Server Outage Notice: is transfering to a new Server on Tuesday April 13th

2364 sermons as of May 21, 2024.
Site Search powered by FreeFind

bottom corner

Author:Rev. Ted Gray
 send email...
Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Honoring Marriage
Text:Hebrews 13:4 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

The Church’s One Foundation
Blest the Man That Fears Jehovah
O Give Us Homes
O Perfect Love

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Pastor Ted Gray
Honoring Marriage”
Hebrews 13:4
In our study of Hebrews 13, you have undoubtedly noticed the emphasis on love. In verse 1 we are told to keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Verse 2 reminds us to be hospitable for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Verse 3 tells us to remember Christians who are imprisoned for their faith as if we ourselves were imprisoned for our faith and persecuted for our Christianity. In verses 5 and 6 we are assured of the Lord’s abiding presence in our lives. In those verses, we are assured that the Lord will never leave us nor forsake us but will always be our helper. Because he has first loved us, we are enabled to love him.
So it should not be surprising that this passage also includes a text instructing us about marriage. Verse 4 begins by telling us that Marriage should be honored by all.” Yet when we look at the world in which we live we see that marriage is certainly not honored by all. Statistics show that in the United States more babies are born out of wedlock than those who are born within the marriage relationship. We live in a culture in which over half the marriages end in divorce, and the rate of Christians who divorce is not much different from the rate of non-Christians.
It wasn't any different back when this letter was written to the Hebrews. Admittedly the Jewish people of the first century had a higher view of marriage than the Romans had. Yet some of the influential Jewish leaders allowed Jewish men to divorce their wives for trivial and sensual reasons. The trivial included divorce from a wife who cooked a bad meal; the sensual allowed divorce if a husband found another woman more beautiful than his wife. 
In the Roman culture it was not unusual for a husband to have a boy who would be his lover as well. Homosexuality was rampant in that culture. The world of the first century was well known for its immorality, and the church was not exempt from that. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians warning them about a man who was sleeping with his stepmother, and the Corinthian church was not admonishing him. (1 Cor. 5:1-13)
Marriage has been under attack and disregarded throughout the history of the world. Yet our text reminds us that marriage is to be honored by all. The reason for honoring marriage is because marriage is instituted by God. Marriage was instituted by God as he provided Eve for Adam; it was affirmed in the marriage of Joseph and Mary. Also, significantly, the first miracle that Jesus performed was at a wedding. And marriage is upheld by the Word of God in many passages, including Proverbs 18:22 which teaches, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.”
Because marriage is instituted by God, he alone has the right to define what marriage is. Marriage is the union between one man and one woman, and marriage is a lifetime bond that must not be severed. As Jesus said, “What God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matt. 19:6)
Since God has defined marriage as being between one man and one woman, the redefinition by the Supreme Court, or any other ruling body, carries no authority.  In fact, to declare that there is such a union as a “same-sex marriage” is an oxymoron. One of the purposes of marriage is to provide a means to give birth to children and to nurture them as they grow in a loving family unit, which is impossible for two men or two women in a same-sex relationship.
It is not hate speech to point that truth out to those who fail to see the obvious. It is simply speaking the truth. But when we speak the truth, we must always speak it in love. As Christians, we of all people, recognize the power of sin. Of all people, our heart should go out to those who are in the bondage of sin, whether sins of homosexuality or any other sin. Recognizing the enormity of our own sin, we are to speak to others the truth of God's Word, but speak with the love of Christ.
The Marriage Bed Kept Pure
The second phrase of our text in verse 4 tells us that the marriage bed is to be kept pure. That, too, is a part of honoring marriage. Husbands are to remain faithful to their wives and wives must remain faithful to their husbands.
The importance of Christian husbands and wives remaining faithful to one another can be seen on two levels. One reason for faithfulness is that it is commanded in the seventh commandment which says, “You shall not commit adultery.”
Our culture teaches us that such a commandment robs us of physical pleasure that we could have. But in actuality, the seventh commandment, along with all the others, is given for our good. There are innumerable people – including innumerable Christian people, men and women, both young and old – who so deeply regret breaking the seventh commandment.
Just as a warm fire is a great comfort within the confines of a crackling fireplace, so too, human sexuality within marriage is a beautiful and warm expression of love. But the fire that rages out of the fireplace leads to great destruction. Just as the fire outside of the fireplace will burn the house down, so too adultery will burn a marriage, and burn the individuals within that marriage, as well as everyone else within the circle of family and friends. Just as wildfires, whipped by the wind, spread destruction to wide areas, so too the fire of adultery spreads ruin, and brings destruction, heartbreak and deep sorrow.
But the purity of the marriage bed applies not just to husbands and wives in a marriage. The purity of the marriage bed applies to single people as well. The seventh commandment applies to each one of us, whether single or married. Lords Day 41 of the Heidelberg Catechism makes that clear:
Q & A 108 - What is God's will for us in the seventh commandment?
Answer: “God condemns all unchastity. We should therefore thoroughly detest it and, married or single, live decent and chaste lives.”
Q & A 109 - Does God, in this commandment, forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery?
Answer: “We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul, and God wants both to be kept clean and holy. That is why he forbids everything which incites unchastity, whether it be actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires.”
The catechism covers the seventh commandment thoroughly in its answer. It also gives us a contemporary application in the answer to question 109 which teaches “(God) forbids everything which incites unchastity, whether it be actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires.”
In an electronic world, "looks, talk, thoughts, and desires" spring off the pages of the Internet. How many marriages have been derailed by Facebook? And while Facebook and other electronic media are wrought with pitfalls and problems, there are some positive aspects to electronic media. For instance, they can be an excellent way to express your faith, as well as to connect with family and friends.
While electronic media can be a great blessing in many ways, they can also be an insidious danger. So often someone on electronic media comes across an old high school or college classmate who they knew long ago. The talk leads to thoughts, then to looks, then desires, and so often to the breakup of a marriage.
Whether single or married, how crucial that we guard our thoughts, our eyes, our talk, and our desires! It is crucial because marriage has exceptionally high purposes. One purpose is to bring a man and a woman together as one, often blessing them with children, thus forming the building block of any strong society.
But beyond that purpose and blessing, marriage is designed to reflect the closeness and oneness of Christ and the church. The church is presented as the very bride of Christ. Ephesians 5 is one of many passages that points out the oneness of the church and Christ as represented in the act of marriage. Paul writes:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
No wonder marriage is to be honored by all! It points us to the love and the oneness that Christ has for his bride, the true church.
Judgment and Forgiveness
Hebrews 13:4 concludes by teaching that “God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Sexual sin is nothing to trifle with. In some ways it is, in fact, unique as 1 Corinthians 6:18 points out: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
Some of you may recall that when Israel was traveling to the promised land of Canaan, the Moabites realized that the Israelites were too numerous for them to overcome. So the Moabites (also known as the Midianites) used their women to seduce the Israelites. Because of their sin, the Lord brought judgment upon the Israelites and 24,000 of them died. Numbers 25 gives this account:
...An Israelite man brought into the camp a Midianite woman (another name for a Moabite) right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman’s body. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000. (Num. 25:6-9)
Psalm 106, which is one of the Psalms which recalls the history of Israel, looks back in retrospect on the incident: “They provoked the Lord to anger by their wicked deeds, and a plague broke out among them. But Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was checked. This was credited to him as righteousness for endless generations to come.” (Psalm 106:29-31)
The Bible clearly teaches that God takes sexual sin seriously. Our culture, of course, takes it very lightly. Our culture would teach that unless you are sexually active outside of marriage you will never be aware of your identity. The world considers singles who are celibate to be the most pitied of all people. Tim Tebow, so it would seem, would be quite the eligible Christian bachelor. But the media, especially the entertainment media, has gone to great lengths to criticize him for his celibacy.[1]
David Wells, a professor at Gordon Conwell Seminary, points out the reason for that disparity. He writes: “Worldliness makes sin look normal and righteousness look odd.” His assessment is an accurate assessment of our culture, and it is not far from the observation of Isaiah 5:20: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”
However, while God judges all sin, he also forgives all sin when it is truly confessed in humble repentance with saving faith. Because of that, the Bible teaches that male prostitutes will be in heaven along with other homosexual offenders! And before you form a committee to remove me as your pastor, consider this remarkable passage from 1 Corinthians 6:9-13:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God – and that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
There is forgiveness for every sin committed when sin is truly repented of and when faith for forgiveness is placed in Jesus Christ alone. It doesn’t matter what the sin is: adultery, fornication, pornography, abortion, divorce without a biblical reason, or in the passage just cited, homosexuality and male prostitution. There is forgiveness for all who repent, and that includes thieves, swindlers, drunkards and others mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6, and in so many other passages. But the admonition of Jesus to the woman who was caught in the act of adultery (John 8:11), applies to each one of us. Jesus said, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
It has been rightly noted that many religious people who trust in their good works will be in hell, and many immoral people who repented will be in heaven. It is a testimony to the truly amazing grace of God that whatever sins you and I have committed, they are forgiven and covered by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, if we have truly repented of them and look in saving faith to Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
Complete in Christ, Whether Single or Married
In closing, there are a couple of observations that are not in our text but are certainly in the Biblical record. One Biblical truth that many have also experienced personally is that while most people desire marriage, through faith in Christ, life as a single person is also complete.
The Apostle Paul stands as the best example of a single person who was completely satisfied in their singleness. And that is important for us to see because God's will is not for everyone to be married. For most people that is their desire, though for some it is not. As Jesus said, in Matthew 19:12, “For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”  
If marriage is never a reality in your life, you still have a full and complete life through faith in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul went so far as to say, “I wish that all were as I am” (1 Cor 7:7), meaning single. He pointed out that he had more time to devote to the work of ministry than those who were caring for a wife and raising children. Life is indeed full and complete for the single person who is united in saving faith to Jesus Christ.
But for those who are single and desire to be married, it is good to actively seek a wife or a husband. That can be done through friends who may know of someone who would be a good match for you, or it may develop in God's providence at school, at church, or at work, or even the Internet. But the Bible makes it clear that if you desire marriage, it is wise to actively seek a Christian marriage partner. If God closes the door, you know that his will was not for you to be married, at least to that person. But until you reach out, you will never know for sure.
One reason I bring that up is because I have my notes from the last time I preached on this passage. The notes are from July 16, 2000, at a church I was serving in Vermont. I had written at the top of the notes “flop” and underlined it twice. I had preached it on a Sunday evening and it seemed to be a total flop, a real failure of a sermon.
I'm hoping that the sermon tonight is not a total flop, and it is totally different from the sermon sixteen years ago. Sixteen years ago, the sermon covered verses 4 to 6 and was entitled Marriage, Money and Contentment.
But what surprised me about that sermon is that it led a young man in our church to seek a marriage partner. He was a single man in his upper twenties. Like most of our members he was a dairy farmer. He worked for his dad and they milked three times per day instead of twice per day, so he was often in the barn late at night and early in the morning milking cows. He had no social life.
But then he started to make the “Canadian Connection” as we called it in Vermont. There was a unique dating connection between Vermonters and Canadians. I never figured out exactly how that connection worked; it appeared to be some long distance variation of the “fish market” that brought many of our older couples together decades ago! [2]
But it was a great blessing to many young couples in that church because it is hard to find other Christians in rural Vermont, especially Reformed Christians who understand the wonderful doctrines of God's amazing grace. But apparently the same was true for the Canadians, many of them also coming from farm communities in Ontario.
After asking around among his friends, this young man began going to Ontario to see a girl. They became serious and they came to me for marriage counseling.  And as I met with them, the young man totally shocked me when he said, “Do you remember that sermon that you preached quite a while ago from Hebrews 13?” He said, “That sermon on money, marriage, and contentment really got me thinking. I was making money, but I wasn’t content, and I wanted to be married. So I talked to some of my friends about people they knew in Canada, and then I asked my dad for some time off to go visit up there.”
He remembered that I had cited Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord. He said, “That verse got me thinking that I'm never going to find a wife milking three times a day. So I started to really look for a Christian wife and I heard about this girl in Canada. And now we're looking forward to getting married!”
Today, sixteen years later, they are happily married, are blessed with children, active in the church, a blessing to their community. But their dating across the miles and their willingness to test what God's will might be for their lives also reminds me of just how precious and just how honorable marriage is. It also reminded me that those who desire marriage should prayerfully seek marriage out.   
Abraham actively searched for a wife for Isaac. Jacob actively searched for a God-fearing wife.  And the searching applies to women too. Ruth, the widow from Moab, searched for a husband, coached by her mother-in-law, Naomi. Admittedly, sometimes love just blossoms out of an ordinary day and, in God’s providence, leads to marriage. But many other times marriage to a godly spouse must be sought out. Proverbs 18:22 implies searching when it says, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.
And while some might debate this, the Westminster Larger Catechism teaches that “the undue delay of marriage” is a form of breaking the seventh commandment (Q &A 139). The catechism cites 1 Corinthians 7:7-9 as the basis for their teaching. There the apostle Paul writes: “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
While some people might debate various points of the catechism and confessions, there is no debating the clear truths of God’s Word. God’s Word declares what so many have found true: Marriage is precious. It is ordained by God and blessed by God. And because of that, all of us, of whatever age, whether single or married, are to honor the blessed bond of marriage! Amen.
Sermon Outline:
Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept pure,
for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
                                                                                        Hebrews 13:4
                                   “Honoring Marriage”
                                           Hebrews 13:4
I. In a culture that seeks to redefine marriage our text teaches us:
    1) “Marriage should be honored by all” (4a) for it is instituted by God
          (Matthew 19:3-6)
    2) “The marriage bed kept pure” (4b) for marriage reflects the love of
          Christ for the church (Ephesians 5:31-32). The purity of the marriage
          bed also applies to single people (Exo. 20:14; 1 Cor. 6:15-20; LD 41)
    3) “God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (4c), but
         He also offers forgiveness for the repentant believer (1 Cor. 6:9-11) 
II. Observations:
    1) While most people desire marriage, through faith in Christ, life as a
         single person is also complete (Matt. 19:11,12; 1 Cor. 7:7,17, 32-35)
    2) Those who desire marriage should prayerfully seek God’s will for a
         spouse (Genesis 24:1-4; 28:1-5; Proverbs 18:22; Ruth 3:1-4:22)


[1] Tim Tebow is a gifted athlete in the United States but was discriminated against by the professional sports world because of his powerful testimony of faith in Jesus Christ. He remained a bachelor until he was 32.
[2] When I took the call to Oak Lawn and began visiting the widows and the elderly couples, I was surprised that many of them said they met at the fish market. My curiosity was stirred. I had never heard of couples meeting at a fish market before! Then they explained to me that in their dating and courtship years, after church on Sunday evening, the girls would walk around the block while the boys drove their cars around the block. They called it “The Fish Market” and that is how they met each other. As one widow, still spritely in her 90’s, explained, “When I saw the man who would become my husband circling the block, I jumped into the rumble seat of his car and the Lord blessed us with 53 years of marriage!”
While the rumble seat approach is not a good idea today (though that couple did know each other before meeting at "The Fish Market"), church is still the best place to meet a future spouse! 


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Ted Gray

Please direct any comments to the Webmaster

bottom corner