We have been examining the “works of the flesh” as portrayed in Galatians 5:19-21. Let us continue this study with the term “lasciviousness,” as seen here in Galatians 5:19:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness…
Lasciviousness (also translated as “sensuality,” “wantonness,” “filthy,” etc.) is a translation of the Greek term aselgeia, defined by Thayer as the following:
unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence.
Beyond its use in Galatians 5:19, the term is also found in verse 22 of Mark 7:21-23, 2 Corinthians 12:21, verse 19 of Ephesians 4:17-19, verse 3 of 1 Peter 4:3-5, and Jude 1:4, among others:
“For from within, out of the heart of men, evil thoughts proceed, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, covetings, wickednesses, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, railing, pride, foolishness: all these evil things proceed from within, and defile the man.”
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.
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye no longer walk as the Gentiles also walk, in the vanity of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart; who being past feeling gave themselves up to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”
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: wherein they think strange that ye run not with them into the same excess of riot, speaking evil of of: who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the living and the dead.
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.
We may see from these verses that lasciviousness is soundly condemned by the Apostles and our Lord, declared to be a thing that defiles a man, a deed common to Gentiles, and one marker of false teachers. What, then, is this lasciviousness, and how shall we avoid it?
The English language defines the term in a similar way as in the Greek:
Looseness; irregular indulgence of animal desires; wantonness; lustfulness, (Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language).
The word most clearly refers to a complete loss of shame in an individual, who has no problems freely engaging in sexual activity, excessive consumption of food and drink, and fully committing his or her life to the pursuit of pleasures. The Gentiles of the Roman world were known for these things, frequently engaging in drinking parties and orgies and many other shameful deeds. These were done without even a hint of a conscience; in fact, it could be said in the Roman world that you were strange if you did not engage in adulterous relationships, especially the men.
We as Christians must seek self-control, recognizing the shame that we ought to have concerning ourselves and our actions, and staying away from the deeds of the Gentiles, which manifest conformity to the world and the lusts thereof (Romans 12:1-2; 1 John 2:15-17).
If we begin to feel overwhelmed by the desire for the flesh and fear committing acts of lasciviousness, we must remember the advice of Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:13:
There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it.
Let us strive to no longer walk in the ways of the Gentiles by committing acts of lasciviousness, but to walk in the light of Jesus Christ with self-control, always petitioning our God to show the way of escaping our temptations.