By Earl E. Robertson

Every Christian should be deeply interested in the constant struggle between holiness and unholiness, godliness and ungodliness, sacredness and profanity. Perhaps, it is in this very sphere that many of us take for granted that we stand acceptable with God, but actually, are profane in person and action. Let us be concerned with what the word of God says about this grave issue.


Perhaps there has been a very limited idea or use made in our understanding of what profanity means. To hear the use made of this word one would think its only use is in our language. Certainly, sacred and holy things can be profaned in our speech; so also can the God who made us. Our word “profane” translates the Greek bebalos which “denotes a. the place which may be entered by anyone . . . . accessible” (Kittel, Vol. 1, p. 604). He shows it corresponds to the Latin profanus, and further acquires the sense of what may ” e said publicly in contrast to what must not be uttered on religious grounds.” This term occurs five times in the New Testament: three times to things (1 Tim. 4:7; 6:20; 2 Tim. 2:16), and two times to persons (1 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 12:16). Of the instances where it is used of material things Kittel says the word “refers to Gnostic teachings which are scornfully described as profane and unholy.” He further declares, “In opposition to their claim to offer an inward truth of religion inaccessible to others, the Gnostic statements concerning God are actually seen to be outside the sphere of the holy God and His Gospel.” Bauer says, “accessible to everyone, profane, unhallowed, in NT not in a ritualistic sense . . . but as an ethical and religious term” (p. 138). McClintock and Strong say, “To profane is to put holy things to vile or common uses; as the money changers did the Temple, by converting a part of it into a place of business (Matt. 21:12)” (Vol. 8, p. 626). Vine says, “Primarily, permitted to be trodden, accessible (from baino, to go, whence belos, a threshold), hence, unhallowed, profane . . . .” Harrison says, “In the OT ‘profane’ is a ceremonial word, an antonym of `holy’ (cf. 1 Sam. 21:4; Ezek. 22:26). To profane is to take something out of the sacred sphere into normal life. The Hebrew hll, whose original force was apparently to untie, means the removal of a prohibition, either illegitimately as in Lev. 21:4, 9, 15 etc., where prohibitions are imposed upon priests, or legitimately, e,g in Deut. 20:6 and Jer. 31:5, where hll signifies permission to use or enjoy the vineyard is no longer holy but profane or common, i.e., usable by man.

“The Lord’s name (i.e., person) is the most common object of profanity (Lev. 18:21; 20:3; 21:6; Ezek. 36:21-23; Amos 2:7, etc..); but what God has sanctified by His presence or His word may also be profaned, e.g., the sanctuary with its vessels (Lev. 21:12; 22:15; Ezek. 22:26; 24:21), the Sabbath (Ezek. 22:8, and the covenant (Mal. 2:10).”

Conditions Of The Profaned

So both persons and things can be profaned. It seems that one renders his state or condition profane when he forgets his separateness and exclusiveness for the Lord by being of common use. The world has common access to that one’s life and interests. While the Lord commands “love not the world,” the world is able to do with him what it wishes. This takes on every shade of love, interest, and influence of a worldly nature manifested by the one upon whom the world so easily can touch. One has to lower his standard, the standard God has given, to accept and use the common in morals and spirituality while God demands exclusive use. In fact, Paul emphasizes the fact that any “things that is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:9,10) fits into the condition of a profaned person. When one becomes such a sinner he does so willingly; he permits himself to be trodden down through the abandonment of the sacred panoply furnished by the Lord.

Christians need to remember that we are not our own, that we have been bought with the blood of Christ and, therefore, have the sacred duty to glorify God in our body and spirit (1 Cor. 6:19,20; 2 Cor. 7:1). We need to keep our hearts with diligence (Prov. 4:23), and keep them pure (Matt. 5:8; 1 Pet. 1:22). Having pure hearts and a watchful desire that they remain that way keeps the world at its distance. But once the world has easy access to our heart we become profane, and this leads to actions of profanity. There is no way to escape this conclusion. There must always be an awareness in our heart that we belong to God and are sanctified, and that this condition must be reflected in our actions. We owe the world no kindnesses, but we owe God our very selves. When the world calls, we must be sufficiently alert to oppose that beckon (James 4:7), and when God calls our disposition and alertness should be like that of Samuel: “Here am I” (1 Sam. 3:4). It is so much easier to retain the right separateness from the world when one wants to do the right thing . . . to be ready unto every good work (Tit. 3:1). The world is always watching for the Christian to develop the attitude which will compromise. It makes no difference to the world what the area of profanity is just so it can have common access to our hearts and lives – that is its objective. The world has succeeded when its path to our hearts is open and unopposed! There is a coarseness essentially attendant with profanity that the alert Christian observes and detests; he shuns it knowing its power is despotic.

Fruits Of Profanity

The state of profanity is always producing the fruits of profanity. This is a law which can not be changed. Few, however, appear to be very aware of it. “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things” (Matt. 12:35). A profane person, a person who has allowed himself to be trodden by evil . . . has become accessible by evil, produces the fruit of this kind of living. The sacred things of God with which this one’s life has to do will be misused and prostituted. It causes troubles and divisions within churches. He either profanes the sacred services by the introduction of unauthorized actions or he condones and aids others who do in his compromises. The sacred worship to God has been made profane by many through the introduction of mechanical instruments into that worship; the sacred work of evangelism likewise has been prostituted and profaned in the efforts of missionary societies and centralization of congregations acting to convert the world. Satan has been successful in making a path to our heart and has, therefore, been able to cause an abuse of holy and sacred things. The pure and holy are no longer such; they have been profaned through common use.

Think of our speech! The word of God demands, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph. 4:29). God forbids the Christian to use words that are corrupt, but to use words that are good. Rotten, putrid, worthless, are words for corrupt. While the Christian can speak words that are useful and helpful, often he speaks rotten words which spoil those about him or his words vex them like Lot of old. The Christian should be interested in “sound speech,” in speech that helps others and makes himself influential and useful in the cause of righteousness. People should be upset when they hear a so-called Christian speaking words of jest and filth! Peter says that Lot was sore distressed by the lascivious life of the wicked; this included their speech! Lot not only saw their ungodly behavior, he heard (2 Pet. 2:8)! The growing Christian today will also be vexed by the filth he hears. Yes, the filth one hears on TV, at work and play, and every place. We can control most of this. If we allow such access it will not be long until we too will be talking the same way.

Impure and vain speech is definitely a fruit of a profaned person. Any person using speech that does not befit the truth of the gospel is a disgrace to the Lord. Such an one seeking to be called a Christian, while allowing Satan the control of his brains and mouth, should be so ashamed that he will repent and pray for forgiveness. Influences we often allow ourselves to be subjected to and surrounded with lead us to “speak things (we) ought not” (1 Tim. 5:13). “Ought” carries a moral responsibility here. One should, therefore, be interested in speaking the “things which become sound doctrine” (Tit. 2:1) that he might be influential for the good rather than aiding and extending the cause of putrid behavior. The word of God demands that the Christian put away “all evil speakings” (Eph.4:31; 1 Pet. 2:1). Paul tells us that “bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33). Many in the church want to deny this, but look at their lives! Evil speech is a matter of morals. The company one keeps helps determine one’s morality. In the presence of jest and filth it is so easy to talk the same way. I have preached long enough and heard so many “confess their faults” (James 5:16), that I know the company they had was an overwhelming influence and determining factor upon the quality and character of their speech. The tongue is a very unruly member of the body to start with (James 3), and needs all the good encouragement and influence it can get. The immoral and ungodly atmosphere generated in so many TV programs is exactly what many Christians demand for satisfaction. People, we reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7)! Such an one has allowed Satan free access to his heart and lips, and the devil now uses him for the cause of ungodliness and immorality.

The pure in heart (Matt. 5:8) have everything; nothing good can come from a change. The Christian cannot ignore gutter language. Some pay to see movies that are as base and -gross as Satan can make them and declare that the “bad language” did not bother them because they just ignored it. The pure in heart can not give it such a “brush off.” One who “ignores” it is desensitized to evil! Shortly he will reveal no repugnancy to such, but will, actually, defend it. Profanity’s fruits are bad and every soul allowing Satan access to his heart will eventually bear fruit to identify him as profane. When Peter cursed and denied Jesus it was an effort for identity (Matt. 26:69-75). Who can believe that one loves the Lord while his lips tells lies and utters filth, while he specifically violates God’s will in taking the name of Almighty God in vane (Ex. 20:7). The name of God is holy and must be revered by man (Psa. 111:9); it must be “hallowed” by faithful disciples (Lk. 11:2; Matt. 6:9). One who uses the name of God in a common way is identified; his speech associates and identifies him as profane. By the words of the profane one is condemned (Matt. 12:37).


  1. Do you consider profanity a grave issue?
  2. What is profanity?
  3. Show how a person or a thing might become profane.
  4. Give discussion to the condition of one who is pro fane.
  5. Give illustrations as to how one becomes profane.
  6. What are some of the fruits of profanity?
  7. Is a misuse of sacred service profanity?
  8. Discuss the probability of a Christian remaining faithful to God who ignores the profanity he can control.

Truth Magazine XXIII: 21, pp. 344-346
May 24, 1979