NIV Hebrews 10:4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
Marriage is under a tremendous assault in American culture. Special interest groups, pressing freethinking social agendas, place enormous pressure on politicians and educators in attempts to revise the definitions of many time-honored tenets that have been well established for centuries—marriage is at the forefront of these campaigns. Media and entertainment conglomerates, propagating reworked ethics, continually violate this institution that was once considered dignified and honorable. In the not-so-distant past, a man and woman sleeping together out of wedlock were once considered “morally wrong.” Today’s “liberated” television programs present a different view. “Living together first” has become a required preamble to a marriage commitment and is deemed morally acceptable if not advisable. I’ve read bloggers comment that this way of thinking is both enlightened and progressive; anything else is a return to the Dark Ages of intellectual thought. Like it or not, it’s these ideals that aggravate religious fundamentalist nations against the decadence of western culture and expression. I’m not pointing this out as an excuse and justification for violent aggressions; extremism is never justifiable for taking the lives of fellow human beings. I present this to show just how far western society has morphed in so short a time.
The vanguard principle of this cultural transformation is marriage and its definition. If a society can successfully redefine what marriage is then just about anything is open to alteration. When the honor traditionally bestowed to marriage can be diluted, a society can easily cast off the constraints of a “righteous” Sovereign. This is because that special bond between a man and woman is critical to the very fiber of morality and social order. In America, the makeover of marriage has weakened and jeopardized what God instituted back at the beginning of creation.
Biblically, marriage is the first institution devised by God with standards and morals. Nations could come and go, rulers would rise and fall, even civilizations could demonstrate decency or decadence, but what has never changed is the expectation of fidelity and trust embedded into the marriage vow. And, until recently, the main safeguard for the dignity and honor of this sacred institution has been the church. The writer of Hebrews informs the reader “Marriage should be honored by all!” This principle is not limited to believers in Christ. Neither is it restricted to only those practicing the institution of marriage. “Honored by all” means every individual witnessing this ancient practice must hold it in reverence as ordained and initiated by the Wise Creator. The struggle for holding this reality as valid is the church’s risk, as God’s household is the pillar and foundation of the truth of God.
For people who read the Bible, it’s not like hearing these distortions on marriage comes as a great surprise. The Apostle Paul warned Timothy this would happen in the last days when he wrote that there would be:
1 Timothy 4:3 “men who forbid marriage….”
Men tinkering with and forbidding this time-honored institution was never what was in question. Paul was pointing out it was going to happen as sure as the sun rises each morning. What is surprising to some is how quickly churches in Western Culture have compromised the meaning of marriage as defined in Genesis 2:24:
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
Regarding marriage, the safeguard for its honor is found in the church. Israel, as a nation, once held the responsibility and failed miserably to uphold it. There were many laws, ordinances, and precepts given to the Israeli for displaying the virtues of marriage. And while the gentile nations surrounding Israel practiced abominations in regards to matrimony, God’s people were given specific guidelines to see they did not do the same. Through the nation Israel this sacred institution was to be properly displayed to the surrounding nations and held with honor. When Jesus came, living among the Jews, He saw just the contrary. He expressed those concerns in answering a group of men questioning His views on divorce and remarriage. Jesus said:
Mark 10:7 “…from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, 8 and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
What do you suppose Jesus sees at present as He looks at today’s modern-day churches? Would Jesus challenge our pastors and teachers with the same directness as He confronted the Pharisees of the Jewish religion? Defining the sanctity of marriage and delineating how the church should hold this institution in honor are difficult questions to answer. Bible scholars and theologians have argued over these issues for centuries. Since the reformation it has proved impossible to gain a consensus on specifics. And it is not in my capacity to determine laws and ways of how to resolve what churches should do to agree about this subject. Nor is it in any way my intent or desire to make anyone feel guilty or condemn for choices made or the way others are counseled; heaven knows how many poor decisions I’ve made in the past.
Ultimately, every church is accountable to Jesus Christ and Him alone as to how it deals with the subject of marriage. What directions does the Bible present to a fellowship in relating to situations of compromised wedlock? How far is a church to go in relegating guidelines for discipline? When does a fellowship need to step forward to preserve purity? What kinds of effort can be made for the restoration of those who overstep scriptural boundaries? All of these are questions that are difficult to answer, and yet cannot be ignored or sidestepped if the church is to be a Safeguard of Honor for marriage.
J. Robert Hanson
 1 Timothy 3:15