David and Sophia, today you begin your new family together as husband and wife.
You leave your old families behind to cleave to one another. Every wedding is an act of God, every wedding is a new creation. Today, God is joining you together. Marriage is a bond God forms between you.
As you begin this new life together, there is nothing more important than ordering your shared life according to God’s Word and God’s design. Marriage gets a bad rap today. There is a lot of cynicism about marriage. But the problem is not marriage. The problem is people thinking marriage is fluid and they can make it take any shape they want. In reality, marriage has a very definite structure. God has designed marriage with a definite architecture. Just like you would not want to live in a house that has no real design, or that was built in a sloppy way, you should not want to live in a marriage that lacks design, or that is put together in a careless way. To build a good marriage, a joy-filled, happily-ever-after kind of marriage, you have to build your house, your family life together, according to God’s blueprint. So what is God’s blueprint? Thankfully, it’s not hard to find. It’s rooted in nature and revealed in God’s Word. It’s been made plain in what God has created and plainly spoken to us in the Scripture. Marriage is a dance choreographed by God himself, and he has made us in such a way that the dance steps fit who we are as men and women. While sin will often get in the way, nothing is more "natural" than a man and woman living together in a shared household as husband and wife.
Let’s start with this fact: David and Sophia, one of the most obvious things about this wedding is that David, you are a man, and Sophia, you are a woman. That’s what marriage is: the union of one man and one woman in a covenantal, one flesh relationship. But why a man and a woman? We actually have to ask that question today because, sadly, a lot of people are confused on this point. Men and women are different. We have different orientations to the world, to work, to relationships. Sure, there is a lot of overlap between men and women: We are equal in worth as image bearers, we are equally fallen in sin, and we share equally in Christ’s redemption. Men and women are both called to repent and believe the gospel; both are called to love God and love neighbor; both are called to produce the same fruit of the Spirit. But these overlapping realities should not obscure the really profound ways in which we are different. For example: It’s true men and women are called to display the same fruit of the Spirit, but that fruit is going to look different in man’s life than a woman’s life. This means we need to understand what is called “gendered piety” — the ways in which faithfulness and love express themselves differently in men and women. Gendered piety produces Christ-like husbands and wives who follow their lead. Gendered piety is at the heart of every God-honoring and happy marriage. Gendered piety creates polarity between the two of you, and that polarity in turn drives attraction. Gendered piety is what enables you to fulfill the distinctive roles God assigns you in this relationship.
David and Sophia, I’m sure you are already well aware of the differences between you. Those differences can be a source of attraction, or intrigue, or even frustration in a fallen world. But your differences mean that you are to complement and complete one another. When you live according to God’s design in marriage, this relationship becomes a source of ever increasing joy and delight.
Fundamentally, God has called you together as husband and wife so that you can fulfill the creation mandate, found in Genesis 1. Now, I’m not saying, David, that when you first met Sophia you were thinking “Wow, that’s someone I’d like to fulfill the creation mandate with." (Or maybe you were thinking that?) But whatever you were thinking, this is certainly what God had in mind. And likewise with you Sophia, as you were drawn to David. God was putting the two of you together so his original mandate for humanity could be furthered.
The creation mandate is found in the culmination of the creation account on the opening page of the Bible, and it explains human life. We were made for work and family, for dominion and multiplication, to rule the earth and fill it. Marriage is obviously right at the center of the the creation mandate. But while the mandate as a whole belongs to both men and women, and you will both be involved in every aspect of the mandate, within the mandate there is a division of labor. And this is what is crucial to grasp if you want to order your family life wisely, in accord with God’s design.
David, the creation mandate assigns you certain tasks and gives you a certain role to play. You are the head of your family. Even before the fall, God ordained the man’s headship. We see that in several ways:
(a) The man is made first, and being firstborn carries a special status in the old creation. Also, this means the man was given the command to not eat of the forbidden tree before his wife was created, so he would have to teach her God's Word.
(b) The whole human race derives its names from the man. God says, “let us make man, male and female, in our image."
(c) Adam names his wife which is an act of authority.
(d) Adam's wife is created for him as a helper. She is created from him and for him.
(e) Adam represents the human race in the Garden. Thus, in Romans 5, Paul does say sin entered the world through one couple, but through one man.
David, you are the Adam of this new creation God is forming today and that means you are the head. What does it mean to be head? It means you have authority and responsibility. In just a minute, Sophia is going to make a vow to submit to you, but David, her vow should make you more nervous than it makes her. It is a terrible thing to be the one in charge, to be the one who is responsible — responsible not only for yourself as an individual, but for an entire household.
How do you exercise headship? There are people who would say, yes, you are the leader, but you are to be a servant-leader. And presumably a servant-leader panders to those he leads and never crosses them, and so leadership really becomes a backwards way of saying followership. You lead only by doing by what those under your leadership give you permission to do and want you to do. That's wrong. In Scripture servants are leaders and leaders are servants, but the service does not cancel out the leadership; rather the service gets expressed in the form of leadership. Think about this way: How does a coach serve his team? By coaching. How does a teacher serve his classroom? By teaching. How does a cook serve? By cooking. How does a builder serve? By building. So: How does a leader serve? By leading. See that? The gift you give is the gift of leadership — you wisely and competently and confidently captain this ship, the SS Hintze. You serve by leading. Godly leadership is an amazing gift to give a wife. Wives who live under foolish leadership have complicated and anxious lives. Wives whose husbands are good leaders can relax; their anxiety is relieved; they can joyfully and easily submit most of the time because they trust him. Honestly, women married to good men virtually never complain about the Bible's command to submit. So, David, lead and lead well. Lead wisely. Cast a vision for your family. Set the pace. Establish standards. Shape a godly family culture. Lead the way forward in godliness and righteousness. Lead the way in confessing sin and repenting. Lead the way in loving sacrificially and acting wisely. Lead the way in courage and kindness. Lead the way by standing against the current of the culture and boldly obeying God. That's true headship.
David, we can unpack the meaning of headship further. You are certainly given some specific duties, some specific ways in which you are to exercise your headship. What see again and again in Scripture is that husbands are protectors and providers. Jesus is the ultimate protector and provider for his bride. So he is the model. But this is a paradigm we see throughout Scripture. In Genesis 2, before the woman is even created, the man is commanded to tend and keep the garden. Tend the garden — that means to make it productive so it can be a source of provision. Adam is to work and thus provide for his household. Keep the garden — that means to guard it. In the next chapter, we see Adam failed at that task. A serpent invaded the garden and led his wife astray. Adam failed in his guarding task. We can ask what Adam should have done when the serpent showed up, questioning God’s Word and deceiving his wife. And we can answer that question by looking at what the second Adam came and did. What should have Adam have done when the serpent attacked? He should have gone to war with the serpent on behalf of his bride. He should have put himself on the front lines, between his bride and the serpent, sacrificing himself for her well-being. Had the man engaged in combat with the serpent, I can assure you he would have won that battle -- he would have crushed the serpent's head. But I can also guarantee you he would have gotten injured. In fact, we can surmise from Genesis 3:15 that his heel would have bruised. See, David, I have a bruised heel right now to show you what this is like! A bruised heel just is a torn Achilles tendon. I hope you don’t have go through such a painful injury to guard your wife. But I can assure you that if you provide and protect your household, physically and especially spiritually, you will endure very costly and challenging sacrifices. There is no other way.
By the way, David, Ephesians 5 unpacks the husband’s calling in the same twofold way. Paul tells husbands to “nourish" and “cherish" their wives. To nourish her to provide for her, to help her to thrive and blossom in all her delicate feminine beauty. To cherish means literally to “keep warm,” or we could say “to keep safe.” It means you are a shield around her, a blanket over her, a fortress surrounding her. It means you put yourself between her and whatever might harm her. Crush the head of whatever serpent threatens her.
David, just as men are called to fulfill their headship role in two ways, as protectors and providers, so men can distort their headship role in two ways. They can either abdicate, like Adam in the garden, becoming passive and effeminate. Or they can become tyrannical abusers, like we see later in Genesis with Cain and Lamech. The abdicating man kills his wife's attraction to him and leaves his household vulnerable. A woman cannot desire a man who is soft. If Sophia got attacked and you stood by and just watched (like Adam in Genesis 3) instead of defending her, she would never desire you again. Women who are married to passive, abdicating men feel an overwhelming need to compensate for what the husband is failing to do, so such wives becomes masculinized. A godly man does not want his wife to ever have to compensate for his lack of masculinity.
Most husbands who fail today do so by abdicating, but there are certainly some who become tyrannical so we have to consider that perversion of headship as well. When a man becomes a tyrant, instead of crushing the skull of the serpent -- enemies who attack his wife -- he crushes his wife (and kids too). Tyrants only serve themselves and thus destroy the purpose of marriage, which is to build a household together. Tyrants use their strength in selfish ways. So, David, do not be an abdicating head or a self-serving head. Be a head like Jesus. Love your wife like Jesus loves his church.
Sophia, you are not off the hook. There are instructions here for you as well. When the woman is created in Genesis 2, we find she is called a “helper.” That's the word that defines your calling. Now, we should not think of the woman as a “mere” helper as if this means she only has a tiny side bit role to play. Her role is just as important as his; she is co-starring in this drama that is the marriage covenant. Think about it this way: Do you know who is called a “helper” more than anyone else in the Bible? God himself. Helping a way to image God. It is interesting to note there are other helpers in Scripture, but every other use of this term in the OT, when it refers to a human, is of a man or men who help another man, usually in military or political contexts. Frankly, if David needed military or political help, another man would be better suited to the task. But that’s not the kind of help David needs. David, like Adam needs help fulfilling the creation mandate. And that kind of help can only be provided by a woman. You are that woman! The rest of Scripture's instructions to wives can help you understand what Genesis 2 means when it calls you David's helper.
Just as there are two main ways a man exercises headship, so there are two main ways a woman exercises helpership. I'll summarize them this way: She helps by submitting and homemaking. It sounds offensive in an egalitarian age for a woman to have to submit to her husband. And obviously, there are conditions and limitations put on this submission because no human authority is absolute. A wife should never follow her husband into sin. But in ordinary life, she should live in submission to him, as Ephesians 5 commands. One reason the notion of submission is offensive is because we think it makes the woman into a passive doormat who cannot think or act for herself. But that is not true. Submission does not cancel out the wife's use of her intellect or her gifts; instead it releases the use of her gifts in a specific direction. Break the word down: “sub-mission.” It means getting under ("sub") and supporting the mission of another. Sophia, today, David’s life mission becomes your life mission. Behind every effective, successful man is a submissive, supportive wife who makes what he accomplishes possible. Again, it’s not at all degrading to submit to a husband. God's ordained hierarchy is not demeaning. By analogy, think of a ship: The captain of the ship has a mission — maybe it’s to sink another ship, or deliver some cargo. The job of the first mate (as second in command) is to help the captain accomplish that mission. And every captain knows he cannot possibly accomplish the mission without a wise first mate, a first mate who can be trusted to make decisions, to provide sound counsel, to do what needs to be done to serve that larger purpose. Or think of the coaching staff of a football team. Every head coach knows he cannot win the game without a good assistant coach to call plays, recruit players, to run drills at practice, and to do a thousand other things. That’s analogous to what a wife does. Yes, the assistant coach submits to the head coach, but that submission does not negate the use of his gifts and creativity. So it is with the godly wife. She helps her household win. To be a helper is to be an ally. You go with the grain of your husband’s leadership, not against it. You reinforce his efforts to lead. You respond to his initiative. You help him formulate a gameplan. You help execute his vision. You take charge of those areas of responsibility delegated to you. It may be true that some of your work will be behind the scenes, so to speak, but that does not make your contribution any less valuable.
Submission is also crucial to keeping order and harmony in the home. Some wives nag their husbands. They argue with their husbands. The husband gets so exhausted fighting with his wife, he cannot fight for her when the time comes. Don’t so that, Sophia. God ordained marriage to be a hierarchy, not a democracy. You can’t have a democracy of two anyway. His headship and your submission is for the good of both of you. It makes the home a place of peace rather than a place of power-struggle. Share your wisdom with him, but (as C. S. Lewis has put it) know the difference between giving advice and taking orders. David needs — desperately needs — your counsel. He does not need your permission. Submit to him in such a way that being your head and ruler is a joy to him. When you submit to him, you are submitting to God’s Word, which means you are submitting to God. When you submit to him, you not only live in the circle of your husband’s blessing, you live in the circle of God’s blessing. When you submit to a man who is following Christ, you can know you are in a place where you will be protected and provided for. In a fallen world authority sometimes gets abused and when that happens, we need other authorities to step in and correct the authority that has gotten out of line. But when headship and submission work as God designed, the husband and wife live perfectly in sync with one another. Their lives harmonize beautifully.
But there’s another way you help. You are a homemaker. This is a job description that gets filled in many places in Scripture. The acrostic poem celebrating the virtuous wife in Proverbs 31 describes how she helps her husband by homemaking. Her husband serves the community as an elder in the gate while she handles the domestic sphere. She is the embodiment of Lady Wisdom, building her house accorinding to the divine blueprint. In Titus 2, the older women in the church are commanded to train the younger women in homemaking. What exactly is homemaking? Homemaking starts with loving your husband so the home feels like a home to him. It continues with bearing and nurturing children, filling the home with little image bearers who need to be discipled and fed and bathed and clothed. It culminates with helping make the home an outpost of God’s kingdom — a base for mission, a place for hospitality and service to the wider world, an engine of productivity. Homemaking is no small task. It requires diligence and competence, creativity and ingenuity. The goal is to ultimately make the home a small scale replica of God’s kingdom. Homemaking does not mean you can never leave the home or even work outside the home. Scripture does not teach a woman's place is the home, as if she could not serve elsewhere. It does teach her priority is the home. Wives and mothers have an irreplaceable function in the household. Many household functions can be outsourced in the modern world, but the heart of your role as a wife to your husband and a mother to your future children cannot be.
In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul says the woman was made for the man, and the woman is the man’s glory. Man is the glory of God; the woman is the glory of the man; that makes her the superlative glory of the glories! Sophia, your role is to be David's glory, which makes you the glory of God's glory. That's a lot of glory! What does it mean for you to be your husband's glory? In part, it means you take whatever David gives you and you glorify it. If he gives you a budgeted amount of money for groceries, turn that money into a glorious feast. If he gives you a house, turn it into a home full of love and beauty. Just as God's house, the temple, was filled with the glory of God, so you are fill your household with glory.
A lot of people demean homemaking because it seems to involve a lot of menial work — cooking, cleaning, laundry, and so forth. But we need to look at homemaking through a biblical lens. When a wife, cooks and cleans, she’s not just cooking and cleaning. She’s bringing order to a chaotic world. She’s building a culture. When she makes a meal she’s creating the centerpiece of their family life together, the place where memories will be made, and bonds will be formed. It's not like she is doing menial labor in the home while her husband is out doing the important stuff in the world. What she does in the home is absolutely important. Indeed, C. S. Lewis said it was the most important work in the world, the job for the sake of which all other jobs exist. I think Lewis was right. The homemaker is a jewel, more valuable than rubies or anything else you can name. She fills a home with love. She builds her house with wisdom and fills its rooms with treasures, as the Proverb says.
David, you were made to tend to a garden. Sophia, you were made to tend to the gardener. David, from this day forward, Sophia is in your garden, so you are to love and care for her. She is not the whole of the garden, of course. You must remain oriented to the mission God has given you, the dominion he has called you to exercise. David, your temptation will be to focus mission and neglect the helper God has given you to accomplish the mission. Sophia, your temptation will be to be so focused on the relationship that you neglect the mission the relationship is made to serve. Do not fall into those errors. In this way, your new household will play its part in fulfilling the creation mandate and building a God-glorifying civilization.
David, be a husband who leads like Christ. He is the model for your headship, the model of providing and protecting. Sophia, be the helper you were designed to be, a helper who submits to her husband’s mission and a helper who makes a home. David – follow Jesus. Sophia – follow David as he follows Jesus.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.