I have had several requests for the wedding sermon that I wrote for Rebecca's wedding. Here it is.
Just a quick disclaimer. I make no claims of originality. Some of it is stuff that is original, some of it is lifted from wedding sermon's I've heard or read, some of it (especially the quotes on marriage), is stuff I've come across in studying for a sermon on marriage that I did awhile back. The one source I will highlight is the Meaning of Marriage, I had Rebecca and Brenton read it for Premarital counseling, and would recommend it to every couple that is dating or married. I hope you find this helpful, while understanding it was written for a specific event.
The Scripture Passages that it is based on and were read before the sermon are Ephesians 5:22-33, and Colossians 3:12-17.
Brenton, Rebecca, today is one of the most important days of your life, and the most important day in your relationship. With these vows, you are making a commitment. To each other, to God, to all of your friends and family members, to the world at large. That you will love one another, honor one another, care for one another, seek the others good, do what’s best for one another, and find joy in their joy, as you live together in holy marriage, forsaking all others, as long as you both shall live.
Marriage is about a promise. In Marriage, two become one flesh. Becoming one flesh implies a covenant promise. Today you covenant, with God, and each other…to leave father and mother, and join together…and become one flesh. This is not a contract… contracts are breakable…they are a commitment between you… and God… we see this from the beginning…When God brought Adam to Eve, he blessed marriage and declared, For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Brenton, Rebecca, this is now your primary human relationship, the most important human relationship in your life No other person has a claim that supersedes the claims that you have on each other. Marriage involves a covenant promise before God, in which you transfer your primary allegiance from your parents and siblings, to each other. You leave you leave your father and mother, your brothers and sisters, and unite together, in relationship with God and each other, and begin to build a new household…a new life together…till death do your part…. Today you make a date with destiny, you’re committing to God, yourself, and each other that you will hold fast to the other…and that ten, 20, 50 years from now, with the Lords help, you will be holding fast, till death do you part.
Marriage is about a promise…but... marriage is about creating a place where we can know true relationship…in Genesis, we’re told, God created man (humanity), in his own image. In the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. After creating Adam, Man, the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Matthew Henry noted that "Eve was not taken out of Adam's head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him." Then God brought the two together…The wonderful postscript that we see in scripture after God brought them together is…The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. Marriage is designed to be a one flesh union, where you can be venerable, on every level. One of our deepest desires in friendship is to be accepted for who we are, understood for who we are, loved for who we are and known without shame, received and approved. We long to be able to be completely venerable and intimate in every area of life. And God designed us this way, and he ordained marriage to be a place where the longing is fulfilled. Where two lives, two hearts, two minds, two bodies, will become one flesh, and thereby complement each other, and build up each other, and seek each other’s good above their own... in true relationship.
But even more than that, ultimately, marriage is about something that is bigger than a covenant, as huge as covenant is, and it’s about something that’s bigger than our need for deep relationship and friendship and intimacy. Ultimately marriage is a divinely created picture of the gospel. In Ephesians 5, which Nathan read for us, we see something interesting…we see Paul recite God’s words on marriage in Genesis 2 “For this reason …” But then, what does Paul say? “This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” What’s he mean by that? The word mystery shows up several times throughout his New Testament letters, and not once does it mean something incomprehensible or impossible to understand. Instead, Paul uses it to refer to a truth that God kept hidden for a time, but now has revealed. Now, Paul applies the term to marriage, and this he says, is a profound mystery, a mega-mystery…an extraordinarily great, wonderful, profound truth that can be understood only with the help of God’s Holy Spirit. And what is the secret? What is this mystery? He is taking about Christ and the church, referring back to what he said in verse 25, Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. IN short, the mystery is not simply the fact of marriage per se; it is the message that what husbands should do for their wives is what Christ did to bring us into union with himself.
And what did he do? He gave himself up for her. He died for her…marriage is a window into the gospel…as we see how the son of God, equal with God, gave up his glory, and took on our human nature…and then…Having lived the life we should have lived, perfectly, sinlessly, he humbled himself even more…by willing going to the cross…dying the death we should have died, in our place, for our sins, so that we could be united with him (Romans 6:5), and take in his nature (2peter 1:4). He gave up his glory and power and became a servant. He died to his own interests and looked to meet our needs instead (Romans 15:1-3). Jesus sacrificial death brought us into deep union with him if we turn to him in faith…that’s not just the key to understand marriage, but to living… This is why Paul can tie the original statement about marriage in genesis 2 to Jesus and the church… he saw that when God designed marriage, he already had Christ and the church in mind, and was giving us a picture through which we would be able to see the gospel (Editorial note-This point is lifted from The Meaning of Marriage)
Your marriage is therefore, a pointer to the gospel, it’s a picture of the gospel lived out, with the husband and wife each take a role, serving and being served… submitting and being submitted to…picturing the ultimate marriage. As Christians, you have the incredible privilege of knowing the ultimate purpose for your marriage. The purpose of marriage goes beyond personal fulfillment. It’s not about making you happy all the time. The biblical purpose of marriage is not us-centered. It's God's centered. Your marriage is meant to point to the truth that Christ gave his all for his bride the church, and that one day, he will return for his bride the church…C.J. Mahaney noted that…By the grace of God, your marriage is meant to be the best echo, the most faithful reflection of that relationship you can possibly be. It’s about being genuinely united in a strong, godly, intimate relationship that echoes the one between Christ and the Church.
Allot of marriages struggle because they do not see their marriage as profound, mysterious or amazing. They only see themselves as two married people. It is all too common to have a marriage centered on you, your spouse, your kids, your goals… how it makes you feel… marriage is a picture of the gospel…see this… and let it shape how you approach your marriage...
So, having said these things about the permanency and purpose of marriage…What should your marriage look like….What should be the things that define and shape your marriage, and this covenant that you now enter? Grace. The garments of grace. Your marriage must be clothed in the garments of grace. Today you stand here, in all the splendor of wedding garb…and it’s wonderful, and exciting and joyful.
And on a wedding day, our clothes are chosen carefully to reflect the importance of the day in your lives… But as important as these clothes are for one special day, they aren’t the clothes of everyday life; they are not the clothes that are needed to deal with the ups and downs, the struggles, and mountaintops, of marriage. For those “other” days, Paul gives us some guidance as to the garb that we should wear… clothes worn in response to Christ’s love, modeled on Christ’s love, and empowered by Christ’s love… Paul lays this out in Colossians…which Patty read for us…
First, be clothed in Christ…This passage begins and ends with your identity as people whose primary allegiance is to Christ. It calls you to remember first of all, whose you are and who you are to live for, who you are to glorify with your marriage. Think about the structure of the passage. The first thing Paul says is, as God’s chosen people. Later he says; forgive as the lord forgave you. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks -to God the Father through him. Your first love, the foundation of your life, the one that gives you hope, and joy, and confidence and assurance… the one that fills the hole at the center of your soul, must be Christ. You are to live as God’s people…as God's chosen people… People whose lives are built on and molded by the gospel; by the sacrificial, giving love that Christ showed us… Be clothed in Christ… individually, and in terms of the marriage. Make him the center…Ecclesiastes tells us, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecc 4:12)”… If Christ is the center of your marriage… it will be strong…
So how do you make Christ the center? It’s all through this passage… we remind ourselves of the gospel… forgive as Christ forgave you… Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. The words of verse 16 point the way. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Get into the word, learn what it teaches. Learn what it shows you about God’s incredible love and mercy and grace. Be in worship together. Find a church where you can plug in together and be fed on God’s word…and as you build your life on his word…it will reshape you and cause you to live for his glory together. Be clothed in Christ.
But second, in light of that… He says…put on Compassion. Literally, compassion means "a heart of pity." Compassion is an inner attitude you each have toward the other — a fullness of tender caring for and about the other’s vulnerabilities and strengths which will overflow into how you treat each other, in public & in private.
Moreover, he says, put on Kindness. On those days when you come home from a horrible day of training… and your CO was the devil himself… on those days that all you want is to be left alone… and your spouse says…honey…when that happens… and when you’re the snapped at one… show kindness, seek to their good as you deal with each others’ weaknesses and sore spots.
What else? Humility. This one’s essential. Pride will ruin a marriage faster than you can believe. Pride makes you selfish. It keeps you from owning up to your mistakes. It makes you say, I’m better than you… it makes you compete with each other… from here on out… you’re not competing with each other… your competing alongside each other… as you strive to accomplish all that God has for you together… you don’t need to say “I’m better”, I’m tougher… I’m stronger… who cares? Your working for the same ends… the glory of God through your marriage. Pride makes you strive against rather than alongside… Now, conversely, what does humility do? Humility recognizes the others equal status, recognizing that each has needs, plans, hopes, & values which are just as important as your own. It raises the other up, and values them over your own interest.
Brent… Paul nails us husbands on the chin when he lays out the level of humble love we should show. For you…this means that you are called to demonstrate the selfless humble care and sacrifice that Jesus shows toward the church in how you relate to Rebecca… And right now you may be saying, of course, she’s my wife, “just as Christ died for the church…I’d die for her. I’d do anything for her”. Great…but here’s the real question that you will face most days: are you sacrificing your comfort for her on a daily basis. Are you putting aside your wants to meet her needs on a daily basis? Or do you demand things be your way? Do you look for your wants and needs or do you seek to meet her needs and desires? Show humble love to her… be totally committed to her wellbeing. Seek her good always. Seek to lead her to God, seek her best, even when you’re in a bad mood, or she’s being grouchy…. Rebecca, before you think, I’m off the hook, remember that you are called to demonstrate the respect, submission, and devotion the church shows toward Jesus in how you relate to Brenton…
Rebecca, hear what I’m saying… Respect…nothing takes the wind out of a guys sails than feeling like he’s not respected in his own home…Guys are wired to want respect, show him the love and respect he needs Sub-mission- think about submission… at its root, submission is not… oppressed, but sub… below…the mission… your to be working in ways that support him and build him up… Devotion… steadfast, loyal commitment… to being by his side…. Care for him, when he’s wounded. Seek to build him up, and send him out, stronger, more equipped by your love.
Remember…in Ephesians, there’s something amazing to see there. Everything Paul tells us about marriage starts with mutual submission... he says, here is the starting point…Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. That’s a two way street… submit to one another… humility allows you to do that…it allows you to seek the others complete happiness…and here’s the thing… Have you ever noticed that in the best marriages, both partners are seeking the good of each other? Submitting their hopes and dreams and happiness to the will of the other, and finding joy in the happiness of the other. I’ve noticed this allot. I’ve noticed that when someone starts to fall for someone else, they start doing research...they learned each other’s likes and dislikes. What bothers each other, what really offends and outrages them? And you did this…But you didn’t just want to learn what really bothers each other, you learned what delights each other. You learned what Brenton really likes… the way he likes his meat cooked… the things he likes to do as he works out… and you learned what she likes…and doesn’t like… how she needs... needs that cup of coffee… You learn what really pleases each other… The big things… and the little things. And what we’re you doing?
Tracing an arc…what is this arc… the will of your beloved….and then, without being asked, you begin to conform yourself to the will of your beloved, and so, you give up some big things, and you do little things… To an outsider, it seems like your hampering your freedom. But you’re not… because you’ve put your happiness into their happiness. You’re only happy if they’re happy… and while its submission…it’s not exploitation, because the other person is doing this for you, if the other person is adjusting their life to the authority of the other, in love of the will of the beloved. That’s a love relationship (Disclaimer-this illustration was stolen from a Keller sermon I heard awhile back).
Brenton, Rebecca, put the hopes, dreams, and desires of each other first. Invert your happiness into each other’s happiness… If you do this, if your love is active, not passive. If it’s expressive, not unemotional. If it’s full of effort...driven ultimately by the knowledge that this is what Christ did for you on the cross, you will find that your marriage is strong…
Do you both see it? Submit out of reverence…show humble love...humility…Furthermore… Paul says, clothe yourselves in Gentleness. Gentleness is the garment of self-controlled person. Badgering, Nagging, Berating, Harassing, Heckling, Hounding, Complaining, and even a lot of teasing – are not gentleness. When gentleness is absent, you both have to on a helmet of wariness & the body armor of fearfulness… your always on guard… And how can you be intimate, on any level, emotionally, spiritually or physically, with someone in armor? When you put on gentleness, the other can take off the self-defensive armor. And when that happens, trust can thrive & intimacy can reside.
This brings us to the next thing Paul says to clothe yourself and your marriage with. Patience. This one’s huge. You cannot expect perfection from each other. Each one of you is flawed, each one of you has weaknesses…you have the ability to mess up, and be stubborn, and drive each other crazy…marriage takes patience. But it also takes teamwork. Bearing one another’s burdens in love. Brent, that means helping Rebecca when she’s boiling over from over-scheduling… it means when she’s sick, and struggling from lack of sleep, you step in and pick up the slack… and for the two of you… it means intentionality as you deal with the separation of deployment… seek to meet each others emotional and spiritual needs, even from afar… and someday…when the day comes, teamwork means that both parents, parent... marriage takes the efforts of both, working for the good of the relationship, and the family.
But, that’s not the end… Paul tell us…there’s more needed. You need to be forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you. There are some days, that the words that need to come out of your mouth are, I’m sorry... And when you’re the wronged one... you need to forgive. At that moment, when they say, I’m sorry, or even if they haven’t, you have one of two options. You can get your back up, you can push back, you can say, you did this, you can point and divide… or you can forgive.
But…what happens if you don’t? Or wont? It will ruin your marriage. What are the results of unforgiveness? Loss of communication…and therefore, loss of relationship. Communication is to a marriage is like fresh air to a body or oxygen to a flame - Without it your relationship will slowly suffocate. And there’s times that you’re so mad…. And you don’t want to forgive…but if you don’t it will cut the lines of communication… and that spells ruin…You need to be quick to forgive, resolve anger on the same day. Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus, says "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (4:26-27). Deal with it quickly. Even if it means 3 AM...Early in our marriage, I did something that really irritated Veronique. Now, I don’t even remember what it was. But what I remember is this. I had to finish a paper. Or something…and I came to bed in the early morning, and she was still up. She couldn’t sleep, and she didn’t let me sleep till the issue was resolved. And I’ll always remember it…now we can’t even remember what the issue was… Don’t let things fester… Deal with it them quickly.
Now, how much should we forgive? Allot. To the measure of the cross… We are to forgive, as the Lord forgave us. These words are so crucial. This gives us a tangible understanding of what it means to forgive. Scripture makes clear… We needed forgiveness. We all rebelled. We put something on the throne of our lives, and worshiped it rather than God, and then found, oh wait, I’m enslaved by my choices… what I thought would free me, has enslaved me…
When that happened, Christ didn’t just sit in heaven and bark commands to us... At a personal cost that we can never fully understand, He laid aside His rights as God, took on human flesh and became obedient to death on the cross…He who knew no sin was made sin for us… the king of kings, the creator, was actually was made sin for us, paying the debt we could not pay…by enduring that terrible moment where God the father and the God the son had their relationship, the relationship that they had had from all eternity, torn apart…when God the father turned his back on his son as his son hung on the cross… it was infinitely painful, but he did it, so that we might receive amazing, unfathomable forgiveness…if we turn to him in faith, freeing us from the rebellion that traps us, and making his children, people who relate to him, and to each other, in a whole new way…as new forgiven people… in Christ…he died, so that in Christ we might be the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21)!
If this is your identity, if Christ is your foundation, if you build your marriage on him… if you model your forgiveness on his forgiveness…if you build your lives on him, and start with him as the center of your relationship, submitting to him, relying on him, looking to him, hoping in him, showing his forgiveness… your marriage will be strong…“The key to a marriage is simply re-enacting the gospel to each other, notes Tim Keller…You can talk about communication skills or other stuff, and they’re all good, but basically knowing how to forgive and knowing how to repent… If you both can forgive and repent, it doesn’t matter how different you are, you’ll be okay. Two Christians who are married can make it, no matter how incompatible… if you can repent and forgive".(Tim Keller, The Gospel Coalition National Conference, 2009)
This is quite a picture of forgiveness…and marriage…and yet Paul holds it up, and says “this is your model”… Forgive as the Lord forgave you…Brenton, Rebecca, forgive, in this manner.
And, over all these virtues, above all else, put one love. If compassion is marriage’s inner, garment, and if kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance and forgiveness are its active-wear shirts and pants and skirts and socks, then love is the overcoat. "On top of all these things," Paul says, "put on love." Love keeps a marriage warm. Love should cloth your marriage…Ultimately, you’ll never find a greater picture of love than the picture is found in the cross… Christ showed his love, by dying for the church….And he calls out through the pages of scripture, through the scripture that should dwell in your hearts richly, love one another…like this. Brenton, put on this love… love my sister like that, model this love…and I promise you, your marriage will go well. Love her like this, and she will trust you, respect you, honor you, cherish you, because she will know, you have her best interest at heart. May your marriage be marked by sacrificial giving love.
And… Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace… peace is more than the absence of war…biblically… peace, shalom, is a sense of blessedness. It’s the right ordering of the world. It’s the way things should be. Lets his peace that passes all understanding, that calmness, that contentment that comes from him, rule in your lives. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace… And be thankful. Be thankful in the good times, and in the bad. Be thankful that whatever you face, you have each other, and him. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Today I charge you, remember your vows, remember your promises. Remind yourself of them often, but more, remind yourself of whose you are to be, remind yourself of the gospel, and remind yourself of the garments of grace, the characteristics that should clothe your marriage.