Cory and Katie, I am giving this exhortation to both of you as a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I am doing so in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May our triune God seal these words in your hearts as He knits you together throughout the course of your lives together.
I want to draw your attention to the last two verses of the text that was just read. The apostle Paul, in discussing Christian marriage, discusses the gospel universal and the marital particulars together. This is a reflection of how our triune God reveals Himself to us. The Lord Jesus is the universal Logos, the one through whom everything was made. This same Lord Jesus became a particular man, with a particular mother. He had a home town and childhood friends. He had ten fingers and two feet. And yet He was the ultimate principle of integration—He is the one in whom all things hold together. He is the ultimate arche.
In a similar way, His relationship with His bride, the Church, is the ultimate reality. This is, the apostle Paul tells, a great mystery. But the mystery is not just Christ and the Church because Paul has been speaking of every man and woman, every marriage. In the context of our marriages, he says that he speaks of a great mystery, and then he adds the reason—he is speaking of Christ and the Church. It follows from this that every marriage is a statement about the gospel. Every husband and every wife are talking, all day long, about what they believe concerning Christ and the Church. Some marriages speak the truth, and tragically, many do not.
But Paul, after mentioning Christ and the Church, returns immediately to the point of application. “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular [note that phrase, in particular] so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
The message of the gospel is not that God, up there, is all powerful and so we, down here, must behave ourselves. The message of the gospel is that we have been made partakers of Christ through His salvation. God has brought us into union with Him through our union with His Son. This means that as Christians we live the way we do, and we speak what we speak, from within the divine life. We have been made partakers of this life, by God’s grace, and this means that we are not imitating Him from a distance, but rather from within.
Cory, this means that as you undertake to fulfill your vows here today—which you cannot do apart from the grace of God—you are doing so as a partaker. This is right at the center of a Christian understanding of the Christian life. It is not raw exertion from the outside, but rather organic growth and participation from within. It is partaking.
When a man leaves his father and mother, he is not doing something wrong. This is a design feature. God intended it from the beginning—it is not disloyalty, as biblical parents well understand. You are leaving the heritage of a godly home, not because you are abandoning it, but rather in order to extend it, according to the Word of God. Now, when a man leaves his father and mother, he does so in order to be joined to his wife. This joining is itself a partaking, and the partaking of sexual communion is a mysterious picture of how all of us as believers are partakers of Christ. This is the great mystery.
Cory, the point of my exhortation to you is this. Fulfilling your vows is a function of grace, and grace grows naturally in the context of grace. Plant your new family firmly in the context of God’s family, God’s household. Attend to the Word of God preached, come to the Table of the Lord faithfully, read your Bible in your home, pray together with your wife, love her as Christ loved the Church. Do not do these things as though they were raw duties, as though you were earning a boy scout badge. Do these things the same way a vibrant apple tree partakes of the soil. As an apple tree produces apples, we do not hear the clanking of machinery, or see any smoke. Obedience to your vows here today is not antithetical to grace; it is your life.
Katie, your vows summon you, together with your new husband, to a life of faith. The fact that he and you are called together to partake of Christ, and to partake of one another, does not means that there is no work to do, or difficult decisions to make together. What it means is that you are asked to see these things in faith. Trust in God, trust in His Christ, trust in your husband.
Faith overcomes the world, and this is because faith sees the world rightly. Where others see only the obstacles, or the difficulties, faith sees the promises of God. As you receive your husband’s love (which is modeled after the love of Christ) and you return it (in imitation of the Church), you will be enabled to see past the immediate circumstances. George MacDonald once said that obedience is the great opener of eyes. When men and women live together without this understanding, the result is invariably confusion and distress. But when men and women live together with this understanding, the result is wisdom, grace, holiness, and above all joy.
Cory, give yourself away to Katie in imitation of the death of Jesus. Why? Because it is the only path of resurrection life. As you love her in this way, you are privileged to bestow increasing loveliness on her. Katie, honor and respect Cory as he assumes this tremendous responsibility. As you respect him in this way, he will grow and flourish, growing up into that respect. Love bestows loveliness. Respect bestows respectability. And this is not done by means of any technique, but by the mere fact of partaking in the infinite grace of God to us.