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In this video, Joshua Ryan Butler explains the significance for Christians of a public “covenant” that joins people into a relationship prior to joining their bodies together physically.

The following is a lightly edited transcript provided by a transcription service. Please check video before quoting.

I think one of the things that we see in Scripture is that the uniting of bodies is intended to be embedded within the uniting of lives. One of the words that we see for this is covenant, the significance of covenant for marriage. And covenant is kind of a weird word. We don’t use it a lot anymore, but basically, you know, it means to come together and to make a promise to come together and commit to one another. And, I think we see this, throughout the Scripture, the significance of covenant, that it’s not just something kind of private and personal between two people. It is actually public and I think the covenant of marriage is actually designed to display the covenantal nature of God, that God constantly describes his relationship with his people as a marital-type relationship where God is like the husband and we are the bride.

We see this in the New Testament of Christ and the church that Christ is the groom and we are the bride. And significant to that is that God commits to us before he unites with us. God publicly commits. God says, I think at Exodus 19 where God publicly declares before the nations with his people, “I am for you. I am with you. I am entering into covenant with you.”

And, there’s kind of an interesting scene there in Exodus 19 where Israel looked at that as a marriage ceremony, this covenant ceremony that would use marital imagery for in the Old Testament. And, it’s significant that God says, hey, before he comes down the mountain and Israel is sent up the mountain once, basically before that for three days they’re not to approach the Holy Mountain.

I think there’s a sense of this imagery of God going, “Hey, take these three days. Prepare yourself for the wedding ceremony but don’t touch the Holy Mountain till it’s time when the covenant has been made.” In the New Testament, we see as well that Christ commits to us before he unites with us. The Last Supper is Jesus saying, “This is the new covenant and my blood, which is poured out for you.”

And that covenant that Christ is making, he makes before he enters into this fullness of union with us through his death and resurrection. And so the reality is that covenant is extremely significant for marriage. We would publicly declare before God, before our community, before our family and friends that we’re committing our lives to one another, and that would take place before we enter into union together sexually.

One of the things that I think we, as churches, can help with this is I’ve talked to a number of couples today where one of the challenges, people can be delaying the wedding is just because how expensive weddings are. And so I think we often, in our culture today, have this elevated sense the wedding ceremony has to cost tens of thousands of dollars, and it’s got to be this elaborate thing.

And, the reality is I think it can be helpful that we, as churches, can actually support couples, not necessarily in putting on the $50,000 wedding but actually in making weddings more affordable for our members like opening up our space. My wife and I, when we got married, we didn’t have a big budget but our friends, and family, and others, it was almost potluck style and people brought some of the best meals and food we could have imagined.

Friends chipped in with . . . we had friends playing music and friends doing other elements. Actually, it was pretty cheap, but because it was actually not so much us throwing a massive party for our community as our community celebrating our covenant together with us. And so I do think, as churches, a vision for our time and place today could be ministries in our churches that actually help to provide some of those wedding services for members to actually bring down the cost to make it more affordable and for us, as churches, to help celebrate the wedding covenant that our people are entering into.

But, at the end of the day, covenant is an opportunity for us to reflect the covenantal nature of our God, that we could actually publicly declare our commitment to each other before we enter into union sexually, and that would display the covenantal nature of our God who commits himself publicly, boldly, unabashedly to us in Christ and enters into union with us as his people.