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The Honor of Marriage - Hebrews 13, HCLD 41

A service plan focused on the honor of marriage and our Christian obedience to moral purity, both within and outside of marriage in a series on the Ten Commandments, as explained in the Heidelberg Catechism.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

The honor of marriage and our Christian obedience to moral purity, both within and outside of marriage, is the focus here. While the seventh commandment speaks only of "adultery," the rest of Scripture leads us to broaden the focus in this sermon from marriage to purity and morality regardless of marital status.


We suggest a number of resources that will be valuable tools for you in this study of the Ten Commandments.

  • Each week we will provide references for you from the Heidelberg Catechism and both the Larger and the Shorter Westminster Catechism.
  • The website of the Center for Excellence in Preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary also provides sermon ideas for each of these commandments and Lord's Days.
  • Comfort and Joy: A Study of the Heidelberg Catechism, Andrew Kuyvenhoven, Grand Rapids: CRC Publications, 1988.
  • Our Only Comfort: A Comprehensive Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (vol. 2), Fred Klooster, Grand Rapids: Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2001.
  • The Ten Commandments: Manual for the Christian Life, Jochem Douma, tr. Nelson D. Kloosterman, Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1996.
  • Mere Morality: What God Expects from Ordinary People, Lewis B. Smedes, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1983.

Catechism References:
Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 41
Westminster Larger Catechism, Q.137-139
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q.70-72


Prelude: "Come, Thou Almighty King" [see <href="#music" >music notes]
"Sing to the Lord, Sing His Praise"

The Call to Worship

*Song: "Sing to the Lord, Sing His Praise" PsH 96:1, 2, TH 62:1, 2
or: "Come, Thou Almighty King" PH 139:1-2, PsH 246:1,2, RL 618:1-2, TH 101:1-2, TWC 5:1-2, UMH 61:1-2

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
Congregation of Christ, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

*Song of Response: "Sing to the Lord, Sing His Praise" PsH 96:4, TH 62:4
or: "Come, Thou Almighty King" PH 139:4, PsH 246:4, RL 618:4, TH 101:4, TWC 5:4, UMH 61:4


The Call to Confession
What is the great and first commandment?
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind.
What is the second commandment like it?
Love your neighbor as yourself.
What does this mean?
Love is the fulfilling of the law.
To what does this call us?
To a life of faith working through love. (The Worship Sourcebook, 2.7.5, based on Matthew 22:37-40)

Our Prayer of Confession [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]
Let us respond to God's call and make confession of our sins before him:
O Lord, Giver of all of life,
You have called us together in relationships,
yet we live in a world that plays with what you call holy,
a world that is bent on writing its own rules about sexuality and love.
And far too often, we have listened,
and we have followed.
Forgive us, gracious God, for when we have failed our marriage vows;
forgive us for taking for ourselves what you have kept for marriage;
forgive us for using others to satisfy our own needs and desires;
and forgive us for allowing ourselves to become impure.
We ask for your complete washing in the blood of Jesus Christ,
and the ability to love again as you have loved us.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.

The Assurance of God's Pardon: John 8:11 [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

The Call to Grateful Living: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Song of Response: "The Ten Commandments" PsH 153:1, 7, 9, TH 724:1, 7, 9
or: "The Lord Is God, the One and True God" SNC 73


The Reading of the Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day 41 [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

*Song of Preparation: "Praised Be the Father" PsH 582

The Prayer for Illumination

The Old Testament Reading: Genesis 2:18-25
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

The New Testament Reading: Hebrews 13:1-6
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: The Honor of Marriage
Shaping Our Gratitude 9
Text: Hebrews 13:4

The Prayer of Application


*Our Renewed Vows of Obedience [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

*Song of Renewed Commitment: "The Servant Song" RN 148, SFL 248, SNC 277 [see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Prayers of the People

The Offertory
The Offering of Music: "Praised Be the Father" [see <href="#music" >music notes]
or: "O Perfect Love"
or: "Lord, Be Glorified"
We offer our gifts for..


*Words of Sending

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Sung Response: "Lord, Be Glorified" RN 172:1, SFL 71:1, SNC 43:1, SWM 206:1, TWC 537:1
"Lord of Creation, to You Be All Praise" PsH 286:1, 2, 5, RL 68:1, 2, 5 [see <href="#music" >music notes]

Postlude: "Processional in C," Hopson [see <href="#music" >music notes]

* You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes

Writing this sermon on the seventh commandment requires a great deal of sensitivity. While the sermon is obviously about faithfulness in marriage, your listeners will likely include children and youth who have not been married but observe the marriage of their parents and others, singles who have never been married, are divorced, or have lost their mate in death, those who are married happily, those whose marriages are in trouble, and marriages where abuse occurs. It is usually very difficult to write a sensitive sermon to multiple audiences, but extending the focus of the sermon beyond simply marriage through application and examples of purity in all relationships will help the sermon be meaningful to people at all places of life.

In observing the context for this commandment, there are three settings to bear in mind. First, God gives his commandments to his delivered people, and we too are "delivered-people-called-to-live-gratefully." Those who know the grace of God are eager to love God and others. This commandment about faithfulness in marriage relationships is part of God's instructions on how to shape our gratitude. Second, God gives his commandments to the entire people of Israel. The Commandments would have applied to the whole community, not just those who were married, but was explicitly about marriage. Marriage is the deep and abiding relationship of two people to whom God grants the right for life's deepest and most intimate expression of love. This is a special relationship, but it is also important to consider how the commandment applies to those who are not married as well as recognize the pain of those who wish they were when talking about marriage. Third, we live in a culture that promotes a view of sexuality, relationships and marriage that contradicts what God says about the sanctity of marriage. This message must, therefore, be countercultural.

Our text in Hebrews 13 is part of a lengthy list of exhortations that are given to Hebrew Christians who are in danger of neglecting their life of faith. Verse 4 is found embedded within these exhortations and therefore does not have an immediate context except that of the message of the entire book. An exposition of this text can be captured by four words:

1. "Honor": The Bible makes clear from the beginning that God honors marriage (see Genesis 2:18-25) and calls us to do the same. The basic assumption behind the seventh commandment is that the honorable setting of committed relationship is the place where God grants the privilege of full sexual expression.

2. "Keep": When God calls us to keep the marriage bed pure, he gives us large responsibilities. He implies there are many forces against it. Our obedience protects what God calls holy, and by doing so, not only is he honored, but our relationships mirror the relationship he wants between himself and the church-exclusive and trusting to be a blessing to others and ourselves.

3. "Judge": The Bible says there are consequences for those who violate the pattern that God has put in place.

4. "Healing": Though this word is not found in this text, it is found everywhere in the Bible because the gospel is the story of grace. This commandment and subject needs pastoral care and sensitivity. Holding out the word of grace to those who are entering (or considering) marriage will enable them to make valid commitments. Holding out the word of grace to those who have failed (or fear failure) is a strategic ministry for healing of wounded human spirits.

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SWM Sing With Me (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Suggestions for prelude and alternative harmonizations for the opening hymn suggestions are as follows:

ITALIAN HYMN ["Come, Thou Almighty King"]

Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 7. AMSI SP-104 [1988] (M)
Kosche, Kenneth. Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ, vol. 2. Concordia 97-7015 [2003] (E)
Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice, vol. 1. SMP KK234 [1978] (adaptable to piano; E)
McKinley, Carl. Ten Hymn Fantasies. H. W. Grey GB274 (POP) [1933] (M)
Peeters, Flor. Hymn Preludes for the Liturgical Year, vol. 8. Peters 6408 [1966] (M)

Gerig, Reginald. Piano Preludes on Hymns and Chorales. Hope 251 [1959] (M-D)

Lohr, Alan. The Almighty King. Soundforth 184218 [2001] (4-5 octaves, level 3)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Organ, Anne Krentz. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

WESLEY ["Sing to the Lord, Sing His Praise"]

Bingham, Seth. Seven Preludes or Postludes. H. W. Grey. GB147 [1973] (M)
Diemer, Emma Lou. Celebration. Augsburg 11-9097 [1975] (E-M)

An alternative harmonization for piano on the hymn "Praised Be the Father" can be found in Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2, published by Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003].

Note that the song of renewed commitment "The Servant Song" following the vows of obedience is a song we sing to each other - we recommit to God and then to one another.

Suggestions for offertory music can be found in the following resources:


Porter, Emily Maxson. Augsburg Organ Library - Easter. Augsburg 11-11075 [2000] (E-M)
Hobby, Robert A. Three Easter Hymn Settings. Morningstar MSM-10-421 [1999] (E-M)
Jordan, Alice. Worship Service Music for the Organist. Broadman 4570-27 [1975] (E-M)


Haan, Raymond H. O Worship the King. Broadman 4570-42 [1979] (E-M)
Hustad, Don. Three Organ Hymns for Weddings or General Use. Hope 341 [1970] (E-M)
Lovelace, Austin C. Two Preludes on Wedding Hymns. H. W. Grey. GSTC 1022 [1984] (E-M)
Schalk, Carl. Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ, vol. 1. Concordia 97-7001 [2002] (E)

LORD, BE GLORIFIED ["Lord, Be Glorified"]

Bock, Fred. Organ Praise and Worship. Fred Bock BG0923 [1993] (E-M)

Hayes, Mark. Lord Be Glorified. Word 301 0047 312 [1990] (M)
Organ, Anne Krentz. Come to Us, Creative Spirit. Augsburg Fortress 11-11043 [2000] (M)
Wilson, John F. A Sacrifice of Praise. Hope 347 [1994] (E-M)

We are suggesting you frame the closing hymn "Lord of Creation, to You Be All Praise" with the first stanza of "Lord, Be Glorified."

The organ postlude "Processional in C" by Hal H. Hopson is published by Hope 345 [1992] (E-M).

Liturgy Notes

1. You will notice again that the Prayer of Confession is tailored to this commandment. This may be read by the worship leader as a representative of all, or it may be read in unison by all worshipers. It may also be wise, either with the Call to Worship or the Call to Confession, to focus on the theme of the seventh commandment.

2. For the Assurance of Pardon we suggest this verse. Given the context of the seventh commandment, we suggest that you identify the person to whom Jesus spoke these words, a woman caught in adultery!

3. We suggest that the words of the Heidelberg Catechism be read responsively with the congregation. You may either design this so that the worship leader reads the question and the congregation responds with the answer, or vice versa. To reprint for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom use, include this credit line: © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI. Reprinted with permission.
What is God's will for us in the seventh commandment?
God condemns all unchastity.
We should therefore thoroughly detest it
and, married or single,
live decent and chaste lives.
Does God, in this commandment,
forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery?
We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul,
and God wants both to be kept clean and holy.
That is why he forbids
everything which incites unchastity,
whether it be actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires. (Lord's Day 41, Heidelberg Catechism)

4. For each Sunday in this series, the service includes a section after the sermon entitled "We Respond with Our Renewed Commitments." The worshiper should feel led to such a response after the Word has spoken. The Commandments, in one of its forms, should be the substance of this commitment. There is a variety of resources you may draw from. Section 2.7 of The Worship Sourcebook (pp. 127-137) provides a variety of resources for this purpose. The Psalter Hymnal (pp. 1013-1018) provides additional responsive readings of the Ten Commandments.
To reprint responsive readings of the Ten Commandments for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom us, include this credit line: © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. . Reprinted with permission.