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What is the meaning of concupiscence in the Bible?

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Concupiscence is strong desire, especially as it pertains to sexuality. The word concupiscence is found primarily in older versions of the Bible, such as the KJV. Newer translations usually trade the word concupiscence for phrases such as covetous desires (Romans 7:8, NLT), evil desires (Colossians 3:5, NIV), and passion of lust (1 Thessalonians 4:5, ESV).

Desire itself is not sin. We strongly desire many things that God has given us to enjoy, such as food, water, friendship, and sleep. We also have a natural desire for sex, and sexual passion within marriage is not concupiscence; however, all expressions of sexual passion outside the marriage are sinful (Galatians 5:19–21; 1 Corinthians 6:9–10). Concupiscence in the Bible always refers to passionate desire for something that God has forbidden.

In 1 Thessalonians 4, concupiscence is contrasted with the believer’s duty to “learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable” (verse 4). Colossians 3 identifies concupiscence as part of what belongs to the earthly nature and lists it as one of the things that invite the wrath of God upon mankind (verses 4–5). Romans 7:7–8 links concupiscence to covetousness, the desire for something that is not one’s property and that one has no right to.

The current epidemic of pornography is a symptom of concupiscence. The current obsession with sexual perversion, the dismantling of sexual boundaries, and the redefinition of marriage are all indicators that a culture is becoming more concupiscent. Romans 1:18–32 warns that continued concupiscence will lead to “a depraved mind” (verse 28). Three times this passage warns that, when people reject God’s standard of holiness, He will “give them over” to their lusts. Ongoing concupiscence results in a deadening of conscience to the extent that one can sin boldly without guilt or conviction. That is a dangerous place to be.

Concupiscence defined humanity in the days of Noah (Genesis 6:5). Lustful passion gives way to deviant actions. If our concupiscence is not recognized for the evil that it is, surrendered to the cross (Romans 6:6–7), and abandoned (1 Corinthians 6:11), it will eventually kill us (James 1:14–15). The Lord detests the sin that contaminates us and makes us unfit for worship and service. At the root of most sins is a heart full of evil desires—concupiscence—that, if not surrendered to the lordship of Jesus, will one day face the judgment of God (Romans 2:5; 14:10; Matthew 16:27).

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This page last updated: June 23, 2023