990), s.v. "Lasciviousness."
  7. 7 Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. Herbert Lockyer, Sr., (Seattle, WA: BibleSoft & Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986, 1996), s.v. "Licentiousness."
  8. 8 New Unger's Bible Dictionary, ed. Merrill F. Unger & R. K. Harrison, (Seattle, WA: BibleSoft & Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1988, 1996), s.v. "Lasciviousness."
  9. 9 The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1915 Edition, ed. James Orr, (Seattle, WA: BibleSoft, 1996.), s.v. "Lasciviousness."
  10. 10 ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, 1956 ed., s.v. "Dance."
  11. 11 Leta S. Hollingsworth, The Psychology of the Adolescent, p. 122.
  12. 12 ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, 2000 ed., s.v. "Dance."
  13. 13 Greg Gwin, "State Prison Bans Shorts," The Voice of West End, (West End Church of Christ, Bowling Green, KY: May 1998), page 4.