This is the second of a multi-part series on the Seven Deadly Sins written by Father Robert Wills, Canon Theologian of the Mid-South Diocese, ICCEC. A new part will be posted on a regular basis. As a note, Canon Wills notes these are the Seven Deadly Sins recognized by a group of monks in the 5th Century.
Lust—The Desire for Physical Pleasure Above All Else
In contemporary usage, LUST is a strong craving or desire, especially sexual desire. The KJV and earlier English versions frequently used lust in the neutral sense of desire. This older English usage corresponded to the use of the underlying Hebrew and Greek terms which could be used in a positive sense: of the desire of the righteous (Prov. 10:24), of Christ’s desire to eat the Passover with His disciples (Luke 22:15), or of Paul’s desire to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23). Since lust has taken on the primary meaning of sexual desire, modern translations often replace the KJV’s lust with a term with a different nuance. NRSV, for example, used crave/craving (Num. 11:34; Ps. 78:18); covet (Rom. 7:7); desire (Ex. 15:9; Prov. 6:25; 1 Cor. 10:6); long for (Rev. 18:14).
The unregenerate (preconversion) life is governed by deceitful lusts or desires (Eph. 4:22; 2:3; Col. 3:5; Tit. 2:12). Following conversion, such fleshly desires compete for control of the individual with spiritual desires (Gal. 5:16-17; 2 Tim. 2:22). First John 2:16-17 warns that desires of the flesh and eyes are not from God and will pass away with the sinful world. Here lust or desire includes not only sexual desire but also other vices such as materialism. James 1:14-15 warns that desire is the beginning of all sin and results in death. Jesus warned that one who lusts has already sinned (Matt. 5:28). Part of God’s judgment on sin is to give persons over to their own desires (Rom. 1:24). Only the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer makes victory over sinful desires possible (Rom. 8:1-2).
Purity is the opposite of Lust. The Old Testament has a lot to say about purity. Lust is the absence of purity. Three Old Testament concepts or ideas are translated as “purity” in English.
1. Flawless: The primary Hebrew root word for pure (athr) often refers to pure or flawless gold: (1 Kings 10:21; Job 28:19; Ps. 12:6). hr and other Hebrew words for “pure” are used to describe other objects such as salt (Ex. 30:35), oil (Ex. 27:20), and incense (Ex. 37:29). Thus, a basic Old Testament meaning is that of “refined, purified, without flaw, perfect, clean.” Note Lamentations 4:7.
2. Ritual Purity: To be ritually pure means to be free of some flaw or uncleanness, which would bar one from contact with holy objects or places, especially from contact with the holy presence of God in worship. God is the ideal of purity, and those who are to come in contact with God’s presence are also to be pure. Habakkuk 1:13 indicates that God’s eyes are too pure to look upon evil.
The altar for sacrifice was purified so that it would be prepared for worship (Lev. 8:15; Ezek. 43:26). The objects of gold used in the tabernacle and Temple were also pure in this sense; this would be true of the incense in Exodus 37:29. The Levites were to purify themselves for service in the tabernacle (Num. 8:21). When that which was unclean or impure came into contact with that which was holy, danger resulted and could even lead to death. This is probably the background for the preparation made for the theophany, a manifestation of God’s presence, in Exodus 19 and for the death of Uzzah when he was unprepared (not purified) to touch the ark of the covenant, a most holy object (2 Sam. 6:1-11). Malachi 1:11-12 contrasts the pure offerings of Gentiles with blemished offerings given by God’s people; such a state necessitated purification (Mal. 3:3-4).
Purity qualified one to participate in worship, an activity central to the life of ancient Israel. Breaking that purity was a serious matter. Ritual impurity came as a result of bodily emissions (Lev. 15), by way of disease or menstrual flow, or discharge of semen. This chapter also shows that such impurity could be spread by contact, for anything coming into contact with the unclean person had to be purified. Leviticus 12 also discusses impurity associated with childbirth, probably because of the discharge of blood. Blood related to the mysterious power of life, and any loss of blood called for purification. Ritual impurity also came as a result of contact with a corpse since death was an enemy of God (Num. 19). Participation in war could thus cause impurity. Impurity, finally, was brought on by contact with foreign gods. This was probably the background of the need for purification when the people returned from Exile in Babylon. The priests and Levites purified themselves first and then the people and then the city gates and wall (Isa. 52:11; Ezra 6:20; Neh. 12:30). This also prepared them for worship.
3. Ethical Purity Thought and behavior befitting the people of God are pure (Pss. 24:4; 73:1; Pro. 15:26; 22:11; 30:12). Such purity of thought is to result in conduct which is appropriate for people (Ps. 119:9; Prov. 16:2; 20:9,11; 21:8). Notice also the pure prayer of Job 16:17.
Since Psalms 15 and 24 speak of qualifications for worship in terms of ethical purity, it is important not to distinguish sharply between ritual and ethical purity in the Old Testament. God expects ethical purity, and sin results in uncleanness. Thus sin and ritual uncleanness stand together in the Old Testament as unacceptable to the Lord. Their counterparts–ethical and ritual purity–also stand together.
Most New Testament uses of words for purity relate to cleanness of some type. Old Testament meanings are often reflected. Perfection is the meaning in Mark 14:3; this is mixed with religious purity in Hebrews 10:22; 1 John 3:3.
Ethical purity dominates in the New Testament. The person who is in right relationship with God is to live a life of purity (2 Tim. 2:21-22; Titus 1:15 and references to a pure heart–Matt. 5:8; 1 Tim. 1:5; Heb. 9:14; Jas. 4:8; 1 Peter 1:22). Purity is also listed among virtues (2 Cor. 6:6; Phil. 4:8; 1 Tim. 4:12; compare Mark 7:15).
Purification through sacrifice is also mentioned in the New Testament and applied to the death of Christ, a purification which does not need repeating and thus is on a higher level than Old Testament sacrifices (Heb. 9:13-14). The sacrifice of Christ brings purification; Christ cleansed as a part of the work of the high priest and His blood cleanses from sin (1 John 1:7).
James 4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
James 4:9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
What Does Scripture Say?
The Bible has a lot to say about Lust and Purity.
Prov 6:25 Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, Nor let her allure you with her eyelids.
Prov 6:26 For by means of a harlot A man is reduced to a crust of bread; And an adulteress will prey upon his precious life.
Prov 6:27 Can a man take fire to his bosom, And his clothes not be burned?
Prov 6:28 Can one walk on hot coals, And his feet not be seared?
Prov 6:29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; Whoever touches her shall not be innocent.
Prov 11:6 The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, But the unfaithful will be caught by their lust.
Mat 5:28 “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Rom 1:26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.
Rom 1:27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
Rom 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;
Rom 1:29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers,
Rom 1:30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Rom 1:31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;
Rom 1:32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
1 Th 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;
1 Th 4:4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,
1 Th 4:5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God;
1 Th 4:6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.
1 Th 4:7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.
James 4:2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.
James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
James 4:4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
2 Pet 1:3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,
2 Pet 1:4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world.
1 John 2:17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
1 Cor 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea,
1 Cor 10:2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,
1 Cor 10:3 all ate the same spiritual food,
1 Cor 10:4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
1 Cor 10:5 But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
1 Cor 10:6 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.
1 Cor 10:7 And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.”
1 Cor 10:8 Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell;
1 Cor 10:9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents;
1 Cor 10:10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
1 Cor 10:11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
1 Cor 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
1 Cor 10:14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
1 Cor 10:15 I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say.
1 Cor 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
1 Cor 10:17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
Gal 5:16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Gal 5:17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
Gal 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Gal 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,
Gal 5:20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,
Gal 5:21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Gal 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Gal 5:24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Gal 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
1 Tim 4:12 Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
Titus 2:12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.