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Hebrews 13:4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
4 Let marriage be honorable among all, and let the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge sexually immoral people* and adulterers.
* Sexual Immorality: (Heb. zanah; Gr. porneia) A general term for immoral sexual acts of any kind: such as adultery, prostitution, sexual relations between people not married to each other, homosexuality, and bestiality. – Num. 25:1; Deut. 22:21; Matt. 5:32; 1 Cor. 5:1
On this verse, Thomas D. Lea writes, “13:4. Both Jewish and pagan marriages in the New Testament period were characterized by laxity and immorality. Christians have a different approach to marriage. Purity, contentment, and a trust in God are ingredients needed for developing strong Christian families. Two pro-marriage ideas appear in this verse. First, marriage is to be honored by all. Even among believers today the stability of marriage faces strong challenges. Christians must honor marriage as divine in its origin and as right and good in its practice. This verse helps us to see that celibacy is not superior to marriage. Second, those who are married must maintain moral purity. The fact that God will judge sexual promiscuity provides motivation for a holy lifestyle among believers. Violators of this command may be celebrated by some human beings, but they will reap eternal divine displeasure (Eph. 5:6).”
Taking a deeper look, Bible scholar David L. Allen writes, “13:4 With v. 4 the subject shifts to marriage and sexual purity. The main clause of v. 4 is both compound and verbless. The KJV supplies an indicative verb in the first clause and leaves it implied in the second: ‘Marriage is honorable in all; and the bed undefiled.’ However, most commentators and translators take the author’s meaning to express an imperatival idea for three reasons: the following reason clause supports it; the beginning of v. 5 is a parallel verbless construction, but one which indicates the necessity of understanding an implied imperative verb; and the fronted position of the adjective translated ‘honored’ in the clause supports the imperatival sense as well. This verse serves as a specific example of showing brotherly love (v. 1) in that, as Bruce well says, ‘Chastity is not opposed to charity, but is part of it.’ Here the author places a high priority on the sanctity and inviolability of the marriage bond. The New Testament affirms the Old Testament’s revelation concerning the divine origination of marriage. The first statement, ‘Marriage should be honored by all,’ places special focus on the word translated ‘honored’ by its fronted position in the clause. The word itself means to highly esteem and respect. This general statement about honoring marriage is followed by a more narrowed focus on the sanctity of the sexual relationship in marriage: ‘and the marriage bed kept pure.’ This phrase refers to sexual intercourse within marriage, meaning husbands and wives should remain sexually faithful to one another and to their marriage vows. The Greek adjective translated ‘pure’ conveys the meaning ‘undefiled,’ ‘unpolluted,’ ‘untainted.’ It is in the emphatic position in its clause. One implication of this verse is that marriage should in no way be considered as spiritually inferior to celibacy. In fact, Paul warns the church about those who ‘forbid people to marry’ in 1 Tim 4:3. The ‘by all’ construes the dative prepositional phrase in Greek to encode agency: ‘by all people.’ Bruce and Hughes likewise take it in reference to people but view the phrase in a locative sense: ‘among all people.’ Others take the reference to be aspectual or circumstantial with the meaning “in every respect” or ‘in every circumstance.’ The compound clause is followed by a subordinating clause, introduced by gar ‘for’ expressing the grounds of the preceding exhortation: ‘for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.’ The term pornos in Greek does have a general meaning of a sexually immoral person and can refer to those who commit sexual sins in general, homosexual or heterosexual, outside of marriage. However, used in conjunction with moichos, ‘adulterer,’ pornos is probably best translated in its more restricted sense of “fornication,” with reference to anyone who violates another’s marriage by engaging in sexual relations with either partner in that marriage. The term moichos, ‘adulterer,’ refers to anyone who violates his or her own marriage vows by having sexual relations with someone other than their own spouse. The two nouns are used together by Paul in 1 Cor 6:9. Such sexual immorality God will judge, where theos, “God,” is emphasized in the Greek text by being placed clause final.”
The Pitfalls of Immorality
Office affairs or affairs between co-workers are the most common place for infidelity to flourish, as the other spouse is not present, while you spend 40-60 hours a week with another. There is more time spent with your co-worker than with your spouse, children, and friends combined! There are far too many reasons as to why this is fertile ground for immorality. The man is getting excessive attention from the woman, who seems to have so much in common, and understands him better than his own wife. Of course, if he would recall, this was the same with his wife some twenty years earlier, as it is predictable of all new relationships. On the other hand, the woman at the office is getting the attention that her husband never gives her at home, and it feels good to be listened to for once. Obviously, if she only realized that if these two were together long enough to get married, he will be just as bad as the husband was.
The world that we currently live in is very vile, and sexual morality is no longer a quality that is valued. Please forgive my boldness here, but to help the older ones reading this to understand, I must make a comparison that may seem too much. In the 1950’s after a football game, you might find two teenagers kissing in the backseat of a car. Then, that was viewed as loose conduct. However, today, in 2018, teenagers see oral sex as the exact same thing as kissing. To them, it is no different, so after a football game, you might find two teenagers carrying out oral sex in the back seat of a car. The teens today do not find that as loose conduct either. This is the next generation of adults.
Sin: (Heb. chattath; Gr. hamartia) Any spoken word (Job 2:10; Ps 39:1), wrong action (Lev. 20:20; 2 Cor. 12:21) or failing to act when one should have (Num. 9:13; Jam. 4:17), in mind and heart (Prov. 21:4; Rom. 3:9-18; 2 Pet 2:12-15) that is contrary to God’s personality, ways, will and purposes, standards, as set out in the Scriptures. It is also a major sin to lack faith in God, doubting in mind and heart, even subtly in our actions, that he has the ability to carry out his will and purposes. (Heb. 3:12-13, 18-19). It is commonly referred to as missing the mark of perfection.
- Evil Desire, lust, coveting, craving: (Gr. epithymia) This is an inordinate, self-indulgent craving to have what belongs to another or engage in what is morally wrong, which displaces our affection for God. – 5:16; 1 Tim. 6:9; 2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Pet. 1:14)
- Shameless Conduct, Sensuality, Debauchery, Promiscuity, Licentiousness, Lewdness: (Gr. aselgeia) This is behavior that is completely lacking in moral restraint, indulgence in sensual pleasure, driven by aggressive and selfish desires, unchecked by morality, especially in sexual matters. This refers to acts of conduct that are serious sins. It reveals a shameless, condescending arrogance; i.e., disregard or even disdain for authority, laws, and standards. – Mark 7:22; Rom. 13:13; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 4:19; 1 Pet. 4:3; 2 Pet. 2:2, 7, 18; Jude 4.
- Sexual Immorality: (Heb. zanah; Gr. porneia) A general term for immoral sexual acts of any kind: such as adultery, prostitution, sexual relations between people not married to each other, homosexuality, and bestiality. – Num. 25:1; Deut. 22:21; Matt. 5:32; 1 Cor. 5:1.
- Sensuality, debauchery, licentiousness, lewdness: (Gr. aselgeia) This is being completely unrestrained in our moral attitudes and behaviors, with the inference of sexual licentiousness. This is one who indulges in sensual pleasure without any regard for morality.–Mark 7:22; Rom. 13:13; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 4:19; 1 Pet. 4:3; 2 Pet. 2:2, 7, 18; Jude.
- Shameful Behavior: (zimmā(h)) This is wickedness, shameful behavior or conduct that is lewd, shameless regarding sexual behavior. (Lev. 18:17; 19:29; 20:14; Judges 20:6; Job 31:11; Jer. 13:27; Eze. 16:27) It can also refer to the evil thought process that one goes through in plotting their wickedness. (Ps 26:10; 119:150; Pro. 10:23; 21:27; 24:9; Isa 32:7; Hos 6:9) Finally, it can be the plans that result from thinking person’s evil desires. – Job 17:11.
What can Christians do to stay safe in such an influential world that caters to the fallen flesh? We might have thought that a book, like Proverbs that is 3,000 years old would be out of date on such modern issues, but God’s Word is ever applicable. King Solomon in Proverbs chapter 5 will give us the answers we need. However, it is up to us to follow the counsel. If you have not been following the Christian Publishing House Blog DAILY DEVOTIONAL, you would not know that we have been studying the entire book of Proverbs, doing a commentary verse-by-verse of the entire book. We are just about to complete Proverbs chapter 4 so we will be beginning Proverbs 5 on Wednesday, August 22, 2018.
 Thomas D. Lea, Hebrews, James, vol. 10, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 237.
 David L. Allen, Hebrews, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2010), 608–610.
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