This post is an excerpt from the “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Foundations” seminar section on covenant. It contains 2 of the 15 aspects of the wedding ceremony that are discussed to point out how the wedding ceremony was designed to teach us about covenant.
Seating of the Family
Family and friends of the bride sit on one side of the church. Those of the groom sit on the other. As participants in the wedding enter and leave the wedding ceremony, they pass through the middle of the two families. This creates two covenant images: the power of covenant to unite and the imagery of God’s covenant with Abraham.
First, the bonding power of a covenant is so strong it cannot be confined to two individuals. As the couple passes between their families, they act like the tongue on a zipper uniting two families. As the husband and wife become “one flesh,” both families share something precious enough (i.e., son or daughter, brother or sister) to create a common identity as family.
“In reality, it is two people and two families that are coming together to form a new merger. Your family’s impact on your new family must not be minimized, but rather, understood, and planned for (p. 19).” Dennis Rainey (editor) in Preparing for Marriage
Read Ephesians 2:18-22. Observe the power of covenant to bring unrelated people, even people with great differences, into the same family. See how the gospel moves us from being “outsiders” (i.e., “strangers and aliens”) to being “members of the household” (v. 19). As newly joined husband and wife walk out together between their respective families they are involving all in attendance in what the gospel does.
Second, this seating arrangement gives a portrait of God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15. The Hebrew word for covenant, berith meaning “to cut,” is most clearly seen in this passage. God had Abraham cut several animals in half and make a lane between their carcasses. God passed down this lane as a way of saying, “Shall it be to me like these animals, if I break this covenant.”
While gruesome, this image reminds us of a central theme of covenant relationships – death brings life. God would keep His covenant with man. Man would break covenant with God. But God would accept the consequences of being broken, Jesus’ death on the cross, in order to restore the covenant.
“Leaving parents and holding fast to a wife, forming a new one-flesh union, is meant from the beginning to display this covenant—Christ’s leaving his Father and taking the church as his bride, at the cost of his life, and holding fast to her in a one-spirit union forever (p. 30).” John Piper in This Momentary Marriage
As husband and wife pass through their families, they are also visualizing a death (leaving) that brings life (cleaving). Those in attendance instinctually understand the profound paradox as they experience the simultaneous emotions of sadness and joy.
When the bride enters the sanctuary she is wearing a veil. This is not a coy means of flirting with her groom, an insecure response to how she looks, or a trendy piece of wedding paraphernalia that has yet to go extinct. It is another piece of covenant imagery.
In the old covenant within the temple there was a veil that separated the holy place from the holy of holies (Exo. 26:33). This is where God’s glory dwelt and only the High Priest was allowed to enter this place, and he was only allowed to enter once per year. When Christ died on the cross this veil was torn from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51) signifying the unlimited access we have to God through Christ.
During the wedding the groom, representing Christ, is allowed to remove the veil from his bride. Now, by virtue of the marriage covenant, he has gained access to a level of intimacy with his bride he did not have before marriage. In the same way that Christ came to reside in our hearts upon removing the temple veil, the husband and wife come to reside in the same home and discover a whole new level of intimacy after removing the wedding veil.
Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Foundations
Dates: June 23 and 30, 2012
Time: 4:00 to 6:00 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703