the Church on the Hill
by Pastor D. Eric Williams
Last week we looked at the importance of the wedding ceremony and the nature of the vows that a man and woman recite when joined in marriage. Or maybe I should say the nature of the vows that men and women used to recite. These days it seems that there are few brides and bridegrooms with the courage and selflessness required to vow - before Almighty God – to give up everything for another person. This cowardly self centeredness is clearly displayed in the 50 percent failure rate among American marriages these days.
Frankly most modern Americans hold the marriage covenant in low regard. Even those couples which remain married throughout life may not understand the significance of their marriage relationship. Unfortunately there are plenty of pastors who don't understand the significance either. As I mentioned last week, a pastor should not join a man and woman in marriage unless he will be providing pastoral care to the couple before and after the wedding. At the very least a pastor should be sure that the couple will be part of a Bible believing Christ centered church in the town where they will be living after the wedding. He should also see to it that the couple participates in pre-marriage counseling. The reason for this is that the minister who oversees the exchange of vows is responsible to God for his actions. The pastor leads the participants in "till death do us part" vows, and if he thinks that he can wash his hands of the results he's kidding himself.
Every marriage is intended to be a model of Christ and His Church; hence every husband must die to himself, love his wife and give himself up for her; every wife must submit to her husband and respect and obey him. Men and women cannot fulfill their God ordained marriage responsibilities without the help and support of a pastor and church. I'm not saying that
their marriage is sure to end in divorce; just that it won't be all that it was meant to be. The bottom line is that any pastor who is foolish enough to act as a hired gun and perform wedding ceremonies as a stand alone "service" needs to carefully reconsider the nature of the marriage covenant as presented in the Bible.
In the early Church, weddings were performed during regular weekly worship. This is entirely fitting. Indeed I believe that the Church should strive to return to this approach. For it is only within the context of a thriving Bible believing Christ centered church that a couple will grow to understand their vows. For instance, men and women do not naturally
understand the significance of being one flesh in the marriage covenant. Sadly even within the Church this mystery is often limited to the sexual relationship of a man and his wife. Yet when Paul mentions this truth, he claims that it refers to "Christ and the Church" (Eph. 5:32). How can a man and his wife grow in their understanding of this truth without participation in the Church, who is the Bride. You don't really know what married life will be like until you've lived it; likewise you cannot grow to understand the mystery of one flesh unless you participate in the Church, the Bride who is one with the Lord Jesus Christ.
As Bob Dylan said in paraphrase of the Apostle Paul, "everybody's gotta serve somebody." And, as I wrote last week, unless a bride and groom are willing to submit their married life to the Lord Jesus Christ and His delegated authority they should forego the church wedding and stick to a civil ceremony.