In the Great Commission that the Lord Jesus gave to His disciples, He charged them, among other things, to teach the nations everything that He had commanded. We Christians have been pursuing this charge for two thousand years now, and we are a long way from completion. But we have been at it long enough that we can draw certain initial conclusions. One of them is this. Out of all the things that the Church must teach the nations, one of the most challenging lessons, one of the most difficult things to accomplish, is that of teaching men how to respect and honor women. But make no mistake. This is something that lies at the very heart of the Christian social ethic, and this is why it has been a centerpiece of our ministry for decades now. How can we equip Christian men to treat their women right? How can we teach Christian women to help make this a joy, and not a burden?
The last two thousand years has been a long slog, with many remarkable advances, and numerous apostasies and relapses. In case you are wondering, in our generation today, we are now in the middle of one such relapse. But the Lord’s requirement still remains, and so I want to consider how it relates to the vows that are about to be exchanged here today.
The central vehicle for teaching men their responsibility in all these things is Christian marriage. When men submit to the authority of God’s Word, what are they told? They are told that the man who finds a wife finds a good thing (Prov. 18:22). That’s the starting point. But good things can be wrecked when we don’t follow instructions, as our first parents discovered in the Garden of Eden.
And so the apostle Peter summons men to follow instructions. He tells them that they must “honor their wives” (1 Pet. 3:7). He says that husbands must treat their wives as joint heirs of the grace of life. He says that failure to live in this way will result in their prayers being hindered, not being effective.
We are told something very similar by the prophet Malachi. The men of Israel were lamenting before God, wondering why their prayers were not being answered (Mal. 2:13). And again, the answer given by the prophet had to do with how they were treating their wives (Mal. 2:14).
In Scripture, wisdom is portrayed for us as a woman (Prov. 1:20; 8:1ff). In the book of Proverbs, we are introduced to Lady Wisdom, one of the most remarkable figures in all of Scripture. But remembering what was said earlier about what happens when we refuse to follow instructions, we should recall that Folly is presented to us in figure of a woman also.
And so this is the first lesson that men must learn—which woman are you going to pursue? Which woman are you going to ask out? One of them will have nothing to do with you unless you are willing to stand up straighter. The other takes you as you are, uses you as you are, and together the two of you head down the path of personal disintegration.
The fact that weddings occur all the time should not distract us from the monumental reality of what is happening here. Why do we have these ceremonies? Why do we deliver homilies? Why do we think that events like this are so important? In them, we are privileged to be gathered as witnesses to one more round of testimony, a testimony that says we are intent on obeying this solemn charge that we have received from God—men, be kind to your wives. Wives, receive that kindness, multiply it, and return it to him, deeper and richer than he ever dreamed possible.
Cole, here is my charge to you. As you take on the role of a Christian husband, treat your wife as the wisdom that you are dedicated to pursuing. You can get knowledge from books, and you can get understanding by reading good articles. But you are going to get wisdom when you actually take up the assignment being given to you here, which is that of laying down your life for somebody else. You are the head of this relationship, but that does not mean that you are the Bossy Man. That means that you have decided to imitate the Lord, who is the head of the church, and to love this woman in the same way that Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it. There is genuine Christian authority here, but true Christian authority always has this signature mark—it always bleeds for others. That is a tall order, but it is contained within our orders. So Cole, here is your charge. In the presence of God, and before all His holy angels, with Scripture as your standard, I charge you to treat this woman right.
And Isabell, here is my charge to you. Scripture uses you as a glorious metaphor for grace, kindness, diligence, and most of all wisdom. Scripture uses you to represent the church at the end of church history, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such blemish (Eph. 5:27). Scripture uses you to give us a vision of what the last day will be like, when the bride, the wife of the Lamb, is fully revealed (Rev. 21:9). So you should be the wisdom that Scripture represents through you. You already are that metaphor, so my charge to you is to not be a hollow one. You are indeed a lovely bride, but that loveliness is a function of a gentle and quiet spirit, as Peter says (1 Pet. 3:4). That kind of loveliness can only be sustained when it is an outgrowth of wisdom at the heart. And what is wisdom? It is to fear the Lord (Prov. 9:10), and we know that a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Prov. 31:30). You are to be praised as the embodiment of wisdom.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.