Wedding Program – Marriage & the Gospel

Photo Credit: Gregory Woodman

One of the things I was most looking forward to in wedding planning was making the program. When I was single, I never daydreamed about what my wedding dress would look like; however, over the years I had accumulated a mental list of Bible passages that I really wanted to be read on my future wedding day.

When I got engaged to my now-husband, I told him that one of my biggest dreams for our wedding was to write a coherent narrative weaving all of these passages together and to have it read as part of the ceremony. I knew my list of passages was much longer than the usual wedding readings so I was afraid he would say no but he cheerfully agreed (especially after I prefaced my request with “please don’t say no” and “it would mean a lot to me” and looked at him with my most pleading puppy dog eyes).

I really wanted to have the narrative tell the story of the gospel (the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ) as seen through the lens of marriage. Writing this out was one of the most enjoyable parts of wedding planning and it also helped me to reflect on God’s good design and purposes for marriage as I was planning my own wedding.

We asked four of our bridesmaids and groomsmen to take turns reading each section of the narrative during the ceremony before our pastor gave his message. The whole text was in the wedding program so that guests could read along and take it home as well. It was a dream come true to finally write this out, to hear all of the passages read on our wedding day, and to share it with all of our guests.

Those pages from the program are below (I used redwood trees to represent page numbers, since we were married in a forest of redwoods):









In case the pictures do not load, here are the readings in plain text:

Man and Woman Created in The Image of God

In the beginning when God made the world, God created the first man and woman in His image to reflect who He is. God made humans to reflect Him in our character, our relationships, our work and our creativity. So on the 6th day of creation, God said:

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
(Genesis 1:26-27)

The First Marriage

This next passage invites us to see more of God’s thoughts and intentions as He created Adam and Eve. On that day, God also set marriage into place. It’s amazing how marriage is so important to God that He created it on the same day He made humans. After creating Adam, God said:

“It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
(Genesis 2:18-24)

The Fall – Sin and Death

We just saw that God created marriage for companionship. However, the newly married couple weren’t in Eden for long before they were deceived by Satan and sinned by rebelling against God and eating from the forbidden tree. This caused sin to enter the world. The Bible teaches us that God made us to be in relationship with Him but sin separates us from God. The book of Romans tells us that

“the wages of sin is death”
(Romans 6:23)

and that “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…”
(Romans 5:12)

Psalm 14 also tells us that everybody is a sinner:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
(Psalm 14:1-3)

Reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ

Since God is holy, just, and perfectly good, He cannot be in the presence of sin. However, God in His great kindness did not abandon us to our sins. Even though we deserve eternal separation from Him, God provided a way for us to be reconciled to Him while satisfying His justice at the same time.

“By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us…”
(Romans 8:3-4)

Jesus Christ was the Son of God who lived a perfectly righteous life and never sinned. He laid down His life by being executed on a Roman cross so that He could take on the punishment for our sins and in exchange give us His righteousness so that we could be forgiven by God and live in His presence forever. Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and those who believe in Him will also be resurrected from the dead to live with God forever.

The Bible tells us that “there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”
(Romans 3:23-25)

Jesus said that “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(John 14:6)

Jesus’ friend and disciple John also tells us that “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
(1 John 5:11-12)

God Designed Marriage to be a Picture of the Relationship between Christ and the Church

Because of what Jesus has done on the cross, those who believe in Him now have peace with God and with one another. We are now called to live in response to God’s love and gift of salvation. This next passage exhorts all Christians to honor God and then specifically commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church, and wives to submit to and respect their husbands. We learn that from the very beginning God actually designed marriage to be a beautiful picture of the relationship between Christ and the church. A marriage lived in this way, with the husband loving his wife sacrificially and always desiring what is best for her, and the wife submitting to his loving and sacrificial leadership, paints the best picture of this. Ephesians 5 reads:

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil… be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.’
(Ephesians 5:15-33)

Jesus Rejoices over His Bride

This next passage from Isaiah uses the beauty of marriage to paint a picture of God’s love for His people. In the original context, this passage refers to the covenant relationship between God and the people of Israel, but as we learn from the Bible, all non-Jews who believe in Jesus are grafted into the people of God, and therefore we all share equally in God’s love. There is neither Jew nor Gentile anymore because we are all one in Christ Jesus and the true bride of Christ is the church. So listen as God uses the picture of marriage to illustrate His love toward His covenant people:

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
(Isaiah 62:3-5)

Jesus’ Marriage to His People

This next passage from the book of Hosea speaks of God’s mercy toward unfaithful Israel and the wooing back of His bride, as well as God’s future marriage to His people.

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her… “And in that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’ …In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety. I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord.
(Hosea 2:14-20)

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

We catch a glimpse of this eventual marriage between God and His people in the book of Revelation. This final, ultimate wedding day is still yet to come. But Jesus’ disciple, John, was given a vision of it and describes it as follows:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure” —for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
(Revelation 19:6-9)

God with Us

What does the marriage between Christ and His people look like, you might ask? This is what John records in the book of Revelation:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
(Revelation 21:1-4)

How to Live Before We See Jesus

What a great future we have to look forward to! But before that ultimate marriage between Christ and His people, we are still here on earth to tell others of the good news of salvation through Jesus, and to display God’s beauty through our lives, relationships, and especially through our marriages. The apostle Paul tells us that we must now no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. Instead, Paul teaches us to:

[P]ut off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:17-32)

Holistic Love

A key part of a beautiful marriage is to simply obey Jesus’ command to love God, and to love your neighbor as yourself. A scribe in Israel once asked Jesus which commandment is the most important of all. In Mark chapter 12, Jesus answered,

“The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
(Mark 12:28-3)

In order to have a marriage that is beautiful to God, the most important thing __ and Connie can do to is to love God first with all that they are, and then to love the other person as themselves. We learn from this passage that the faculties used to love deeply are the heart, soul, mind, and body. These are what Connie and __ are to love God with, and they are to love each other with the same faculties. They are to love and honor each other with their hearts, with their minds, with their souls, and with their strength. The deepest love is holistic; it is a love that comes from all that we are.

What Love Looks Like

The following passage from 1 Corinthians 13 describes what love does and does not look like and speaks of the surpassing value of love. As we just learned, love is not just an emotion; but neither is it just action. It is holistic and involves our attitudes and our hearts along with our actions. Paul writes:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away… For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:1-13)

How to Love Well

This next passage from the book of Romans paints a glorious picture of genuine love:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(Romans 12:9-21)

Our Only Debt

Next, we are told the only debt that Christians are to owe one another:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
(Romans 13:8-10)

A Work in Progress

These last two passages serve as an encouragement to __ and Connie that they are both works in progress, but by God’s grace, they are growing every day to love God and love each other more and more. God is the one who ultimately continues to transform them into the beautiful image of His Son, and He will one day complete that work when they see Him face-to face. Paul writes the following to the church at Corinth:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
(2 Cor 3:17-18)

Paul also writes to the church in Philippi:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
(Philippians 1:6)

Far Side of the Sea

Acrylic on canvas, 2008

The size of our universe is beyond comprehension.  Yet there is an infinite God who is everywhere, one who created this vast universe and is also intimately close.  This all-powerful, all-knowing omnipresent God is always sustaining, always near, always holding all things together.

“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,’

even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.”

Psalm 139:7-12