The following article by Brother Ronny Wade appeared in the September 1961 issue of the Old Paths Advocate. We need to be reminded that the definitions of these words have not changed.
Sins of Sensuality-A Word Study
In Gal. 5:19-21, we have the works of the flesh listed by the apostle Paul. The sins mentioned by Paul may be divided into four groups. 1. Sins of Sensuality, 2. Sins of False Religion, 3. Sins Against Men, and 4, Sins of Intemperance. If the Lord is willing we would like to study each of these groups with you in the near future. For the present, however, let us notice the four sins of sensuality listed by Paul.
Adultery—this word, present in the English version, is absent in the Greek text.The significance of this will be noted under fornication. The Greek term translated adultery is moicheia and refers to the act of unlawful intercourse with the spouse of another. It, like the others in this group, is a sin of unchastity. The sin of adultery has been condemned by the Lord for centuries. It was also considered wrong under the Mosaic covenant. It is also possible for the child of God to commit spiritual adultery, as is suggested in Jas. 4:4.
Fornication — Porneia in the Greek, defined by Thayer as being unlawful illicit sexual intercourse in general. W. E. Vine—”illicit sexual intercourse.” Other Greek scholars agree in their definition of the word. Some have questioned the acceptance of such men as Vine and Thayer; however they offer nothing in exchange except their own thoughts and ideas. This in my opinion is a very poor exchange indeed.
The question regarding the difference and similarity of the terms fornication and adultery is a very important one. I personally feel that some misleading theories have been advanced. I believe that Greek scholars and the laws of language will show that the term fornication is a broad general term that includes all illicit sexual intercourse. So says Thayer and others. If this be true it would be possible for the term porneia to embrace the term moicheia, for in reality moicheia is illicit sexual intercourse. Thus, we could say that all adultery is fornication, but all fornication is not necessarily adultery. Just as all hens are chickens but all chickens are not hens. The theory then, that only unmarried commit fornication is not true. You remember that we mentioned the fact that adultery is not included in the Greek text of Gal. 5:19. Since this is true, if the sin is not included in the term fornication or uncleanness Paul fails here to condemn it. We are not saying that it is not condemned elsewhere, only that the term “fornication” was broad enough to include it even though it is not specifically mentioned here.
The sins of adultery and fornication are condemned by Jesus, Paul, and other inspired writers throughout the New Testament. Some quote Webster as saying that fornication is “illicit sexual intercourse between unmarried people,” which is true. They fail, however to read far enough, for Webster also says that in the Bible the term stands for and includes adultery. Thayer, Vine, Robinson, and others concur.
Uncleanness—The Greek term used is akatharsia, and denotes all that is opposite of purity—every form of moral defilement. Such sins as sodomy, bestiality, self abuse and others are included in its meaning and scope. I think it interesting to note here that of the three sins Paul has mentioned, each has been a broader term than the preceding. Adultery, Fornication, and Uncleanness—the scope is widened as we proceed. In Rom. 1:24-25, Paul describes some who are guilty of the sin of uncleanness. Listen, “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves, who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the creator, who is blessed for ever; Amen.” Space will not permit us to continue, but if you will read the remainder of Rom. chap. 1, you will clearly see the terrible acts included in this sin of uncleanness.
Lasciviousness — Gr. Aselgeia —”excess, immoderation in anything; hence, licentiousness, wantonness—” Bullinger. “Denotes excess, licentiousness, absence of restraint, indecency, wantonness.” Vine. “Wanton, lewd, lustful, tending to produce lewd emotions.”—Webster. The above definitions should be sufficient to show the ugliness of this sin. I fear there are many who by their actions and dress, actually bring about and invite the evil that follows. Lasciviousness is condemned, whether on the dance floor or in the form of indecent dress. Authorities will tell you that immodest dress on the part of women is responsible for many of our sex crimes of today. So beware of the sin of lasciviousness.
The above has been a brief study of the terrible sins of sensuality mentioned by Paul in Gal. 5. The results of these sins are astounding. Think of all the broken homes, defiled temples, coarse living, sex crimes, and unchaste habits that could be eliminated if we could only do away with these sins. May God help us all to do our part in seeing that these are never named among us.