What is the biblical meaning of debauchery?
Debauchery, or dissipation, is usually associated with alcohol and drunkenness. But the biblical definition is much wider than that. It’s only found in three verses in the New Testament (Ephesians 5:18; Titus 1:6; 1 Peter 4:4).
The idea of debauchery in the Bible expands to the idea of wild living, doing things without thinking to excess, it encompasses senseless deeds and all types of reckless behavior. There are related times that also express the same idea as debauchery in the Bible. All of them have to do with senseless and reckless action.
One of the best examples of this type of living was the prodigal son who demanded his part of the inheritance from his father and went out and lived recklessly. You wasted all of his money and resources on partying. Then he was left with nothing. Let’s look at the three times it appears in the New Testament
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,” (Ephesians 5:18, ESV)
here Paul tells us to not get drunk with wine. He points out that the end result of getting drunk is a life of debauchery. This is senseless living, not thinking but acting. Drunkenness dulls the senses and the mind. A person who is drunk doesn’t know what they’re doing.
I often hear people saying that “be filled with the Spirit” is like being drunk. That is not what Paul means here. Instead, he makes a contrast between drunkenness and debauchery and the feeling of the Spirit.
In other words, being drunk and living a senseless and reckless life is the opposite of being filled with the Spirit. The filling of the Spirit brings God’s direction and guidance into our lives. The Holy Spirit brings wisdom to us. The Spirit-filled life is a passionate purposeful approach to life instead of a reckless and senseless one.
“if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.” (Titus 1:6, ESV)
Paul here describes some of the qualifications of an overseer. This is a person who is a man or woman of God that leads a church. They must be above reproach, having a good reputation. Says that an overseer must be the husband of one wife (or the wife of one husband). The idea here is that this is not a person who sleeps around or leads a life of sensual passions.
His or her children are also believers because this person knows how to lead even with the family to Christ. This is a personal evangelist before a public one. This is more about the spiritual influence of the overseer instead of having the house in order.
And then the idea of living a life without debauchery and insubordination comes next. Insubordination speaks of the inability to follow a leader. Before he is leader, he is a follower of Christ.
And then he is not open to debauchery, or reckless living and senseless choices. As part has mentioned in Ephesians 5, the overseer is one who is filled with the Spirit rather than living the life of senseless choices that lead to foolishness.
“With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;” (1 Peter 4:4, ESV)
Peter is speaking of the senseless and wild lifestyle of Gentiles who have not yet come to Christ. With respect to that lifestyle the Gentiles want Christians to join in. There senseless living and reckless decisions and choices expose them to foolishness and futility.
They make fun of Christians because they don’t join in such senseless living. They think it’s funny that Christians hold a higher standard of the Holy Spirit. They don’t understand what it means to live for the Spirit instead of living in such a lifestyle.
You will notice that debauchery and dissipation, the reckless and wild life, is not looked on positively by the Bible. This is a senseless and foolish type of living. It does not honor God and it wastes resources and blessings God has given us.