Yesterday was a very special day. I asked Solomon if we could post their ceremony for those who didn't get to be there. I stayed pretty close to my notes.
Good afternoon and thank you for making the effort to join Solomon and Debra for their Wedding Celebration. I know we all have been looking forward to this special day. So let’s look to the Lord for His guidance and blessing on our time together.
Please Be seated
Who gives this woman in marriage?
Anne and I have had the privilege of knowing and walking with Solomon from his earliest childhood days. But it has been a special privilege and honor to get to know you Debra in this last year or so. And it has been a great encouragement to us, and I’m sure to others in this gathering, to see how God has brought you two together, and to watch how you have sought to honor and please Him in the way you have pursued and built your relationship.
Over this last year we’ve had some discussions about God’s original intentions for marriage and how man has struggled to understand and fulfill those intentions; and how God is so eager to help us overcome these challenges. One of our discussions revolved around why God placed the longest passage in the Bible about marriage where He did. These 11 verses are found in the latter part of the fifth chapter of the book of Ephesians. I would like to read them, and then I would like to make a few comments on what God surrounded these verses with and why God was so wise and so good in doing so.
Ephesians 5:22-33 “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.”
The call to a husband and a wife to walk out a Christ centered and Christ honoring marriage is a high calling indeed. The question we need to then ask is: what has God put in place for me to be able to pull this off? Or, how can I so order my life so that God’s highest purposes for my marriage have the best shot of being fulfilled?
The good news is He has put everything in place in His Son and in our relationship with Him that we could possibly need to pull this off. And no where do we see this more clearly than in the orderly and strategic flow of the book of Ephesians. Allow me to briefly touch on some of the major truths of this great book – especially as it relates to married couples.
The first thing our Father has provided for each of you individually is a full and complete salvation – or as Paul put it in Ephesians 1:3 He has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” God would never call a man to love his wife as Christ loved the church without first giving him every spiritual blessing or resource necessary to pull that off.
God would never call a wife to love and respect and submit to her husband unless He had given her everything she would ever need in Christ and in the Holy Spirit of promise for such a challenge. The more you two are grounded in each of these spiritual blessings for you as an individual, the more you will find adequate resources to draw from to face the many challenges that you will face as a married couple.
One of the greatest mistakes young married couples make that sets them up for failure in their marriages is an inordinate focus on making money and acquiring material things (such as cars and homes) at the costly neglect of growing familiar with and confident of the spiritual blessings already bought for them by the blood of Jesus. The smartest thing you can do to prepare for a prosperous and fruitful future together is to deepen your confidence and security in the fact that you were intentionally chosen before the foundations of the earth by the triune living God of the universe, lovingly adopted by Him as a son or daughter of God, forgiven and redeemed from the guilt and condemnation of the sins of the past by the powerful cleansing blood of Jesus, and that you were and are the recipients of the matchless, never ending, life transforming grace of God.
A final word from chapter 1. As important as it is for each of you to be ever more acquainted with and confident of every spiritual blessing you have in Christ; it is even more important that you know increasingly the giver of those blessings. I think that’s why the apostle Paul stops his discussion of these spiritual blessings in vs. 14 and then assures the church of Ephesus of his ongoing prayer for them to know God. In these early years of your marriage, you are going to be searching for the local congregation or spiritual family God wants you to be a part of. Could I encourage you to not just look for a good preacher of these things but also to someone or some group of someones who like the apostles in the early church in Jerusalem will devote themselves to prayer for the people under their care? Truth is wonderful. But truth prayed into the depths of our souls is far more wonderful.
The second thing He has provided for you is deliverance from spiritual death into an abundance of spiritual life and grace. We believers have a tendency to minimize the seriousness of our former lost spiritual state and therefore our utter dependence upon Christ to deliver us from it; and thus Paul reminds them and us, “…you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” Eph. 2:1-3 Now thankfully he didn’t stop there. He went on to proclaim, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Eph. 2:4-7
Solomon & Debra – your appreciation of and joy in what Christ has delivered you from and transferred you into - - will be dependent upon how often you remind yourselves of how desperate your former state was and how great and undeserved His rescue and deliverance was and is. And one of the practical ways you can do that in your marriage is by partaking of communion together regularly. Few marital practices or disciplines will bear the good fruit that this one can and does. And yet few Christian couples regularly practice it. May you have great grace in your marriage to respond often to Jesus’s many gracious invitations such as, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest…..” Matthew 11:28
The third thing He has provided for you is a front row seat into the exciting things He is going to do in and through His church before He returns. Please remember Solomon that for you to love Debra as He loves the church you must regularly grow in your revelation of His great love for His church. Listen to some of Paul’s words from chapter 3, “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.” Eph. 3:8-10. God has chosen to display His wisdom and His power through His grace filled dealings with His church. This has always been His plan and intention; and what He plans and intends, He will accomplish. Everywhere you two go you are going to run into people who seem to be Christians, but who have become jaded towards the church - - not knowing that that jadedness is a condition of the heart that eventually affects every relationship they have. I want to bless you two to rise above this. If you can increasingly have God’s heart for His church, you will increasingly have His heart for one another, and you will be able to overcome the jadedness and unrighteous judgment that is so prevalent in our culture today. Remember that in the 11 verses of this longest passage in the Bible about marriage in Ephesians 5 – seven of them mention Christ and His church or body. We dare not separate the intimate relationship marriage has with Christ’s marriage with His bride.
The fourth thing He has provided for you is the character and the gifts to be a contributing member to this increasingly powerful, lavishly graced people that Christ is building. Paul speaks to this in chapter four, where he states, “…to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” and then a little later he added, “…And He Gave Gifts to Men.” What I love about this chapter is the blend Paul has of the role of gifts, callings and character in His body or church. He starts the chapter with a call to character and he ends it with the same. Vs. 1,2 “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,”. vs. 32 “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Marriages were never meant to thrive without this blend of walking in one’s calling according to the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit has given you and the character He is seeking to form within you. And Jesus has designed His church to be a people among whom these things can grow and develop and flourish.
The fifth thing He has provided for you is the ability to love in a hate filled world; the ability to walk in purity in a perverted and lust filled world; the ability to discern and grasp truth in a deceived and deluded world; and the ability to walk in and by the Spirit in a licentious and addicted world from chapter five. I wish you could enjoy and build your marriage, especially in your first year - in a Christian bubble somehow where you wouldn’t have to be exposed and potentially contaminated by these things, but no such bubble exists. The bubble doesn’t exist, but love, purity, discernment, truth and life in the Spirit does exist, and that’s why many think vs. 18 may be the pivotal verse of those last three chapters, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is indeed Holy. And He specializes in helping us learn how to be holy in a very unholy world. And He specializes in helping husbands learn how to love their wives, and in helping wives submit to and respect their husbands in the midst of such an unholy and dissipated world. May you learn to drink deeply of Him every day in your new life together.
The sixth thing He has provided for you based on your growing experience of all that we have talked about so far is the supernatural ability to do marriage and family as He has designed it, all the while overcoming the evil spiritual forces that to your dying day will try to subvert and destroy all that Christ has intended and provided for you. One of the reasons the longed for bubble for young married couples does not exist is because as Paul states in vs. 12 of chapter 6, “…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Satan and his demons could care less that you are newly married, or that on one day a week you are trying to observe a sabbath day, or that you are on a date night or on vacation or out celebrating your wedding anniversary. They live to destroy especially marriages because of how much our God has invested in marriages and delights in marriages. But the good news is Paul asserts that each of us who dutifully wears the spiritual armor He has provided for us in Christ can “…stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” (6:11). He is a very real enemy, but he is a defeatable enemy if we learn to war as chapter six teaches us to war.
Finally I want to briefly touch on the role of prayer in all of this. Twice in those first three chapters, the apostle Paul stopped his instruction and recorded prayers he prayed for the church in Ephesus and I’m sure for all the churches he ministered to and felt some level of responsibility for. (Eph. 1:15-21; Eph. 3:14-19). Then at the end he exhorts them to personal devotion to prayer in Eph. 6:18, where he commands, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,”. Prayer for yourself, prayer for your spouse, prayer with your spouse, prayer for your family members and those closest to you in your spiritual family. Prayer is the glue that makes all these parts we have talked about work together in the synergy He has designed.
But as wonderful as this glue and privilege of prayer is, practicing it will be one of the greatest challenges of your life and marriage. All I have time to say right now is it is worth the fight. And you will increasingly win the fight. “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” I Thess. 5:24 Closing prayer
One of the ways Solomon and Debra have chosen to express their covenant to one another is by the stating of vows they have each written for one another. Solomon you may now state your vows to Debra.
Debra you may now express your vows to Solomon.
Another way they have chosen to express their devotion to one another is by the giving of rings to one another. Solomon let’s begin with you: Do you give this ring to Debra, whom you have now taken as your wife, in token of the affection with which you will cherish her, and the fidelity with which you will perform the sacred vows you have just made to her?
Debra, do you give this ring to Solomon, whom you have now taken as your husband, in token of the affection with which you will cherish him, and the fidelity with which you will perform the sacred vows you have now made to him?
Pronouncement – Forasmuch as Solomon and Debra have covenanted before God and before this group of witnesses to enter the holy state of marriage, and thereto have pledged by the stating of vows and the giving of rings their unending commitment to each other, I now pronounce you man and wife in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Warning: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” Matthew 19:6
Solomon you may now kiss your bride!
Introduction: It is my joy and privilege to introduce to you, Mr. and Mrs. Solomon Ruddell.