Tag Archives: Wedding Exhortations

Jon and Jamie

You are all here in response to a wedding invitation . . . well, I trust that you are all here in response to a wedding invitation.

Now one of the striking things about wedding invitations, whether in the Bible or in our own experience, is that they are invariably received as good news. Times of peace in Scripture are described as times when people marry and are given in marriage, and invitations to such events are thought of as glad interruptions of general times of plenty and peace. But how this can be possible is quite interesting.

We are familiar with the word gospel, but this is our English rendering of a Greek word that literally means good news. This what the etymology of our English word is also—the word gospel comes from godspel. The god means good, and the spel refers to news or a story. So godspel refers to a good story.

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Derek and Laura

As we prepare ourselves to hear the marriage vows exchanged just a few moments from now, everyone here in the congregation should make a point to reflect on several important aspects of this solemn and joyful occasion. The first aspect is that many of us here in this sanctuary are married, and so this is a natural opportunity for us to reflect on the vows that we once took, when we were standing in the spot that Derek and Laura are standing in today.

One of the uncanny things about vows is that they never age. They don’t wither. They are as young each morning as the day we first made them. Every Christian couple represents Christ and His bride, the Church, and this means that all our vows partake of His one true vow, the vow that binds everyone together in Heaven and earth. This is all one.

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Jacob and Rebekah

One of the things that we see throughout all Scripture is how weddings are associated with joy. Before the Fall of our first parents, Scripture opens its pages with a wedding, beautiful in its promise and innocence. At the conclusion of Scripture, in the book of Revelation, we see another wedding, even more beautiful. All of God’s Word to us is bracketed by these two weddings, in Genesis and in Revelation, and these weddings are expressions of joy.

John the Baptist points to this same reality when He answers a question about who Jesus was. Jesus had been drawing many to follow Him, and John was asked about it:

“He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled” (John 3:29).

John is saying here that the joy of the best man or groomsman is great, but still derivative. His joy depends on something and someone else. It depends upon the joy that can be heard in the bridegroom’s voice. In the same way, the joy of this entire occasion radiates outward from this central joy, the joy of the bride and groom.

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Jerry and Chantelle

In the third chapter of 1 Peter, the apostle Peter says this:

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Pet. 3:12).

This verse is found right after the section where the apostle Peter taught us about marriage. In the first part of this chapter, he had said that wives ought to honor and respect their husbands fully, and that husbands ought to live with their wives with knowledge, and to do so in a way that honors their wives. While in the verses that follow he has widened the scope of his discussion, what he says here is still immediately relevant to the question of how a Christian man and a Christian woman should live together.
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Brian and Rachel

Whenever we consider the subject of marriage, we naturally turn to the first marriage, the first union of man and woman. The Lord Jesus tells that the union of Adam and Eve was archetypical, which means that there should be many things we can glean by considering what happened in that first marriage.

There are two factors to consider and weigh—one is the creation design, and the other is how much that creation design was altered or affected by how the story unfolded. In other words, we need to consider what sin did to us all.

And we really need to look first at what sin did. If we carelessly skip over that part, in order to imagine what an unfallen marriage was like, we might easily slip into some kind of Victorian sentimentalism, or marriage as exemplified by the average Disney princess. In other words, our notions of paradise turn out to be a modified and cleaned up version of what we have now, with lots of sugar added.

After Adam and Eve took the forbidden fruit, one of the very first manifestations of their new sinful condition was conflict between husband and wife. The Lord came down and asked what had happened, and the man blamed the woman, and the woman blamed the serpent. Nobody took responsibility for their own actions. The juice of the fruit was still wet on their fingers when those fingers starting pointing somewhere else, anywhere else. Not me.

Because of their disobedience vertically, the first thing that happened horizontally was that crackle and tension was introduced into their relationship. Tempted by the devil, who is fundamentally an accuser, the husband became a devil, an accuser, himself. When his wife was assaulted, although he was appointed to be her defender, he became instead a second dragon.

When the Lord pronounced the consequences of their sin upon them a short time later, one of the things He noted is that this tension between them would continue. There has been – ever since – something fundamentally dislocated in every marriage relationship. There is no marriage unaffected by it. There are some that have been carried away by the problem, into a condition we call “having marriage problems,” and others which have resorted to the grace of God in dealing with it, with a result that we call “having a good marriage.” But no one is in a position where they do not need to deal with it. Good marriages are not those where husband and wife and oblivious to their temptations. No, quite the reverse.

Now this is the backdrop, the context, when the apostle Paul tells husbands in the book of Ephesians to love their wives as Christ loved the church, giving Himself up for her.

Conflict between people, including conflict between husband and wife, is a function of striving, envy, grasping, struggling for mastery. That is the very nature of the problem, and it is at the very nature of this problem that the solution aims. The cross is not aimed at an abstract checklist of bad deeds done. The cross is aimed at conflict, the kind of conflict that disrupts and destroys relationships—first with God, and then with our neighbor.

When Jesus died on the cross, He was dying in such a way that all envious accusations were put to death with Him there on the cross. Pilate saw that He was delivered up because of envy. The people who killed Jesus wanted to be like Him. And the law, which was against us, and which was the basis of accusation, was crucified there with Him. When Jesus died, recrimination died. The serpent, represented by the bronze serpent in the wilderness, was impaled on a pole so that anybody who looked at it could be healed. The venom of envious malice was in them, and looking at the cross dealt with it. So when we look at the cross of Jesus rightly, what we should see is impaled reptilian envy, writhing in the death throes of all accusation. Behold, the death of bitterness. Look at the death of malice. Gaze upon the death of snark.

That is what husbands are commanded to imitate. We cannot duplicate it, of course, because only Jesus was capable of bearing the sins of all His people. But we are capable of imitating the one who bore the sins of all His people.

And this means dying. But it doesn’t mean dying in the way a junior high boy in a day-dream might, or dying in some highly artificial and contrived situation. It means dying every day, each day, to that little crackle in the relationship, dying when there is tension, dying when there is a little mutual blaming going on. If your finger is pointing, look down to see if the juice from the forbidden fruit is there.

Brian, the world needs Jesus, and because you are this day becoming a Christian husband, one of your fundamental duties –from this day forward – is that of representing Jesus to a watching world. The first person who needs to see this will be Rachel, and then your kids, and outward. This is not done by means of a smarmy piety. It is not done by means of doctrinal clichés. It is not done by any of our clever workarounds. It is done by imitating Jesus, who laid down His life for His bride, and by not imitating Adam, who didn’t.

Rachel, you are called to reciprocate. The Bible teaches that the woman is the glory of the man, and a related truth is that she is the glorifier of what he brings to her. He doesn’t bring home the bacon. He brings home a paycheck, and you transform it into bacon. You are the one who glorifies his life, his home, his identity. And the crown of it is that you the one who has been given the privilege of glorifying his death. As he imitates the Lord Jesus in laying himself out for you, you imitate the Lord Jesus in what happens after that. You are to imitate the glory of the resurrection. Now, of course, what I said earlier applies to your as well. Brian cannot duplicate the death of Jesus, and you cannot duplicate the resurrection. But you must certainly can imitate it.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.

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Michael and Jennifer

We live in a day when the institution of marriage is under assault. Not only are many powerful voices clamoring for a fundamental redefinition of marriage, we are also faced with the confusion of many Christians in how to respond to it. We know that something is drastically wrong, as though the whole world has gone off the rails, but so many things are wrong we often don’t know where to begin.

In that broader context of confusion, when we gather to celebrate this marriage, do we really know what we are doing? There are many lies currently being told about marriage, but long before these lies were commonly accepted, the truth about marriage was being mumbled by those who claimed to be its friends. When the truth is not boldly and confidently declared, this leaves room for lies to be boldly and confidently declared. When glorious truths are muttered, the lies become more and more brazen and open.

So our task, in these times, is to speak the basic truths about marriage clearly and plainly, and weddings are a wonderful occasion for doing this. We need to speak the truth plainly, and we need to do this in two ways. The first, ordained of God, is to speak by speaking. We speak the Word by speaking words. We are to teach, instruct, correct, encourage, and we are to do so verbally.

But there is another way of speaking these truths as well, also ordained of God, and that is what I want to focus on today. I want to speak aloud about the non-verbal ways of speaking the truth; I want to utilize the first way of speaking truth in order to honor the second way of doing it. If we live and love in this way, we will provide a cogent reply to those who would darken the plain truth of God in this matter.

This second way of speaking the truth is by our actions, by what we do.

When God loved us in Jesus Christ, He certainly told us what He had done for us – how Jesus died on the cross – but let us never forget that He actually did it first. Before the gospel message declared to us the fact that Jesus died and rose, Jesus actually died and rose. Word and action go together. He told us what He had done. Let us not love in word only, the apostle John tells us. Speaking and doing go together.

A husband must tell his wife that he loves her, of course, but this should be a word that follows after the reality of him laying down his life for her. The Bible is very plain on this point, and it is the fundamental place where we have allowed our thinking about marriage to become confused. Husbands, Paul says, love your wives, as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself up for her.

Husbands, the Bible does not call you to be a big talker, but rather a big sacrificer. When a man is called into marriage, he is being called into a daily imitation of the way of Christ, and that way of imitation summons him to lay down his life. When Jesus died, He was not inconvenienced in a minor way. When Jesus died, He was not briefly interrupted. When Jesus died, He gave His bride everything He had to give, up to and including His blood. This is the model for Christian husbands.

But wives, this does not mean that the husband does everything, and you do nothing. Christian marriage is not a free ride for the wife. No, it means that your death (for all disciples of Jesus must take up their cross) is a responsive and imitative one. Jesus died for the church, but it is also true that the church died in Jesus. Jesus initiates the sacrifice, but it is the sort of sacrifice that gathers us up into it. This is what our baptism means – we are privileged to share in the death of Jesus. We were baptized into His death. Christ’s sacrifice took the initiative; our sacrifice is based on that, and is responsive.

In a well-ordered marriage, husbands are privileged to imitate that sacrifice of Christ, on a lower level, which means that their wives are invited to be gathered into this sacrificial pattern of living for others, a pattern that is established in that particular household by the husband. That sacrificial pattern will not be the pattern of the entire household unless the husband and father of that household embraces it.

A godly woman married to an ungodly man can speak wonderfully about the grace of God. But the marriage does not speak clearly unless the husband does, and unless the wife responds to him. The apostle Paul teaches us that these two—husband and wife—have the tremendous privilege of enacting the great mystery of Christ and the church. This mystery, this gospel, is what the world does not know, and which Christian couples must learn to declare. And, as has been the pattern throughout the history of the church, the declaration is a resurrection declaration, and that can only happen if there has been a death.

And so, Michael, this is my charge to you. From the very first day of your marriage—which is today, in fact—lay this pattern down. This is how the Hervey household functions. This is simply what we do here. But you don’t lay this pattern down by laying down the law. You are a head, not a boss. You don’t lay down the law, you lay down your life. And this is where faith comes in. Jesus plainly teaches us that this is the only way to gain true authority. Do you want to be great in the kingdom? Jesus asks. Then you must do as He did, and become the servant of all. This is the way of true kingdom authority, which is the only kind of authority in the home that a Christian man should ever want to have. When you lay down your life, instead of the law, you discover that this sacrificed life . . . has become the law, the law of resurrection life.

Jennifer, be eager to follow Michael’s lead in this. Do not be so eager that you take the initiative, but when he takes the initiative—which he is promising to do—you should be right there. This is no small feat; it has been observed that Ginger Rogers did absolutely everything that Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in heels. Remember that you will be sacrificing, just as he is, but you are keying off him. You take your cues from him. This only declares the gospel in the way I am discussing when both husband and wife are walking in imitation of Christ, but when both do this, the effects are potent. And to a confused and disobedient world, the results will be astonishing. He is to bring the sacrifice, and you are to be the glory of sacrifice.

So I charge both of you to receive by faith what God made you for—love and respect, sacrifice and response, masculinity and femininity, death and resurrection.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.

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Benjamin and Jessica

We are gathered here for a wedding, and if we are thinking biblically, we know that we are gathering to do something that we will have a responsibility to remember. This is because weddings and marriages are all about love, which everyone knows, but the Scriptures teach us that love is all about remembering.

In the Bible, forgetting is not something that excuses sin — it is an additional sin. Little children often try to justify themselves by saying something like “but I forgot!” Children are not the only ones who do this, and it represents a dishonest confusion. Forgetfulness is treated as a very serious sin in Scripture because at root it is a failure of love. Love remembers. Remembrance is what love wants to do. Memory is the organ of love, it produces love. Without memory, we would be utterly unable to love.

When the Bible talks about God remembering His people, it is always because He is going to show His love to them. He loves us by remembering us. And when He calls us to love Him in return, He tells us to do it by remembering Him — we are to remember His great acts of deliverance, we are to remember His statutes and laws, and we are to remember how He has revealed Himself to us in the gospel of grace. Remember your God.

There are many, but here is just one example. In Deuteronomy 6, we find the great exhortation to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength. Jesus points to this as the greatest commandment to be found anywhere in Scripture. But when we consider how it says this command is to be kept, we find that without remembrance it would be impossible. You are to talk about the word of God with your children when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you rise up. But you can’t do this if you forgot about it. Memory is key. And we see this just a few verses later, when God anchors the whole point for them – He says, beware, lest you forget the Lord (Dt. 6:12).

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Scott and Kristen

If a marriage can be compared to a house, then a wedding can be compared to the front doorway of that same house. Because this is such a joyful time for all, it is not surprising that our custom is to have a good time decorating this doorway. Hence the ceremony, the bride’s dress, the ritual that we perform when we witness the exchange of vows, and so forth. But the fact that this ceremony is decorative does not mean that it is merely decorative.

Scott and Kristen, because you are both followers of Christ, it is obvious that you want your house — your marriage — to be Christian. This shows up in some of the ways you have prepared and planned this wedding. We have prayed in Jesus’ name, I am going to be exhorting you from the Scriptures, and so on. Such words are very important, but I want to speak today on the importance of the life that undergirds all such words. Jesus did not say that they will know we are Christians because we talk so much, but rather that they will know we are His followers by our love. What might that mean?

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