Sam and Jamie

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In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, welcome. In the authority and kindness of the Lord Jesus, welcome. In the fellowship and communion of the saints, welcome.

We have gathered to rejoice in the establishment of a new covenant family, bound in the vows of matrimony. Sam and Jamie have already given themselves to make this commitment, and their respective families have given their blessing. The intent is clear—we have all gathered at a wedding.

This seems like a common enough thing—we have all been to any number of weddings. What sets this apart from other common activities? Activities like mowing the lawn, which I did this morning, or building a house, or running a business? We have all seen examples of those things too. All these other activities, even under the blessing of God, do not declare and exhibit the gospel in the same way a wedding does.

The history of the human race begins with a wedding in a garden when the Lord gave away the first bride. The glory of the gospel was prefigured in the splendid Temple-garden imagery throughout the Song of Songs. And the Lord Jesus, the promised seed of the woman, meet Mary Magdalene, a type of the Christian Church in a garden just after His resurrection from the dead. This was the betrothal, and the consummation of all things is coming, when the day of the Lord arrives, and we will all sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb. God has something important to say through weddings, and that something is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul points to this when he teaches on the subject of marriage in the fifth chapter of Ephesians. These words are often quoted, frequently skimmed over, and sadly disobeyed. He tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. He tells wives to submit to and honor their husbands just as the Church does to Christ. So far the duties are high indeed, but they are clear. But we often miss the reason that is given for this obligation. The apostle is not giving the relationship of Christ to the Church as some kind of illustration of great love, so that we, over here in our marriages, might imitate it. He is telling us rather that to the extent we are in Christ we are in the ultimate marriage already, bone of His bone and flesh and of His flesh. All Christians are one with the Lord, and those of us who are married Christians should be living in such a way as to grow our marriages up into the ultimate marriage. This is all a mystery, the apostle Paul says, but he is talking about Christ and the Church. When husbands love sacrificially, and when wives respect and honor, they are not copying some great object lesson from a great distance, squinting as they try to see it. Rather, they are imitating what it means to be married from within the Marriage.

Where the apostle says there is a mystery, we ought not to bustle in and try to explain everything. This is a mystery. The way of an eagle in the air, the way of a ship at sea, the way of a serpent on a rock, and the way of a man with maid—these are all beyond us, but the last one is particularly beyond us. Mysteries are to be honored, celebrated, rejoicing in. We ought not spend too much time trying to explain any of them on the blackboard. But we should consider what we can do in true evangelical faith to experience the mystery in the way God intended for it to be experienced.

We are told that when the bride of Christ is finally presented to the bridegroom there will not be any spot or blemish, or any such thing. What we do here, today, in our marriages, is related to that. As we grow up into Christ, we are growing up into a godly maturity, and this godly maturity is directly related to how we behave in our marriages. But don’t let my use of that verb do mislead any of you. Whatever we are enabled to do is the gift of God, it is all of grace. Husbands and wives with good marriages (with good marriages biblically defined) are not likely to have any emotion concerning other than gratitude. This is the goodness of God; this is the grace of God. How do we receive this grace? By faith is the answer that the Bible supplies, and as we witness this wedding here today, we are invited by the Holy Spirit to view it in faith, to see the gospel here, to acknowledge the kindness of God over all and in all and through all.

Sam, grace is demanding, but it is not demanding in the way that raw obligation or law is demanding. Today you are committing yourself to love Jamie as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. You are going to need the grace of God in this, because you are now covenantally binding yourself to be a walking, talking, living, working, breathing embodiment of the grace of God. This presents a real problem because, although forgiven in Christ, you are still a sinner. Not only are you a sinner, but you are also a male. Not only that, but you are also a young man. Put all this together, and we would have to come to the conclusion that although you are making this commitment to love your wife in this way, you are doing so as a blockhead. I do not mean to insult you in any individual way because every groom before you in the history of our race has been in the same position, and every groom coming after you will also be in the same position. You need to love your wife as your own bones, and you need to love her as Jesus loved His bride, and unless you receive the love and grace of Christ for the task you will not be able to do it. But in the grace of God, by the grace of God, you can keep the vows you are about to make. This is the gospel at work. You will be able to extend grace, and love, and kindness to your wife to the extent that you are receiving the grace, and love and kindness of God. And so my charge to you today is for you to walk by faith. Faith in God, faith in His Christ, faith in His promises, faith in His gospel, faith in His word, faith in His kindness. The one who would please God must believe that He is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. In your marriage, seek Him. Seek Him diligently. Seek Him where He promises to be found.

Jamie, you are in the same position as Sam in one sense, and in a very different position in another. The words I spoke to Sam about trusting Christ, receiving the grace of God, walking by faith—these all apply to you equally. You will be married together, but you still walk with God as individuals. And all the words that apply to all Christians apply to you as well as to Sam. Do not coast, assuming that Sam has to do all the spiritual heavy lifting. You are both called to walk in the good works that God has prepared beforehand for you to do together. You are not saved by good works, but you were certainly saved to good works, and these good works are not offered to God as tokens of our righteousness, but are rather received from His hand as tokens of His kindness.

The sense in which your commitments differ from Sam’s is this. Sam is called to imitate the initiative of Christ, to assume responsibility, to sacrifice, to lay himself out for you. God calls him to this; do not try to stop it or interfere with it. Do not feel sorry for him as he gives himself to this, and to you. It is his calling and his glory. Your responsibility is just as challenging, but strikingly different. Where he initiates, you respond. Where he gives, you receive. Do not make his calling more difficult by rejecting it, or by trying to compete with it.

This is not cowed docility; it is intelligent femininity. As you honor your husband as the Church honors Christ, you will be growing into your true glory as a Christian woman. When the apostle Paul refers to the Christian wife using the phrase “glory and a covering,” he is echoing the words of the prophet Isaiah, who in turn was talking about the Shekinah glory of Israel. A godly wife is the crown of her husband. The giving of glory and the receiving of it is a complicated and mysterious dance, the dance of the gospel.

Because the gospel is a dance, we are permitted to pray to God in the name of Jesus. Let us do that together now.

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