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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on May 10, 2017 under PM Bible Study |

PM Home Bible Study Group; May 10, 2017

Hebrews 13:4-6

Theme: The writer of Hebrews instructs believers in the moral purity that should characterize God’s people during times of cultural pressure.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

In our last time together, we considered the words of encouragement that the writer of Hebrews gave to the people of God in Hebrews 13:1-3. These were exhortations that concerned relationships within the body of Christ—and especially while the church was living in a hostile cultural environment. As we continue our study of Chapter 13, we come to more practical exhortations for the people of God under cultural pressure—this time with respect to their moral purity.

Consider our own times for a moment. As the church exists in the midst of contemporary culture today, it has to struggle for its integrity while being subject, mainly, to three great pressures: (1) the pressure of radically changing views on the nature of human sexuality and sexual morality, (2) the pressure of overwhelming materialism and a consumerist mentality, and (3) the pressure to place the will and the reasoning of man over the revealed word of God. It may seem that our time is particularly unique in the amount of tension believers feel on these three fronts; but Hebrews 13:4-6 shows that these pressures have always plagued God’s people as they have sought to live distinctly as “in” the world, but not “of” the world.

Note from this passage, then, how the writer of Hebrews exhorts God’s people toward purity in times of profound cultural pressure in these three areas.

* * * * * * * * * *

First, notice the call for the people of God to …


A. The writer tells his readers, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled …” (v. 4a). To ‘honor’ the institution of marriage means to hold it in esteem and respect. And to declare the ‘bed’ (a figure of speech for sexual intimacy in marriage) “undefiled” means that the marital relationship be protected and kept unviolated. Because of the somewhat vague structure of the grammar of this verse, it has been variously translated. The translation above (the New King James Version) treats these words as a simple statement of fact. Other translations (such as the New International Version) treat this verse as a statement of intent: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.” Still others (like the English Standard Version) treat it as a command: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled.” All are possible.

B. The cultural implications of these words for the believer are very significant. Those who read them were believing Jews; and those Jewish Christians would have embraced the concepts of human sexuality and marriage that God instituted in His word in Genesis 1-2 as authoritative (which concepts Gentile Christians are also obligated to embrace as authoritative). This would mean that, for the believer, (1) the institution of marriage is to be respected and held in honor, (2) all marriage covenants entered into in accord with God’s design are to be considered binding and inviolable, (3) legal marriage is to be seen as the only context for the expression of sexuality (and may not be considered merely ‘optional’ for those who are sexually active), and (4) God’s original design for marriage, as described in Genesis 1-2 is to be maintained as timeless and unalterable. All of these things are true; and for Christians, all of them are to be true “among all” (see Matthew 19:4-6). This, of course, means that the believer is to be distinguished by a faithful adherence to God’s standards of sexuality and marriage—even at a time when those standards are being despised, or considered expressions of ‘bigotry’, or are being set aside by the majority in culture.

This, of course, would invite a great deal of pressure upon the believing community. But the reason for adhering faithfully to God’s standards is very serious. The writer affirms, “but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (v. 4b). Note that there is, in the second half of this verse, a point-for-point parallel to the words of the first half of the verse. “Fornicators” would be placed in relation to the command for marriage to be held in honor by all, because marriage is the only context in which sexuality may morally be expressed (specifically, a life-long, heterosexual, monogamous marriage as is in accord with the design given in Genesis 1 and 2), and anything outside of that context would be a form of sexual immorality; and “adulterers” would be placed in relation to the the command that the marriage bed remain undefiled (since it would involve the violation of the marriage covenant by introducing a third party). A persistence in sexual immorality of any kind (that is, any kind of sexual relation forbidden by scripture) and a persistence in adultery marks someone as not possessing eternal life, and will result in their eternal judgment before God. As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10;

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

God offers forgiveness through Christ for all who repent of such practices; but the Bible makes repeatedly clear that a habitual practice of living in these sins unrepentantly will result in judgment (see also Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5-6). And so, no matter what the cultural pressure or societal threats, the follower of Jesus absolutely must keep pure in these matters.

There is an interesting transition in these verses from one idea to another. Marital and sexual infidelity can be considered (and has been so stated in the writings of some of the early church theologians) to be a form of ‘covetousness’—that is, an improper and immoral desire for something that one cannot justifiably take possession of before God. And so, next, the writer urges his readers to …


A. He writes, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have” (v. 5a). This is particularly difficult in an age in which success is measured by how many things one has or how much money one possesses. We often find ourselves wrongly judging people by asking ‘how much So-And-So is worth’ (simply because it’s considered to crass to ask, “How much stuff does So-And-So have?”). The Lord Jesus warned against covetousness in the parable of the rich fool:

Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:13-21).

In a similar way, Paul taught that contentment is a great thing to possess:

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 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. 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 (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

B. It’s interesting that, after His parable of the rich fool, Jesus then went on in Luke 12:22-34 to teach about how we are to ‘not worry’ about the basic things of life. In the same way, then, the writer of Hebrews also goes on to speak—in a second-hand kind of way—about not worrying when he writes, “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (v. 5b). Here, he is quoting loosely from Deuteronomy 31, and from Moses’ words to the people of Israel before facing the hostile nations as they entered the promised land:

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

C. In a time of great hostility to the faith, it’s easy for a follower of Jesus to get caught up in the materialistic attitude of the day. The pressures can be such that a believer might be fearful over what they might lose in terms of a job or a home or the necessities of life. The temptation to take things into one’s own hand and ‘accumulate’ and ‘store-up’ can be very great. But the believer never needs to be caught up in an attitude of covetous. In fact, to be so is to deny the promise of God’s provision. We can be confident in this world that God our Father will keep the promise Jesus made toward us;

Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:31-34).

What needed words these are as we live as followers of Jesus in an age of materialism and consumerism!

And again, there is a transition at this point from one idea to another. To ‘worry’ and to be in ‘fear’ leads the writer to next consider one of the most dangerous threats to faithful obedience to God in an unbelieving and hostile age. We are called upon to …


A. The writer urges his readers to be living faithfully without fear and with confidence in God’s promise never to leave us or forsake us;

So we may boldly say:

The Lord is my helper;

I will not fear.

What can man do to me?” (v. 6).

Here, the writer is quoting from another Old Testament passage—Psalm 118:6. The whole section of that psalm in which this verse is found is worth reading; and in doing so, we can see how it emphasizes the confidence the believer can have in the face of the threats of man;

I called on the Lord in distress;

The Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.

The Lord is on my side;

I will not fear.

What can man do to me?

The Lord is for me among those who help me;

Therefore I shall see my desire on those who hate me.

It is better to trust in the Lord

Than to put confidence in man.

It is better to trust in the Lord

Than to put confidence in princes.

All nations surrounded me,

But in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.

They surrounded me,

Yes, they surrounded me;

But in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.

They surrounded me like bees;

They were quenched like a fire of thorns;

For in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.

You pushed me violently, that I might fall,

But the Lord helped me.

The Lord is my strength and song,

And He has become my salvation (Psalm 118:5-14).

B. A need to be free from the fear of man is an essential quality of the believer at all times; but it is especially so in a time of hostility toward the faith and of cultural pressure to set aside biblical standards of holiness and purity. Many a professing believer has succumbed to the pressures of whatever form of ‘political correctness’ happens to rule the day; or to the negative evaluations of seeming ‘experts’ who belittle the validity of faith; or even to the outright threats of harm from unbelievers—and all to a compromise of their witness to the world and to a loss of eternal reward. To be ruled by the fear of man is not only dangerous to the faith; it is an act of impurity—a kind of idolatry—to place man above God. It’s a slippery slope that leads a follower of Jesus further and further off the path that the Lord sets for them. King Solomon, in Proverbs 29:25, warns, “The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” Likewise, Jesus told His disciples;

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:27-31).

* * * * * * * * * *

Living a faithful and pure life as a follower of Jesus in dark and difficult times such as ours involves many things. But as this passage shows us, it most certainly involves a faithful commitment to these three basic things: (1) to be sexually pure, (2) to be free from the love of things, and (3) to be unhindered by a fear of man.

As we trust Him, may God help us to be faithful to these standards in our time—and all for the glory of Jesus’ name!

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