We have all gathered here today in order to witness the establishment of a covenant. Scripture teaches that when a covenant is sealed by means of an oath, a vow, or an affirmation, something greater is being appealed to. As it says in Hebrews 6, “For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation” (Heb. 6:16, ESV).
I want to focus on that phrase something greater. In all Scripture, the only exception to the principle involved in this is found just a few verses earlier, where it says this: “For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself” (Heb. 6:13, ESV). In other words, everyone swears by something greater, except for God, who still swears by the greatest, which is to say, He swears by Himself.
One of the central reasons why marriage is in such disarray in our time is because we do not understand this. If you were to interview the archetypical modern man, or the representative modern woman, and were to ask them “what is greater than your self-actualization?” the answer would be that nothing is greater than that. What is greater than you achieving your dreams, than you finding personal fulfillment, than you living up to your full potential? The answer is straightforward. In our day, nothing is greater.
We are the narcissistic generation, and because of this we find that it is impossible for us to understand how an oath works, still less to take one responsibly.
God stands outside our egos, and He is greater. The world stands outside our selves, and it is greater. Civilization stands outside our wishes, and it is greater. The institution of marriage stands outside of our desires, and it is greater. In this fallen world, our happiness needs to be secured with an oath, and for those lost in their own self-absorption, such an oath is impossible. And this is why so many are so miserable.
This is because every relationship, every ceremony, every hook-up, every break-up, is thought of as something lesser, not something greater. If it is lesser, then we believe we have the authority to shape, mold, break, or throw away, as it suits us. This is why our leaders, in the grip of this insanity, have undertaken to completely redefine marriage, and to redefine male and female. Our Supreme Court did not look at marriage and see something greater than themselves—because, let us be honest, they can see nothing greater than themselves.
When the marriage vows are exchanged here today, they will be exchanged in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For the sake of something greater than these two, meaning the marriage, the vows will be exchanged using the name of our great God—and He is the greatest of all. He the God over all, meaning He is the God of marriage.
All of this is simply another way of saying that those who insist on placing themselves at the center will lose themselves at the edges, and those who lose themselves for the sake of Christ will find themselves at the center.
Benjamin, you are bringing your strength to this marriage. But because you are doing so as a Christian man, the heart of your strength is to point to the strength of another. You are not the source of strength; you have rather been deputized to be strong. You are a steward of strength, and that means you will have to give an accounting to God for your use of your strength. God designed men to be hard, and He requires them to be hard. But His intention in this was so that you would be hard for your wife, not hard on your wife. My charge to you therefore is this. As you rely on God for the strength to lead your family, make sure that you are drawing more than the fact of strength from Him, but also the kind of strength from Him that He supplies. Husbands, the apostle says, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. That is where Christian strength is displayed
Heather, you are coming into this marriage as a godly woman, and God is going to enable you to make the transition to your new role as a godly wife. I have just said that Ben is bringing his strength into the marriage, not to be hard on you, but rather to be hard for you. In the Garden, when God first established marriage, He created the woman to be a help to the man. Everything the man is called to, his wife is called to as well. She supplements and strengthens what he does. Thus you are not to be the object of his strength, but rather the one who strengthens his strength. As the two of you face the world together, the bond that God is establishing here today will enable you to do far more together than either of you could have done singly.
When a man gives himself to a woman the way the Bible describes, and a woman gives herself to a man the way the Bible describes, the end result is something far beyond the sum of the parts. It is, in fact, something greater. And it is all dependent upon the God whose name is great above every name.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.