“Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).
In considering our text from Hebrews 13:4, it’s important to note what this passage says, as well as what it doesn’t say. Let’s take the phrase “Marriage is honorable among all…” This tells us that marriage is a reputable institution and should be held in esteem by everyone. In fact, marriage is the oldest human institution, having its origin in the Garden of Eden.
It was there that, “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone…'” (Genesis 2:18 NIV). Genesis 2:22 then goes on to tell us how God addressed that deficiency: “…the LORD God made a woman… and he brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:22 NIV). Therefore, we can say that the institution of marriage is not a human construct. Instead, marriage is something that was initiated and ordained by God for the benefit of His creation.
That benefit is identified in Genesis 2:24: “…For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (NIV). Jesus reaffirmed that message in the following teaching from the Gospel of Mark…
“…at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate'” (Mark 10:6-9 NIV).
So Jesus drew our attention to God’s initiative in establishing the marital union. He also established the framework for sexual relationships by way of these quotations from Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24. Those parameters involve a God-initiated, monogamous relationship between one genetic male and one genetic female who have joined in marriage as husband and wife.
The term “one flesh” expresses the fulfillment, satisfaction, intimacy, pleasure, enjoyment, and unity that reflects God’s intent for marital relationships. That intent is further reflected in our passage from Hebrews 13:5: “…the bed [is] undefiled.” Since “the bed” serves as a euphemism for the sexual relationship between a husband and wife, this passage offers Scriptural support for the physical intimacy that should exist within marriage.
That brings us to what our passage from Hebrews 13:4 doesn’t say. Notice that “the bed” is undefiled, but only within the context of a marital relationship. When a physical relationship occurs outside that framework, God no longer accepts it as honorable.