What is “wantonness?”


by Shawn Brasseaux

Turning to Romans 13:13, we read: “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.” What exactly is “wantonness?”

Paired with “chambering,” “wantonness” is evidently sexual sin too. According to any English dictionary, “wantonness” is defined as: “sexually lawless or unrestrained; loose; lascivious; lewd.” If it helps, we could say it is wild and offensive un-chastity or promiscuousness. Or, to make it even plainer, notice this list—suggestive physical motions (vulgar dancing), provocative clothing, prostitution, fornication, adultery, pedophilia, homosexuality, masturbation, obscene sexual language, and pornographic material. Strong’s says the following: “G766 ἀσέλγεια asélgeia, as-elg’-i-a; from a compound of G1 (as a negative particle) and a presumed σελγής selgḗs (of uncertain derivation, but apparently meaning continent); licentiousness (sometimes including other vices):—filthy, lasciviousness, wantonness.”

Excluding Romans 13:13, the term aselgeia appears eight times in the King James Bible Greek text. Notice how it was handled:

  • Mark 7:22: “Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness [aselgeia], an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:….”
  • 2 Corinthians 12:21: “And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness [aselgeia] which they have committed.”
  • Galatians 5:19: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness [aselgeia],….”
  • Ephesians 4:19: “Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness [aselgeia], to work all uncleanness with greediness.”
  • 1 Peter 4:3: “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness [aselgeia], lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:….”
  • 2 Peter 2:7: “And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy [aselgeia] conversation of the wicked:….” (This is homosexual in nature.)
  • 2 Peter 2:18: “For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness [aselgeia], those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.”
  • Jude 4: “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness [aselgeia], and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The key to avoiding wantonness, lewdness, or indecency is to practice modesty and morality. For example, try 1 Timothy 2:9-10: “[9] In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; [10] But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”

And, Ephesians 5:1-10: “[1] Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; [2] And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. [3] But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; [4] Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. [5] For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. [6] Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. [7] Be not ye therefore partakers with them. [8] For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: [9] (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth; ) [10] Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.”

Also, Colossians 3:1-11: “[1] If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. [2] Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. [3] For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. [4] When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. [5] Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: [6] For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: [7] In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. [8] But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. [9] Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; [10] And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: [11] Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.”

Finally, Galatians chapter 5: “[16] This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. [17] For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. [18] But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. [19] Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, [20] Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, [21] Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, [23] Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. [24] And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. [25] If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. [26] Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Also see:
» What is “chambering?”
» Does “walking in the Spirit” mean the same thing as “living in the Spirit?”
» Does God see us Christians as sinners?