When God created our first parents, and placed them in a garden paradise, He was declaring His intention for us. He was being kind to Adam and Eve, and to all their descendants. He wanted us to exercise dominion in the world, filling it, subduing it, renewing it, and replenishing it. In order to do this, there would have to be children, and then they would go on to have their children. There was to be a multitude.
It would be easy to think that the introduction of sin through the Fall somehow abrogated this cultural mandate, but this is not the case. The approach to the cultural mandate was altered, necessarily so, but the mission was amazingly not abandoned. The wickedness of man did grow to a great height, such that God even had to destroy that ancient world with water. But immediately after that judgment, right when Noah and his family came out of the ark, God gave our parents the cultural mandate again. The task was reassigned.
Noah was a new Adam, and just like the first Adam he had an empty world in front of him. Unlike Adam, there were eight people there to start with instead of two. And also unlike Adam, he had a fallen sinful nature to contend with, a nature that would be passed on to all his descendants. And yet, God still renewed the cultural mandate (Gen. 9:1-3). Dominion was the task of the unfallen Adam, and dominion was still the task of the fallen Noah.
So as we read through the Old Testament after that point, we should notice two distinct things, running parallel with each other, and sometimes even intertwined. One is the record of failure after failure. Even though God set apart His people with Abraham, and delivered them from Egypt under Moses, and established them firmly in the land under Solomon—despite all this, they turned away from Him, again and again they turned away. In this respect, the Old Testament is not the most encouraging book to read. The book of Judges is particularly grim.
But also, throughout the Old Testament, right alongside the histories of the failures, we see promise after promise after promise. It will not always be thus, the Lord says. And the Lord repeats Himself on this point many times.
And when the Christ finally came, we confess that this was the fulfillment of all these promises. In Him, every promise is yes, and amen (2 Cor. 1:20). The Advent of this Christ was a really big deal—in fact, as you may have realized, we even continue to celebrate His birth, down to the present day. And just before He ascended into Heaven, when He gave His disciples the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-19), this was the cultural mandate assigned to us yet again, but this time with the promised Spirit accompanying us.
And so, if you have been following all of this, you may be wondering what all of this has to do with marriage. You may be wondering what this is doing in a wedding homily.
The task that lies before us is enormous, and it is only going to be accomplished household by household. The Church is the ministry of grace and peace, but the Christian home is the nursery of grace and peace, the seminary of grace and peace, the greenhouse of grace and peace. Word and sacrament are assigned to the Church, and the keys of the kingdom are held there, but the place where it is all lived out, the place where children see how attractive holiness can be, is in the home.
The Church holds the keys, but the basic doors that must be unlocked are the doors between man and woman, and father and children, and mother and children, and father and mother and children.
Shawn, what this means is that you must accept the role that is being assigned to you here. You must be a stand-up Christian man. You must be an upright husband. As God blesses, you must receive the responsibility of being a spiritual guardian to however many immortal souls come to grace your home. In order to do this, you must be a man of the Word. You must be in the Word. You must bring your family to worship God, and you must instruct them all on how important it is to love the God you worship. You can only do this faithfully by modeling it, which means that you must love the God you worship. This is the foundational command, the one resting underneath the cultural mandate. You shall love the Lord your God.
Gloria, you are charged to follow your husband, and to follow him gladly. He has been charged to lead you like a righteous husband would, and so my exhortation to you is that you follow him like a righteous wife would. Your relationship with him is to be glorious, and the aroma of Christ-love is to permeate your home. The definitions for all of this are found, not in your emotions or desires, or in Shawn’s emotions and desires, but rather in the Word of God. This is why you are to be a woman of the Word, just as Shawn has been charged to be a man of the Word. You should want your children to grow up in a home where the Bible is not only esteemed, but also read. You want them to see the Bible, not only in an honored place on the shelf, but in an honored place on your lap, or on the table in front of you.
Shawn, as you are a man of the Word, and Gloria, as you are a woman of the Word, the household that is forming here today is going to be blessed.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.