An Exploration of Galatians: Deeds of the Flesh Part 1
Galatians 5:19-21; Luke 16:19-31 - Are you immoral, impure or sensual (in a bad way)? Read to find out!
”Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.“
Galatians 5:19-21 NASB1995
Paul now expounds on the deeds of the flesh that should be evident to every believer. These can be grouped into four different types, plus a catch-all phrase (“things like these”):
Sensual sins (immorality, impurity sensuality)
Religious sins (idolatry, sorcery)
Relational or “people” sins (enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying)
Social sins (drunkenness, carousing)
This devotional examines the sensual sins in verse 19. In other translations, adultery is included here, as well as debauchery, lewdness, depravity, indecent behavior, and fornication. I’ll stick to the three terms that are in the NASB1995 version.
So what is meant by immorality? This word comes from the Greek word πορνεία or porneia, which is the root word for pornography. Here are the Biblical usages from the Blue Letter Bible; interestingly, this word is also used metaphorically for the defilement of idolatry :
illicit sexual intercourse
metaph. the worship of idols
of the defilement of idolatry, as incurred by eating the sacrifices offered to idols
As might be expected, in Paul’s time during the incredibly depraved Roman Empire and also during our “modern” time, where anything and everything goes, these terms are bound to be met with all sorts of (mostly negative) emotional reactions. I’m sure that just by including these definitions, without even commenting on them, is enough to get this write-up listed in some media database somewhere as evidence of Christian bigotry and hatred because these things are called illicit.
Christians are asked to be sexually pure - no adultery (and marriage is between one man and one woman), no wandering about in the vast fetid swamps of pornography, even no sneaky peeks at those explicit sex scenes in so many mainstream movies and streaming series (thanks be to Him for Vid Angel). We actually waited until we could use Vid Angel with “Oppenheimer”, a movie that we were quite anxious to see.
Recently, an aide to a US Senator filmed himself with a partner or just some guy from the street having explicit gay sex in one of the Senate hearing rooms and uploaded it to social media. He was fired, which is shocking, I know, for even that minimal action to be taken in this debauched culture - he should have had criminal charges filed against him for desecrating the Capitol building. Addressing this depraved act, he blamed those who are still constrained by a tiny hint of morality (“right-wing Christians”) for his job loss, not his own egregious antics. Here’s a tough question though: how many people who consider themselves to be morally pure looked up the video on-line or clicked on it when a friend shared it and watched it, so that they could “tut-tut” about the state of immorality in the US these days? If you did that, you are just as guilty of immorality as he is!! That’s not “news”, that’s voyeurism.
Here are some words about this from Precept Austin:
In Paul’s day Corinth was like much of our culture today, for people were strongly intent on having their own ways, doing what was right in their own eyes, and this aberrant behavior was especially manifest in fulfilling their physical lust. Corinth was so conspicuous for its immorality that to “corinthianize” was the term for reckless debauchery. And so sexual permissiveness was rampant and then, as now the church was not unaffected. Sensuality in the guise of religion was rife. [Reference 1 Corinthians 5:1 for more]
Sexual sin not only is against God and other persons, it is also against ourselves. Part of our moral responsibility to ourselves is to be sexually pure. When Christians are immoral, the testimony of the gospel is polluted.
Don't dabble with porneia, (and "pornography") trifle with it, argue about it, debate it, explain it and certainly don't try to rationalize as a "spiritual challenge" to be met but as a "spiritual trap" to be escaped.
So what is meant by impurity? This word comes from the Greek word ἀκαθαρσία or akatharsia, with the following Biblical usages:
in a moral sense: the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living
of impure motives
Wait a minute! Hold the phone! Read some of these things in “b”: “Lustful, luxurious, profligate living”! That is the crux of most modern marketing techniques these days, sending out the siren call of “luxury” as a desired good for cars, restaurants, vacations, homes, clothing, you name it; these marketing techniques usually attach a type of implied or open sensuality to those luxuries. Profligate living means being extravagant in the use of resources. That is impurity? You learn something new every day! I am reminded of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus:
”“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham *said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”“
Luke 16:19-31 NASB1995
So this is starting to hit a little closer to home, for someone who has enjoyed what could be considered a few luxurious vacations. I would like to think, though, that the impurity that goes along with this is something that more resembles the hedonistic lifestyle of James Bond, who drank his martinis, drove his luxury cars, stayed in incredible hotels, wore his fine clothing and had his way with many beautiful women, all while doing his job for Her (now His?) Majesty’s Secret Service. I never saw any of the cinema Bonds go to church, that’s or sure. But it does give one pause, to think that the enjoyment of worldly luxuries risks leading to an impure lifestyle or is an impure lifestyle even if we don’t recognize it. Yikes!
So what is sensuality? This word comes from the Greek word ἀσέλγεια or aselgeia with these meanings:
unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence
So I decided to type the word “sensual” into the search engine for Unsplash photos. Boy, howdy, was that a mistake, as I was treated to a huge repository of what could be mildly called “soft porn” pictures of people in various states of undress (not all the way that I could tell in a fast scroll) or in ecstasy or caressing each other. The picture above was the one of the mildest of the bunch. I’ll be praying about my immorality for even scrolling quickly through those pictures!
Sensuality as used in the terms that Paul is describing for sinful behavior does not mean that you are sinning when you use the senses God gave you and enjoy the sight of a beautiful sunset or the touch of petting a favorite cat or the taste of a good hamburger or the sounds of a great opera or symphony or the smells of flowers like the woman in the photo. It means what is defined above from the Blue Letter Bible lexicon, an unbridled lust, excess, shamelessness, and insolence just like the Senate aide and his wanton behavior. Here’s some great commentary from John MacArthur on this from Precept Austin:
Aselgeia (sensuality) refers to total licentiousness, the absence of all moral restraint, especially in the area of sexual sins. One commentator says the term relates to “a disposition of the soul incapable of bearing the pain of discipline.” The idea is that of unbridled self–indulgence and undisciplined obscenity…
All people initially recognize at least some standard of right and wrong and have a certain sense of shame when they act against that standard. Consequently, they usually try to hide their wrongdoing. They may continually fall back into it but still recognize it as wrong, as something they should not be doing; and conscience will not let them remain comfortable. But as they continue to overrule conscience and train themselves to do evil and to ignore guilt, they eventually reject those standards and determine to live solely by their own desires, thereby revealing an already seared conscience. Having rejected all divine guidelines and protection, they become depraved in mind and give themselves over to sensuality. Such a person cares nothing about what other people think—not to mention about what God thinks—but only about what gratifies the cravings of his own warped mind. (MacArthur, J: Ephesians. Chicago: Moody Press)
A quick footnote on our scofflaw aide who lost his job for his actions in the Senate: I have read now on a few opinion and news sites that he is being considered a martyr for the LGBTQ+ cause because he was only “loving” someone else (love is love!) and the troglodytes and their dirty minds called him out on his actions. He is being compared to Anne Frank as a “freedom fighter” - that one really made my stomach turn, because this same “sensualist” ex-Senatorial aide believes that if you support the Israeli Jews in any way, you are on the wrong side of history - the Jews deserve genocide in his fevered mind. I won’t link to his name or the news sources but just pray that there is a glimmer of light in the man’s brain.
If you do anything, dear reader, take some time out of your schedule to pray, and pray hard, about the sordid state of affairs in this nation. We are soaked and choking to death in immorality, impurity and rank sensuality. We must pray for these lost souls that they would know the love of Jesus.
My next devotional dives into the next part of this passage on idolatry and sorcery (religious sins).
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Please guide me away with the help of the Holy Spirit from sins of immorality, impurity and wanton sensuality. These sins are eternally destructive but yet are championed by so many in our modern culture. Help us, Lord! We beseech you! Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
The Blue Letter Bible was accessed on 12/18/2023 to review the lexicon for the words “immorality”, “impurity” and “sensuality”.
The personal testimony of Bruce Hurt, who has aggregated a marvelous compendium in Precept Austin, can be found Here.