Yesterday, I had the joy of attending the wedding of one of my wife’s childhood friends. I knew the groom, the bride, the parents of the groom, and the groom’s siblings. That’s it (and of course, my wife). However, I cut loose and had a blast. Not just because I didn’t know anyone and thus didn’t have to suffer the embarrassment of having people reflect on my terrible and corny dancing, but because it was a wedding. And as I said to my wife… there are very specific theological reasons why I hold nothing back at a wedding.
We are told in Genesis, chapter two, that the married man and wife form a union. The two individuals become a single unit. From that day forward, as long as they both shall live (and maybe longer), there is a single reality that exists. As I’ve reflected on before, the fact that I chose to be Tony-with-Lee on September 15th, 2012, means that for the rest of our earthly lives, I will never again be Tony-without-Lee.
Beyond the testimony of faithfulness that this is (which we’ll get to later), this reality is perhaps the closest analog that we have in creation of the unity of the persons of the Trinity. The word for one in the phrase one flesh is also the word used to describe the way that Yahweh is one. That is, not as a singular and unitarian sense, but in a collective and unified sense. Just as several grapes form one cluster, so also the man and wife form one flesh. So also, the Father, Son, and Spirit are one God. Their diversity does not preclude them from being a single God. There is a mutual indwelling and interpenetration that occurs within the Trinity that is in a powerful way reflected in the union between a man and wife.
While it is true that this is the case in the Church broadly, and can be said on some level of all Christians in relation to other Christians, it is never more prominently on display and exhibited by Christian marriage. For this reason, we ought to celebrate.
Ecclesiology and Soteriology
As I mentioned above, there is a fundamental unity that is present between Christians. And it is in this unity that we collectively are the Bride of Christ. Christ is not the husband of individual Christians. He is the husband of the Church. This, as Paul says, is a profound mystery. And like many mysteries, God gives us a picture to help understand.
In marriage, both husband and wife must sacrifice for each other. But, only the husband is commanded in scripture to pour out his life for his wife. My responsibility as a husband is to do everything I can, including self-sacrifice, to ensure that my wife is flourishing. This goes beyond just bringing home a paycheck and killing spiders (although it certainly includes those things), and extends into the very depths of who I am.
This is to reflect the depth of love and sacrifice by which Christ gave himself for the salvation of the Church. Of course Christ saves individuals, but he saves individuals by making them part of his body the Church. And as part of that body, he confronts us each Lord’s day with the Scriptures and through the preaching of the Law and Gospel he addresses us and calls us to account. In the Lord’s Supper he nourishes us with nothing less than his body and blood as we are, by faith, brought into the presence of the Incarnate Christ. Everything that Christ does is for the benefit of his bride. He forever makes petitions and intercession on her behalf. The fact that a Christian marriage is a reflection of this infinite reality is a reason to celebrate.
It is often said that if you don’t like church services, that you will hate heaven. This is a silly thing to say, because we don’t have any real scriptural reason to believe that the eternal state will be a church service. What is being communicated is that when we worship on Sunday, that we are getting a taste of what the eternal state will be. Ongoing and immediate worship of our Father, through his Son, and by his Spirit. This is truth.
However, an explicit picture that we do get of the eternal state is that of a wedding feast. Now, in the cultures of the Bible (ancient Hebrew culture, as well as 1st century Judaism) the wedding feast and the actual ceremony were part and parcel of a single event. However, for our purposes, we can think about the feast as analogous to the modern-day wedding reception. After the bride and groom have said their vows, all of the witnesses to this glorious event gather to celebrate the union of the happy couple.
For Christians, this celebration ought to serve as a kind of typological anticipation for what is to eternally be the case for us. The Bridegroom and his Bride have made their vows. He has accomplished the union of the two, and by her submission to him, the two have been united. Upon the culmination and consummation of all things there will be a grand feast and celebration. The Bride herself will be the celebrating witnesses, and the Bridegroom will lead with toasts of “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The Father of the Groom, by His Son’s obedience unto death, and through His Spirit’s vivifying presence, has made the Bride a part of his own family. The fact that our earthly weddings reflect this infinitely joyous reality is most certainly a reason to celebrate.