Marriage, as designed by God, is a glorious instrument of dominion. If we want to understand what is going on here today, we must understand this. Weddings are the front door to marriage, and marriage and dominion are woven tightly together.
When God created our first parents, He gave them dominion over the entire world. He did this in what is called the cultural mandate (Gen. 1:28), which He again renewed after the cataclysm of the great flood (Gen. 9:1-3).
But we have to pay close attention because there are two pieces to this. One of them is the world over which they were to exercise dominion, and the other was their own nature and character—the place from which they were to exercise dominion.
God created them, and then gave them the task of dominion. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:27). This means, among other things, that God did not give them dominion over what marriage is. Rather, He gave them marriage as a fixed given, as one of the central instruments for exercising dominion.
It is the difference between having a workshop and a workbench, and whatever project is there on the workbench, on the one hand, and having a concrete floor under your feet, on the other hand. You exercise dominion over the task on the workbench, but you rely on, stand on, and simply assume the floor. Marriage is that kind of floor for us. It is not one of the projects we get to tinker with.
One of the great mistakes that modern secular man has made is the mistake of thinking that we—our bodies, our relationships, our own in-built nature—are part of the world “out there.” As part of the world out there, we think we must have authority over it. If we get to plant the wheat field, or the apple orchard, or make the table, or sail the sea, then we also should get to determine what marriage is, or what marriage should be like. This is not only false, but it is radically false. It is a falsehood that has ruined countless modern marriages. It has made many husbands and wives most miserable, and with no idea of the actual source of their unhappiness.
In our attempts to reinvent how God actually created and fashioned us, we run ourselves into misery after misery, and then we blame God for the mess that we have created for ourselves. But a husband is a husband, and wife is a wife, and they are not interchangeable. It is true that the palm of your hand and the back of your hand are both essential to your hand, but if you start trying to pick things up with the back of your hand, you have only yourself to blame for the troubles that will necessarily follow.
Happily married couples are made up of individuals who are happy with how God created them, whether as men or as women and, more to the point, are happy with how God created their spouse as entirely different. Happily married couples are also those who are content to submit to God’s explanations in Scripture of how He created us. Because we live in a generation that has mounted a full-scale revolt against the created order, and against God’s Word about that created order, we have thereby multiplied our miseries.
The most common way of doing this is by demanding that your spouse conform to your own specifications of how everything should go. Let me come at this from another direction by using a musical illustration. God gave men a masculine note to sing, and wives a feminine note to sing. These notes are completely distinct and different, but when a husband and wife are matching pitch the way they ought to, their notes harmonize wonderfully. There is nothing like it on earth.
But when we are discontented people, we make a musical hash of it. Either we accept the roles assigned to husbands and wives, and sing them flat and sharp respectively, which usually results in blaming the spouse for the resultant cacophony, or we insist that everyone must conform to our way of doing things, demanding that everybody in the household sing in a dull unison. This is an expression of discontent over how God ordered the world. In both cases, the result is a miserable caricature of what a marriage ought to be.
Because we do not understand the glory of our triune God, we do not grasp how He created a world in which form and freedom go together. But they only go together if we are walking in fellowship with Him, loving His world and His Word. Apart from Christ, diversity will blow apart into a million little pieces. Apart from Christ, unity hardens into a lump of misshapen gray concrete. But where Christ is Lord, headship and submission are twin glories in a beautiful dance, and not death rivals struggling for mastery.
Calvin, my charge to you is this. You are about to become a husband. Scripture assigns to you the role of protection and provision. You are to guard your bride, and you are to feed her. You are to do this in imitation of how Christ did it, which means that you protect to the death, and that you are willing to die to provide. You have true authority in the home as the husband, but the Christian faith knows of only one kind of authority, the kind that bleeds for others. This is your charge.
Lyzie, my charge to you is this. Your assigned task is to receive all that Calvin brings to you, glorify it, and return it again. You will receive his protection, and glorify it by being worth protecting, his central treasure. You will receive his provision of grain, and return it to him in glory as hot bread. Just as he is about to become a husband, so you are about to become the crown of your husband. This is your charge.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.