Gresham and Emily

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Christian weddings and marriages are a canvas upon which the Holy Spirit of God paints the gospel. Now we know that He loves to paint the gospel in many ways, and in many places—preeminently in the proclamation of the Word on the Lord’s Day, as well as in the two sacraments that He has bequeathed to the church. But the way God brings a Christian man and Christian woman together paints the gospel in colors that are particularly vivid.

We unfortunately have a tendency to make the gospel smaller than what God has given to us. The orthodox say true things about it, but they write it all out in miniscule. But there is something off in a small but true gospel. The gospel is cosmic in scope, and we are constantly summoned by the Spirit of God to get our hearts and minds around that which has no circumference. The apostle Paul, for example, prayed that the Ephesians would be able to grasp the ungraspable, know the unknowable, comprehend the incomprehensible.

In the text that was read just a few moments ago, a number of remarkable things were said—and they are profoundly relevant to any married couple who want to make the declarations that God intends for us to make through marriage. This is what I mean.

We have a tendency to localize the good news, reducing it to a mere matter of being happy or sad. God created us, and we were happy creatures. We sinned against Him, and we became sad creatures. God sent Jesus so that our sins might be forgiven, and so that we could be happy again. Now this is all true—as I mentioned a moment ago—but it is not anywhere close to the fullness of truth.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul says that we used to know Christ in limited terms, “after the flesh,” but he says that we do not know Him in this way anymore. Because we now know Christ in His glory—ascended to the right hand of the Father—this means that we are not to think of anyone else “after the flesh.”

This does not mean that we deny their created substance, or that we are to pretend that they are now ghostly and immaterial. In marriage, particularly, the materiality of our existence is pressed in upon us. But we are summoned to look at this in true faith—we are called to see where God is taking it. Marriage involves meals, and clean-up, and yard upkeep, and lovemaking, and children, and a host of other physical things. We glory in all of that. When Paul says that we know no man “after the flesh,” he does not mean that in marriage we are to pretend that none of this is happening. Neither does he mean that we are to despise it as somehow being less spiritual.

As the earlier part of this chapter makes plain, Paul is saying that in our dealings with one another, we are not to get trapped by the idea that this particular moment is the whole show. We are not to have a blinkered understanding of the direction of our lives. God is taking us all to the day of resurrection, and we are to live our lives in the light that this reality shines upon us.

But what does that mean? Paul says that everything has been made new. What does that mean? The fact that all the old things have passed away means that God has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. Not only have we been reconciled to Him, but He has entrusted us, He says, with the ministry of reconciliation. This is the declaration the gospel makes to the world—God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, and so those who carry the gospel therefore plead with the world to be reconciled.

Paul concludes this section by saying that Jesus was made sin so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. This is the glory of imputed righteousness. Our sins were imputed to Jesus, and His perfections were imputed to us. Not only were His perfections imputed to me, they were also imputed to my brother and sister in Christ. His perfections were imputed to other people, and not just to me.

This is what enables us to live in the sunlight of reconciliation. Reconciliation. There is no more important word to remember in this context. We are gathering together to witness two forgiven but still imperfect people forming a covenant that can only be ended by death. This is a permanent bond we are forming today—the words are as long as we both shall live—and anyone who knows the deceitfulness of the human heart knows that the wedding vows are crazy talk.

Well, they would be crazy talk if it were not for reconciliation. That reconciliation is based on Christ ascended, and we may no longer think of Him as trapped down here. But that means we no longer think of anyone as trapped down here. The phrase bound for glory comes to mind. We don’t think of our wives in a limited way. We don’t think of our husbands a limited way. God is escorting us all to the eternal day, and has imputed the righteousness of Jesus Christ to us. He has given the Holy Spirit to us as a pledge and as a guarantee, and this Holy Spirit enables us to humble ourselves such that we seek forgiveness, and to gladly forgive others when they seek forgiveness from us. Reconciliation is a gospel word, and it is a gospel word that should rest on the mantel piece of your home.

So these are the thoughts God is thinking toward us. These are thoughts of peace, and not of evil.

Gresham, as someone who has done a lot of marriage counseling, I have had the dubious privilege of witnessing many marriages where reconciliation is not an operative word. It is sad and tragic, and because God gives us this grace freely, it is entirely unnecessary. The thing that hangs people up in this is the sin of pride. Now this sin of pride is a besetting sin for men. Gresham, you may not lay down your assigned dignity, you may not lay down your headship, you may not lay down your responsibilities. But you must lay down your pride. The vows that you are about to make can only be honored and kept by a humble man. Remember that in marriage, as everywhere else, God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble.

Emily, the ministry of reconciliation that we carry around every day in our marriages is a ministry that depends upon genuine and true reconciliation. A besetting sin that woman have is the sin of resentment. Women have a great capacity for putting up with things that they have not actually forgiven. They may have gone through the motions of forgiving, and they may think that they have forgiven, but women can often be bruised more deeply than they know. Men can be thoughtless, and then clumsy, and then thoughtless again, alternating as they go. With Christian men, most of this is not done on purpose—the problems arise when men stubbornly cling to their right to be that way out of pride. That is what they must mortify. But what you must mortify is your right to the grievance, or your right to the resentment. As your husband must learn to dig up pride by the deepest roots, so also you must dig up resentment by the deepest roots.

And what is that called? A good name for it is reconciliation, and when you learn to live that way, the glory of the gospel is set out for a watching world—a world desperately in need of reconciliation.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.

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Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

Beautiful. Denver best to this new family.

On your Sunday sermon as preeminent Gospel picture, I’m wondering. So much of, and in, life occurs elsewhere that this idea seems so parochial.

Old Testament stories aren’t mostly sermonaic. NT neither. Why should we think it is so now?

Take dying. What a picture.

Andrew Lohr
7 years ago

Yeah. A fornicating couple knows at some level that they have to forgive each other. A married couple, do the right thing, may more easily forget. Beware.

Andrew Lohr
7 years ago

Yeah. A fornicating couple knows at some level that they have to forgive each other. A married couple, doing the right thing, may find it easier to forget.