Homily for Ben and Rachel's Wedding
Ben and Rachel, let me thank you for the honor of being part of this special day. We are so thrilled to to have seen God’s grace at work in your lives which has led to this special moment.
Rachel, on one of the first occasions that we met in my office to discuss your marriage, you admitted that the reality of this may have surprised your parents. One moment you were their only daughter who was living at home and attending college, but then one day they discovered that you were going to be getting married to Ben and everything was about to change.
A parent tries to prepare for these moments but when they come the reality hits you in a profound and in a surprising way.
As fathers we may be surprised by these things but our heavenly Father is not surprised. It is the LORD who brings a man and a woman together in marriage. Marriage has been created by the LORD to provide the solution to a great need that we have. The Lord spoke of this need when He said to our first parents in the garden of Eden, “It is not good that man should be alone”. Therefore He said, “I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18)
Ben and Rachel, when you decided to get married you wanted it to be a Christian wedding. You decided to have your wedding in a church, with a minister and you wanted to enter into this covenant together before all of these witnesses. You have sought God’s blessing upon this union at every stage of your relationship. In all of this you have shown that you know that God has brought the two of you together. You know that it is the sovereign and providential work of God that has done this. Like the wedding in Cana where Jesus performed His first miracle you have invited Christ to be here today!
You know of Proverbs 19:14 which says, “House and wealth are inherited, but a prudent wife is from the LORD.” You know that Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD”.
Our heavenly Father is not surprised that we are standing here this day. He has always seen this day coming. He has ordained this moment, He has providentially brought you two together, and He will continue to be present with you in your marriage from this moment on.
The LORD has instituted and regulated the covenant of marriage that you are about to enter into with each other. We learn in Malachi 2:15 that the LORD is here right now to give you His Holy Spirit in a special way so that you ‘will now become one flesh’. This bond by His Spirit is never to be broken by any person. (Genesis 2:24/Mark 10:8).
Ben and Rachel stand before us today to make this covenant together. They are making this covenant with full understanding of what they are committing too to the other person. Both of them have acknowledged the hard work that is demanded in committing exclusively to love and be loyal to each other for a lifetime. They understand that such a covenant will flourish as the grace of God bears fruit in every area of their lives.
This is one of the reasons that you chose Ephesians 3:20-21 as a scripture that should be read here today. “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Ben and Rachel, you are entering into this covenant that is based upon Christ and the Gospel. The grace of God redeems sinners, grants Christ’s righteousness freely, restores us to God in holiness, sanctifies us, reconciles us to others and provides rich and fruitful relationships.
Because of this hope that you have in Christ, faith and love spring fourth from each of you towards each other.
Ben and Rachel, you are surrounded by so many people who are here today who to be witness to this covenant that you are making to each other. Your family and friends know the sacredness of this occasion. As we gather here with you we are mindful of the admonition of Hebrews 13:4 which says, “Let marriage be held in honor by all…”.
it is our intention to honor the institution of marriage by holding it in the highest regard.
As witness we affirm that this is a holy institution.
We will honor this marriage covenant by praying for you, encouraging you, supporting you and walking with you in a way that conforms to the instruction of the Scriptures.
There is no greater example of what it means to honor marriage then what we see in the LORD Jesus Christ as He loves His bride, the Church. The truth of Christ’s love for His bride must work its way into all of our relationships. We have come here today to honor the husband and wife relationship and Ephesians 5:25-27 and 33 helps to guide our thoughts concerning this. We read these words,
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish…let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
In Ephesians 5:25 the husband is charged to love his wife. Similarly, in Ephesians 5:33 the wife is given the charge of respecting her husband. Between the husband and wife we are to continually see an interplay between love and respect.
What is the nature of this love and respect that is to be seen within the marriage union? Ephesians 5:25-27 describes this love in three ways as it is seen through Christ’s treatment of His bride.
Love Gives (25)
Love Cleanses (26)
Love Exalts (27)
First, love gives of oneself to the other. As Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, so too does love and respect within marriage give of oneself for the other. Christ loved the church so much that He gave Himself up for His church. The church has been bought with His own blood (Hebrews 13:20). This type of love is unconditional and is willing to lay down ones life for the other. Unconditional love gives to another even when they cannot give back. And unconditional love never grows tired of setting themselves aside for the opportunity to please another. This love does not keep a record of wrongs but continually forgives.
It is a love that loves for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health.
There are no strings attached to this kind of love. This love has given up all rights to self and is determined to give up themselves for another. What does love give? It gives gifts of love and respect consistently and faithfully.
Secondly, love cleanses each other. As Christ sanctifies and cleanses the church, so too love and respect within marriage cleanses and purifies the other. I know from having talked to both of you that you have done many things to prepare for this day. I know that you have exercised great self-control so that every aspect of this day would be ‘sweeter and fuller and more enjoyable’. You have both cleansed and purified yourselves for this moment.
But cleansing in marriage is more than just what we can see externally. There is an internal cleansing that is done. Jesus cleansed His bride through the washing of the Word. You have already done this in your courtship by making your faith in Christ central and by reading and submitting to the Word together. You have spent time together confessing and forgiving each other as Christ has forgiven you. You have often spoken scriptural truths to one another to encourage, strengthen and heal the other.
Having already begun to cleanse each other with the Word just imagine how much more you can do this in your marriage.
Over time you will know your spouse more than anyone else. You will spend countless hours with each other. You will experience everything together and face every new day with each other. And into all of these things you will get to bring the Word of God to cleanse, purify, strengthen, encourage and establish yourselves in the faith. As you allow the Word of God to cleanse and purify this relationship you will be able to say to each other, as Solomon said to his bride, “You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.” (Song of Solomon 4:7)
Thirdly, love exalts the other (27). As Christ exalts His bride, the church, to present her pure and holy, so too love and respect within marriage will lift up and exalt the other. Christ is preparing His church to present her to Himself. Christ lovingly lifts His bride out from her humble place and exalts her in His royal sanctuary.
We are given a picture of this in Psalm 45:13-15, “All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold. In many colored robes she is led to the king, with her servants following behind her. With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king.”
This Psalm gives us a picture of a royal wedding where the king brings his bride to the palace to become queen. This is a picture of Christ’s graciousness and mercy to the church. He promises to love us with a love that cleanses and exalts. Because of this we can say with Solomon, “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” (Song of Solomon 2:16, 6:3)
Christ has loved us even while we were still sinners. He died for us even when we rebelled against Him and His kingdom. When we forsake our past life and come to Him by faith He takes upon Himself all our sin and guilt and pays the debt we could not pay. He puts clothes of righteousness upon us and crowns us with His glory.
What a marvelous love with which we have been loved. We cannot display this sort of love apart from having experienced this love from God. We must be changed by the power of God through faith in Christ who gave Himself in this way for us. Through such faith in Christ you become a temple in which God dwells by His Holy Spirit and you are given the nature, and the ability, to love, honor, and cherish each other as you are promising to do today by His grace.
Let me end by quoting Hebrews 13:20-21 the writer concludes with a benediction that is to be your prayer today as you enter into this covenant and a prayer that you should remember often throughout your marriage. We read, “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our LORD Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”