It has always been the tradition that weddings are conducted within the context of the church. The reason for this is far more than it simply being a tradition however.
God ordains the institution of marriage. He created marriage and he defines it.
But there is even more significance to the marriage: it serves as a vivid metaphor for the central message of the Christian faith, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It may be difficult without some explanation to understand the gospel simply by coming to a wedding or looking at a marriage. The particulars of the metaphor take some explaining.
To make my point consider the last wedding that you attended. The bride and groom are all dressed up, hair done, and ready for pictures. Family and friends are surrounding them. On that day they can do no wrong. In our eyes, this is a day that is a pinnacle.
You might be tempted to think then that the gospel, or the message of Christianity is that God looks at us and sees a bunch of people who can do no wrong—they are so morally upright, faces shining more brightly than the rest of the world, and so full of promise and potential that he says, “There. My bride. There she is. Let’s take a picture.”
In other words, we may think that being a Christian is all about being better than other people. It’s about moral superiority and the projection of our goodness.
This is not at all true. In fact, it is the exact opposite of what the Bible communicates.
God does not choose his bride because she is lovely but because he is loving. There is a massive difference here.
The reality is, the church, those who truly trust and treasure Jesus Christ, they have become acutely aware of their badness, their sinfulness; they know that they need a savior. Christianity is not the affirmation of our goodness but our badness—and God’s goodness.
“God shows his love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)
Where is the similarity then?
It is in the LOVE: God shows his love…
God displays his love, that is, he puts it on display, he broadcasts it. How does he do this? He does it through the gospel. And God does this in two ways, through Jesus the husband and the church the bride.
Jesus is the perfect Son of God. He has never sinned for even a moment. He is the One whom has beheld the face of his Father throughout all eternity. He perfectly reflects the effulgent glory of God (Heb. 1:1-3). It is he who comes to live, die, resurrect, and reign.
But for whom does he do this? He does it for his bride. However, she is not all dolled up in gowns of good deeds but in the shoddy rags of unrighteousness. In this very context we learn much about who Jesus died for by her description, they are: “weak” “ungodly” “sinners” “enemies” (Rom. 5:6, 8, 10 respectively).
It is much like DA Carson has said, “God’s love is staggering not because the world is so big but because it is so bad.” (my paraphrase of his thought)
Christian marriage then reflects the gospel in that a husband and wife love each other, even though they are imperfect, because God has shown this love to each of them. They are motivated by grace to love one another.
It is in the SACRIFICE: Christ died for us
There are a lot of ways to display God’s love but none more prominent than the cross of Christ. All other beams of heavenly benevolence are secondary to Calvary. It is there that Christ married infinite love of God with infinite love for helpless people. A perfect, zealous love of God’s glory was showcased in the willingness to take the place as the substitionary lamb of God. When Christ became sin for us, he raised the flag of God’s love to the heights! Every other reflection of love must salute this great gospel flag.
Christian marriage then reflects this by always having the gospel at the center. The Bible teaches that love is expressed in a way that reflects Jesus’ love.
This Christian love then is the joyful sacrificial service of one another for God’s glory and each other’s good. This sacrifice is not self, but like the gospel, it is for others. This is, most notably, our spouse.
It is in the COMMITMENT: Christ died for us
Nothing says commitment more than death. Jesus gave everything for his bride. The death of Christ upon the cross was for his bride, the church. This is ultimate commitment.
Further, he made promises, you might even say, “vows”, to her. He says that he will come back for her. He says that he will bring her to himself throughout all eternity (Jn. 14.18). He says that no one can snatch his people out of his hands (Jn. 10.28). He says that he will be with her all the way to the end of the age (Mt. 28:19-21). He promises to make her spiritually pure (Eph. 5:25-27).
Christian marriage then reflects this through the singular, unique, commitment between the husband and the wife…as long as they shall live.
I wonder if you have thought about marriage like this?
Or, if you have thought about Christianity like this?
If you are not yet a Christian, then you need to know that based upon the Bible, you can be forgiven and counted with this unique and special regard by God. It is not based upon what you might do but based upon all that Christ has done for you. Trust him today.
If you are a Christian, then let this consideration of Christian marriage serve to remind you of the unique and beautiful picture they display of God’s love for his bride, the church.