************ Sermon on Hebrews 13:4 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on October 15, 2017

Hebrews 13:4
"They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love (2)"

For twelve chapters Hebrews tells us about the grace of God in Christ. For twelve chapters we've been told how Christ is better than anything in the Old Testament. For twelve chapters we've been told to have faith in Christ.

Hebrews 13 takes us the next step and tells us how to live in order to glorify God and to silence the world. I said last time that the world is watching. I said last time that we all live in glass houses. I said last time that Hebrews 13 is instruction to Christians on how to live in glass houses. Hebrews 13 is instruction to Christians on how to live before a hostile and unbelieving world. The goal is pure and holy lives. The goal is to be like Daniel.

So, how are to live before an unbelieving and hostile world? How are we to live for the glory of God? Verses 1-2 tells us to love each other as brothers. Verse 3 tells us to be people of compassion. As the song we sing puts it, "They'll know we are Christians by our love."

Today, I want us to sing the same song. But this time in terms of marriage. How do we live for the glory of God? How does the world know we are Christians? How do we live in glass houses? By the way we love our husband or our wife. As our text puts it:
(Heb 13:4) Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
When it comes to marriage, the world will know we are Christians by our love.

I Marriage Should be Honored by All
A Our text tells us "Marriage should be honored by all." Marriage should be honored by all because God honors marriage.

God looks at marriage as an honorable institution. He invented it. He "performed" the first wedding ceremony when He brought the first woman to the first man. Jesus honored marriage by attending a wedding and performing His first miracle for the wedding reception. The Holy Spirit honors marriage by making it a picture of the church. Marriage is precious and valued in God's sight like a jewel.

Marriage, I'm afraid, is not honorable in the world anymore. People laugh at marriage. People say you don't a certificate or a license. In our world it is something done by those who are old-fashioned. Why else do so many couples live together outside of marriage? Why else do people so easily get a divorce so that today in California there is a divorce for every wedding that takes place?

"Marriage should be honored by all." In saying this, Hebrews was making a statement against certain ascetics who took a vow for chastity and against marriage. One of the persons I learned about in church history even went to far as to neuter himself thinking this would bring about greater devotion to God. Along the same line, the Roman Catholic Church believes in a celibate priesthood and forbids marriage for the clergy. Paul writes about this in his first letter to Timothy:
(1 Tim 4:1-4) The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. (2) Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. (3) They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. (4) For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected ...
In the eyes of God all of this is absolutely ridiculous. None of this is pleasing to the God Who designed marriage as an honorable institution.

B "Marriage should be honored by all." Marriage, as designed by God, should be honored by all.

First, as designed by God, marriage is for life. This is reflected in the wedding vows:
I take you to be my husband/wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do us part. This is my solemn vow.
This is God's intent. That it be a lifelong union. Marriage is not honored when it is broken by divorce.

Second, as designed by God, marriage is between a genetic male and a genetic female.
Gay marriage as approved by the Supreme Court of the United States is not a marriage in the eyes of God.

A woman who married her dog eight years ago says he's 'perfect' for her ... No he isn't because this is not what God intended.

A woman in Texas sent an invitation to friends and family asking them to come celebrate her 40th birthday in a "unique way." Why was it unique? She arranged a surprise marriage ceremony ... in which she married herself. I say she is headed for a divorce.
How does any of this honor marriage?

Third, as designed by God, marriage has at least four purposes. Think of the examples I just mentioned in terms of these purposes:
-marriage is meant to be a context within which husband and wife can help and comfort each other and find companionship;
-marriage is meant to be a setting within which we may give loving and tender expression to the desires God gave us;
-marriage is meant to be a secure environment within which children may be born and taught to know and serve the Lord;
-marriage is meant to be a structure that enriches society and contributes to its orderly function.

C "Marriage should be honored by all." Let me tell our singles, the unmarried, how they can live up to this.

First, honor marriage by not pursuing marital relations with someone who is related to you. Look at Leviticus 18 for a list of those who are off-limits.

Second, honor marriage by not pursuing marital relations with someone who is unsaved. The clearest statement about this is found in 2 Corinthians 6:
(2 Cor 6:14) Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
Don't marry someone who is unregenerate. In Senior Bible Study we just finished studying the life of Samson; what a mess his life was because he chose a wife who was an unbeliever.

Third, honor marriage by only pursing marriage with a believer. Marry in the Lord. Marry someone who is saved. You might ask, "How do I know if someone is truly saved since only God can look at the heart?"

Look for someone with a good reputation. "A good name is more desirable than great riches" (Prov 22:1). If you marry for money, believe me when I say you will pay for every penny. Don't pick the rich one; rather, pick the one with the good reputation. Find out what other people say about the individual.

Pay attention to appearance. Appearance? Am I telling you to pick the most handsome guy or the most beautiful girl? The Bible tells us two things to avoid. Beware the wanton look and beware the proud look. Both lead to trouble. Both looks are reflected in the clothes one wears: the first wears clothes that are immodest; the second wears clothes that are meant to display wealth or style.

Listen to how the person talks. What do they talk about? What is their conversation? Is it all about themselves? Is it full of swear words and cursing and coarse language?

Check out their friends. One's friends say a lot about a person. The Bible says a man is known by the company he keeps. According to Psalm 1, a godly man or woman does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

Singles, choose your marriage partner wisely, choose carefully, choose someone who is in the Lord. That is how you honor marriage.

D "Marriage should be honored by all." Let me say how the married can honor marriage.

God is glorified and marriage is honored when the husband is the spiritual head of the home (Eph 5; 1 Cor 11).

God is glorified and marriage is honored when the wife subjects herself to the husband (Eph 5; 1 Pet 3).

God is glorified and marriage is honored when husband and wife have agape love (1 Cor 13). This is the love shown by Jesus at the cross and grave. This is the love that seeks the good of the other person.

God is glorified and marriage is honored when husband and wife stay together until death do them part. One of the worst things I deal with is divorce. One of the nicest things I deal with is a 50th, 60th, or even higher wedding anniversary. I think it is absolutely beautiful when an elderly couple affectionately walk up the church sidewalk hand-in-hand.

Back to the song we sing: "They'll know we are Christians by our love." The world knows and sees we are Christians when we honor marriage.

II Keep the Marriage Bed Pure
A As people who live in glass houses we need to honor marriage. This silences the critics and honors God. But we also need to keep the marriage bed pure. Yesterday, when I told my cycling friends about this sermon one of them quipped, "This means you need to change the sheets, right?" Similarly, I've tried to tell Ruth this means we can't replace our mattress. We all know Hebrews is talking about sexual sin.

Did you take note of the news on September 27, 2017? Something big and something important happened in terms of the marriage bed. On that day Hugh Hefner died. Now, if there ever was someone who did not keep the marriage bed pure, it was the founder of Playboy. He turned marriage and sex into a joke. Here is a quote of his from years ago:
Sex is a function of the body--a drive which man shares with animals, like eating, drinking, and sleeping. It’s a physical demand that must be satisfied. If you don’t satisfy it, you will have all sorts of neurosis and repression psychoses. Sex is here to stay, let’s forget the prudery that makes us hide from it. Throw away those inhibitions. Find a girl who’s like minded, and let yourself go.
That’s his philosophy. On September 27 he discovered, as our text puts it, that "God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral."

Hefner's kind of thinking has taken hold of our world. Look at what is on TV today. Half of all births at our hospital is to unwed mothers. Half of all teens think it is okay to have sex before marriage. Many who are married see nothing wrong with an affair.

B People who live in glass houses must keep the marriage bed pure. How do we keep the marriage bed pure in a world filled with Hefner's kind of thinking? I want to ask everyone to open their Bibles to 1 Thessalonians 4 (page 1840 in the pew Bibles):
(1 Th 4:1-5) Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more ... (3) It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; (4) that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, (5) not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God;
"Live ... to please God," writes Paul. "Be sanctified," that is, be holy, writes Paul. That is general instruction on how to keep the marriage bed pure. But then Paul gets down to specifics. "Avoid sexual immorality."

Keep the marriage bed pure. "Avoid sexual immorality." This means you wait with sex until marriage. Let me talk to the young people and the young adults. Look at what verse 4 says about controlling your body. This means you keep your desires and your body under control when you are out on a date; you control your body rather than your body controlling you. You know what I am talking about. This also means you do not live together before marriage. This further means you do NOT look at pornography.

Keep the marriage bed pure. Whether married or single, avoid any kind of sexual immorality. This includes every kind of sexual act outside of marriage: homosexuality, bestiality, pornography, sexual abuse, date rape, and everything in between.

Keep the marriage bed pure. Do not be "like the heathen" says Paul in verse 5. How do the heathen act? They are guided and controlled by their lusts.

Keep the marriage bed pure. Maybe there is someone sitting here tonight who doesn't like to hear any of these instructions. I didn't read it but if this is you then you need to hear verse 8 of 1 Thessalonians 4:
(1 Th 4:8) Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.
If you don't like what I said, your quarrel is with God. This is His will for those who have been saved by grace.

How should grace-filled Christians live? How does the world know we are Christians? They'll know we are Christians by our love for our husband or wife. They'll know we are Christians when marriage is honored by all and the marriage bed kept pure.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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