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What does the Bible say about sensuality?

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In the Bible, sensuality is usually listed with other evils that include sexual promiscuity and perversion. Also known as “lewdness” or “debauchery,” sensuality can be defined as “devotion to gratifying bodily appetites; free indulgence in carnal pleasures.” The word sensuality comes from the root word sense, which pertains to our five senses. The Greek word most often translated as “sensuality” means “outrageous conduct, shocking to public decency; wanton violence.” Sensuality is a total devotion to the gratification of the senses, to the exclusion of soul and spirit.

Sensuality is an abuse of our God-given gifts. Those caught up in sensuality abuse the gift of sight by feasting the eyes on forbidden images such as pornography. They may feast the ears on ungodly conversation, jokes, or music (Ephesians 5:4). Those given to sensuality will indulge in “wild parties” (1 Peter 4:3), drug and alcohol abuse (Proverbs 20:1), sexual immorality (Hosea 4:10–11), and foolishness (Mark 7:21–22). The sensual follow the sinful desires of the flesh without boundaries or restraint. Ephesians 4:19 says of the ungodly that, “having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.”

Sensuality is often listed as one characteristic of those who “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19–21). When the Bible speaks of sensuality, it implies a loss of control over one’s passions and evil desires. Depraved sexuality is usually a part of it, as well. Romans 1:21–32 gives a detailed digression of those enslaved by sensuality, which leads to sexual perversions and eventually a reprobate mind. Sensuality is in direct opposition to God’s desire for us to live “by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:19, 25). Galatians 5:16 says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” If we are walking by the Spirit, we will not indulge in sensuality.

Sensuality has no place in the life of a child of God (1 Peter 4:3). Romans 8:4 says that Christians “do not walk according to flesh but according to Spirit.” First John 2:15–16 warns us against loving “the things of this world,” which include the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Those things summarize the heart of sensuality. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). That “cross” symbolizes death to our old sin nature. No one carried a cross who expected to come back alive. Jesus was saying that, in order to follow Him, we must allow Him to kill that old sin nature, which includes sensuality. We cannot please both Jesus and our flesh (Romans 8:8). Jesus is going in the opposite direction of our flesh. So before we can truly follow Christ, we must be willing to die to our old nature, which includes sensuality (1 Peter 2:24; Romans 6:2, 11).

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022