Lasciviousness: A Work of the Flesh

By Richard Boone

Now the works of the flesh are manifest which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21).

The churches of Galatia, to whom Paul wrote this epistle, were once under the yoke of Moses’ Law, but were made free through Christ (5:1). As they were free, they were not to use their freedom “for an occasion to the flesh” (5:13). He shows in the next verses that the works of the flesh are contrary to those of the Spirit (5:17). He also shows that the works of the flesh are destructive – “they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21; emphasis mine – rb). Because these things are so, we need to be eminently concerned about all of the works of the flesh, and anything “such like.” I want to deal with one of these specifically: lasciviousness. Please follow carefully and consider it.

To know what we are talking about, we must understand what lasciviousness means. W.E. Vine, in his Expository Dictionary of N. T. Words, says that lasciviousness “denotes excess, licentiousness, absence of restraint, indecency, wantonness” (Vol. 2, p. 310). J.H. Thayer defines “lasciviousness” as “unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence” (Greek-English Lexicon of the N. T., entry #766). The NKJV says “licentiousness” which means “lacking legal or moral restraints; especially disregarding sexual restraints” (Webster’s 9th New Collegiate Dictionary, 1984, p. 688; emphasis mine – rb). Reader, do you see what is involved in lasciviousness? Do you see that it is a work of the flesh? If we are practicing such, we will have no hope if we do not repent and receive forgiveness of it. While there are many things which promote lasciviousness (certain songs, TV programs, movies, pornography, dancing, mixed swimming, etc.), I want to turn our attention now to one specific thing – our clothing.

There are principles in the New Testament which are to govern the apparel which Christians are to wear. They are found in 1 Timothy 2:9-10, “‘In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety, not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” Each of the italicized words are the principles by which we are to dress. (Also, while I am here, I realize that Paul is speaking specifically to women. But, I believe and teach that the same principles apply to men. God didn’t regulate women’s clothing and then allow men to go nearly naked. Fellows, these guidelines apply to us, too!) What does Paul mean by modest, shame facedness, and sobriety? Consider the following definitions as they are used in 1 Timothy 2:9-10:

Modest: “(kosmios) orderly, well-arranged, decent, . . . is used in 1 Tim. 2:9 of the apparel with which Christian women are to adorn themselves . . .” (Expository Dictionary of N. T. Words, Vine, Vol. 3, p. 79).

Shamefacedness: “(didds) a sense of shame, modesty, is used regarding the demeanor of women in the church, 1 Tim. 2-9. . . ” (Ibid., Vol. 4, p. 17).

Sobriety: “(sophrosune) denotes soundness of mind, . . . 1 Tim. 2:9; sound judgment practically expresses the meaning; ‘it is that habitual inner self-government, with its constant rein on all the passions and desires, which would hinder the temptation to these from arising, or at all events from arising in such strength as would overbear the checks and barriers which aidos (shamefacedness) opposes to it’ [Trench]” (Ibid., Vol. 4, pp. 44-45).

Now we understand what is meant by modest, shamefacedness, and sobriety. They refer to sound judgment, a sense of shame, and the self-discipline which we are to have in regards to what we wear.

Let us consider some of the clothing that is “fashionable” and see if it fits the principles of modesty found in 1 Timothy 2:910. What about the low-neck and low-back dresses that are worn? Tight jeans (men’s and women’s)? Tight shirts or blouses? Shorts? Swim wear? Can we wear these kinds of clothing which often reveal or accentuate more than they cover, and still be modest, shamefaced, or sober? I think not. Yet many today parade around everywhere (at malls, at, public swimming pools, in the yard, at home, and sometimes in the assemblies, etc.) apparel that would promote lasciviousness. That does not even come close to sound judgment, sober thinking, or having a sense of shame. Let me ask a question: whether you are a man or woman, would you be embarrassed for people to walk in your bedroom and see you in your underclothes? I hope that you would answer “Yes!” to that question. If you would be embarrassed by that, then why would you publicly wear clothes that cover less than underclothing and sometimes are more suggestive than underclothes? If you would be embarrassed by one, you ought to be embarrassed by the other.

Finally, if we are desiring to please God, then our attitude toward anything that promotes a work of the flesh, should be that which is found in the Scriptures. Since lasciviousness is sin, it is contrary to godly things and is destructive. What should our attitude toward it be? Look at the following verses and we can find out: Rom. 12:1-2,9,21; 1 Cor. 8:13; 10: 32-33; Gal. 6:78; Eph. 5:8-11; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 5:22; 2 Tim.2:22; 1 Pet. 1:13-16; 2:11; 3:10-11; 4:1-4; and many others. When we take what these passages say about avoiding evil, they do not tell us to take part, or hang around and see what it is like. They say “Be not conformed . . . Abhor . . . Reprove . . . Mortify . . . Abstain . . . Flee . . . etc.” That is what we will do – if we want to please God.

I am not trying to put a damper on anybody’s fun, because anyone who knows me knows that I like to have fun. However, we have come to that time of year when most folks like to go around with practically nothing on. Each of us must be certain that we are not partaking in or promoting any work of the flesh, specifically lasciviousness. When we take what the Scriptures teach, then we can rest assured that we will not be a party to any such sins.

Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 13, pp. 398-399
July 6, 1989