The Sweet Christian Bride

The Marriage Covenant

The Christian wedding ceremony, while a product of accepted tradition, has elements that are deeply purposed and reflective of the Christian marriage covenant.  Before exploring some of these symbolic ceremony and reception traditions, let’s first unpack what it means to enter into a covenant relationship.

My youth pastor explained it in basic terms to me:  A contract is something that one party can break if terms are not met whereas a covenant is a binding agreement.

Mary Fairchild writes a great article called “Christian Wedding Traditions and Customs: Understanding the Biblical Significance of Wedding Traditions and Customs” explaining in simple terms the covenant that God made with Abraham. 

To summarize, she explains that a covenant was made by two parties cutting an animal into two equal pieces.  The halves were laid facing each other, creating a middle ground that was deemed holy.  Both people in the covenant would walk that holy path until they met in the middle.  They would then cut their own right hands and join them together as a seal for the pledge and vow they were making.  Finally, they would exchange their belt and outer garment in order to demonstrate that some part of their property or name was merged.

With Abraham, God made a covenant that he would be the father of great nations (Genesis 15).  God asked Abraham to arrange the animal halves opposite each other, but instead of God and Abraham both walking halfway through the holy ground, God put Abraham into a sleep and God alone fulfilled the covenant.  In other words, God made a binding pledge to Abraham that was 100% on His shoulders to keep, not on Abraham’s.

We call the Gospels the New Covenant because Jesus entered into a covenant with us in the same way that God did with Abraham.  He Himself was the sacrifice; His blood was the symbol of the pledge of the covenant; He Himself fulfilled the covenant for us if we indeed choose to enter into it.  As He did, the temple veil was torn in two, indicating that a new covenant was made.  Jesus Christ was the fulfilment of the old covenant and of the Mosaic Law.  Or as Jesus illustrates with parable in Luke 5:36-39, Jesus is the new wine that cannot be put into an old wineskin, lest the wineskin burst.

Our marriage covenant echoes the covenant that Christ made with us, His bride.  As God did with Abraham and as Christ did and will do with us, we are to enter into and fulfill a binding vow with our spouse.  We are responsible for upholding the covenant with 100% of what we can give, not a contractual 50/50 split as many secular marriages, business relationships, or perhaps even friendships operate.  Marriage is 100/100.

Understanding this beautiful concept of a covenant relationship and its deeply rooted significance in The New Covenant will allow you to make choices about your wedding ceremony and reception that deepen your spiritual purpose for modern wedding traditions. 

Specific covenant symbols to come.  Stay tuned.

By Lindsay

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