The Christian community is made up of all kinds of people. God gathers His people from every tribe and nation, and He does so by means of the gospel. Each regenerated person is born again through the work of the Holy Spirit of God, and it is His marvelous work of re-creation that brings us into the household of God.
But the fact that God does this in a supernatural way, converting us all by ones, does not mean that He erases nature when it comes to the composition of the church. The church is not a random collection of atomistic individuals. The church is humanity in the midst of a restoration project.
The New Testament is replete with instructions for Christian husbands, and Christian wives, and Christian children. Grace completes nature, and does not wipe it out, or erase it. When God begins the work of conversion in our lives, He is not turning us into some alien life form. No, He is fashioning us into something, He is turning us into something, but what is that something?
In the gospel, God is turning us into human beings. He is growing us up into the only true man who ever lived, the Lord Jesus. Some might wonder at this. How can God turn us into human beings? Aren’t we already human? It would be more proper to say that after the Fall, we were residue of human, or wreckage of human. God the Father sent Christ into the world in order to restore us, in order to enable us to grow up into image of God that we fractured in our rebellion.
I said a moment ago that grace completes nature. Nature fell, and the image of God was shattered, and the gospel starts reassembling the pieces again. But we should take a moment to notice the component parts of that image prior to the Fall. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27). So when God restores this image, the relationship of man to woman is one of the things being put right again. When God through Christ teaches us how to be human, one of the central lessons is how to be a man to a woman, and how to be a woman to a man.
This means that married couples will always be at the center of true Christian community. This does not disparage the unmarried, or the divorced, or the widowed. They are an essential part of this community as well—there are no second-class citizens in the kingdom. But the fact remains that the nuclear family, and the children that grow up in such families, are the central element in what it takes to establish and grow true community. We were not created to live in isolation, and the ceremony you all are witnessing now is God’s standard “go-to” approach for dealing with isolation.
You have been invited to a celebration. It is a celebration of an exchange of vows, and that is the role of the bride and groom. But your role is more than that of guests at a party. You have an official role here, just as I do. The bride and groom take the vows. I as the minister administer the vows. You are here in the capacity of witnesses. That is your duty—you are witnesses to a set of oaths that are a portion of God’s means for reconstituting humanity. It is an important role.
Ben, it has been a real delight meeting you, and getting to know you. And here is my charge to you. The woman you are marrying is an energetic bundle of views and opinions. But she is also a dutiful Christian, one who loves to submit to the authority of the Word of God. That means she will love submitting to you, and will be most eager to follow your lead. But in order to follow your lead, you must agree to . . . lead. As you have no doubt already gathered, in order to function as a godly husband and head for this woman, you are going to have to stand up straight, man. And as you do, you will discover that in bringing you two together, God has given you far more than you could know beforehand. A man who loves his wife loves himself, Paul says. A man who loves his wife is loving one of the chief means that God used to show His love to you. It is a love that pays glorious dividends.
Gwen, here we are. This is my charge to you. You know, better than anyone, how many times in your life you may have thought that this day would never happen. But here we are. My charge to you is this. Remember that God is good, all the time. His Word applies to you, does it not? “God setteth the solitary in families: He bringeth out those which are bound with chains . . .” (Psalm 68:6). Just as there were many times as an unmarried woman when you were tempted to waver, and not to trust Him, so also there will be such moments in the days to come. Married life is not a zone where trusting the Lord becomes unnecessary. We must always trust God. So let this day be a memorial to you—you are trusting a trustworthy God. As a woman of God—trust God, and trust your husband.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.