Marriage "in the the Name of the Lord"
Marriage "in the the Name of the Lord"
The phrase “in the Name of the Lord” occurs three times in the Marriage Form. This little phrase is of great significance to the form for it stipulates what marriage is all about. It is a phrase which requires our special attention for it typifies the essence of the marriage ceremony and the essence of marriage. We find it in the Form in the following places:
Announcement (page 634)
“The consistory announces that ____________ and __________ have indicated their intention to enter into the married state, according to the ordinance of God. They desire to begin this holy state in the Name of the Lord and to complete it to His glory.”
Introduction (page 634f)
“______________ and ______________, since the consistory has duly made known to the congregation your desire to enter into the married state, and no lawful objection has been presented, we may now proceed to the solemnisation of your marriage in the Name of the Lord.”
The Duties of Marriage (page 637)
“______________ and ______________, you have now heard what the Lord requires of you and what He has promised you. May our gracious God give you the strength and the faithfulness to live together as husband and wife in this manner and may your help be in the Name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.”
By using the phrase “in the Name of the Lord” the Marriage Form is using very biblical language. The phrase appears numerous times in the Bible. This is not surprising for being busy in the name of the Lord is common to all the activities of believers. The following texts are some examples of believers being busy in the name of the Lord in various aspects of life:
And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the LORD.
Here we read of God's children engaging in an activity that characterises the life of the believer: prayer. This name is so important to God's children that they call upon it.
Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near, for the LORD your God has chosen them to minister to Him and to bless in the name of the LORD.
The priests in particular, and not the people at large, were assigned the special task of blessing in the name of the LORD. The people were the recipients of these blessings.
1 Samuel 17:45;
Then David said to the Philistine (Goliath), “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
David, a godly man, dared to take up Goliath's challenge for he found his strength in the name of the LORD.
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.
Being busy with the name of the LORD included trusting in His power and might to the exclusion of all else.
All nations surrounded me, but in the name of the LORD I will destroy them. They surrounded me, yes, they surrounded me; but in the name of the LORD I will destroy them. They surrounded me like bees; they were quenched like a fire of thorns; for in the name of the LORD I will destroy them.
Again, a godly man busying himself with the LORD's name in the pressures of his life.
The Bible reveals too that not all people busy themselves with the name of the Lord. In contrast to the above texts, the two texts below show how unbelievers have no use for the Lord's name in their lives:
Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You, and on the kingdoms that do not call on Your name.
1 Kings 18:24, 26;
Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” So all the people answered and said, “It is well spoken.”… So (Baal's prophets) took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal…
As the texts quoted above demonstrate, to be busy with the name of the Lord is part and parcel of the life of the Christian; it is an activity that characterises the life of the believer. And who is the Lord in whose name the Christian is busy? In the phrase “the name of the Lord” as we find it above, the word 'Lord' is written in capital letters, 'LORD', and so is a reference to the Old Testament name of God, Yahweh: the God of the covenant. Yahweh is the 'I AM WHO I AM.' That is, He is the I-am-who-I-say-I-am; I-do-what-I-say-I-will-do. This is the God who established His covenant of grace with sinners, claims them for Himself, and promises to supply the needs of His children. That is why in the New Testament the name 'Lord' is applied to our Saviour. Faithful to His covenant, God gave His Son to ransom His people to Himself. The victorious Christ epitomises what God's relation with His children is really all about.
So, to busy oneself with the name of the Lord means to busy oneself with the God of the covenant – the God who is faithful. It means to do something concrete with the authority of this God in all spheres of life, marriage included. To do so is not in vain for God promises His blessing upon covenant obedience. David knew that being busy within the realm of God's authority was worth far more than relying on the strength of an army of 10 000 men.
Why does the Marriage Form refer to the 'Name of the Lord,' and three times at that? It does so in recognition of the fact that in marriage too the Christian is acting in the Lord's Name and so wilfully submitting to His will for marriage in all its aspects. Excluding marriage from the name of the Lord is to deny oneself of God's blessing on marriage. Marrying 'in the Name of the Lord' means to reckon with God's reputation, authority and work in marriage. Marriage is not divorced from God. Marriage is not the 'brainchild' of man; it is not a social contract. Rather, it very much comes from God. It is His gift to every man and woman that marry in His Name.
In a marriage ceremony two people – the bride and groom – wish to be united in marriage, to become one. When the Marriage Form speaks of them doing this “in the Name of the Lord,” this is also an acknowledgment that there is a third party involved: the LORD Himself. The LORD is present in church when the bridal couple exchange their vows. The bride and groom each say “I do” in His presence and hence their vows are binding. Their vow of “I do” is a vow in the fullest sense of the word for God is a witness to it.
In a secular world, where there is a distance between God and man and so between God and marriage too, the church stands out as being so different for it recognises God's hand in marriage. By acting 'in the Name of the Lord' at a wedding ceremony the church makes a public statement that marriage comes from God. It is in the church that proclaims and obeys God's complete Word that one can learn what marriage is all about. It is at the marriage ceremony solemnised by the church that God's blessing upon the couple can be asked for in the confidence of faith.
It is understandable then that the consistory makes the announcement of a couple's intentions to get married. The elders, appointed by God as overseers of His flock, are responsible for the spiritual wellbeing of the flock and consequently of the couple intending to marry. Since each consistory is to ensure that members of the congregation marry only in the Lord the elders will involve themselves with the couple to ensure that they do indeed get married in His name.
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