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Hebrews 13:4

“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”

In the beginning, God established marriage so that man and woman would not be alone (Gen. 2:18–25). As the Lord’s good gift, it is subject to His regulation for our well-being and for His glory. Moreover, since marriage constitutes one of society’s foundational institutions, Scripture has much to say about marriage and the sexual relationship it sanctifies.

As the author of Hebrews continues his practical instruction for the church, he tells us that we are to “let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled” (Heb. 13:4). First, we note that this verse confirms marriage as an honorable and godly vocation for Christians. An unfortunate strain of unbiblical asceticism has led many people throughout church history to esteem the single life as inherently more virtuous than married life. Believers must take care not to embrace this understanding. Marriage is to be honored, and the church does well to promote and encourage the biblical view of marriage. To remain single is a noble calling, but it is not a more virtuous state than marriage. Moreover, honoring marriage requires us to obey the biblical standards for marriage and divorce, neither allowing divorce for frivolous reasons nor forbidding it where God permits it (Matt. 19:1–12; 1 Cor. 7:12–16).

Honoring marriage means doing what we can to keep the “marriage bed undefiled” (Heb. 13:4). The immediate warning about God judging the “sexually immoral and adulterous” in the same verse helps us understand what defiles the marriage bed. Fundamentally, the sexual unfaithfulness of a husband or wife defiles the marriage bed and dishonors it. God’s moral law includes a prohibition of adultery (Ex. 20:14). Yet, it is possible to defile the marriage bed—to use the sexual relationship in marriage—wrongly in ways beyond an actual physical affair. The term translated “sexually immoral” refers to a wide variety of sexual practices forbidden by God. Premarital sex, homosexuality, incest, bestiality, pedophilia, and pornography are all dishonoring to the Lord and to marriage (see Lev. 18). The marriage bed can also be defiled within marriage itself. Forcing a spouse into acts that are sexually degrading and demeaning of that spouse as the image of God defile the marriage bed. Unjustifiably abstaining from sex is defiling as well (see Gen. 1:26–27; 1 Cor. 7:5). In their sexual relationship, as in all aspects of marriage, husbands and wives are to love one another.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Our modern culture makes it difficult to keep the marriage bed undefiled. Yet, with the help of the Holy Spirit, Christians can and must bring honor to the marriage bed. One way to keep from defiling the marriage bed is to endeavor to limit the avenues for committing sexual immorality. Let us strive not to put ourselves in situations where we are likely to commit sexual sin.

For Further Study
  • Proverbs 5
  • Romans 13:13
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9–20
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:3

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From the August 2020 Issue
Aug 2020 Issue