In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, welcome. In the kind name of the Lord Jesus Christ, welcome. In the communion of all the saints who love the Lord Jesus, welcome.
This is a great mystery, the apostle Paul tells us. The ultimate bridegroom is the Lord Jesus, and the bride is the Christian Church. This is the gospel really, which is also mysterious. How is it possible for wayward sinners to be put right with God, and not only to be put right with God, but also to be joined together in a covenantal body with all other repentant sinners, and then to be married into God’s family? How is this possible? What could make it possible? The Scriptures teach us that the foundation of this glorious marriage is the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on the cross. The basis of the ultimate marriage is the self-denial of the bridegroom, and His willingness to give Himself away.
This is proclaimed by apostles and evangelists. It is defended by our apologists. We partake of that gospel at the Table of the Lord, where truth and kindness are eaten and swallowed. This gospel is described by our theologians, and we thank God for all of this. But in the wisdom of God, what we are talking about in all this is lived out, practiced, modeled, and presented to the world in Christian marriage. This wedding today shows, yet again, how God is willing to place His indescribable blessing in jars of clay, and how He loves to demonstrate how His power is made perfect in weakness. Many tens of millions of Christian couples have stood where Seth and Naphtali stand today, and many hundreds of millions will follow them. But each wedding, each marriage, presents another facet of our triune God’s kindness to us. Christian marriage declares the gospel in a glorious and deep way, a way that complements all the other ways of declaring the gospel that God has given to us.
We live in a world that is filled with riotous colors, multiple sounds, glorious textures, an almost infinite number of tastes and combinations of tastes, and, bringing us to the subject of glad sacrifice, which is what we are recognizing here today, the aroma that pleases God beyond description—the aroma of faith in Jesus Christ which necessitates imitating Him as He showers His grace upon us. We have so many things presented to us because we serve and worship the triune God. We are not polytheists, and the world we live in does not fly off in all directions, in postmodern fragments. We are not unitarians, and the world we live in is not dull and monochromatic. We worship God the Father in the name and authority of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.
The fact that we worship this way means that we have form and freedom together, differences that complement and harmonize, unity and diversity that kiss and embrace, and all is done in perfect balance. Only the gospel brings this balance, and only marriages that embody this gospel will exhibit this balance.
Because the gospel is a marriage, every human marriage says something about the gospel. We live in a world where sin and rebellion are still present, and this means that a husband and wife can come together in a way that misrepresents the gospel of Christ. Bad marriages are not just unhappy marriages, they are also walking examples of false doctrine. Christ and the Church do not relate to one another the way that a selfish man and woman do. In the contrasting way, when a man and woman have trusted in God for their salvation, resting upon His grace alone, confident that He will work that grace into every corner of their lives, the result is necessarily light, shining in a dark place. Christian marriages are evangelistic marriages. When we love and honor one another, we are declaring to the world that this is what God intends for all the nations of men. Love one another because God has shown His kindness to us all through Jesus.
This is not said to tie anyone under a heavy burden. The law of Christ is nothing less than the mind of Christ, and the mind of Christ simply shows us this: selfishness and autonomy are the way of death, and men and women cannot escape from this kind of autonomous death by seeking out some way of autonomous escape. Rather, we must all surrender to God through Christ, die in Him, and be raised to life again. We do not declare a pale and insipid message of personal uplift, or individual striving. Jesus Christ died and rose so that we might die and rise. And when we die and rise in the context of marriage, the result is blessing upon blessing. Blessing of husband to wife, blessing of wife to husband, blessing of parents to children, and children’s children, and then beyond that. Blessing to neighbors, and blessing to extended family. Blessing for the whole world.
But God does not want just one human marriage to model the ultimate marriage between Christ and the Church. That marriage is so glorious and so beyond our reckoning that it is necessary to summon millions of Christians to enact it, each in their own way, in their own languages, in their own settings. Remember that God is triune. But because He is triune, the same inescapable aroma of grace and kindness will pervade each one of these homes. It will take the entire course of human history for us to arrange for the final production this particular symphony, but the results on that day will beggar description.
This is a great symphony in production, and we are assembled here today because Seth and Naphtali are about to join us. They are not just here to copy, in some kind of digital fashion, certain contributions already made by someone else. As a particular man and woman, created in the image of God, they are both unique. Their stories are not matched by anyone else’s story. They bring what no one else can bring. When they add to this symphony, they will therefore enrich the timbre of the music, and they will do so uniquely.
Seth, in order for this to happen, you must recognize that the apostle Paul calls you to live as Jesus did, and die as Jesus did, and live again as Jesus did. Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. Last night at the rehearsal dinner, your sisters testified to your willingness to sacrifice. That was good, but that was also for practice. When you live this way, you are the instrument that God will use in order to bestow additional loveliness upon your wife. You are taking responsibility here today to live in such a way as to enable your wife to grow and flourish and thrive in the context of your sacrificial love. You are not up to this, which is why God promises His grace to us. We are learning how to be real human beings, like Jesus was, and God knows that apart from His gift, it is not going to happen. So you must rest in the grace of God, which will enable you to keep your vows. You are being called to be a Christian husband.
Naphtali, you are called to honor Seth by having your love for him be reciprocal. He initiates and you respond. He is masculine and you are feminine. He bows and you curtsey. He offers his arm and you take it. He consults you, and you advise him. He gets in over his head, and you are a helpmeet to him. He accomplishes important tasks in the kingdom of God, and you honor and respect him for it. In our jaded and sullen generation, this kind of glorious femininity is despised, and many people in their envy will taunt it. But Christian people know that a wife who meets this description is a crown to her husband, as it says in Proverbs. A Christian woman is the glory of her husband, as the apostle Paul wonderfully declared. This means that you are called to be the adornment of your husband—not some china doll ornament, but the rich adornment that only a Christian wife can provide.
Seth, you are called this day to a lifetime of the kind of love that gives itself away to this woman, and to do so gladly. Naphtali, you are called to receive this love, also gladly, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, to transform it into a blessing for your husband, thirty, sixty, and a hundred-fold. The power that makes this happen is not in our hands, but rather in the hands of God. But He has promised that His grace will be effectual in this way when we, in simple faith, obey His Word.
May God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit make all His promised blessings to rest upon this house, both now and forever. Let us give thanks in the name of Jesus.