Weddings are beautiful times of covenants. Imagine having the perfect groom who cherishes you enough to pay dearly for you.
We have talked quite a bit about the way that we are to love each other. But the two great commandments are to love God and love each other.
This last image of the church really helps paint a picture of what it means to love God.
When God made the first man and woman, it was special. They are unique from all of creation:
Not only are man and woman unique and special. God created their relationship to be special. We read about this as the first institute of marriage in Genesis:
20 The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal; but for the man no helper was found corresponding to him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to come over the man, and he slept. God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh at that place. 22 Then the Lord God made the rib he had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 And the man said: This one, at last, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called “woman,” for she was taken from man. 24 This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh. // Genesis 2:20–24 CSB
There is a leaving of an old family, a cleaving to each other and a bond that takes place.
Incidentally, our gender identity comes from God and has a divine design – men and women were made to complete and complement each other. God’s original design is beautiful and good.
In biblical times, people had a period of betrothal where they were promised to each other but not yet married. We have that as the concept of engagement. However, if the betrothal was broken, it was considered a divorce or adultery.
We read about this idea of betrothal and divorce with Joseph & Mary and the birth of Jesus.
18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant from the Holy Spirit. 19 So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. 20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” // Matthew 1:18–21 CSB
They were engaged but had not slept together, yet Mary was pregnant. Joseph was going to divorce her quietly and call off the wedding. God intervened and that did not happen, but you see the custom there.
God uses this image of betrothal, marriage and the special bond between husband and wife to describe the relationship of the church to Jesus.
We are engaged to our Savior, awaiting the final wedding of the Lamb, but in the meantime are intended and bound to our Great Groom with certain rights and obligations.
Let’s unpack that sentence together this morning.
2 For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy, because I have promised you in marriage to one husband—to present a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be seduced from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. // 2 Corinthians 11:2–3 CSB
Paul is writing to believers, to his brothers and sisters in Christ, and says that we are promised to one husband: Jesus. You and I, as the church, are engaged to Jesus.
Notice from this passage what that implies for us:
First, understand that the “intended” was actually secured with a price. It was customary in Bible times for the groom to pay something for his bride. This was called the “bride price” and is talked about in Genesis 34:12, 24:53 and Exodus 22:16. Jesus gave his life. There is actually an arrangement that has been made.
As the bride, our goal ought to be to remain pure for our Groom. To be devoted to our Intended.
In the OT Israel was married to God (Yahweh). In the NT the church is married to the Messiah (Jesus). The OT points to the NT and helps to provide insight into the work that Jesus did for us.
The relationship between Jesus and the Church is saturated with covenantal overtones where fidelity and exclusivity are expected of the Bride of Christ
It is easy for us to be “seduced” as Paul writes it. In the OT, God gets really blunt about this:
6 In the days of King Josiah the Lord asked me, “Have you seen what unfaithful Israel has done? She has ascended every high hill and gone under every green tree to prostitute herself there. 7 I thought, ‘After she has done all these things, she will return to me.’ But she didn’t return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 I observed that it was because unfaithful Israel had committed adultery that I had sent her away and had given her a certificate of divorce. Nevertheless, her treacherous sister Judah was not afraid but also went and prostituted herself. 9 Indifferent to her prostitution, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. // Jeremiah 3:6–9 CSB
Israel started worshipping idols made from stone and wood. While I doubt any of us have little images on a shelf in our living rooms that we bow down to, idolatry is a heart issue. Just as Israel failed to remain faithful to God 100% of the time, we have heart idols that come in and replace our love for God with love for things created.
ASK: What types of heart idols might we have? [tech, social media, entertainment, workaholism, sports, recreation, sex, even our kids] None of these things are bad, but they can subtly seduce us away from Jesus by taking first place and causing us to neglect our Great Groom.
We must be careful not to be drawn away from the Lover of our Souls. Just as we must guard our hearts and minds to deepen our devotion to our physical spouses, we must be careful what we do, read, believe in order to deepen our devotion for our heavenly spouse.
Our Savior is head over heels for us, but also very jealous for our fidelity.
There will come a day when we will pass from engaged to married, betrothed to wed. That’s the point of being engaged, right?
6 Then I heard something like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder, saying, Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, reigns! 7 Let us be glad, rejoice, and give him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has prepared herself. 8 She was given fine linen to wear, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints. // Revelation 19:6–8 CSB
At any moment, our Great Groom may appear and take us to be His bride. In light of this passage (and Matthew 25), what does this require of us:
We are to be busy preparing for our wedding. Think of all of the things a bride does to get ready for a wedding!
But what we tend to focus on in weddings is all of the stuff that makes it a “special day” – decorations, photographer, music, food, dress, hair, flowers, decorations… As the bride of Christ, the beauty that He sees in his bride is not anything that can be covered with makeup. He is not interested in the beauty of the decorations and flowers – He created those and then created us as a special creation above them.
Our passage says that we clothe ourselves in bright, pure, fine linens when we do the things that are right in His eyes.
7 For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds. The upright will see his face. // Psalm 11:7 CSB
We need to be doing the work of God. Our actions clothe us, they don’t save us, but they make us beautiful in our Grooms eyes.
We see that we have been engaged (a one-time event that took place when we accepted Jesus as our Savior). We see that we will be married when the Groom returns for his bride. So what about that time in between?
22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, 23 because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. 27 He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. 28 In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 since we are members of his body. 31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 32 This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband. // Ephesians 5:22–33 CSB
We are to be bound to our Savior in a similar fashion as a husband is bound to his wife and the two become one. Just as we read in our Genesis passage, the union of man and woman in marriage was intended to mirror a divine reality: that we are designed to be bound/joined inseparably to our loving Groom. As a man’s love for his wife is intended to complete her, so Christ’s love for you and me, his bride, is meant to complete us.
Because we are bound to our Great Groom, how should we live?
In our individualistic society, submission and respect seem to be negative words, and yet they are the very words of life and the actions that bring the greatest joy.
You and I ARE the church. That makes us a body, a family and a bride. As the Bride of Christ, we are betrothed to the Great Groom who purchased us with his very life. Some day we will join him for all of eternity and be his bride at the great wedding feast of the Lamb.
However, while we are engaged to Him, while we await the joyful day of our wedding, we need to behave in such a way that we will bring honor to our Groom and also in a way to make our Groom proud to have us as His bride:
We may not always be successful at this, right? We are not perfect, but that is why grace is to amazing. Jesus keeps his end of the deal perfectly. We cannot. But because of the sacrifice of Jesus, even when we fail or are unfaithful to God, we can be forgiven and restored.
Confession is a good thing. A positive thing. It keeps relationships strong.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. // 1 John 1:9 CSB
We are about to share in “communion” which is a special reminder of the price that was paid by our Great Groom to secure us as His bride. This is a great time for us to confess the areas we have failed in, ask his forgiveness and renew our covenant with Him. Thank Him. Adore Him.