As he moves toward the closing of his letter the author speaks bluntly about several areas of personal holiness where too many believers were falling short. The first area he addresses is brotherly love (philadelphia). He says,
let it remain, meaning dont allow your practical care of one another to erode. The second area he mentions is a declining respect for the covenant of marriage. He says, Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled
. This certainly means no one should violate a marriage by sleeping with someone elses spouse, but it also means no one should encourage a person to divorce so he or she can marry that person afterward. A marriage vow is to be honored and the marriage bed is to be undefiled by people who arent married having sex there. Then he adds a warning in case anyone might think God wont bother to judge such sin:
for fornicators and adulterers God will judge (1Co 6:9, 10, 15-20; 1Thess 4:3-8; for definition of vessel see: 1Sa 21:4, 5). Where possible, God will begin with discipline in order to press a person to repent (1Co 5:5), but if repentance does not come this behavior will lead to being disqualified from going to heaven (1Co 6:9, 10; 2Co 12:21; Gal 5:19-21). Today as we consider this verse and what it means to us, lets talk about why God cares so strongly about marriage. How is it that our vows to love one another are like Gods love for us?
Accepting Gods Will
In order to understand this verse we need to acknowledge some foundational principles that are present throughout this discussion:
1) First of all, we arent naturally monogamous, but God still asks us to be so.
2) Second, to do what Hes asking will require much personal suffering. It will involve crucifying the flesh (Gal 5:24), many reconciliations, decisions to be selflessly humble and much patience.
3) Third, it forces us to submit to God as our Creator, letting Him have the right to tell His creation what to do, especially in this area where His ways seem so unnatural to us.
4) Fourth, it accepts that God is a Person with a mind, will and emotions and that His eternal character is what we mean by the term holy. What is like Him is right; and what is not like Him is wrong.
5) Fifth, the goal of life is for us to become like Him, not for Him to accept us just as we are.
What happens when people are married?
Marriage is a covenant, a solemn vow made before God and before human witnesses who are there to testify to what they heard said, in case our vow is ever questioned.
1) Read: a vow
2) What did we hear? A man and a woman
Stating that they believe it is Gods will for them to marry
Promising lifelong loyalty, both physically and mentally, before God, to one another.
God committing Himself to sustain this union.
By implication, His judgment on anyone who violates this covenant.
In every Christian marriage one of the most basic vows that is being made is the promise to love the other person whether life goes well or badly. Each partner is saying you are safe in giving yourself to me because I will treat you with love and respect as long as we both live. In other words, your heart can rest, not in my passion or emotion of the moment, but in my integrity to fulfill my promise with Gods help.
Throughout the Old Testament there is a beautiful Hebrew word (used 250 times) which is translated different ways. The word is hesed and it means covenant love or love that has been promised in a solemn covenant. It may be translated as lovingkindness, steadfast love, mercy, kindness, faithfulness, loyalty
Here are some examples:
1) Ex 34:6, 7
who keeps lovingkindness for thousands
2) Dt 5:10 showing lovingkindness to thousands
3) Ps 23:6 surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me
4) Ps 51:1 Be gracious to me, O God according to your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of your compassion blot out my transgressions
5) La 3:23 the steadfast love of the Lord indeed never ceases
6) Hos 2:19 I will betroth you to Me forever
in lovingkindness and in compassion
As we read these passages its not hard to recognize the power of this word. It means: loyal, steadfast, faithful, merciful love. Its a promise never to abandon or betray.
Hosea 2:19 describes Gods faithful love for His unfaithful people. Hosea was told to marry a prostitute. Through him God was showing Israel what it was like being their God.
Why is marriage to be honored?
God is asking us to faithfully keep our promise to love one another just as He keeps His promise to love us.
1) We are to prophetically model the heart of God to our children, our family and the world. Such stability is a healing influence to everyone it touches. It is the basis for every part of a healthy society.
2) We are learning to love like God loves.
Loyal to people who arent perfect.
Choosing humility (treating others as more important than myself)
Crucifying the appetites of the flesh.
Gods love involved much personal suffering. It is painful; it is costly, and it refuses to abandon as long as there is any trace of hope (1Co 13:4-8).
What does Jesus ask of us?
Jesus says, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another even as I have loved you
Why does God care about marriage?
So why will God judge those who defile the marriage bed? Why does it matter to Him so much?
The deceit and disloyalty adultery and fornication require shows that the heart has not yet been transformed, Gods laws have not been written there by the Holy Spirit or the person has chosen to rebel against the Spirit. It is a serious indication of spiritual disease and quickly lifts the active presence of the Spirit off that person and off a gathering of believers if the behavior spreads or is tolerated (1Co 5:1, 2).
Of all the aspects of Gods personality, nothing is more essential to Him than His love
His holy, pure, loyal love. And nothing grieves Him more deeply than when we cease to love like He does.
What does He ask of us?
1) To desire to be holy as He is holy
2) To acknowledge that His standards are right and accept them for our own
3) To repent when we fail
4) To confess openly
5) To draw on His Spirit to find new victory (Ro 8:5).
What if I fail?
I have a new covenant full of Gods promised love. Lets read the fine print: Hebrews 8:10-12 (notice: I will be merciful to their iniquities and I will remember their sins no more). Now listen to how Barnabas prays for us: Hebrews 13:20, 21.
1) Over your lifetime who have you seen who exemplifies the real meaning of lovingkindness?
2) Has there been a time in your life when God has amazed you by caring for you though you definitely didnt deserve it? What did that experience teach you about God?