What is concupiscence?

2 minute read

When a person is reconciled to God by believing in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins, he becomes a new creature. But the inherited desire to sin remains. This is concupiscence.

Concupiscence is evil desire, meaning that we never get over our tendency to be envious, contentious, greedy, self-centered, ill-tempered, and impatient. -Pastor Greg Jackson, Catholic, Lutheran, Protestant, p111

Original sin is a term referring to the Biblical teaching that every human being has inherited the sin of the first man, Adam (Romans 5.12-17). Adam chose to disobey God. In so doing, his nature was completely corrupted. It is this corrupt nature which you inherited from your parents, who got it from theirs, all the way back to Adam, the first created human being.

Why the concept matters

One of the marks of a Christianity gone askew is a belief that anyone other than Jesus Christ can live sinlessly and perfectly on this side of eternity. This can only lead to arrogance and a soul-killing faith in one’s own goodness.

As one person with no understanding of the Biblical doctrine of concupiscence writes:

I am an incredibly moral person, given traditional Christian morality. Married faithfully to one woman for 31 years now. Don’t drink, smoke or chew. Give to charities/causes. Work for and with the poor and marginalized. Etc. 1

From a human perspective these proofs of this person’s outward goodness are admirable and even exemplary. But God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16.7). And the heart of man is deceitful (Jer 17.9) telling us that we are better than we are:

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Romans 12.3)

God forgives - and keeps forgiving

Should a born-again Christian keep asking for God’s forgiveness each time she catches herself with a sinful thought or action? Yes

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us: but, if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1.8-9)

I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. (Psalm 51.9)


Dear Lord, thank you that you are a merciful God, forgiving us seventy-times-seven times. Your goodness is beyond anything we can ask or think. Until that day when we are free of concupiscence, and have new bodies without sin, continue to have mercy. Through Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end, Amen.

Originally published at: Comfort for Christians
  1. From a public blog post. 



Should a born-again Christian keep asking for God’s forgiveness each time she catches herself with a sinful thought or action? Yes Curious. What separates this from the Catholic sacrament of confession?

Hi Ducky, Excellent question. Perhaps someone who is more knowledgeable about Roman Catholicism will answer your question in more detail about that system. A simple answer would say that the RCC clearly rejects the Biblical teaching of Justification by faith alone. At the Council of Trent the Roman Catholic Church stated that works like the “Catholic sacrament of confession” you refer to are necessary for salvation. If you dont confess early and often to a Roman Catholic priest, you are on your way to purgatory. This is a teaching with no Biblical support. When a person becomes born again by believing on Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, he becomes a new creature. Old things are passed away. All things become new. How many sins were forgiven at the moment the person became saved? Every single one the person would ever commit. We ask forgiveness because we are troubled at the hurt we do to God and ourselves by our sin. Our confession is to God directly - no intermediary is required by the believer. Having said that, if a person wants to confess to another human being, he or she can do so to any other Christian and receive assurance that they are forgiven. Does this help, Ducky? Council of Trent CANON 12: “If any one shall say that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in the divine mercy pardoning sins for Christs sake, or that it is that confidence alone by which we are justified . . . let him be accursed” Canon 14: “If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema (condemned to hell).” Canon 30: “If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema (condemned to hell).”

GOod question, Ducky, thanks for asking it and, Alec, I know you did some research for that answer, thanks for that, too. FASCINATING subject. As far as our sins….yes, all sin was forgiven upon being saved but we must continue to be repentant, dont you believe? Not through standard Hail Marys, etc., but through desperate, loving prayer. I must add here, however, that while I dont worship Mary, I do think a lot of the woman GOD CHOSE TO BEAR HIMSELF! I mean, really…quite a woman! ODD that this would come up today because just this morning I was thinking of a forty yr old friend who considers me her Christian mentor and who has lived with her boyfriend for 7 years now. VERY touchy subject for me; She knows the truth, absolutely, definitely. From me and her very strong Christian brother and sis-in-law. She knows how I feel about it. And my grace to her is to trust that, because she knows the truth, grace is bestowed on ME and her, for leading her as I can and keeping my big trap shut since the first time I mentioned it to her. She stays close to me even when I do rarely infer my frustrations so something is going right. Thats important to me and to her, that she stays close. And I praise God for His trust in me. And in her. Its a very tough one for me, I have to admit. VERY tough.

I dont ask Gods forgiveness for every infraction. Sounds kinda stressful, like works. I kinda group em into bundles. Big bundles. Except for the egregious ones. I know, theyre all egregious.

Hi Ed, Bundling seems a great way to go. Its ironic that human beings can find a way to make even asking for Gods forgiveness a work, for which he can take credit. Concupiscence again. Forgive us Lord.

Dear Lord, Please awaken Zs friend to the knowledge of her sin. Guide Z to know how to act, what to say or not say. Thank you for making Z such a good friend to her. Amen

Great definition. I remember trying to read John Owens Death of Death many years ago and kept stumbling over that word. I couldnt find a definition that helped. Thanks. Now… back to Owen. :) By the way, my wife says she was concupiscence once, but found a treatment for it at the health food store.

Alec, your answer does reveal some misconceptions. You may be born again but you have not abolished the frailty and weakness of our nature and I think we agree that struggle never ends. As a result Catholics are encouraged to make frequent acts of contrition (i.e. prayers confessing sin) but the sacrament(technically the Sacrament of Reconciliation), by its very nature, confers graces that help us to live a Christian life. The sacraments are an outward sign of an inward grace. In this case, the outward sign is the absolution of sins that the priest grants to the penitent; the inward grace is the reconciliation of the penitent to God.

Hi Ducky, Thank you for bringing up this subject. Its been really helpful to dig into where the Roman Catholic sacrament of penance agrees and differs from what the Scriptures teach. Were substantially in agreement with the main point, concupiscence. As you say, “You may be born again but you have not abolished the frailty and weakness of our nature and I think we agree that struggle never ends.” This is an excellent definition. For Christians the struggle against sin will only end once this earthly life is over and those who are born again are given new bodies like Christs (1 Cor 15; 1 John 3.2). You and I also agree that Biblical confession confers grace. Most non-Lutheran Protestants reject the idea of means of grace due to understandable discomfort with anything that smacks of Roman Catholic sacramentalism. Sacramentalism is “the doctrine that sacraments are inherently efficacious and indispensable to salvation and capable of conferring grace on a recipients soul” (Websters Third Unabridged). The road between the Bible and the Roman Catholic doctrine of confession diverges at four key points: (a) Roman Catholic confession is mandatory, (b) it must be before a priest, (c) all sins must be enumerated, and (d) works of satisfaction are given to perform (e.g. say 3 “Hail Marys”). The references to Roman Catholic dogma are from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition source (a) Roman Catholic confession is mandatory According to the Churchs command, “after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year.” 1457 (b) Confession must be before a Roman Catholic priest “Since ancient times the bishop, visible head of a particular Church, has thus rightfully been considered to be the one who principally has the power and ministry of reconciliation: he is the moderator of the penitential discipline. Priests, his collaborators, exercise it to the extent that they have received the commission either from their bishop (or religious superior) or the Pope, according to the law of the Church. 1462 But the New Testament says that all believers are priests. Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5) And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:6) It also tells us that we can confess to any other Christian: Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16) (c) The Roman Catholic church requires all sins be enumerated “All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, 1456 But the Bible says that all sins the believer commits are forgiven at the moment of salvation, when he or she is justified by faith in Christ alone: And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; (Colossians 2:13-14) (d) The Roman Catholic penitent is given works of satisfaction to perform (e.g. say 3 “Hail Marys”) The penance the confessor imposes must take into account the penitents personal situation and must seek his spiritual good. It must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed. It can consist of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patient acceptance of the cross we must bear. 1460 But the Bible says that Christ alone covers our sins, not any works that we do. If we confess our sins, he [Jesus Christ] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Hi Timothy, Owen can be tough going. At least he was for me when I was 22 or so. If you go back to him and find him valuable, hope you will consider writing up some of what you find on your blog. Alec