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Archive for April, 2012

Following is a slightly expanded version of what I said at B and K’s wedding, mostly because I read only Matthew 22 since Ephesians 5 had been read before I got up to speak:

A Wedding is a day of celebration that has greater and deeper meaning than the happy couple, as significant as they are. God has designed and ordained the various types of human interaction to reflect His character and government within the Godhead and His interaction with His people: government, family, church, and marriage.  In the Old Testament God refers to Himself as the One who rescued and loved a wife, Israel. But she was unfaithful and preferred harlotry (a picture of idolatry rather than worship of God). Many passages present this scenario. Among them, Psalm 45 is a positive one that seems to speak of a king and his queen and the King of kings and His wife. We learn that the wife is the people of God who are frequently unfaithful, as in Hosea and Ezekiel 16. Hosea 3:1 clearly communicates God’s persistence at loving His wife despite her waywardness.

In the New Testament God shows us another ordained allegory which is not a plan B or afterthought in the light of Israel’s unfaithfulness but a long pre-determined picture of what He is about in this time, that of Christ and His Church. The clearest pronouncement of this picture is given in Ephesians 5:22-33. “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,  so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.  So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;  for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,  because we are members of His body.  FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.  This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.  Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.”

 To summarize the allegory, marriage between one man and one woman producing offspring and interacting through roles of leadership and submission by mutual commitment and sacrifice concretely demonstrates the relationship of Christ and His Church. This picture brings much glory to God.

Therefore, we should expect that the enemy, Satan, would like nothing better than to destroy this picture. By so doing he destroys people and a reflection of God’s glory. I think his tactic can be seen by an analogy: Even as the glare of the city lights obscure the beauty of Moon and stars, so the glitzy show of sexual perversion and marital unfaithfulness attempts to block the God glorifying purity of a man and wife faithfully and lovingly representing Christ and His Church through their marriage. How does this apply to you and me? Young men and old, I’m speaking to you. Have you made the covenant that Job did? “I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job31:1) You must avert your eyes and work hard a being pure of eyes and heart. Young women and old, I’m speaking to you. Have you heeded the directions in I Timothy 2:9-11, “I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.”? Do you cover yourself? The passage does not just speak of modest dress, though. It also speaks of modesty in conduct. Do you flirt with your eyes? Do you manipulate with your speech? Men and women, give glory to God in how you act and speak.

So how does this picture of Christ and His Church work? The wife’s role is a responsive role. Why should she do this? “As the Church” (v.24), so the the wife is representative. I Peter 3:1-6 shows that her witness is foremost for her husband to win him over to doing what is right even when he is disobeying the word. And the epitome of this submission is seen in Sarah “calling him lord” (v.6). Because this relationship points to the relationship of God and His people, this degree of submission makes sense. Certainly the Church calls Christ Lord. Just now the world is speaking frequently of the leftovers of a “patriachal society”, referring to any degree of gender role, but the Bible clearly teaches it for the purpose of marital unity and glory to God. Consider the English word husband. It literally means manager. We accept managers in business because they bring order and profitability, so why do we reject them in God’s economy? The wife is responding to the husband’s headship role, representing how “Christ also is the head of the church” (v.23).  How did Christ carry out His role as Head? First of all as Savior (v.23).  “He gave Himself up for her” (v.25). I believe this refers to much more than committing His body to die on the cross. He took on the wrath of God which was our due, a much greater torture than physical pain and death. Why would He put Himself through this torture? That He set the Church apart for Himself, both cleansing and presenting her to Himself (v.26). He valued His people so much as to take God’s wrath. Having cleansed her from sin, He now continues setting her apart by His Word. Practically this is accomplished through Bible preaching, God-centered fellowship, Spirit-led praying, and Christ-centered evangelism. Then in the future at His wedding feast it shall be declared, “‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready’. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” (Revelation 19:7-9) The bride arrives dressed beautifully in white representing purity, the light of her husband’s eyes. She is glorious, spotless, without wrinkle, or blemish. Jesus has far more than just reversed death. The Church that the bride is representing is not rescued from hell and death to an ugly, scarred existence. The Church is called upon and must work with this pruifying work of Her Lord Jesus. He will present us to Himself cleansed, beautiful as this bride appears before you today.

The man is further to be a servant of his wife pursuant of the end of cleansing her. He accomplishes this role by loving her as himself (v.28-30). This is a difficult and daily role, who is sufficient for these things? And the relationship is intimate and permanent (v.31). To be sure that no one misunderstands that Paul is talking about the marriage relationship as representative of the Christ/Church relationship he interjects verse 32. Then he summarizes with verse 33. Why is there a different command for man and woman? Humanly speaking it is because each has different needs. The man’s greatest need is to be respected; the woman’s greatest need is to be loved. But again the picture of Christ and His Church is in full view. Christ did and is loving His Church. How can our response be anything other than respecting and reverencing and obeying our Lord?

One other passage that I would like to consider related to this picture is the Parable of the Wedding Feast found in Matthew 22:1-14:  Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.  And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come.  Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”’  But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business,  and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them.  But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire.  Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.  Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’  Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.    But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes,  and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  For many are called, but few are chosen.” In this passage, Jesus assumes the picture we have been speaking of even before Paul had written about it. He goes further to deepen the meaning and change it slightly from what we have spoken of. The feast is initiated by the king who has a son getting married. But where is the bride? She is here, represented by the individuals. This idea is consistent with what we read in Revelation 19:9, “the fine linen [of the bride’s dress] is the righteous acts of the saints.”  And verse 14 says these individuals are both chosen and called.  

Not all of those called heed however. Some of those invited actively reject the invitation, refusing to come, scoffing, and beating and killing the king’s servants. Others more passively refuse, having other things to attend to which they evidently consider more important.  The King, obviously God, is angry at all of this God-hating and destroys them.  But there is another kind of person at the feast who is self-deceived. This person, representing many in the church today, has a more subtle problem. Unlike those who refused to come, he desires to be at the wedding feast. As revealed by the king’s question, he has a problem. He is not dressed in wedding clothes which those who attend must receive. Instead he is dressed in self-righteousness. If this represents you, you might be one who says, “I’m a church-goer. I’m a good family man. I’m a submissive wife. I’m a decent, upstanding citizen. I acknowledge God.” But God says of your good works, “All our righteous deeds are a filthy garment…” (Isaiah 64:6). The problem may be subtle but that does not make any less serious considering the results to the man. Hell is a real place.

The problem needs a bold solution. “For by grace have you been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is a gift from God, not as a result of works that no one should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) The wedding clothes are a gift. You must repent of your dead works. This means that you must turn away from your own righteousness and declare with God that it is sin and turn to what Jesus has done on the cross to rescue you from sin. This is God’s grace: ‘God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.’ He gives those who trust in Him eternal life. Repent and receive the gift; you cannot buy it. I know that B and K would like nothing better than to know that someone came to receive the gift of eternal life from Jesus because of their wedding ceremony. May God bless B and K’s marriage and may He bless the Church’s purity and may He open your eyes to your need for the Savior so that you may be clothed and ready to come to the wedding feast that will be held one day. 

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B & K Union

A beautiful and complete wedding ceremony (1:45) with hymns, a covenant reading and signing, vows, sermonettes by both fathers, prayers of dedication, and reception, the happy couple is off to the honeymoon:

“He who finds a wife [helpmate] finds a good thing and obtains favor with the Lord.” Proverbs 18:22

K and neice

 

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up of her, so that He might snactify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing’ but that she would be holy and blameless.” Ephesians 5:25-27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The groom has four siblings and the bride nine. The father of the bride is the pastor so add most of the church. The groom works for an electrical company that is very family oriented. There were easily 300 people packed into the old firehall where the church meets.

The Happy Couple with the Groom's Parents

 

On many fronts it was a joyous occasion as families were brought together to get to know each other, families were strengthened by reminder of their calling and privileges, and one new family was formed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, then there is my daughter; there is a first granddaughter

                       on the way in June!

(The family is growing.)

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