I would enjoy using this time to tell a few stories about Carmody. Maybe how he was born at home during a raging blizzard in South Dakota. (You probably haven’t had a good blizzard here for some time.) Or I could tell about how reading interfered with his studies in elementary school and yet didn’t. Or I might tell you about his fan club in high school. I might even tell you about some of his accomplishments. And I’m sure we could do the same with Christy. I haven’t learned all the stories there yet, but I’m hoping to hear some of them in time to come.
However, since you are here as a captive audience, I have a higher purpose for us. Marriage happens to be God’s idea. So it’s not enough to say that two people have fallen in love and wish to put on it an official stamp. It’s not enough to say that these two people have discovered that their economic approach to life is similar, so why not collaborate, since two can live as cheaply as one (even if it is only for about half as long). It’s not enough to say that you two have an attraction for each other, so let’s legitimize your intimacy.
Please join me as we explore for a few minutes four assignments God gives us for marriage. Marriage has always been a challenge in a world largely separated from God. If ever we needed God’s help in marriage, we surely need Him now, as a song by Take 6 puts it. So let us have some serious talk about marriage. Take this captive time to evaluate yourself, your behaviors, your views, your hopes, your dreams, and, above all, your relationship with God.
Assignment #1--Begin the Cohering —Gen. 2:24
Gen. 2:24 "For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." (All Scriptures have been quoted from the New American Standard Bible.)
In a society that is badly splintered, your first assignment is to stick together. The instruction is not only first in my outline, it is also of first importance in that it was given when God instituted marriage. Regardless what our opinions are, God instituted marriage. He says our first order of business is to abandon the past allegiances to parents (may I suggest this includes allegiances to others as well) and replace those with an allegiance to your own spouse.
That’s a challenge in a world that has confused the meaning of gender. That’s a challenge in a society focused on what I might get instead of what I might give. That’s a challenge even in today’s church in which virtually every stone has been turned in order to find a way to put asunder what God has joined.
But cohering, becoming glued together, is the only way that you two can enjoy the blessings of being one flesh. Being one flesh is a reality unknown by the world in the sense that you two can know it. It is divinely ordered, and it is known as you share yourselves with each other by way of agape love. You will then know the full range of peace because Jesus Christ is the great peacemaker. Intentionally sharing not only physically, but materially and spatially, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually will help you make real progress toward becoming what God intended.
God wants people in fellowship with Him, and He wants people in fellowship with each other. And in your home itself you will be a testimony of the unity God can re-create when two sinners come together God’s way.
Assignment #2--Keep the Covenant —Mal. 2:14; Prov. 2:17
Mal. 2:14 “Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though
she is your companion and your wife by covenant."
In classes on marriage, there is sometimes difficulty in defining what marriage is. And, we should note, the definition you give it does matter, especially in your own case. But we should defer here to the Bible which gives God’s own definition. As we noted, marriage was God’s idea. And He says it is a covenant.
Now, you should be aware that you or society or even our legal system can define marriage as desired, but God will still define it and participate in it as He has declared—because it is His idea, and because He is God. A marriage may be entered without even a thought of God, yet He is involved.
The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says: “There is no firmer guarantee of legal security, peace or personal loyalty than the covenant.” The covenant is a pledge or agreement between individuals. You say, between the husband and wife. That is partly true. It also involves God. You cannot keep Him out of it. In fact, He is the guarantor of the covenant and makes this covenant unalterable. We involve Him when we tamper with marriage. The Lord makes Himself responsible to enforce the blessings and the curses of the covenant.
Of course, keeping the covenant is another great challenge in this world in which marriage is often entered as an adversarial contract instead. “If you don’t do this, I won’t do that.” Rather, may you invite your spouse to join you in the great adventure God has laid out for you. May you live your lives to be pleasing to Christ.
This second assignment of keeping the covenant is something like cohering, but it emphasizes the fact that God is part of the arrangement. As long as both of you honor Him, you will be able to keep the covenant.
Assignment #3--Reflect the Comparison —Eph. 5:22-32
Eph. 5:22-32 "Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church."
I sometimes teach a teenage class on marriage. What may come as a surprise to you is that about two-thirds of that class is an exposition of the Song of Solomon—a book without equal when considering courtship and marriage. But in this class I usually ask in the pretest and in the posttest what picture an earthly marriage is to reflect. Very few know the right answer initially. I hope this doesn’t reflect badly on their parents, but in many cases I suspect it does.
So without exploring the fine details of the passage I just read, let me say that marriage is to picture the relationship of Jesus Christ to His Church. The husband in some way portrays Christ, and the wife in some way portrays the Church. Each has a role which goes against the natural grain, which is a big challenge, and which can be successfully undertaken only with the help of the Holy Spirit. Putting it another way, even though this is to be true of all marriages, only genuine Christians have a realistic possibility of fleshing it out.
I have said numerous times that marriage is above all theological. It follows an institution of God, it involves a covenant in which God is partner, and it also pictures a mystery. We may as well ask right here and now of those married persons present, “Does the way you relate to your spouse help other people understand the mystery of Christ’s relationship to the Church?” You should be able to answer “Yes.” If not, you have spiritual work to do before your Father in heaven, and, of course, some changes to make in how you relate to your spouse.
Assignment #4--Anticipate the Coming —Rev. 19:7-9
Rev. 19:7-9 “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. And he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”
Did I earlier say that marriage is in some sense theological? I believe I said that just a bit ago. It is supremely theological, even though the daily experience of it can seem earthly, sociological, even mundane. Well, we have another theological feature to add to those mentioned above. We have a divine institution here, a covenant which involves God, a divine mystery to portray, and, finally, a prophecy to illustrate.
I don’t want to put a damper on the joy of this day; actually with a proper understanding this can enhance today’s celebration. But your wedding, Carmody and Christy, is not the most important wedding. There is another wedding promised, and your wedding should be a reminder and an illustration of that great event.
I’m speaking here of the wedding celebration of Jesus Christ to His Bride as announced in Revelation 19. Weddings are so important that the concept is used to describe the union of Christ to His Church and the celebration which follows. Jesus Himself is known for having attended a wedding celebration (in fact, He was criticized for enjoying weddings), and there He performed one of His first miracles.
So we can rest assured that the wedding here today holds His attention. But ultimately it is His wedding that should hold our attention, especially in view of the fact that all believers make up His Bride. Are you preparing for that wedding? We have some idea how busy a bride is getting ready for a wedding down here; when the day comes you must be ready to go ahead, because the guests will come and the event will be held. But are you preparing for the great wedding? Do you trust your eternity to Jesus Christ? Do you live in light of answering to Him?
Carmody and Christy, thank you for being the reason that we can consider these great truths about marriage today. May God bless you richly, and in your marriage may others see a divine institution, a covenant involving God, a picture of Jesus Christ’s relationship to His Bride, the Church, and an illustration of the finest wedding of all when Jesus Christ returns triumphantly with His Bride for the marriage supper of the Lamb.