by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: Ephesians 5:22-33
I. We’ve all talked about the changes in society we have seen during our lives
A. One aspect is the rapid change in people’s view of marriage
B. The number of divorces has sky-rocketed.
1. Marriages today can be terminated just because one person wants to end the marriage. No real reason has to be given.
C. The number of people moving in together without marriage has also sky-rocketed
1. Sex is no longer being reserved for marriage
2. Marriage is being called merely an economic benefit
D. Both trends are a result of forgetting that marriage is a covenant relationship
II. Marriage is formed by a covenant
A. Malachi 2:14 - wife by covenant
B. Lemuel’s mother called him the son of her vows - Proverbs 31:2
C. The immoral woman who leaves her husband and forgets her covenant - Proverbs 2:17
D. God use an allegory to talk about marrying Israel by covenant - Ezekiel 16:8
E. Covenants and law are often used interchangeably in the Scriptures
1. Psalms 78:10 and Jeremiah 31:33 show this
2. That is why Paul talks about the law of her husband - Romans 7:2-3
III. Our traditional wedding ceremonies are deeply rooted in forming a covenant
A. In covenants, the parties are identified
1. “Do you ... “ names the people involved.
B. Often, a brief history of the relationship is given that leads to this covenant being formed.
1. “Who gives this woman in marriage ...”
2. In some ceremonies how those who are being married met and fell in love is mentioned.
C. The obligations of the parties is spelled out
1. “I, (name), take you (name), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish ...”
2. As with all covenants, the design of the covenant is for the benefit of both parties.
a. Proverbs 12:4 - a crown to her husband
b. Proverbs 18:22 - a wife is good and a favor from God
c. Proverbs 19:14 - better than an inheritance
d. Proverbs 31:10 - worth is invaluable
e. I Corinthians 7:33-34 - concern for pleasing spouse
D. A list of expected benefits for keeping or consequences for breaking
1. Most wedding ceremonies contain a blessing on the couple
2. Note the well-wishing for Boaz and Ruth - Ruth 4:11-12
3. God enforces the terms - Hebrews 13:4
E. Provisions for remembering the covenant and reminders that they are in fellowship
1. The rings testify to the existence of the covenant
2. The marriage license is signed and recorded.
3. A reception serves as the fellowship meals.
4. Anniversaries are the periodic reminders
F. Oaths made before a higher power
1. “I promise ...”
2. The marriage vows are before God - Matthew 19:5-6
3. Proverbs 2:17 - Covenant of her God
G. Witnesses to the covenant
1. The bridesmaids, groomsmen, the audience are all witnesses
2. The best man and maid of honor are the ones who sign as witnesses to the vows
3. Ruth 4:11 - “We are witnesses”
4. Song of Solomon 3:7-8 - Sixty valiant men as groomsmen
H. Covenants are permanent
1. For the life of the couple - Romans 7:2-3
2. In the allegory of God marrying Israel - Ezekiel 16:59-60
3. Matthew 19:6 - not to separate
4. I Corinthians 7:10-11 - not to divorce
IV. The two shall become one flesh - Genesis 2:24
A. One way to look at this is to recognize that two people join themselves together through a covenant to one entity – a family, instead of remaining as two people
B. That is what a covenant does, it binds two into one
C. I found a letter in Parade Magazine that captures the idea:
You Can Fall in Love for a Lifetime
Recently we printed a letter from a teenage girl in Freeville, N.Y., who worried that fidelity in marriage might be an unrealistic goal in today's society. Here is an excerpt from a letter we received in response:
That girl's letter touched me deeply. I'd like to answer her from the experience of 47 years of faithful marriage. It is possible to achieve fidelity, but it requires some things that are not very popular with couples today.
Begin with commitment. My husband and I made vows with the intention of their lasting "till death do us part." We dropped divorce from our vocabulary.
You must learn to be contented within yourself. You are the only one who can make you happy. Don't expect the other person to be responsible for your happiness. I'm not saying fidelity in marriage is a cinch. My husband has a quick temper and says things that hurt. I'm much too sensitive. But we try not to go to bed angry.
This girl asked if it's natural to be with the same person all your life, or is it against our animal instincts? We are not just animals. Human beings have intellect. We can make choices.
You may be attracted to a young man and think you're in love. But look at how he treats other people, his family and friends, especially the younger and older ones.
Sex is wonderful. And it's most wonderful when it's shared exclusively between two people. Love grows stronger when there's trust.
Your ideal of two people loving each other for a lifetime may not be easy to achieve, but believe me, it is possible.
—Eula Pantie, 64, Colorado Springs, Colo.
D. Because the covenant is mutually beneficial, both the husband and the wife ought to work at making the marriage work - Ephesians 5:33
1. There will be times when one or the other cannot hold up his end and it takes the other to cover.
2. How God treated Israel - Hosea 2:19-20
3. The desire to care for them - Jeremiah 3:14-15
V. Marriage is a covenant relationship between a man and woman that takes two lives to form into one.
A. You can’t accidentally form a marriage.
B. Two people living together don’t make a marriage
C. Marriages are, and will always remain, special.