Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 6, 1958
NUMBER 39, PAGE 9-10a


Bryan Vinson, Tulsa, Oklahoma

When we attribute to Jehovah the responsibility of creating all things, and especially regard him as the Creator of man on the one hand, and ascribe to Him the attributes of wisdom, power and goodness in the infinitude of their virtue on the other, then we are led to the inevitable conclusion that all He did was but the fulfillment of His will. That is, guided by infinite wisdom in forming His will, possessed with infinite power in the execution of this will, and motivated by infinite goodness in all His designs and purposes, we must view man as being originally all that God would have him be. Man, then, is so constituted to render him competent and capable of doing what God would have him do, and, therefore, being what God would have him be.

But we see him described, in his subsequent character and behavior, as being and acting contrary to the will of his Creator. The Bible, As Alexander Campbell often said, speaks of man as he was and as he hereafter shall be, but speaks to man as he is. In thus speaking of man as he is, we find many things very disconcerting and exceedingly disparaging in the characterization of man. The popular conception is that man is now possessed of a "fallen nature;" that is, he has a different nature from that with which he originally was endowed. I know of no statement in Holy Writ to sustain such a view. That man's relation to God was altered in consequence of his conduct is granted; that his constitutional nature is changed is not. That the first man was constituted with the capability of sinning is attested by the fact he did, and thus his nature possessed the quality of choosing between good and evil, and that, fundamentally, is our nature also. There are forces and influences, both internal and external, which exert themselves respectively toward aiding us in our decisions. The force of such appeals is variable both as residing within themselves and as touching the attraction they hold for us individually and at given times.

The term lasciviousness, which is our present subject, is one that is found in the scriptures in relation to the condition of man described in his sinful state and character. It is found in the following passages: Mk. 7:22; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 4:19; 1 Peter 4:3; and Jude 4. Young's Concordance also lists Rom. 13:13 and 2 Peter 2:18 as verses which have the same original word, but translated "wantonness" in the Authorized version. Insofar as the limits of this paper permits we shall examine these occurrences.

In Mark 7:22, Jesus lists lasciviousness with several others as instances of those things which proceed out of the heart of man, and as that which defiles him. These contain those things which are essentially thoughts, intents and attitudes, some of which issue into actions such as fornication, adultery and murder. Hence, we would observe, however lasciviousness may express itself in sinful, overt action, it first exists in the heart. The heart desires, and is evil or good as determined whether the desire in any given instance is evil or good. When Paul said his heart's desire was that Israel might be saved, such was a good desire, and thus reflected a good heart. In this passage here, it is indisputable that those things here listed reflect a condition of heart that is evil.

In 2 Cor. 12:21, the apostle anticipates his humiliation and wailing if, when he comes, he finds those impenitent of their uncleanness, fornication and lasciviousness. In such a connection, again, the thought appears to be that lasciviousness finds expression in the uncleanness and fornication of which they were guilty. The same grouping is found in Gal. 5:19, in the works of the flesh there enumerated.

In Ephesians 4:19, the description there is one of such abandonment, that those thus referred to are said to have given themselves over unto lasciviousness to work all uncleanness and greediness. They were past feeling; that is, they had reached such a state of character that no compunction of conscience existed as a restraining influence on their behavior.

The reference in 1 Peter 4:3, is an allusion to the character of those to whom he wrote as existing prior to their conversion. Here the term is included in a listing of other sins — lusts, excess of wine, revelings, banquetings and abominable idolatries. Hence, in their unregenerate state they had run to an excess of riot, and their companions of old thought it strange they did not continue to so do after they were Christians. The apostle avers that the time past must suffice for such a life, whereas those who are converted are not to continue therein. This constitutes no divine approval of sin thus indulged in by those who aren't Christians, but a stringent prohibition against those who are. Unhappily, all who profess to be followers of Him who knew no sin are not of the full and proper persuasion as thus voiced by Peter. Therefore, we read in Jude 4 of those who crept in unawares, ungodly men, who turned the grace of God into lasciviousness and thereby deny the Lord Jesus and Almighty God. Many under a specious and perverted use of the grace of the gospel of God have employed it to justify a lascivious life.

We may note some doctrine which are set forth by their advocates as being embodied in "the grace of God that brings salvation," the gospel, which in their legitimate effect encourages a licentiousness of thought and life. , For instance, the doctrine of the impossibility of apostasy is calculated, however undesigned by its adherents, to encourage an unrestrained indulgence in every lustful desire which besets our race. The fear of hell and the hope of heaven constitute the greatest restraining and impelling influences, respectively, brought to bear on the children of God; restraining the impulse to do evil, and impelling us to do good. Persuade one that irrespective of what he does or doesn't do, his hope of heaven is not to be diminished nor his fear of hell to be increased, then there is nothing to prevent the excessive response to unholy desires. Again, the doctrine of polygamy as brought forth by degenerate, but professing religionists, is an instance of turning the grace of God into lasciviousness.

We observed in the opening of this article that human nature is the same now as it has always been. Therefore, the tendency and capability of men doing today that which they did in other days is present. We can, and many do, descend to the low plane of bestiality that has been true in other days. That none but the unregenerate portion of our race does so could hardly be affirmed confidently.

The term suggests a licentiousness of behavior, a lewdness of thought, resulting in the character of a libertine. A wanton person is one possessed by and, therefore, the victim of an unrestrained desire for fleshly gratification. This, of course, but indicates the maturity of the case, and thus we must recognize the factor of degree in our study of lasciviousness. There are legitimate desires, and there are illegitimate desires; also, there are desires which are legitimate within given limits of satisfaction, but become illegitimate through excessive gratification. In the first instance, the sexual desire is perfectly legitimate when directed toward a lawful object, but illegitimate when directed toward an unlawful object. For instance, a wife's desire shall be to her husband, and of course, his to her. (Gen. 3:16; 1 Cor. 7:2-5). We are forbidden to covet our neighbor's wife. To covet is to cherish an unlawful desire. As touching the second instance, the keynote of all proper behavior is moderation. We are told to "let your moderation be known to all men." (Phil. 4:5). The spirit of man is to control his flesh, rather than the reverse. The law of God is addressed to the spiritual mind rather than the carnal mind, and thus through the former is the latter to be guided, controlled and subdued by the will of God. Some people become fanatical in their devotion to an extreme asceticism, whereas others go to the other extreme of various degrees of libertinism. The sane, sensible prescription for the child of God to follow is one of moderation in those things that are proper and legitimate, and abstinence from those which are unlawful, either inherently or circumstantially.

That there is a breakdown in sex morality in America today, no one can question. A looseness prevails to an extent, and is generally winked at, that bids fair to so weaken our moral fibre as to contribute to the ultimate ruin of our country. The church is being influenced by this, rather than exerting a countervailing or at least a counterbalancing influence by the purity and uprightness of the lives of its members. The breakdown of a becoming and an appropriate exercise of disciplinary action against flagrant violations of the moral code has weakened the righteous influence of the church. The ease and frequency of obtaining legal divorcement has invaded the church, and the presence of people in full fellowship with the saints who have contracted plural marriages has all but nullified the force of scriptural teaching on the subject of marriage and divorce.

The control that one is to exercise over his thoughts and intents, the keeping of one's heart with all diligence is essential as a safeguard against degenerating into the state of lasciviousness. Our thoughts are to be brought into captivity unto obedience to Christ, and only when his proper and just Sovereignty over us is asserted and employed can we be made secure against those inclinations and desires that so sorely afflict our unfortunate race. Paul wept over those whose God was their belly, whose glory was their shame, and who minded earthly things. He stated their end was destruction. The works of the flesh result in destruction and therefore those who thus live shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Lust, when it is conceived bringeth forth sin, and sift when it is finished bringeth forth death. Truly, the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through his son, Jesus Christ.

Let us, therefore, cultivate increasingly an interest in and a devotion to the higher and nobler interests of our being, and thereby insure an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of God's dear Son.