Martel Pace (Truth for Today)
The writer of Hebrews saw clearly that any breakdown of the family will affect all of society. Marriage is not just a “piece of paper,” for God Himself ordained it. He hates divorce (Mal. 2:15, 16). God wants godly homes because they produce righteous offspring.
The world about us has different standards than we do. In our twenty-first century world, we see a concerted attempt to destroy marriage. Christians, in harmony with this passage, should have particular respect for the biblical family system.
Marriage is to be held in honour among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
THE POSITIVE: THE SACREDNESS OF MARRIAGE
Purity and fidelity to one’s marriage vows are vital to maintaining love of the brotherhood and a strong influence for good in the community. Indeed, faithfulness to these vows is necessary to the success of a civilization. A sacredness is attached to the marriage bond. The command that “marriage is to be held in honour among all” (v. 4) is a frequently dishonoured one. Jesus reinforced it by saying, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6b). Dire consequences are implied when this is disobeyed.
We should never forget that breaking marriage vows is a sin that God condemns. He will punish all who are guilty. (See Prov. 7:6-27). This means nothing to people who reject God and consider the Bible an outmoded book. We must offer evidences for Christianity and all it stands for before we can convince people of the value of God’s Word and His laws.
THE NEGATIVE: THE DISGRACE OF IMMORALITY
“The marriage bed is to be undefiled” suggests that the union is defiled if marriage is not respected as the only context for sexual relations. The author named two groups of sinners who are in violation of this rule. The first is “fornicators” (“whoremongers”; KJV). This word, from (porneia), is (pornos, a singular noun). It is this act that justifies divorce (Matt. 5:32; 19:9).
The term porneia can include actions by a prostitute or any immoral person, such as a practicing homosexual. It “covers a wide range of sexual irregularities, including unions within bounds prohibited by law.” One cannot accurately claim, “Jesus never condemned consenting homosexual practices.” Porneia applies to a wide range of sexual irregularities, including sexual perversions as well as intercourse between unmarried persons or between a married person and anyone other than his or her own spouse. Homosexual acts are condemned by this term.
“Adulterers” (from moichos) suggests those who violate their marriage vows. Adultery implies unfaithfulness by either partner in the marriage bond. Here is a helpful explanation: “Generally, it can be said that all adultery is fornication and not all fornication is adultery.”
Verse 4 is “a plain warning against any violation of the marriage bond. Those who lightly regard this bond may escape the judgment of men, yet if unrepentant, they will never escape God’s judgment.” In 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, Paul declared that one guilty of this transgression “is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.” If we have the Holy Spirit within us, it is imperative that we live “holy” lives that excludes any sort of sexual promiscuity. If one who is sanctified by Christ in body and soul commits fornication, he goes against the very work of Christ in his life (1 Cor. 6:15-20).
The great impetus to follow this course of holiness is to remember that “God will judge.” Each and every impenitent fornicator or adulterer will suffer at the hand of God! A day has been set for judgment, so all are commanded to remember that God no longer overlooks the failure to repent (Acts 17:30, 31). A sinner may escape serious consequences in this life, but God does not settle everything before death comes.
This admonition was an appropriate one to follow the discussion of hospitality because the immorality associated with the inns of that time. An “undefiled bed” is one that is pure and holy, as marriage ought to be. Marriage is to be counted as holy by God even when one is married to an infidel (1 Cor. 7:13, 14).