The title is not the name of a new TV show, although it certainly could be. It is the theme of Hebrews 13:4-6. I believe that this passage speaks against two sins that are very prevalent in our society, sins that are destroying our nation. These verses are very applicable to us today.
We live in the age of the disposable. From the throw-away bottle, we've progressed to the throw-away camera and even to the throw-away marriage. "The pill, legalized abortion, and the age of "meaningful relationships" have invalidated the need for marriage", "respectable" sociologists claim. But marriage is not disposable in any age or society, no matter what the lawyers may tell you. I saw a commercial last week for lawyers whose specialty was divorce. They called themselves, "The spouse eliminator". Their commercial was encouraging people to get a divorce.
Marriage is a divine institution, divinely delineated. It is a divine institution, because God himself originated it:
Genesis 2:22-23 (NKJV) Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. 23 And Adam said: "This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man."
God officiated at the first ceremony in the Garden of Eden. He also directed its perpetuation. That the relationship of Adam and Eve was to be a pattern for man and woman henceforth is clearly expressed as the will of God by Moses in:
Genesis 2:24 (NKJV) Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Not only did God establish the pattern, he prescribed the ground rules:
Proverbs 2:17 (NKJV) Who forsakes the companion of her youth, And forgets the covenant of her God.
Malachi 2:14 (NKJV) Yet you say, "For what reason?" Because the LORD has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant.
In both of these verses God speaks of the marriage relationship as a covenant. A covenant is a solemn agreement between a ruler and a subject. It is imposed by the former on the latter with appended blessings and cursing. Therefore, when a man takes a wife, and a woman takes a husband, they voluntarily commit themselves to each other and enter this covenant relationship before God with all its rights, privileges, and responsibilities.
God has delineated his reasons for marriage. The Garden of Eden was a perfectly suited abode for Adam:
Genesis 2:8- 9 (NKJV) The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. 9 And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Genesis 2:15 (NKJV) Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.
He had unquestionable control and dominance over every living creature:
Genesis 2:19 (NKJV) Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.
Also, Adam had daily communion with God, unadulterated by sin. What more could Adam need or desire?
At the close of each creative day, it says, "God saw what He had made, that it was good." But when Adam was made, it is explicitly recorded that " It is not good that the man should be alone" (2:18). As to man the creative work lacked completeness until there should be found for Adam a help mate, a companion. Not until this was done did God see the work of the last creative day also to be good. I believe that this tells us that God's primary provision in marriage is companionship.
According to both testaments, God has clearly declared that marriage is to be permanent (Gen 2:24-25):
Matthew 19:3-6 (NKJV) The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?" 4 And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' 5 "and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6 "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."
God has instituted it. He delineated its purposes or design. He has declared its permanence.
With this in mind, let's look at our text in Hebrews:
Hebrews 13:4 (NKJV) Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
"Marriage is honorable among all...." - I believe the construction here should be treated as hortatory, [hor-ta-tor-I] which means: "exhorting, advising", rather than declaratory. There is no verb "is" in the Greek , so a verb has to be supplied. The KJV understands an indicative, and thus renders it as a statement or affirmation. "Marriage is honorable among all...." But an imperative fits better with the context which is a sequence of exhortations. The sense then is "Let marriage be held in honor among all and let the marriage bed be held as undefiled." The NIV renders it this way:
Hebrews 13:4 (NIV) Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
The hortatory sense provides the better antecedent to the ensuing warning: "...but fornicators and adulterers God will judge."
"Let marriage be held in honor" - the word "honor" is the Greek word timios, which means: "held as of great price, esteemed, especially dear."
How was marriage being dishonored? In what ways were they not honoring marriage? Two ways: The church was being troubled in the apostolic period by advocates of extreme asceticism who regarded marriage as defiling and insisted on celibacy for the attainment of godliness. This is evident from Paul's words to Timothy:
1 Timothy 4:1-3 (NKJV) Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
In the post-apostolic centuries the emphasis on virginity as belonging to the state of Christian perfection was promoted by the Montanist movement. And by such men as the famous Origen of the third century, who had himself castrated, under the mistaken notion that he could thereby serve God more devotedly.
The writer of Hebrews says, "Marriage is honorable among all...." By this I understand him to mean that there is no group of men prohibited from marriage, not even priests. God says marriage is not only permissible, but honorable. According to Matthew 8:14 even the "first Pope" had a wife:
Matthew 8:14 (NKJV) Now when Jesus had come into Peter's house, He saw his wife's mother lying sick with a fever.
Even Peter had a wife!
Another way that they were dishonoring marriage was by lightly esteeming the marriage bond by condoning every kind of sexual license. "Let the marriage bed be undefiled" - "bed" is the Greek koite, which is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. Marriage, since it is an ordinance of God, is neither defiling, nor is it to be defiled by sexual promiscuity.
I don't think that we have a problem today with those who say that marriage is defiling, but we are certainly defiling marriage! Infidelity is at an all time high today. The marriage bed is being defiled even by God's children.
In the New Testament times, the sexual purity of God's people drew a sharp line dividing them from the non-Christian world. Prior to the sexual revolution, this was largely true of the church in America. But things have radically changed. In his book, Flirting with the World, John White draws these sobering conclusions: "The sexual behavior of Christians has reached the point of being indistinguishable from that of non-Christians...in our sexual behavior we, as a Christian community, are both in the world, and of it."
Substantiating White's claim is this paradox uncovered by a 1984 Gallup poll: "Religion is growing in importance among Americans, but morality is losing ground." That same poll found "very little difference in the behavior of the churched and unchurched on a wide range of items".
High standards of morality - including sexual morality - used to be inseparable from the Christian faith. But this is no longer the case. It is increasingly difficult to discern where the world ends and the church begins.
Two thousand years ago the believers in Corinth faced sexual temptation whenever they walked the streets. But today we live in a technological Corinth. We don't have to go out on the streets. Through the wonders of technology, sexual temptation pursues us everywhere - TV, Videos, Movies, Magazines (PC Computing runs adds for: Hustler online, sexy CD-ROMS, and Gay modem, to name a few). And if we are going to honor marriage, it must start with our thinking:
Proverbs 4:20-23 (NKJV) My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. 21 Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; 22 For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh. 23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
All media touch the mind, stir it, move it, mold it, in every way affect it, even when the process is unconscious. Moreover, the cognitive is basic to the behavioral. We act out what we first think. Hence, whatever affects the mind will ultimately (though not always directly or immediately) affect behavior. We must guard our thinking, protect our mind.
In the New Testament nearly every writer discusses marriage, because a stable marriage is a building block in the structure of society. Therefore, the present decay of the family threatens the stability of our nation to-day far more severely than does any foreign hostility. Historian Arnold Toynbee's research indicated that of history's twenty-one greatest civilizations, nineteen perished from internal moral corruption, not external enemies. Our nation is in trouble because marriage is in trouble.
Why is America in trouble? Our verse tells us - "but fornicators and adulterers God will judge." "Fornicator" is from the Greek word pornos, it designates those persons who indulge in sexual relationships outside the marriage bond, both heterosexual, and homosexual. "Adulterers" is from the Greek moichos, which means: "those who are unfaithful to their marriage vows".
In the New Testament believers are often warned against this sin:
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (NKJV) Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; 2 for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. 7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. 8 Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.
Notice what Paul says in verse 6, "The Lord is the avenger of all such...." - "avenger" is from the Greek word ekdikos, which means: "one who carries out a legal sentence". This word is only used one other time in the New Testament, and that is in:
Romans 13:4 (NKJV) For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
Here the "avenger to execute wrath" is referring to the magistrate as the bearer of the sword of justice, that is, as inflicting capital punishment.
Notice what Paul says of fornicators in:
Ephesians 5:5-6 (NKJV) For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
Believers, God will judge those who dishonor marriage. Look with me at Proverbs 6, after warning his son not to lust after an immoral woman, Solomon asked two rhetorical questions:
Proverbs 6:27-28 (NKJV) Can a man take fire to his bosom, And his clothes not be burned? 28 Can one walk on hot coals, And his feet not be seared?
The obvious answer is,"NO!" Consequences are inescapable. And in case the point of the illustration was missed, Solomon brings it home in:
Proverbs 6:29 (NKJV) So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; Whoever touches her shall not be innocent.
Violating God's sexual standards is like violating the law of gravity, it has a way of catching up with you. The laws apply regardless of who believes in them, and who doesn't. You don't need to believe in the law of gravity to be subject to it.
Galatians 6:7-8 (NKJV) Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
In God's moral universe, whatever is right is smart, and whatever is wrong is stupid:
Proverbs 6:32-33 (NKJV) Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul. 33 Wounds and dishonor he will get, And his reproach will not be wiped away.
To violate God's immutable laws is not too smart.
Believers, we are to honor the marriage covenant by a life of sexual purity, and whoever violates the covenant will be judged.
What is to be our position as Christians toward other Christians who are involved in sexual sin?
1. Rebuke them!
Luke 17:3 (NKJV) "Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.
We are to lovingly take the word of God and rebuke them.
2 Timothy 4:2 (NKJV) Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
If we don't speak out against sexual sin who will?
2. Separate from them!
If after rebuking them they do not turn from their sin, we are to break fellowship with them:
1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (NKJV) I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; not even to eat with such a person. 12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore "put away from yourselves the evil person."
The writer of Hebrews goes on to say:
Hebrews 13:5 (NKJV) Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
"Let your conduct be without covetousness" - "covetousness" is from the Greek word aphilarguros, which is made up of phileo meaning: "to be fond of", and arguros, which means: "silver", and the alpha prefixed. The total word meaning: "without fondness for silver" Covetousness is an attitude; it is wanting to acquire things, longing for them, setting our thoughts and attention on them - whether we ever possess them or not.
C.H. Spurgeon said, "I've been in a lot of testimony meetings, and I've heard a lot of people share how they've sinned, and I've had people come to me and make confession of sin. But in all my life I've never had one person confess the sin of covetousness to me." Few suspect that this is a sin that they have a problem with. But I suspect that its something that all of us are to some extent affected by. The problem is that this sin is very subtle and perhaps more deceiving than any. One reason for this is because the world has made a virtue out of what the Scripture says is vice. The Scriptures call it covetousness, but the world calls it ambition.
If there is one sin in our society which is more prevalent and ultimately more destructive than adultery, it is monetary greed. The reason it is more prevalent is because one can get away with it easier than he can with sexual infidelity.
We can see the danger of this sin from all the warnings against it in Scripture. To not covet is one of the most strongly worded exhortations in Scripture. God thought it so important that He included a probation against it along with the more abhorrent sins of murder, stealing, and adultery.
Exodus 20:17 (NKJV) "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's."
To His disciples, Jesus said, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (Luke 12:15). Do we believe this? Do we live like we believe it?
In Colossians 3:5 covetousness is linked to idolatry:
Colossians 3:5 (NKJV) Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
This is probably because those who are controlled by this lust, love their money, and put their trust in it, making a god of it. We all need to pray as David did in:
Psalms 119:36 (NKJV) "Incline my heart to Your testimonies, And not to covetousness."
God's Word sets before us some fearfully solemn examples of judgments which fell upon those who coveted. The fall of Adam and Eve originated in covetousness, lusting after that which God had forbidden. I'm sure you're familiar with the story of Achan:
Joshua 7:21 (NKJV) "When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it."
Because of this sin, Israel was defeated at Ai, costing the lives of at least thirty-six of his countrymen, and he and his whole family were stoned. That's serious, folks.
Look with me at 2 Kings 5:15-27. This story is probably not so familiar. After Naaman was cleansed of leprosy, following Elisha's instructions to wash seven times in the Jordan river, he came back to thank Elisha:
2 Kings 5:15-27 (NKJV) And he returned to the man of God, he and all his aides, and came and stood before him; and he said, "Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel; now therefore, please take a gift from your servant." 16 But he said, "As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing." And he urged him to take it, but he refused. 17 So Naaman said, "Then, if not, please let your servant be given two mule-loads of earth; for your servant will no longer offer either burnt offering or sacrifice to other gods, but to the LORD. 18 "Yet in this thing may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the temple of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon; when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD please pardon your servant in this thing." 19 Then he said to him, "Go in peace." So he departed from him a short distance. 20 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, "Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the LORD lives, I will run after him and take something from him." 21 So Gehazi pursued Naaman. When Naaman saw him running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him, and said, "Is all well?" 22 And he said, "All is well. My master has sent me, saying, 'Indeed, just now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the mountains of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of garments.'" 23 So Naaman said, "Please, take two talents." And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and handed them to two of his servants; and they carried them on ahead of him. 24 When he came to the citadel, he took them from their hand, and stored them away in the house; then he let the men go, and they departed. 25 Now he went in and stood before his master. Elisha said to him, "Where did you go, Gehazi?" And he said, "Your servant did not go anywhere." 26 Then he said to him, "Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants? 27 "Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever." And he went out from his presence leprous, as white as snow.
His greed led to lying, deceit, and leprosy.
Nicer clothes, a bigger house, another car, a better vacation tempt all of us. How can you tell if you love money? You know you love money when you never have enough. When you want to flaunt it, or what it provides. When it hurts you to give it away. When you sin to get it (lie to the I.R.S.).
God says we are to, "Be content with such things as you have." The word "content" is arkeo, meaning: "to be possessed of unfailing strength, to be strong, to suffice, to be enough, to be satisfied". I think we all know what contentment means, but how do we get it?
1 Timothy 6:6 (NKJV) Now godliness with contentment is great gain.
The word "with" is the Greek word meta a preposition showing close association of two things. It could be read, "Godliness which produces contentment is great gain." The gain that godliness brings is contentment.
Weust writes, "But godly piety associated with an inward self-sufficiency which is its natural accompaniment is great gain". J.F.B writes, "Piety, whose accompaniment is contentment is great gain."
Contentment is one of the most distinguishing traits of the godly person, because a godly person has his heart focused on God rather than on himself and his circumstances.
Only godliness can produce contentment. The Greek philosopher, Epicurus, said, "To whom little is not enough, nothing is enough." And when asked for the secret of happiness, his answer was, "Add not to a man's possessions, but take away from his desires."
Henry Ford, after making all his millions, said, "I was happier doing mechanics work". J. D. Rockefeller said, "The poorest man I know is the man who has nothing but money"
Covetousness follows a principle of increasing desire and decreasing satisfaction, a form of the law of diminishing returns:
Ecclesiastes 5:10 (NKJV) He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity.
The more you get, the more you want. When we focus on material things, our having will never catch up with our wanting. There was a Roman proverbial saying that wealth is like sea-water, so far as quenching a man's thirst, it intensifies it. The more he gets, the more he wants. Look with me at what Paul told Timothy:
1 Timothy 6:7-11 (NKJV) For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.
We are not to pursue money, we are to pursue godliness. We are to be content with the basics, "And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content". It is a very difficult thing, I know, to try and combine this exhortation with a proper understanding of how we are to improve our lot in life. He is not condemning using lawful means to improve our conditions in this world. He is not calling upon us here for some apathetic attitude. This is a very difficult and delicate balance to maintain.
Some people are just slothful, and they call it contentment. But that individual is one in a hundred, compared to the other 99 who are ambitious beyond lawful means, and who have made it their desire to be wealthy. And when you tell them they need to be content, they respond, "I'm just being ambitious, diligent, prudent."
It's easy to rationalize and excuse what is in essence sinful greed and write it off as godly ambition. We need to reach a balance in our lives.
Proverbs 30:8-9 (NKJV) Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food allotted to me; 9 Lest I be full and deny You, And say, "Who is the LORD?" Or lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God.
He is saying, "Pray for two things". It's easy for us to pray for the first - "Lord keep me from poverty". We can all pray that. But how many of you have prayed that God would keep you from riches? Do you pray this as you purchase your lottery ticket?
We have been ingrained with the world's view that money will make us happy, that's why we want it so bad. That belief is a lie, happiness comes from trusting in the Lord.
Psalms 146:5 (NKJV) "Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the LORD his God,"
Proverbs 16:20 (NKJV) He who heeds the word wisely will find good, And whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he.
We are to be content on what ground? For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." It is almost impossible to reproduce in the English the emphasis of the original, in which no less than five negatives are used to increase the strength of the negation, according to the Greek idiom. Perhaps the nearest approximation is to render it, "I will never, no, never leave thee, nor ever forsake thee"
Calvin writes, "It is quite certain that lack of faith is the source of greed. Anyone who has the firm conviction that he will never be forsaken by the Lord will not be unduly anxious, because he will depend on His providence."
Hebrews 13:6 (NKJV) So we may boldly say: "The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"
These two quotations, one from Deuteronomy 31:6, and the other from Psalms 118:6-7, reveal that the answer to any kind of fear, including the fear of poverty, is found in the promise of God to ever be with us. Paul had this assurance of God's presence when in 2 Corinthians 6:10 he described himself, "As having nothing, yet possessing all things"
Believers, as God's children, we are to be different! As the world around us walks in sexual sin and greed, we are to live holy lives that will bring glory to God. Remembering that Christ is always with us should help us to avoid sexual immorality and covetousness. Let's live each day practicing the presence of God.
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