Given Over to Sensuality- Ephesians 4:19

In our previous post, we examined Paul’s message to the church in Ephesians 4:17-18, in which Paul describes how some in the church, who were supposed to be God’s friends, were in reality acting more like His enemies. They were doing so because of their “futile” thinking, which led to a “darkened understanding” and a hardening of their hearts. Paul, then, in one sentence, summarizes for us how this futile thinking shows up in one’s behavior, and how to identify those to whom his admonition in verses 17-18 applies. It shows up in what Paul refers to, in verse 19, as “sensuality”. The Greek word translated “sensuality” here is aselgeia, translated also as “lasciviousness”. To live in sensuality is literally to live “without restraints”, to do whatever you feel like doing, regardless of what God or anybody else says about it. Those who are lascivious decide for themselves what is right or wrong, they do whatever they “feel” is right, they live in total subjectivity and can not tolerate any kind of disagreement or correction (the hardened hearts of verse 18). These first century Ephesians would, in fact, be very comfortable in our post-modern, relativistic society, in which truth and morality (right and wrong) are determined by the sovereign individual rather than the sovereign God. Due to the hardening of their hearts, any attempt at criticism or correction may be seen as “hateful, bigoted, intolerant”, even referred to as “hate speech”. It should be noted here that Paul uses the definite article with the word sensuality here, referring to “the sensuality”, the form of sensuality which was prevalent in Ephesus at the time, and is still very prevalent in our present culture, the lack of restraint which comes from futile thinking, thinking that the individual is lord, rather than God being lord. This futile thinking and hardening of the heart leads to them “giving themselves over” to sensuality. Having decided that they will be lord, that they will define truth and morality for themselves, they become enslaved by sensuality, for we are enslaved by what we give ourselves over to. This giving themselves over to sensuality will result in their “indulging in every kind of impurity”, indulging in whatever kind of “uncleanness” that they feel like indulging in, unrestrained by the word of God or anything else, living with an unbridled flesh and an unchecked will, becoming the sole arbiter of what is right or wrong, or whether right and wrong even exist. They will then continually get worse and worse, living with a “continual lust for more”. What we have in this verse, then, is Paul describing the behavior which characterized the culture in which the church in Ephesus lived, which was actually not much different from the culture in which the present day church lives, and to which the same temptations are present. As we saw in verses 17-18, Paul here is warning those in the church because some of them had begun down this road which begins with futile thinking, proceeds to giving themselves over sensuality, and ends in indulging in every kind of impurity with a continual lust for more. Paul here issues an urgent warning to the church, to those who claimed to be God’s friends but had begun behaving like His enemies. His intent is that those in the church who had started down this road would take his warning to heart before it was too late, before they had given themselves over to sensuality. He describes here the behavior of the world apart from Christ, in hopes that those in the church who read this would see that this was taking place in their own lives, that the Holy Spirit would shine a light in their hearts to show them that this was talking to them, and that they would repent, that they would abandon their futile thinking and submit once and for all to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, submitting to what He says is right and wrong, true or false, before it was too late. His warning here is relevant not only to the church in Ephesus, but also to the church in the present day, for their are those in the church today who also claim to be God’s friends while living like His enemies. May they also take Paul’s warning here to heart, repent of their futile thinking, have their minds renewed by the Word of God, and live like God’s friends, rather than as His enemies, before it is too late.

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