Summary: Running the race means sexual purity which is a type of the faithful and intimate relationship we have with God.
We’re continuing again in the thirteenth chapter of Hebrews. The writer has encouraged the readers to finish the race set before them and to cling only to Christ who is greater than all creation. In our last study we saw that running this race means loving each other as brothers, entertaining strangers, and remembering them that are persecuted and bound for the gospel.
Now, in this study, we’re going to press on into verses 4-6 and see that running the race means sexual purity:
Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
Now, the context here is explicitly about sex. He’s not talking about marriage in general—he’s talking about the marriage bed. “Everything about marriage is good; it’s honorable. The bed, the place where the husband and wife share their most intimate moments, is a pure place without any kind of spiritual stain.
Now we have to think about things like this from the perspective of a first-century Jew since this is a letter to the Hebrews. Go to Leviticus 15:
2When any man hath a running issue out of his flesh, because of his issue he is unclean.
4Every bed, whereon he lieth that hath the issue, is unclean: and every thing, whereon he sitteth, shall be unclean. 5And whosoever toucheth his bed shall […] be unclean until the even.
16And if any man’s seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even. 17And every garment, and every skin, whereon is the seed of copulation, shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the even. 18The woman also with whom man shall lie with seed of copulation, they shall both bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the even.
19And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even. 20And every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean. 21And whosoever toucheth her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
But now Christ has come and all these types and shadows are fulfilled in Him, and we’re no longer bound to the Law.
So, he’s saying, “Run the race with perseverance. The marriage bed is clean, but whoremongers and adulterers will be judged.” A whoremonger is a fornicator. The Greek word is πόρνους (pornous). So this is someone having sex outside of marriage, and an adulterer is a married person who has sex with someone other than his or her spouse.
But the real question is, why does this matter? What difference does it make if I have sex with one person or five people or fifteen people or fifty? I think we all agree that monogamy is the moral thing to do, but how did it get to be moral? What right do we have to tell each other what we can and can’t do with our own bodies?
Or take it even a step further: Jesus said, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Mt. 5:27-28). So this goes on to cover things like pornography and ogling and any other sensual act not towards your spouse.
I think if we take the whole context of Hebrews into account we have to see two things: First, we serve a Lord who is faithful to His own house (3:6). We trust a promise from the God who cannot lie (6:18) that we have a Great High Priest who is righteous and holy (7:26) and who intercedes for us on account of our sin (7:25).
This relationship is proven by obedience through faith—and that is the second thing we see: the just shall live by faith (10:38), and that’s how he builds into chapter 11 to show us God’s handiwork and how he comes to point us to Christ who faithfully ran the race set before Him.
So you can see that sexual purity is a matter of faith!
But why is it a matter of faith? We can see that God has called fornication and adultery sin, and so the just who trust in His promise and walk in obedience will avoid those things, but why has He called it such?
Let me draw your attention to some other verses:
Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: 13But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: 14For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: 15Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; 16And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods. 17Thou shalt make thee no molten gods (Ex. 34:12-17).