Hebrew 13:4 says, "Marriage must be respected by all, and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge immoral people and adulterers." I recently read a book that claimed, “It is... important to note what is defiled in this scripture. It is the marriage bed that is defiled, not the person committing the act. We can often use this scripture to say that someone is defiled if they commit sexual sin. Many have said they feel defiled.” The authors make it clear that “there is no question that sin messes up our lives” and they affirm that “any sin we commit can separate us from God.” I appreciate their forthright conviction about this and I certainly agree with that conclusion. I have a question, though. Is it true that unfaithfulness/adultery does not defile us, the person who commits the sin? -- J.K.

Sorry to take so long to reply, sister. My inbox overfloweth… but now I'm trying to answer everybody.

Is this not a case of metonymy? The marriage bed represents the marriage relationship.

Thus, because relationships are comprised of people, I think you could argue that both marriage partners are in some sense defiled, to the extent that the marriage has been mucked up by sin. (We can understand the victim of adultery feeling defiled by his/her partner's violation of the wedding vows.) But especially defiled is the adulterer.

This is not to preclude the possibility of forgiveness. But I think the authors of the book you read are over-reaching. Perhaps they are overreacting to spiritual abuse incurred when people use the scriptures as a weapon.

However, the Hebrew writer was quite clear that without holiness no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14). See also Rev 21:8; 22:15. Sin defiles.