The text for the sermon is the Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter thirteen, verse four: "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge."
Marriage is not a human invention. It is instituted by God, so we cannot decide from our own ideas what marriage is. Marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman; not a man and a man, not a woman and a woman, nor any other strange perversion. It is not a disposable union, to be discarded whenever we desire. It is lifelong, till death do us part.
Marriage is not merely a human contract. It is God who brings man and woman together. Marriage is a great gift from God, from which come all sorts of blessings - joy and comfort and raising children and many more blessings besides.
So marriage is to be honored by everyone. This institution of God should be regarded highly by those who are married, as well as those who are not.
When we are unmarried, we are to respect marriage by avoiding all sexual uncleanness. Those who are unmarried should not act as if they are. The marriage bed is reserved by God for marriage. Yet how great is the temptation to live together and sleep together before marriage! How great is the temptation to scorn and avoid marriage as an old-fashioned institution that no longer applies in these modern times.
Brothers and sisters, the sexual permissiveness of our age is not modern. All sexual immorality flows from the sinful nature that all men in all centuries have inherited from our first father, Adam.
Even besides our sinful flesh, we also have the world that wants to lead us astray. We must be on our guard against the eroding influence of our culture. We are tempted to give approval to those who pursue an unclean lifestyle, or simply look the other way. If we say that homosexuality is okay, we are saying that God's Law is not the final authority. When we turn a blind eye to an unmarried man and woman living together, we are saying that God's institution of marriage is not important.
We ought to regard marriage as a high and noble gift of God. So it is very important that we who are husbands and wives should love and honor each other.
Yet how easily we fall into bitterness towards our spouse! How easily we turn small misunderstandings into resentment! How often we speak evil of our spouse before others! We are supposed to protect the honor of the person God has given us. We are one flesh with our spouses, so let us defend them as if we were protecting our own bodies from attack.
Husbands and wives ought to regard their marriage vows as completely binding. The devil wants to tempt us to keep our vows only so long as we are happy, but if we become displeased with our spouse, then we are entitled to do as we please. The devil says that if we feel unloved, then we should search for that feeling with someone else. Or better yet, get a divorce and then you can be free - but that also is to despise marriage as if it were a disposable institution.
The whole human race has become so morally weak that we can hardly resist any temptation. Rather than fight against sin, we are likely to shrug our shoulders and say that everyone does it. Our culture laughs at words like adultery and fornication. We are bombarded by messages that we should do as we please. Lustful thoughts come easily; masturbation, pornography, covetousness, indecent dress, filthy talk, fooling around of every kind and shape. If we stumble, we blame culture, or the media, or the woman who dressed that way.
But WE are to blame; you and I. Out of our filthy hearts come filthy lusts. We dishonor our spouses and the marriage bed.
For God will judge both open and hidden sins. He will condemn to eternal death all who live in uncleanness. We who are stained by our filthy flesh deserve eternal rejection. If we stand before God in our own righteousness, then He will surely cast us away into eternal darkness.
Praise be to God that we do not stand alone, but Christ Jesus stands with us. He shares with us His purity, and He has cleansed us from all immorality.
So Christ calls us His Bride. He has betrothed Himself to us. Therefore we are not two, but one. Christ has become one with us, for He has shared with us all that is His, and received from us all that is ours.
He received our weakness and frailty as human beings. He took the form of a servant in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. Yet He shares with us His glory and power, the glory and power of the Only-Begotten Son of the Father. We stand now clothed in the majesty of Christ, for as many of you who were Baptized have put on Christ.
Therefore, we who were clothed in filthy rags of shame are now robed in the splendor of Jesus, who is the exact image of the Almighty God. We are resplendent with His righteousness. We are decked out with the holiness and purity of the spotless Lamb.
He, in turn, received from us the burden of our sins. He took them and carried them to the Cross. The punishment and guilt became His upon Calvary, and the awful pain that our sins had earned.
For the sake of His love for us, He endured God's judgment. For the sake of our honor, He sacrificed His own honor. For the sake of His Beloved, He was rejected by the Father and felt His wrath. For His marriage cup, He drank the terrible chalice filled with the wine of God's fury. Yet He gives to us a cup of grace filled with His Blood for the forgiveness of sins, in this foretaste of the marriage feast.
For we are betrothed to Christ, the Bridegroom, but the great marriage feast has not yet begun. Our marriage awaits the consummation of the ages, when He will take us by the hand to lead us home. Then we will live in the presence of our Bridegroom face-to-face, forever and ever.
That marriage will never turn sour. That honeymoon will never end, so to speak. That marriage feast will go on to all eternity.
Even in this present world, Christ is pleased to give us gifts beyond imagination. As a husband speaks lovingly to His wife, so Christ speaks His love to us. The Absolution is the voice of His love. This is no husband who keeps a record and bears a grudge. He erases our guilt and remembers it no more. In our Scripture readings, He recounts to us again all He has done for us, as a husband reminds his wife of days gone by when he first won her heart. When Christ preaches to us, He is stern only for a brief moment, and only so that we remember how loving He is. For He shows us our sin to show us that His grace is much greater. He shows us our guilt so that His Cross shines forth even brighter before our eyes.
How great is the grace that we have received from Jesus Christ! We have been unfaithful, yet He is always faithful. Our thoughts and words and deeds are unworthy of Him. Yet He desires above all to give us every good gift. We have been cold and unresponsive and thoughtless. His thoughts are always to give us light and life.
To Him alone be all the glory, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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