The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: M

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Marriage ceremony

"Our Father in Heaven, we ask your gracious blessing on this couple,
who have decided to bind their lives to one another, publicly and formally, and in the sight of these witnesses. In them, we see the pattern and picture of your Beloved Son, and his "Bride", the believers of all ages -- bound together for all eternity.

"Dear Father, help them -- and us -- realize the tremendous commitment of love and devotion and obedience involved in this choice, and give them the strength and dedication to fulfill that commitment, every day for the rest of their lives. This we pray in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen."

The first man was created with a remarkable potential... he was made in the "image of God"... his hands could perform complicated maneuvers; his mind could comprehend eternal things; his spirit could reach out and touch the face of God.

But something was lacking, and God Himself observed it:

"It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a companion fit for him."
Adam needed a counterpart of himself, someone who could be a companion and a true friend.

Adam was created a social being... designed (physically and emotionally and spiritually) for togetherness. Despite all his talents and all his potential, he could realize the highest level of his being only in the company of others.

And he could most easily find true joy and fulfillment in the company of one special person: at the same time like himself and different.

"So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, 'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called "woman", for she was taken out of man.' For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."
This Bible passage, from Genesis 2, includes the first recorded words of a human being, and they are... a marriage vow -- a recognition that God had indeed provided a perfectly suitable companion.

A wise man once said,

"Eve was made from a rib taken from Adam's side,
not from his head that she might be his superior,
nor from his feet that she might be trampled on,
but from his side... that she might be his equal —
and from next to his heart... that she might be cherished, and loved."
The profound nature of the marriage bond is expressed in one short phrase; "They shall be ONE flesh." No longer each living for himself or herself, they now hold fast to one another, for the rest of their lives.

Jesus added his own commentary: "So they are no longer two, but one.
Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate... I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

And again he said, "But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery."


The two vital features of marriage are expressed here.

The first is total commitment, without reservation or qualification, without conditions or escape clauses. From the beginning, the One who created us all does NOT present commitment as an option. Instead, He EXPECTS commitment... in a number of ways. He expects us to make a commitment to honesty and integrity in ALL of our relationships. He expects us to make a personal commitment to love and serve Him, and to worship no false "gods". And He expects that -- if we marry -- we make an unqualified, life-long commitment to our spouse.

The second vital feature of marriage is its exclusiveness. One man and one woman, bound to one another and to no one else. Belonging to each other, as is so beautifully expressed in the Old Testament Song of Songs, where the young woman rejects the advances of other shepherds, and yearns for her Beloved only -- waiting for his invitation to "Come away with me..." Then she rejoices with the words: "I belong to my Beloved, and my Beloved belongs to me!"

We hear much talk about "love" all around us, and much that is CALLED "love" is nothing at all like the "love" defined in God's Word. The desire to share physical intimacy with an attractive and responsive partner may be called "love"... but -- if an absolute commitment to one another, perpetually and exclusively, is lacking -- then it may be... desire, it may be... lust, it may be... temporarily satisfying... it may be amusing... it may be exciting... BUT IT IS NOT... LOVE!

And -- if the primary object of either party is to indulge oneself -- then the moment ANYTHING changes to that person's dissatisfaction, whether it be one's health, or physical appearance, or financial arrangements, or whatever! -- THAT is the moment that the pressure to pull apart may start to become greater than the pressure to stay together. Hence, if there is no true legal commitment, OR no true moral and spiritual commitment... then... in effect, there is no REAL marriage!

In 1Co 13, the apostle Paul writes about genuine love, the kind upon which a true marriage must be built. While romantic love, as it is frequently thought of, can actually be very selfish... the true love Paul describes is...

"patient, it is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

THAT is the only LOVE worth having. The other is a passing shadow, a breath of wind that we feel for a moment, and then it is gone.

Sadly, many people spend their lives trying to capture that shadow, that little breeze, that fleeting feeling or illusion, only to be bitterly disappointed, time after time... because they do not understand the nature of loving commitment in true marriage.

But the love Paul describes is real, and eternal, and eternally satisfying. It never fails; it never ends. The two who stand before us today already share the fellowship of their faith in Christ and their hope for his Kingdom.

To choose a partner for life who is committed to the same ideal and the same object is truly a wonderful thing. And when that object is the service of God, then it is much, much more of a wonderful thing!

The commitment to Christ that you both have made will be the firm foundation on which you will build your marriage. No third person can be allowed to violate the exclusiveness of your relationship with one another, NO THIRD PARTY EXCEPT FOR CHRIST! He alone should be the "third party" in your marriage, who will always be present... if you let him. He will be there... if you let him... to help you through the difficulties, the rough places, that will inevitably come.

With Christ as your foundation, with the true love you have for each other, with the confidence of the commitment you are making -- and realizing its profound seriousness -- and with the blessing of our heavenly Father, you will build a satisfying and joyful life together.

May God bless the two of you in your commitment. All of us here join in prayer that your marriage and life together will be happy, and prosperous, and good and right. May it be a blessing to each of you, and to others. May your life together be a reflection of the "eternal marriage" that we hope to experience, one day, with Christ, as described in the Book of Revelation:

"Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: 'Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, 'Write: "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!" '... Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem... prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.' "

We rejoice now in THIS marriage, and we ponder the wonders and joys of that "mystery" yet to be revealed: that "marriage" to come, when those who truly believe -- men and women -- will be forever joined together with Jesus Christ.


"Our Father in Heaven, we pray that you will bless and keep this new couple, who have pledged themselves to each other in your sight. May your face shine upon them. May you give them peace, and joy. May you strengthen their faith, support their love, and reinforce their hope -- as long as they both shall live, or until your Son returns. In his Name we pray. Amen."
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