Tuesday, February 23, 2021


ἀσέλγεια is a Greek word that occurs 10 times in the Bible and the ESV consistently translates it with “sensuality” or “sensual.” This is fairly accurate if you use Noah Webster’s 1828 definition of sensuality, “Devotedness to the gratification of the bodily appetites; free indulgence in carnal or sensual pleasures.” But if you look up the word online, you will see sensuality is commonly used today to simply refer to the enjoyment of physical pleasure. Thus, someone could get the mistaken idea that the Bible teaches that it is wrong to delight in physical pleasures. On the contrary, he gave us our senses and things like food and drink and sexual relations that we might enjoy them and be happy and grateful (Acts 14:17, Ps. 104:15, 1 Tim. 4:3, 6:17). The problem is when we desire or use these things unlawfully and inappropriately. We ought not to idolize them, covet them, abuse them (see here and here), or pursue them in an unrestrained manner or in a way where we loose control.

The word ἀσέλγεια properly refers to a “lack of self-restraint which involves one in conduct that violates all bounds of what is socially acceptable … esp. of sexual excesses” (BDAG Greek-English Lexicon). The KJV usually translates it with “lasciviousness,” which more accurately translates the word, although it might sound old-fashioned. Other words that can be used to translate it would be licentiousness, wantonness, self-abandonment, or shamelessness.

It is an important concept to note today, as our culture tends to put very few restraints on indulging sensual desires. In fact, some people deem it immoral to hinder or discourage people from indulging any of these desires or to deem any particular indulgence as shameful (at least, as long as they are not harming another person without their consent). But Scripture notes that this lasciviousness is ungodly and something that Christians leave behind. Instead, they are to live in a manner that is self-controlled, dignified, and righteous, gratefully using their God-given senses as God intended, delighting appropriately in what is good and lovely.
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in [ἀσελγείαις], passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” (1 Peter 4:1–5)
“Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and [ἀσελγείαις], not in quarreling and jealousy.” (Romans 13:13)

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