What Does Hebrews 13:4 Mean?

Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

Hebrews 13:4(NASB)

Verse Thoughts

Exalting the Person and work of the eternal Son of God, and detailing His incarnation, His substitutionary death, His heavenly Priesthood, and the importance of faith, are the broad themes that flow through the book of Hebrews. This is not a book that is written to unbelievers. Hebrews is an epistle that targets maturing believers, and its clarion call is to live godly lives in Christ Jesus - the Author and Finisher of our faith.

It is when we arrive at the epilogue of this important letter, with its comprehensive warnings to live righteously in Christ Jesus, not to fall short of the grace of God, and to avoid the many pitfalls into which Israel fell... that we arrive at the final section which offers some very specific instructions on brotherly love, suffering in adversity, and holy living at home and in the wider community.

While Hebrews 13 presents many ethical directives to Christians, this particular verse deals with spiritual virtue and sexual purity within marriage, for we read, "marriage is to be held in honour among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge." There is no cutting of corners or mincing of words in this short sharp injunction on sexual purity within marriage. This verse is very forthright in its instruction on biblical Christian marriage, and gives a serious warnings against committing fornication or adultery.

Exalting the Person and work of the eternal Son of God, and detailing His incarnation, His substitutionary death, His heavenly Priesthood, and the importance of faith, are the broad themes that flow through the book of Hebrews. This is not a book that is written to unbelievers. Hebrews is an epistle that targets maturing believers, and its clarion call is to live godly lives in Christ Jesus - the Author and Finisher of our faith.

It is when we arrive at the epilogue of this important letter, with its comprehensive warnings to live righteously in Christ Jesus, not to fall short of the grace of God, and to avoid the many pitfalls into which Israel fell... that we arrive at the final section which offers some very specific instructions on brotherly love, suffering in adversity, and holy living at home and in the wider community.

While Hebrews 13 presents many ethical directives to Christians, this particular verse deals with spiritual virtue and sexual purity within marriage, for we read, "marriage is to be held in honour among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge." There is no cutting of corners or mincing of words in this short sharp injunction on sexual purity within marriage. This verse is very forthright in its instruction on biblical Christian marriage, and gives a serious warnings against committing fornication or adultery.

In this verse, Scripture speaks specifically about marriage fidelity and sexual intercourse, which was ordained by God in the beginning, and this verse deals specifically and powerfully on the subject of marital faithfulness and sexual purity - a position which is ridiculed by many in today's society. Rather than celebrating the beauty and sacredness of the marriage-bed and honouring one's vows, many people today ridicule, dishonour, debase, or dismiss, the sacred institute of marriage, with an anti-God agenda which permeates the corridors of power and tries to govern our lives today.

Marriage is an honourable estate, which was instituted by God in the beginning, for we read that a man should leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and become one with her. The marriage of one man with one woman was established by God before man sinned, and it was pronounced to be holy by Him. Jesus confirmed that God made male and female to unite together as one and said, "for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh."

The beautiful picture of Adam and his wife Eve is used in the Bible as a type of Christ and His Bride - which is the Church. Indeed, Paul reminds us of the need for personal purity, knowing that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, and that one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him - and because of that truth we are to flee sexual immorality.

Here in Hebrews, the God-honouring intimacy in marriage is taken into the very private quarters of the marriage bed. Not only is marriage to be held in high honour among all, but also, "the marriage bed is to be undefiled," and we are given a serious warning that, "fornicators and adulterers will be judged by the Lord." 

While 'fornication' often refers to those that are unmarried, 'adultery' is linked to those that are unfaithful in their marriage, however, all sexual immorality is an abomination to the Lord, and Jesus Himself gives us the standard of purity that God expects from each of His own. It is not only resisting the physical acts of fornication and adultery about which the writer speaks, but also spiritual infidelity of the heart.

Just as the physical act between a husband and his wife, is a union of their two bodies becoming one, so the spiritual union of every believer with Christ, mirrors this same sacred intimacy, and spiritual purity within should be reflected in physical purity without. Because physical impurity can often be reflected in a sexually transmitted disease of the body... it is sobering to realise that spiritual impurity is likely to be evident in the shipwrecked life of a carnally-minded believer.

How necessary that all believers guard against spiritual impurity, but especially in the hallowed institution of marriage... where physical union and spiritual intimacy is woven together in the marriage bed - representing the close affinity we all have with Jesus, our heavenly Bridegroom. While we know that ALL sins, including adultery and fornication, are forgiven through Christ - how vital that we take this warning to heart and seek to live holy lives in thought, word, and deed, for His name's sake.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You for the institution of marriage and the loving intimacy that we gain from this special relationship, which was instituted by You, in the beginning. Keep me free from sin and pure in thought, word, body, and deed. I pray for all Christian marriages, that You would guard them against the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil - and purify Your Bride I pray, as together we watch expectantly for Your any day return as our Heavenly Bridegroom. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.

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