When God created the cosmos, He did so freely, creating it from nothing. A central and foundational doctrine of the Christian faith is creatio ex nihilo, creation from nothing. Now obviously, the nothing in that expression is not a preexistent material. It is, quite literally, “no thing.” Because it was not anything, it could not merit or deserve the kind gift of existence that was then bestowed. Nothing can’t earn anything. Using a mathematical analogy, it was like going from zero to a positive number.
But after the creation, when our first parents rebelled against God’s good gift to them, as a consequence, the world was plunged into darkness. And we see, within the first pages of the Bible, that God in His goodness and grace determined to bring us back into fellowship with Him. And so back to the mathematical analogy, He has now taken us from some negative number to a positive number. Going from zero to a positive number was certainly the grace of God, and thoroughly undeserved, but how much more is it grace to go from a negative number to a positive? The former was unmerited goodness from God. But we are now the recipients of demerited goodness from God.
God’s original plan for mankind was for human history to culminate in a glorious wedding—with the Son of God taking as His bride a glorified humanity, a humanity which had not earned or deserved that kindness. That would have been great grace. But the sin of our first parents, and our complicity in and through them, delayed this glorious consummation—but did not undo it. Rather what it did was make the grace, when it came, that much more astounding.
What God did was this: He sent His Son to die on the cross for the sins of all His people, so that we might not forfeit our marriage to Him. That wedding was still going to happen. Because of this, we come to our wedding day, still glorified, but now glorified through God’s forgiveness. The first bride would have been spotless, but we now look forward to the day when the bride will be spotless because she is forgiven.
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25–27).
And so this is why the last book of the Bible comes at last to a final crescendo through the device of a wedding.
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7).
“And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God” (Rev. 19:9).
Every Christian wedding is a picture of this reality. Every marriage between believers is a declaration of what God has been up to from the beginning. That final wedding, the marriage supper of the Lamb, will be the ultimate symphonic moment, when every note ever struck, by every true marriage covenant ever made, will all resolve into that final and ultimate chord.
That final day, the final hour, will be the ultimate gospel proclamation. And we need to remember that all our proclamations of gospel throughout history, however lame they may have seemed to us at the time, will be taken up into that final gospel moment and be a glorified part of it. In a similar way, this wedding is part of what God is weaving into that final wedding day. This is not the ultimate wedding, of course not, but it is part of the ultimate wedding prep.
Gavin, my charge to you is this. As God delights in His people, so you also are to delight in your family. And in order to have a family to delight in, you must begin by delighting in your bride. As a wise Puritan once said, a man must choose his love, and then love his choice. The feelings of love and delight that you have on this day are feelings that are perfectly natural, and lawful, and ordinate. But weddings are one thing, and marriages another. You are to model Christ, and the sacrificial life of Christ, over the thousands of Monday mornings that are coming. And you need to remember that love is not an emotional high, as pleasant as those may be. You are to love your bride by treating her according to the law of Christ, from the heart. Put another way, your covenant commitment in the vows you are about to take is the concrete foundation. Your emotions are to rest upon that foundation, not the other way around. Love supports your emotions. Emotions may be enjoyed, but they don’t really support anything.
Katie, my charge to you is similar. You are taking vows also, just as Gavin is. They are not identical vows, but they are almost identical. And the thing that is striking about these vows that they commit you, in the same way that they commit him, to do the right thing, period, end. And a number of situations are posited—richer, poorer, plenty, want, joy, sorrow—which tell us that the commitment being made here today is in no way dependent upon your emotional state. As I said just a moment ago to Gavin, your emotions are to rest upon the foundation of covenant love. The vows being exchanged here in just a moment are the foundation, not the other way around. Love is to be defined as God defines it. When Jesus went to the cross, He did not do this on an emotional high. It was hard for Him to do, and it was the greatest act of love ever performed. We are Christians, not Romantics, and not sentimentalists.
And so Gavin, you are to be a Christian husband, not a flighty one. Katie, you are to be a Christian wife, not a soupy one.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.