Joseph and Rebecca

Because this wedding ceremony is using the form found in the Book of Common Prayer, in just a few moments—at the exchange of the rings—a phrase will be used that requires some explanation. That phrase is “with my body I thee worship.”

Historically, the phrase is what distinguished a free wife from a concubine. A concubine was a wife with limited rights and privileges, while a free wife was granted the person, honor, and worship of the groom. He gave himself to her entirely. Worship here refers to the service of honor.

When the groom declared his intention to do this, it meant that the children born from this union were to be considered free and legitimate, and true heirs of their father. The bride was being given the honor of being the lawful mother of the household. And last, she was blessed with all he possessed, which is seen in the next phrase—“with all my worldly goods I thee endow.” An endowed wife was an established wife, a free wife, a respected wife. She is a wife who is honored.

I mentioned a moment ago that worship refers to the service of honor. Our modern English word comes from the Anglo-Saxon weorðscipe, which refers to the condition of being worthy, having glory and distinction, honor and renown. The first use of this (in English) as applied to God was around 1300 A.D.. Prior to that time, it simply referred to the kind of respect that is rendered to persons of rank and dignity. This is still seen today in the title worshipful that is applied to certain ranks of people in Britain. It does not refer to people who think they are God.

Doug and Maggie

The greatest philosophical question that mankind has come up with on his own is this one: “Why is there something, rather than nothing at all?” And the Christian answer to this question is that the living and true God, out of His grace and good pleasure, determined to create everything that is, which includes all that we see around us, and all that we could ever possibly see.

But our seeing, our experience, is not outside this reality. It is no exception to this. The wonders of creation, along with all the wondering creatures in it, were spoken into existence by the kindest words imaginable, which were “let there be . . .” The observed is created, and all the observers are created as well. And so it is that the earth is full of His glory. Please remember that word glory—we shall come back to it.

There is a problem, however. The glory was interrupted, and our perceptions of that glory have gotten dislocated, and completely out of joint. Scripture teaches that the effect of sin is that it causes us to fall short of the glory of God. Once the great work of creation is done, once the wonderful task is accomplished, it is the easiest thing in the world for ungrateful creatures to take for granted the staggering glories that surround each of us daily, and to assume that “all this” is just the way things are. The universe “just is,” and we just happened to evolve out of the primordial goo. Scientism has been most eager to help us with our rationalizations. There is no need to thank anyone, we say to ourselves, and so we may just proceed with our lives—which usually consists of chasing, of course, the next shiny object.

This problem, of course, is the problem of ingratitude. Like the nine lepers healed by Jesus who simply took the new state of affairs as their natural possession by right, and did not return to Him to give thanks, we harden our hearts and stiffen our necks. We stop thanking God for our food, for our shelter, for a spectacularly beautiful world, for a Christian upbringing, for the sun in the sky, and for the air in our lungs. This truly is an ingrate world.

Caleb and Mallory

The word I want to emphasize at this wedding is the word heritage. We have the privilege today of witnessing, not only the wedding of two individuals in Christ, but also the wedding of two distinct, but very complementary, heritages. I want to talk about the unique blessings that we are praying that God will bring out of this blessed union.

The two streams that are coming together here are the streams of covenant commitment, centuries of it, and evangelical warmth and application, three and four generations now. They are coming together in a distinct way—not to say the former has no warmth, or that the latter has had no notion of covenant. I am rather speaking here of varying cultural manifestations, which is a matter of emphasis. And in this wedding, I see only the strengthening of both heritages.

The Lord Jesus taught us that foundations are important in the building of houses. If you have no foundation, you cannot withstand the inevitable storms that come (Matt. 7:24). The way we build houses today, that foundation is provided by the footings, and by the concrete walls that we pour to rest on those footings. That is what covenant commitment is like. This is just the way it is. Covenant understanding won’t shift or budge on you. Straight lines, unyielding, cold, gray, covenant concrete. Every house needs that, and needs it underneath absolutely everything. This not unloving—it is the foundation of love. You can always take it as a fixed given that these are my people. The lines of the house are straight because the foundation lines are straight.

Tyson and Laura

Don't mind me. I am just trying to learn some new WordPress tricks.

Don’t mind me. I am just trying to learn some new WordPress tricks.

The whole earth is full of God’s glory. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness of it. Everything that exists was created by Him, and so it is that everything declares the weight of His glory. No matter how small—whether a tiny rock flower, or a sub-atomic particle, or a grain of sand—every discrete and particular thing speaks about God. The supernovas and galaxies do the same. Every finite thing has the privilege of speaking about an infinite noun, maker of Heaven and earth. Each created thing in some sense carries the eternal weight of glory, and of course it can only do this because the source of that glory, God Himself, has willed it.

So every last thing manifests His glory, and this is why we, dulled by sin, can start to take everything for granted. We begin to think that the world is “just the way things are.” When everything is glorious, we think that nothing must be.

This is why God in His mercy will often take special pains to manifest His glory. He goes out of His way. When He does this, we are not moving from no glory to glory, or from dull glory to radiant glory, but rather from constant glory to manifest glory. God does this through the Incarnation of Jesus, through the giving of Scripture, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, through the kindness of miracles, and through the revelation brought to us by various poetic and prophetic insights.

What a miracle does is draw our attention to what God does all the time. When Jesus turned water to wine at Cana He was simply doing in fast forward what God has done in every vineyard since the beginning of the world. He enables us to see the whole by showing us a part, sped up a little.

When we pray for a glimpse of glory, we are not asking to be let in on a wonderful secret against the context of the ordinary and mundane. We are not seeing vivid color against the background of a dull sepia tone. No, we are being invited to see the whole world rightly.

And all this relates to our prayer for this new household, just now forming. The prayer is taken from the words of Moses in Psalm 90.

“Let Your work appear to Your servants, And Your glory to their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands” (Ps. 90:16-17, NKJV).

Sam and Grace

In the course of His ministry on earth, the Lord Jesus taught us that we were to learn how to accept kingdom disruptions. We are supposed to learn how to rejoice at the arrival of kingdom inversions.

Jesus taught that the way to become great in the kingdom was by becoming least in the kingdom. He taught that the way to the head of the line was to go to the back of the line. Up is down, and down is up. He taught that the way into adult wisdom was to embrace the faith of a child. Out is in, and in is out. In this stipulated theological sense, the hokey-pokey is what it’s all about—but only in this stipulated sense. To take it any further than that would disrupt the solemnity of the occasion.

So in that spirit, I want to begin with something heavy, so that we may, at the invitation of Christ, move to the direct consequence of it, which is the ease of His yoke and the lightness of His burden (Matt. 11:30). If you were to pick up His yoke, heft it in your hands to evaluate whether you wanted to put it on, it would seem intolerably heavy to you. But actually put it on, and you will laugh at the relief.

This is what Christian marriage seems like in the hands: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

Whoa. This is not what we usually mean by “focus on the family.” This is a call to discipleship that necessarily relativizes marriage and family. It contextualizes marriage and family, but it does so without annihilating it. It places marriage in the light of eternity. Matthew clarifies for us what was meant in the parallel passage. “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37). In other words, we are to love Christ so much that every other love pales in comparison. But something strange then happens. The love that pales in comparison actually become vivid and bright. What do I mean?

Christopher and Elizabeth

We are here to witness the formation of a new marriage, a new household. But what is the nature of this institution? It is a question worth asking, because whenever we take anything for granted, it is easy to become unable to defend it when questioned, no matter how valuable it might be. Because we live in a time when this institution is very much being questioned, we want to make sure that we do not just go through the motions in our wedding ceremonies. We should know what we are doing, and why we are doing it.

Marriage is instituted by God. It is not of human creation. We have the authority from God to decorate it according to our varying cultures and customs, but we do not have any authority to raze it to the foundations in order to recreate it over again.

So how does the Bible define marriage? Right after the Lord created Eve—in a particularly singular fashion, I might add—the text says something that is quite surprising. Adam had found no helper suitable to him among all the beasts that he had named, it was not good for him to be alone, and so God caused a deep sleep to come upon him, removed a rib from his side, and fashioned a woman out of it. God then presented the woman to the man, and his first words—the first human words uttered in the Bible—were words of poetry in praise of the gift he had been given. As I said, this was a unique event in high antiquity. Nobody I met ever got together in this way.

And yet . . . what does the next verse say? It says that every marriage after that point should in some fashion be an imitation of this one. It uses the word therefore. Here it is: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).

First, let us note the four normative elements of marriage. It is an exclusive relationship. It says that a man shall cleave to his wife. The baseline pattern is one man, one woman, one time. Second, marriage is a social event; it is public. Notice that it says that a man shall leave his father and mother. This is something that people notice. It is public. Third, it is permanent. The text says that the man is united to his wife. He cleaves to her. And fourth, the relationship is consummated; the two become one flesh.

Taking all this in consideration, biblical scholar John Stott defined marriage this way: “Marriage is an exclusive heterosexual covenant between one man and one woman, ordained and sealed by God, preceded by a public leaving of parents, consummated in sexual union, issuing in a permanent mutually supportive partnership, and normally crowned by the gift of children.”

We define it this way because we are receiving a gift from the God who created all things. We are opening a gift, and it is our responsibility simply to understand what He has given us. Because God is infinitely wise, we will spend the rest of our lives coming to understand it. Because God is delightfully straightforward, a child can understand what marriage is.

But there is something else we must consider. It is one thing to define an activity, and it is quite another to consider what it takes to do it well. Unmarriages are obviously not what God had in mind for marriage. But neither are difficult marriages or poor marriages. However, marriages in this latter category are genuine marriages. They do exist, and the vows are obligatory, and so on.

We have all the ingredients of a marriage in what we see around us. In what I am about to say in my particular charge to Christopher, and then to Elizabeth, we have all the ingredients of a good marriage, a happy marriage, a healthy marriage.

Christopher, I am not going to over-engineer it. Love your wife. Love her when you feel like it and love her when you don’t feel like it. Love her when you are feeling altruistic, and love her when all your lower impulses are yelling at you that it is time for a little selfishness. Love her with your words. Tell her. Assume nothing. Tell her some more. Love her with your actions. Work your tail off. Scripture takes a dim view of lazy husbands. Put food on her table, clothes in her closets, children in her arms, and light in her eyes. The Bible says husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her. This means that the love I am urging upon you is the love of bleeding sacrifice.

Elizabeth, Christopher has just been charged to give you a lot. In fact, he has been charged to give you everything he has. Everything. All of it. Your charge is to receive from him everything that he has given, glorify it, and return it to him again. This is how God designed the world to work. The man brings things to his wife, and she bestows the glory. She does this because she is the glory of man, and he comes to her whenever he needs to have something glorified. Everything you return to him glorified is something that he can bring back to you again later, and you do it over again. God loves this kind of thing.

Both of you should see that your life together is therefore to be characterized by giving. You give to one another. Christopher, you give out of love, and Elizabeth, you give out of respect, and both of you will receive both love and respect. And the more you give to one another, the more God will supply you with more to give. What is true about life generally will also be true in your relationship with one another. “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” (Proverbs 11:24, ESV). The more you give to one another—really give—the more each of you will have. And it never stops. That is the foundation of a blessed union.

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

Daniel and Amanda

We live in a time of great confusion when it comes to the subject of marriage, the nature of marriage, the definition of marriage. As the people of God, since we seem to be attending weddings a lot, and because a biblical understanding of marriage is under assault in our generation, we should take these times as a wonderful opportunity for reminding ourselves of the basics.

One of the most difficult things for the modern carnal mind to understand is how the biblical teaching of headship and submission in marriage is consistent with the biblical teaching of man and woman as equals before God, together bearing the image of God (Gen.1:27). This makes no sense to the unbelieving mind, because they always think of such things in terms of power and coercion. But Jesus, our supreme example, is fully equal to God the Father, and yet He did not consider His equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7). In Christian theology, true submission is not inconsistent with true equality. The two go together most harmoniously, the same way a man and a woman are designed to go together.

But let’s look at Genesis. This truth is not imposed on the first pages of the Bible by later theologians. Part of the reason for doing it this way is that I know that both of you have a heart for mission, and mission, like marriage, is established and defined in Genesis. Wherever God takes you, whether here or elsewhere, I know you will share a heart for mission.

God established what is called the cultural mandate in the first chapters of the Bible, telling us to increase and multiply, replenishing the earth (Gen. 1:28). After the Flood, He does the same thing again, telling Noah to act the part of a new Adam (Gen. 9:7). The same basic idea is picked up and transformed in the New Testament, in the Great Commission that Jesus bestowed upon the church (Matt. 28:19). But in all of this, marriage is key, and marriage must be rightly understood in order for the key to turn.

Gresham and Emily

Christian weddings and marriages are a canvas upon which the Holy Spirit of God paints the gospel. Now we know that He loves to paint the gospel in many ways, and in many places—preeminently in the proclamation of the Word on the Lord’s Day, as well as in the two sacraments that He has bequeathed to the church. But the way God brings a Christian man and Christian woman together paints the gospel in colors that are particularly vivid.

We unfortunately have a tendency to make the gospel smaller than what God has given to us. The orthodox say true things about it, but they write it all out in miniscule. But there is something off in a small but true gospel. The gospel is cosmic in scope, and we are constantly summoned by the Spirit of God to get our hearts and minds around that which has no circumference. The apostle Paul, for example, prayed that the Ephesians would be able to grasp the ungraspable, know the unknowable, comprehend the incomprehensible.

In the text that was read just a few moments ago, a number of remarkable things were said—and they are profoundly relevant to any married couple who want to make the declarations that God intends for us to make through marriage. This is what I mean.