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  • Writer's pictureJacob Mamachan

Licentiousness – License to what?

Jude 4

What is this licentious business? This may not be a term you use daily or may be you do … eitherway, this term means to indulge freely in sexual behavior - allowing leave of one’s moral senses and freely engaging in one’s passion to fulfill basic fleshly urges. This is the way of the gentiles (1 Peter. 4:3, Ephesians. 2:1-3) and is a defilement on the Christian robe.


BDAG – Pervert 'favor' into licentiousness (they interpret divine goodness as an opportunity to ignore God and do what they please)

Louw-Nida – In languages the equivalent would be to “live like a dog”, “act like a goat” or “be a rooster” – in each instance pertaining to promiscuous sexual behavior.

I have given excerpts from two major sources that help us get a grasp of Jude’s point. BDAG gives a general meaning to the word to include extreme indulgence where one sways to one’s fleshly disposition (however, BDAG does identify in other places that it is solely of a sexual nature), whereas Louw-Nida explains the context to be of a sexual nature. This nuance is quite interesting and speaks to the necessary context of Jude and his exhortation to “contend for the faith”.


On comparing 1&2Peter to Jude, we get a better sense to Jude’s letter, as both these epistles have quite a lot in common – theme and message, to their respective audiences. This similarity has been identified by many scholars and have helped understand the true nature of the defense for the Gospel, within the pages of these letters.

For our study we can read – 2Peter 2:2, 18-19 cp. Jude 4 to understand lasciviousness.

Prior to digging further, let us enumerate the similarities in these epistles as below (this is not an exhaustive list, but enough to illustrate the point) –

  1. Denying the Master and Lord– 2 Peter 2:1/Jude 4

  2. Defending or contending – 1 Peter 3:15/Jude 3

  3. Angels damned to eternal chains of darkness – 2 Peter 2:4/Jude 6

  4. Despise authority – 2 Peter 2:10/Jude 8

Now let us try to understand this term through comparison between the two inspired authors. Peter has a lot to say about fleshly tendencies and has spoken without reservation –

1 Peter. 1:14-15, 2:11-12, 4:1-5

2 Peter. 1:4, 2:1,6,10,14,18-22

Jude, even though a shorter letter, has contributed in strong terms – Jude. 4,6,7,8,16,18

The Scriptures have been clear that any and all sexual practice that deviates from set standards (from Genesis onwards), are an attack on the temple of God. A striking verse would be Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians. 6:15-20

It is my conclusion that a strict comparison of the two will point to the fact that lasciviousness has more of sexual tone in its rebuke by Peter and Jude.


The Greek word behind the word (NASB: licenteousness) is “Aselgeian” and has been used ten times and the corresponding English words have been given for reference (NASB) as below –

Mark. 7:22 - Sensuality

Romans. 13:13 - Sensuality

2 Corinthians. 12:21 - Sensuality

Galatians. 5:19 - Sensuality

Ephesians. 4:19 - Sensuality

1 Peter. 4:3 - Sensuality

2 Peter. 2:2 - Sensuality

2 Peter. 2:7 - Sensuality

2 Peter. 2:18 - Sensuality

Jude. 4 -Licentiousness

Each context will elucidate the fact that it has been categorized as a vice in the general vice lists of the ancient world. It is always closely related to sexual impulses and also appear with other vices that have unrestrained limits to their acts.


The above study has helped conclude one thing – this word has a strong sexual tone to it and is evident when we read Jude 4 – “turn the grace of our God into licentiousness”, it allows us to understand the depth of Jude’s use of this word in the context of contending for the faith.

The ‘Grace of God’ is a strong concept and it is this grace that has opened the gates of righteousness. But it is Jude’s contention that some men had crept in unnoticed and twisted this freedom in Christ to an unrestrained sense and caused moral diffusion. This is twisting the very foundation of our Faith.

The grace of God which was supposed to strengthen and make everybody free in serving the Father by being –

  1. A bond-servant – Gr. Doulos (Jude. 1)

  2. Subject to a master and Lord – Gr. ton despotes kai kurion (Jude. 4)

-has now been twisted to indulge the flesh without restraint.

For this, God will bring everybody to judgement since His Grace is not a ‘free thing’ as some have wrongly understood. It is the freedom to join the most restricted family in the world under the headship of the Most Holy and Most High. Freedom for sure, but strictly in true compliance to His Holiness and Lordship.

There are boundaries to grace, my friend. If you have gone the deep end and now find yourself indulging in every gentile way – to put it into 21st century context – Shopping spree, binge watching movies & shows, unending relationships with whomever you please, emotional worship where truth plays no role, lack of sexual and moral restraint, lack of training in righteousness, deep involvement with career without time for spirituality. To put it in the Psalmist words –

“Walk not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinner, nor sit in the seat of the scornful”

May this article bless you to put a restraint on your flesh and control your spirituality to be founded on the understanding of scriptures.


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