A wedding sermon...
(Tim) From the Pulpit of Church of the Good Shepherd
Wedding of Lucas Weeks and Hannah Bayly
May 17, 2008
That He Might Sanctify Her
Ephesians 5: 21-33
Lucas and Hannah, it’s a curious thing that the God Who made us, the One who is our Creator and therefore knows us best, has not left us free to develop according to our own inclinations. He does not abandon us to our own sentiments and passions...
As Scripture says, “It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves;” and having made us, He gives us commands—commands based upon His will, not ours.
Why not our wills? Why doesn’t He simply leave us to ourselves to develop and live as we please?
Because He loves us and is not willing that one of us should perish—not one of us.
Because to leave us to our own inclinations, our own wills, would be to abandon us to sin and death and Hell.
Our wills are evil. From the Fall when Adam, our federal head, sinned in the Garden of Eden, every man (every woman) has been corrupted by that Fall.
This is so foundational to life that it was this truth that was used
to teach the letter ‘a’ in the New England Primer of Colonial America.
First printed in Boston in 1690, the letters of the alphabet were
taught by two-lined poems that were easy for the little children to
remember. For instance, the letter ‘F’ was taught by this poem:
F: The Idle Fool
Is Whipt at School.
But for the first letter of the alphabet, the letter ‘A,’ this was the poem:
A: In Adams’ fall
We sinned all.
“In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.” And from that moment in the Garden of Eden, every single soul ever born has been corrupted by the Fall.
We must not think of this corruption as slight or superficial; we are not partly influenced or superficially tainted by sin. Rather, the corruption of Adam’s Fall made every last one of us sinful to our very core.
There is no faculty we have—no part of our body, mind, or heart that escapes that corruption.
It’s typical for us to think that sin is not really sin, but only ignorance; and that the solution to bad things happening is to better educate the people who do those bad things so they make fewer bad choices. Educate them and their choices will be more enlightened, more like the choices wise, integrated, functional people would make.
Or again, we think sin is only the natural response of the individual to evil influences that surrounded him, or suffering he was put through in his childhood environment. If we can change the lives of children, we’ll change the lives of the adults those children grow into.
So how can we accomplish this?
Education is the answer. More money creating a better environment for children, and especially a better education as they grow is the inoculation they need against bad choices.
Maybe the most popular method of denying the Fall and its effects on man is the conviction many have that bad things are done by good people; that everyone’s heart is good, but at times people meet intolerable situations where their essentially good hearts give way to evil sprites or gremlins who turn them aside from their better nature, to the dark side. But not to worry: get inside that woman or man and you’ll find he’s just like you and me: inside, he’s actually quite kind, loving, and gentle-spirited. Deep down inside he’s good-hearted.
So it becomes clear that, in our pride, one of the clearest evidences of our corruption is our strenuous work denying our corruption, and therefore the corruption of others.
No one’s evil. Who’s to decide what evil is, anyhow?
In fact, no one’s even bad, really.
We only misspeak. We only make mistakes. We only make choices that aren’t quite the best. Deep down inside, if people really knew me, they’d know my motives are good regardless of how it looks to anyone else. I’ve got a good heart.
But this is not true—it’s not true at all.
(Proverbs 21:2) Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts.
You and I are not good-hearted. Rather, we are bad-hearted. Or rather, evil-hearted. We are wicked and sinful and corrupt to our very core.
If we have the faith to hear God speak to us, this is what Scripture reveals. This is what God says concerning our hearts:
(Romans 8:6-8) For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
(Ephesians 2:1-3) And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
(Ephesians 4:17-19) This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
(Jeremiah 17:9) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
(Romans 3:10-18) as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; 11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; 12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.” 13 “THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,” “THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS”; 14 “WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS”; 15 “THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, 16 DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, 17 AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.” 18 “THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”
By God’s decree, since the Fall no man (or woman) can think properly, feel properly, reason properly, love properly, or even pray properly. And because of the Fall, because of that one man, Adam’s, sin; to this day and very hour, every man dies, returning tot the dust from which God made him.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned--for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. (Romans 5:12-14).
Everything in us opposes this truth at the center of human life and death, but our opposition is nothing new. The great French mathematician, but even greater Christian of the seventeenth century, Blaise Pascal, had a similar reaction to Adam’s Fall and the death it brought to us all:
“For it is beyond doubt that there is nothing which more shocks our reason than to say that the sin of the first man has rendered guilty those who, being so removed from this source, seem incapable of participation in it. This transmission does not only seem to us impossible, it seems also very unjust. For what is more contrary to the rules of our miserable justice than to damn eternally an infant incapable of will, for a sin wherein he seems to have so little a share that it was committed six thousand years before he was in existence? Certainly nothing offends us more rudely than this doctrine; and yet without this mystery, the most incomprehensible of all, we remain incomprehensible to ourselves.”
-Blaise Pascal, Pensees; vii. 434, W.F. Trotter, trans.
Now what on earth is going on here, that we would speak this way at a wedding—but not just any wedding; more specifically, the wedding of two perfect souls named Lucas Dee Weeks and Hannah Marie Bayly? (Laughter.)
Surely there’s a better Scriptural theme for the marriage of any couple than this theme of the Fall and the depravity of man? Why speak of such things at this joyful moment when this cheerful and obedient and God-fearing and God-honoring and pure and happy couple (more laughter), Hannah and Lucas, are saying their vows?
Well, as we saw at the beginning of this homily, it’s a curious thing that the God Who made us, the One who is our Creator and therefore knows us best, has not left us free to develop according to our own inclinations. He does not abandon us to our own sentiments and passions.
As Scripture says, “It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves,” and having made us, He gives us commands—commands based upon His will, not ours.
What is His will?
It is His will that we love Him, and therefore He commands that love:
Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4, 5)
It is also His will that we love one another, and therefore He commands that love, also. After our love for Him, our Great and Mighty God, His next command is that we love one another:
And (Jesus said), “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
On the face of it, this all seems pretty tame, doesn’t it? “We’re in a church at a wedding and the pastor is talking about our need to love God and one another. So, what else is new? I don’t need a preacher to tell me to love God or anyone else!”
But really, you do. Every one of us needs to hear, and then to obey the command to love God. Every one of us needs to hear, and then to obey the command to love our neighbor.
But here’s the surprising thing. The Fall isn’t simply a distant truth with no application to our flesh-and-blood lives. Because of Adam’s Fall, we sinned all. And God calls us from our sin, back to Himself.
Thus it is that, since the Fall, every husband needs to hear, and then to obey, the command to love his wife. And in the same way, since the Fall, every wife needs to hear, and then to obey, the command to submit to her husband.
God commands our inclinations, desires, sentiments, and passions. He doesn’t simply tell us to love Him and to love one another, but He gives us specific commands how to love one another.
From His kindness and love, God gives every husband and wife commands completely contrary to our sinful nature that we read at every single wedding and that are the foundation of any happy marriage that has ever existed on the face of this earth. And here are those Divine commands found in Ephesians 5:21-33:
(Ephesians 5:21-33) (B)e subject to one another in the fear of Christ. 22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 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. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 26 that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS CAUSE A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND SHALL CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE; AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.
Lucas and Hannah, these are God’s commands to every husband and wife who have ever lived together in the Divine institution of marriage.
“Wives, be subject to your husbands,” and “Husbands, love your wives.”
And the two of you need these commands if you are to be married according to God’s law and perfect plan. Our Creator has made us a certain way, and these commands are His directions concerning how He made us. We are made to love one another, and we are made for the wife to submit to her husband.
In our evil day and world, there are many—even within the church—who hate God and oppose His commands. They will not bow the knee to Him, and certainly not to any man. They will not love Him, and certainly not this woman He gave them.
In our evil day and world, there are many—even within the church—who hate God and oppose every one of His commands concerning the beautiful gift of marriage.
Most men and women today do not marry in purity, as virgins; instead, they take into their marriage other strange flesh they have known prior to their husband or wife. But God ordained sex for the marriage bed, only.
Most men and women today do not remain faithful to their marriage vows, forsaking all others and clinging only to their husband or wife. They cheat; they have an affair; they commit what used to be called “adultery.” But God made man and wife for lifelong monogamous marriage and commanded us, “Though shalt not commit adultery.”
Most—yes, most—men and women today do not stay married to one woman for all of life, but give themselves to marriage after divorce after marriage, what Harry Blamires refers to as “serial polygamy.” God says he hates divorce, and we turn our backs on the wife of our covenant and ask pastors to bless the very thing God hates. And when our children mourn for the family we have destroyed, we send them off to a marriage and family therapist, or their youth pastor, hoping he can make things better.
Most men and women today view children as a lifestyle option, rather than a blessing, and they use the marriage bed as a place of mutual stimulation and entertainment, rather than fertile black soil in which the unitive and procreative purposes of marriage are united and love is made fruitfully. We render our love cold and sterile, then late in the game try for one or two designer children. But God command made marriage for the bearing of fruit; He commands husband and wife to “be fruitful and multiply;” it is His will that, in Christian marriage, His sons and daughters raise up a godly seed to His Own glory.
Many men and women today do not engage in sexual intimacy with a member of the opposite sex, but one of their own.
* Calif. Supreme Court & Sodomite Marriage:
On Thursday, May 15, 2008 the California Supreme Court struck down a voter approved statute defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Proposition 22, The California Defense of Marriage Act, was approved by 61% of the voters in 2000. In the 4-3 ruling, the Court held that marriage between one man and one woman is unconstitutional. California now becomes the second state to approve same sex marriage along with Massachusetts.
When God does bless us with an unborn child, many men and women today—hundreds of thousands of us each year in these United States alone—murder our unborn child because he came too early, too late, or too defective. Our Lord Jesus Christ said “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” (Luke 17:2), but at the rate of 1.3 million little ones per year, we kill them as they’re nestled safely in their mother’s womb.
Tell me, what’s love got to do with it?
Really now, what’s love got to do with it?
Fornication. Adultery. Divorce. Birth control. Sodomy. Abortion. The list goes on.
No, we are not good. We are not kind. We do not know how to love.
God is good. God is kind. God is love.
And it is precisely here, where we meet our nature and see how starkly it contrasts with God’s holiness and truth, that we have a choice.
We can humble ourselves, repent, and ask Him to make us new. Ask Him to make our marriage and family, to pour out His grace upon is through the blood of Jesus Christ washing away all our sins, and cling to Him alone for righteousness, purity, peace, unity, fruitfulness, mercy, longsuffering kindness, and love.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. (1 John 4:10, 11)
(At this point, more Gospel entreaties with personal testimony to God’s grace to Mary Lee and me when we were married, and since...)
* Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Marriage Sustaining Love, Not Love Marriage:
Marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher power, for it is God's holy ordinance, through which he wills to perpetuate the human race until the end of time. In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to his glory, and calls into his kingdom. In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man. ... so love comes from you, but marriage from above, from God. As high as God is above man, so high are the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of love. It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer in an excerpt from a wedding sermon written May 1943 when he was in prison.