The Wedding

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 9
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We have spoken about God’s institution of marriage, but what defines a marriage? Scripture distinguishes between being single, engaged,1 and married. Just as surely, we do not read of a specific wedding ceremony. We should not, however, interpret this to mean that an official recognition of marriage is not anticipated. To the contrary, the examples we find in Scripture would suggest exactly the opposite. Abraham’s servant went through an elaborate procedure, including the exchange of gifts, to obtain a wife for Isaac (Gen. 24). Boaz’s marriage to Ruth was witnessed in the gate of the city — the place where judicial proceedings were undertaken (Ruth 4). The Lord sanctioned the marriage at Cana by His presence (John 2). For that matter, there are several references to wedding feasts in the gospels. An official ceremony, before witnesses, to recognize a marriage is firmly established in Scripture. A common law relationship, no matter how faithful, begins with fornication. “Let marriage be held every way in honor, and the bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers will God judge” (Heb. 13:44Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. (Hebrews 13:4) JND). The marriage tie itself is especially alluded to in this verse, not merely the marriage relationship once in it.
The Marriage Vow
Even though it is decidedly popular today to write one’s own wedding vows — some exceptional, others less praise worthy — I will again turn to the traditional English vows (substitute the man’s name in place of M. and the wife’s name in place of N.):
I M. take thee N. to my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.
I N. take thee M. to my wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.
While it is not my intent to speak at length on the nature and character of the marriage vow, it has some bearing on the subject at hand. Though we can tailor the vows these days to say just what we want them to say, I have referenced these traditional vows as they do have a Biblical content. Before we take up the subject of choosing a spouse, we need to think about what we are called upon scripturally to commit to in the marriage relationship.
The husband is to love his bride “even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself” (Eph. 5:28). The love spoken of here is unconditional. The verse says “even as Christ  ...  gave Himself.” It was “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). No man neglects his body, even when it’s unwell; in fact, at such times, he lavishes care upon it and nourishes and cherishes it (Eph. 5:29). In Colossians we read: “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Col. 2:19). God anticipates that wives may not always be so lovable; nevertheless, the command still stands, the husband is to show love irrespective of the circumstance.
On the other hand, wives are called upon to “Submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the Saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (Eph. 5:22-24). Incidentally, this verse does not mean that the husband assumes the place of the Lord in the life of his wife; the husband does not and cannot take that position. It is the same expression used in “doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men” (Eph. 6:7). Whenever we do anything “as to the Lord,” it makes it so much easier and more pleasant. In the context of the verse in chapter 6, it relates to servants and masters. My boss may not be very pleasant, but I can still do my work as to the Lord. Of course, we trust that the husband is loving and kind, but regardless of his likeability, his headship is to be honored because that is what the Lord has asked of the wife.
The secret to a happy and healthy marriage is expressed in the verse, “let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Eph. 5:33). As part of that complementary relationship which God anticipated between men and women, He chose to design the woman to thrive on love and the man to respond to respect and honor. We cannot wait for the other to act. If we take care of our responsibility, then it is often surprising how the other will respond. When our behavior is rewarded in this fashion, it should only serve to make us try even harder. This in turn encourages the other to exercise their responsibility. And so the marriage becomes a thriving partnership rather than a dysfunctional relationship between two people who happen to live together.
1. Betrothed.