The Contrast of Two Marriages
My parents were married for sixty years. My aunt gave them a 50th anniversary celebration. On the way to the dinner, I ask Pam, if we were going to a celebration of a beautiful relationship or a celebration of a successful endurance of a commitment made?
Humanly speaking, my folks were good people and good parents. However, what I remember are two people who joined in a business venture and stuck it out. As a teenager, I was surrounded by similar marriages. In fact, one day at about the age fourteen, I told God, “If what these people have is marriage, you can have it.”
Pam’s parents were married sixty-seven years. We gave a 50th anniversary celebration for them following the public renewal of their vows. They were wonderful models. No, not perfect. But, as a young man coming into the family, there was much to emulate, and I was the recipient of the product in the person of my wife.
My Growing Understanding of the Covenant of Marriage
This human transaction is even more than it appears. In my first six years as a Christian (17 to 23) I was privileged to serve friends by being in multiple weddings. All my friends had already done privately what they did publicly when responding to the preacher’s first question in the ceremony—they made a commitment to one another, the same commitment which led them to this moment. However, it was some years later, post my ordination by some years, when I realized that this transaction affirmed between a man and a woman in that moment was actually an affirmation of their willingness to enter into covenant with God.
This affirmation, “I do” or “I will,” whether a couple realizes it or not, is their agreeing to enter Holy Matrimony. That is, they agree to engage in a covenant with God to live out their lifetime with this person in accordance with God’s design. They agree to become engaged in God’s grand display of His relationship with His church.
This covenant made with God becomes the foundation and vitality of the next two covenants they are going to make with each other before witnesses.
When the pastor steps on to the platform and they follow him, their positions change. During that first covenant making experience, they faced the pastor as God’s representative. As it were, the pastor is God’s voice inviting them into covenant with Him. Now they face one another as the pastor leads them into the understanding of God’s parameters for the marriage relationship. Then, having heard the parameters, they exchange vows thereby entering this covenant with one another before God and the community as their witnesses to fulfill the duty and the beauty of the marital relationship.
This is followed by a third covenant with one another. While the ring ceremony is not a Scriptural requirement for marriage, it certainly has precedence in the Bible. For example, baptism is not required for salvation, but it is right and proper and instituted by God. In the Old Testament, Joshua has a monument of stones constructed to remind people of God’s keeping His covenant. Hence, in the exchange of rings, the couple is covenanting to wear the ring on a designated finger, well recognized as a symbol of marriage, to tell the rest of the world, “Don’t mess with me I am in covenant with my mate which is rooted in my covenant with God to keep myself only for my mate.
Covenants Lead to Union
With those vows taken the pastor now, speaking for God, pronounces them man and wife and grants permission to kiss the bride. This final step declares God’s sanction on the relationship before the world and the permission to kiss the bride declares the sanction of totality of intimacy between them. When we come to saving faith in Jesus, God the judge declares us judicially righteous. At this point in the ceremony God declares this couple is judicially one in His sight. In progressive sanctification we grow in oneness with Christ, and in marriage we grow in oneness with each other. Once again displaying the relationship of the church with Christ.
Their Task Is Now Multifaceted
First, their intimacy, as observed in public and privately experience in the full experience of marriage, they display the intimate relationship of the personage of Jesus Christ with the personage of the individual believer. The way they live out their unity, day by day displays the believer’s unity with Christ. The way they practice the New Testament one anothers in their relationship displays the manner of Jesus with His own. The way they engage in doing ministry together and the way in which they practice holiness they display the believer in relationship with Christ. Marriage is about Jesus Christ!
Implementation in A Fallen World
However, in this fallen world, the best saints falter. We hurt one another. We disappoint one another. We disagree with one another to the point of continuous tension. These are the times when Covenant One is our resource. We remember, “I entered into Covenant with God to join myself to this man/woman. I am obligated to God to give to keep my covenant even when he/she does not. I need to do an attitude adjustment. I need to repent. I need to seek forgiveness. I need to be patient even when he/she is a jerk. I need to trust God and live boldly loving him/her—even when he/she is a prickly porcupine.”
This is marriage. This is what you and I did when we walked down the aisle and met before the preacher on that beautiful occasion. Let us honor our word to our God and building upon that honor, honor our spouse, and display the Gospel to the world.