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“Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge!”

(New American Standard Version)

It’s important to have a healthy and active sex life, isn’t it?  I mean, whether you’re married or not, if you’re in a meaningful relationship with someone, you’re not really expected to “wait,” right???  

So, maybe due to the really poor examples of generations that have gone before us, a lot of people in our society today seem to harbor a certain “contempt” for marriage.  Well, maybe “contempt” is the wrong word.  It’s not that they are particularly contemptuous of marriage, per se, it’s just that, well, it’s really not a big deal anymore.  I mean, if you want to be married fine, but if it is more advantageous not be get married, but just, you know, “shack up,” live together, have sex, whatever… well, that’s okay, too.  Hummmmmm…

You know, while that seems to be what our adversary, the evil one, has successfully convinced people of, every Christian man and woman, yes, every Christian young person – tweens, teens, young adults – should know better!  From the pages of the Bible comes this severe warning:

“Marriage is to be held in honor among all,

and the marriage bed is to be undefiled;

for fornicators and adulterers God will judge!”

(Hebrews 13:4)

Wow!  Sooooo, shacking up isn’t okay?  You mean it’s not just those who are supposed to be in a “committed relationship” who are sinning sexually when they “cheat” – or have sex with someone else who is not their spouse – it’s actually anyone and everyone who engages in sex outside of the holy bonds of matrimony?

Well, “YES… that is correct!”

This verse sets forth the holiness and the sanctity of marriage.  Marriage is of God.  A society that no longer believes in God, or that refuses to honor God, will no longer honor the things “of” God.  People who do not honor God will not honor what God honors. Does that make sense?  So, it’s really no wonder that so many people in our society today do not honor marriage; they no longer honor God.  But this verse teaches that, whether you believe in God or not, whether you honor God or not, if you transgress the sanctity of the marriage covenant by committing adultery, or if you engage in the practice of fornication, thereby making yourself out to be a “fornicator,” you are going to be judged by God.

You know, the Bible says concerning our adversary, the evil one, that “we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11).  The evil one knows how to corrupt society, how to harden people’s hearts, how to turn them away from the truth of God’s word and away from faith in Christ.  One way – destroy the family; destroy homes and marriages; cultivate a prideful, rebellious, wanton society by convincing people that, really, it’s just all about getting your own carnal needs met.

So, self-serving men “shack up” with one woman after another, moving from woman to woman, siring children that they have no intention of ever raising or even providing for.  And needy, wanton women accommodate various men, surrendering their bodies in exchange for having their emotional, physical, and maybe their material needs met – many ending up disease ridden (despite the use of condoms) and/or pregnant, often with baby after baby… single moms, boyfriend after boyfriend, no permanent father figure in the home.  And the cycle tends to repeat itself again and again.

This is not what God wants for humanity.

 So, what about this judgment thing?  Adulterers – people who are married, but who have sex with other people outside of their marriage covenant – and fornicators – people who are not married, but who have sex with other people, rather than waiting for marriage… God will judge!

Does this mean that anyone who has ever transgressed the will of God by committing these kinds of sexual sins is automatically and forever condemned? Of course not! There is this thing called “repentance,” you know? The Apostle Paul, writing to the Christians who lived in the city of Corinth, said: “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:9-11, NASB 1995).  Those Christians to whom Paul wrote had once been characterized by all those sinful activities, but they did not live that way anymore.

The Bible says, “for we all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2).  The Bible also says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  But then, the Apostle John tells us, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (I John 1:8-10).

Confession and repentance go hand-in-hand. We’re unlikely to want to repent of something if we’ve convinced ourselves that it’s okay.  We only repent of what we have agreed is wrong. So, it’s important that we agree with heaven’s judgement that these things are wrong.  If we have committed sexual sin, or any other sin, and we deny that it is sin—if we try to justify ourselves by saying, “no, the Bible is wrong, it’s not a sin to have sex with someone outside of marriage, not if you really love them, not if you are in a committed relationship with them”—well, according to John, you’ve just called God a liar and His word is not in you. However, if you’re willing to agree with God’s Word and confess that you’ve sinned, God is ready and willing to lavish His abundant grace upon you. God’s grace, His forgiveness, is extended to everyone who is willing to acknowledge the word of God, agree with heaven’s judgement, confess that they are a sinner, and repent of their sinful conduct.

May I give you an example from the life of the Apostle Peter.  Do you remember Jesus teaching that, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess [him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33).  Okay, so that’s the law, right?  That’s the teaching straight from Jesus’ own mouth – that if you deny Christ before men, He will deny you before the Father – and it doesn’t get any clearer than that!  But what did the Apostle Peter do the night that Jesus was arrested and hauled before Pilate and Herod and condemned to crucifixion?  Peter denied Christ – not once… not twice… but three times!  So, does that mean Peter stands condemned? I mean, he blatantly and publicly transgressed the expressed will of God.  He, “broke the law,” if you will.

But, of course, Peter does not stand condemned.  Later, after Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, Peter had an encounter with Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Galilee during which Jesus asked Him not once… not twice… but three times, “Peter, do you love me?”  To which Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  And Jesus told Him, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).  You see, Jesus knew Peter’s heart.  He knew Peter’s heart was broken because of what he had done.  He knew that Peter was not trying to hide his sin or justify himself.  He knew that Peter loved Him.  And this was His way of letting Peter know—and letting all of the rest of us know as well—that Peter was forgiven for what he had done and that he still had a vital work to accomplish for the Lord.

Now, in the book of Revelation, there is a list of people who are going to stand condemned on that great day of judgement.  The Bible says: “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)

Have you ever been afraid?  Have you ever told a lie?  Have you ever put something else, or someone else, ahead of God, thereby committing idolatry? Have you ever been immoral, or committed an act of immorality – maybe you’ve committed adultery, maybe you are committing fornication with someone you love, but who you’re not married to, maybe you’re fighting a porn addiction?  I think we can see from the Apostle Peter’s example, and from New Testament teaching in general, that temporarily denying Christ in a moment of testing does make you an unbeliever.  Being temporarily paralyzed by fear in a moment of great trial does not make you a coward, or cowardly.  Telling a lie does not a liar make!  Momentarily putting something, or someone, ahead of the will of God does not make you an idolater. Committing adultery does not forever make you an adulterer.  And struggling with immorality does not make you an immoral person or a fornicator.

Now worldly people do all these things; often without even giving it much thought. It’s just common practice, a way of life, for them.  Sometimes they may try to excuse their sinful behavior, or even justify it. But the Apostle John informs us, saying:

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

(I John 3:7-10, NASB 1995)

Notice how that, in this passage, John provides some context for his teaching. He’s NOT talking about sinning in moments of weakness. He’s talking about the “practice” of sin, a walk of life, a condition of the heart that denies God’s word. Being weak at times, stumbling, falling short, committing sin by doing what we should not do, or by not doing what we know we should do, does not, in and of itself, condemn us as being evil people. Not if we’re willing to acknowledge the will of God, agree with heaven’s judgement, confess our sins before the Lord, and repent.  The Bible says, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).  And yes, Jesus made repentance necessary for salvation when He said, “that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47).

So, telling a lie does not make you a liar – not if you have repented of that sin and are seeking to walk in the light.  The difference between a “liar” and someone who had told a lie is repentance.  Being afraid does not make you cowardly – not if you have repented of the fearful paralysis and are willing to push through and do what is right.  The difference between someone who has been paralyzed by fear and a cowardly person is repentance.  Committing adultery or fornication, does not make you an adulterer or a fornicator – not if you have repented of your sexual sin and are seeking to honor God with a holy lifestyle.  The difference between someone who has committed adultery and an adulterer is repentance.

I know, sometimes it feels like it’s a lifetime struggle.  Sometimes the temptations just don’t go away.  We get stronger, we do better, but the temptations sometimes remain.  But we need to trust two promises that we have from God:  1.) “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (I Corinthians 10:13) – beloved, we can do better, we can overcome!  2.) Jesus said “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24) – beloved, if we are willing to heed Christ’s teachings, and if we will cling to our faith in God, we need not fear judgement; for we have passed out of death into eternal life.

How does this knowledge change your life?

Oh Lord, my God, Who alone dwells in unapproachable light, You who are holy in all Your ways… please look down upon Your humble servant with compassion.  I agree with Your holy word, I agree with heaven’s judgment, that I am a sinner, that I often stumble and fall short of Your glory. In fact, Lord, I have no righteousness of my own with which to come before You.  All of my righteousness is as a filthy garment before You and, therefore, the only righteousness that I can claim is that of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ which You have so graciously and lovingly imputed to me by Your grace, through faith. Lord, help me stand because I want to make a stand for You. I want to honor You for the love and grace You’ve poured upon me through the gift of Your Son. I want to honor You, Christ Jesus, for all You’ve endured on my behalf—the pain, the suffering, the shame and humiliation, the separation, the hell You tasted and that I deserve! You experienced it all, Lord Jesus, because You love me — thank You, I love You, I praise You, I want to please You and make You smile. And, Lord, if no one else on earth understands or appreciates my love for You or my desire to please You, if others laugh at me, or scoff at me, or become angry with me, or seek to harm me because of my love for You, that is okay and a small price to pay compared to all You’ve done for me. By the power of Your Spirit Who is at work in my heart, may my life be fully consecrated, dedicated, and set apart for You.  By the authority and permission of my Lord Jesus, Your only begotten Son, I pray… amen!

Copyright © 2023 Philip R. Stroud

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