Greetings MOL Family!
In today’s study, we are going to look at the steps of engagement and marriage. When is the time for engagement? The time is when both parties are settled that it is God’s will for them to join together in life, and in the Lord’s work…
A Settled Promise
Sometimes we see an experience where one of the parties is strong-willed, and is fully settled that this is the thing to do. The other party may not be so strong-willed, and may be lacking in personal conviction. Sometimes, there is an overriding of the weaker will by the stronger will. This is most unfortunate. The stronger the convictions of one of the parties, the more there should be not merely a willingness, but a desire to wait for equally clear convictions on the part of the other. Anything less than this is not only selfish, it’s silly.
Believe me, if there is uncertainty before the marriage vows are taken, the door is wide open for the devil to come in afterward and sow the seeds of doubt and uncertainty all through the married life. So, I repeat, the time for engagement is when both parties are settled that this is God’s will.
This includes, of course, all these other steps that we have studied. It includes getting counsel from others. It includes keeping close to counselors during the courtship time. I have run into experiences where young people who were even trying to follow these principles seemed to have the idea that, once the consent of the parents on both sides was obtained for courtship, it was entirely up to the young people.
But a Christian young man will want the counsel of his parents and his other God-given counselors just as much during courtship as before. He needs it just as much. If the young man is to be weighing matters, he needs all the help he can get from those of wider and longer experience.
The same with the young woman. I know of an experience where young people felt that they had the approval of the parents on both sides, but later one or two of the parents involved indicated a strong disapproval of the match. But because they had approval at one time, to being in courtship, they felt they had complied with “the technicalities”. That, of course, is overlooking what’s involved in this thing – our need of counsel.
After all, if the young people during courtship are free to change their minds, certainly the parents on each side ought to be. If the evidence is not complete at the beginning, there ought to be opportunity to examine the evidence as time goes on.
So the doubt of either one, or of the counselors –the parents particularly– of either one, should delay the engagement, because the engagement is a settled promise.
It Take Two
And now we have looked at the whole thing from every standpoint. We believe, as far as human beings can know, that this is God’s will, and so we are pledged to each other. At any time during courtship, the negative conviction of either of the parties should terminate the courtship. That simply means that if either the young man or the young woman says, “No”, that ought to stop the thing. There should not be the making of pain and sorrow and trial by the other party trying to keep at it, to continue it. This is unreasonable. Either party has the privilege, any time during the courtship, of saying, “Friend, we have reached the point where, as far as I know, this is not God’s will. So, this is the end. God bless you, as you continue your life for Him. And I know He will bless me as I continue my life.”
If Christian courtship has been carried on in a Christian way, that ought to be possible without making enemies. If the courtship was entered into for the sincere purpose of finding out God’s will, than if either one of them finds out that the will of God is No, then the object of the courtship has been attained. Is the will of God always Yes? If it is, then we don’t need courtship much, do we? But I repeat, since the object of courtship is to find out if it is God’s will, at any point in the courtship, if one party says, “No, God isn’t leading in this,” the other party will have to accept that, they should accept it, whether they can see it or not. After all, it takes two to make this kind of a union, doesn’t it? The convictions and the conscience of each one must be fully satisfied. The negative counsel and convictions of God-fearing parents on either side should bring an end to it.
’Should parents,’ you ask, ‘select a companion without regard to the mind or feelings of son or daughter?’ I put the question to you as it should be: Should a son or daughter select a companion without first consulting the parents,… And should that child, notwithstanding the counsel and entreaties of his parents, persist in following his own course? I answer decidedly: No; not if he never marries. The fifth commandment forbids such a course. – Adventist Home, pg. 75
I want you to notice on page 48 that, according to the inspired blueprint, while an engagement is to be considered binding, there are times when it’s proper to break an engagement. If, during the engagement period, either party arrives at the conviction that this is not God’s will, that they have been deceived, or if with clearer light they see they have made a mistake, they shouldn’t feel, “Oh, well, I’ve given my promise, and I’ve got to go ahead with it.”
That is a pitiful way to begin a home. If they have true love for each other, unselfishness will lead them to break the promise if it’s contrary to the will of God. There are times to cancel the engagement, but marriage is the great divide. Once that has been entered into, there is no turning back. There is still opportunity to turn back from engagement, but not marriage; that is settled. When the vows have been taken before men and angels, that forsaking all others they will keep themselves to each other as long as they both shall live, there is no turning back.
An Ordinance Ordained of God
I want to spend a little time on the wedding itself. You know the difference between the wedding and marriage, don’t you? Wedding has to do with the ceremony in which people enter into marriage. Here’s a beautiful statement; I love it:
… as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee. – Isaiah 62:5
According to this verse, the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride. Notice that God uses this as an illustration, a symbol, representing the great joy that He has in bringing home His people to His Father’s house. Oh friends, it’s a wonderful thing when a Christian wedding can be the representation of the joy of the Lord in taking His people home to the New Jerusalem. Speaking of the marriage at Cana, where Christ performed His first miracle:
The Scriptures state that both Jesus and His disciples were called to this marriage feast [at Cana]. Christ has given Christians no sanction to say when invited to a marriage, We ought not to be present on so joyous an occasion. By attending this feast Christ taught that He would have us rejoice with those who do rejoice in the observance of His statues. He never discouraged the innocent festivities of mankind when carried on in accordance with the laws of heaven. – Adventist Home, pg. 100
So, is it possible to have a joyous wedding that Christ will attend? Oh yes. Yet, notice we have something to balance this. A joyous occasion is far from being a mirthful occasion, an extravagant occasion, an occasion for pride and display. Notice:
It has always seemed so very inappropriate to me to see the marriage ordinance associated with hilarity and glee and a pretense of something. No. It is an ordinance ordained of God, to be looked upon with the greatest solemnity. – Ibid, pg. 101
I have heard the first reference quoted to justify a lot more than the reference covers. Let’s put these two pages together. Page 100 says a joyous occasion. Page 101 says the greatest solemnity. Can you get those two together? Until you do, you don’t have the picture. It is like having your eyes in focus. Some of us have to have glasses so we can get them in focus. And that’s why God has given us the Spirit of Prophecy – so that we can get our spiritual eyesight in focus. We have these wonderful statements calling us to a view of the wedding, which is an occasion of joy and rejoicing, and one of solemnity.
On the matter of having a wedding, which is one of joy and yet of sacred solemnity, think of baptism. When we open the baptismal waters and candidates are brought down into the watery grave and are buried and brought up, and we have our prayer and singing: do you agree with me that it is a joyous occasion? Oh, yes. There is nothing more joyous in the life of the Christian than a beautiful baptismal service.
And yet, while it’s very joyful, it’s a sacred, solemn ordinance, isn’t it? It is not the time for throwing rice or paper, and having some tin cans around, or making a lot of noise, or cracking a lot of jokes, or anything of the kind. Neither is it a time for a lot of display. We don’t dress up the baptismal candidates with finery that costs anywhere from a hundred to a thousand dollars apiece, do we? I wonder why. Isn’t baptism the greatest moment of life? Yes. Notice how we are warned against display and extravagance in the wedding service:
We are living in the last days, when the mania upon the subject of marriage constitutes one of the signs of the near coming of Christ. God is not consulted in these matters. Religion, duty, and principle are sacrificed to carry out the promptings of the unconsecrated heart. There should be no great display and rejoicing over the union of the parties. – Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4, pg. 503
This statement, standing by itself, would seem to rule out rejoicing. But notice it’s a rejoicing that’s linked with display. This is not to be.
There is no reason why we should make great parade or display, even if the parties were perfectly suited to each other. – Adventist Home, pg. 101
This statement is taken from the midst of a general testimony to the church at Battle Creek. In a little book called Testimonies for The Physicians and Helpers of The Sanitarium, there are testimonies that were given back in 1878 and 1879. This chapter in volume 4 that we are reading from is part of what’s here. But this is the original testimony as printed at Battle Creek for circulation in the Battle Creek Church. And it has some things of local interest and application, including the names of people. So, I’m going to give you the background to this statement in volume 4, crying out against fashionable weddings and display.
Sister White wasn’t talking about people in China or New York City. She was talking about Seventh-day Adventists in Battle Creek. Battle Creek was the headquarters of our work. She says:
There have been marriage relations formed in Battle Creek with which God has had nothing to do…. When there is so much uncertainty, so great danger, there is no reason why we should make great parade or display, even if the parties were perfectly suited to each other; but that remains to be tested.
When those who profess to be reformers, those in humble life, ape the customs and fashions of the worldly wealthy, it is a reproach to our faith. – Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4, pg. 515
Now, this from the little book:
“Sister Lampson’s advice and influence has had a tendency to weaken the barriers which separate the people of God from the world. The display of fashionable dress on the occasion of Dr. Kellogg’s marriage was a telling discourse in favor of departing from principle.” – Testimonies for the Physicians and Helpers of the Sanitarium, pg. 77
Sister Lampson was the general matron of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. So, one of the outstanding leaders in the Battle Creek Church, the Seventh-day Adventist church, had just had a wedding there, and the prophet of God was called upon to reprove and rebuke the display of fashionable dress at that wedding.
Many lectures upon reform could not counteract the evil influence which was thus exerted. We have had to meet it everywhere. This display was made by Sister Lampson’s advice. – Ibid
Now back to Volume 4. Sister White is talking about this very thing. She says:
When those who profess to be reformers, those in humble life, ape the customs and fashions of the worldly wealthy, it is a reproach to our faith. There are some to whom God gave the word of warning; but did that stop them? No; they did not fear God, for the bewitching power of Satan was upon them. – Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4, pg. 515
It must have been something to be a member of the remnant church when the living prophet was here, and your name might be read off as somebody who had gotten out of line. Would you like to be in a church like that? I predict that if we remain with the remnant church, we will see some things like this again. We need the living testimony in the church, dear friends. And if we will dig out and follow what is in these books, and follow them, God may be pleased to give us, if we need additional “bringing us into line,” He’ll do it.
My point is that there should be no fashionable display in connection with weddings. Why not? What’s a wedding for anyway? What is its purpose? I will tell you this, friends. If the marriage has been inspired by Hollywood, Hollywood would be a good place to pattern after for the wedding. But if we have been looking to the Sanctuary for our inspiration, Hollywood can’t help us much. What do you say?
In the ancient sanctuary, which was copied after the Tabernacle in Heaven, and which is to be a model for us as we set up Christian homes, you remember it was not enough that the sanctuary be built. There must be a priest to minister there, and the priest must be anointed. Look up in Exodus the ceremonies on the anointing of the priest. See how God indicated that He must give His approval of those who would minister in the holy place.
If I understand it, a Christian wedding means that we are bringing two young people to God. They are dedicating themselves to God and to each other. And we are uniting in prayer with them and for them, that God will anoint them with His Spirit and make it possible for them to have a heaven on earth. Can you think of anything greater than that? Would you want anything less?
So, if we have that concept, all eyes will be directed not to human beings, but to God. The music will not be “here comes the bride,” with all eyes strained to see her in all her regalia. No. In a simple Christian wedding, both the bride and the bridegroom, and the families and the visitors, if they are Christians, will be thinking,
Dear Lord, we have come on this solemn-yet-joyous occasion, this joyous-yet solemn occasion, that these young people may dedicate themselves to God and to each other; that they may recite their vows and pledge their lives to God and to each other. And we are here to pray with them and for them that God will anoint them by His Spirit.
Because, unless God does that, where will there be fire on the altar? Where will there be light in the sanctuary? It takes a miracle of God to kindle that fire. And if we understand this, we would no more go through the ceremony of a wedding without our sense of a great need than we would go through a baptismal ceremony thinking that merely putting people in and out of the water was the great thing.
Oh, it is a wonderful thing when the spirit of solemnity, the spirit of dedication, and the spirit of simplicity which is in the baptismal service can be in the wedding service.
May every step toward the marriage alliance be characterized by these very principles, ordained by Jesus Christ – Heaven’s Bridegroom.
Join us next week, as we consider the wedding vows, and what it means to “abstain from all appearance of evil”. Invite a friend, and we’ll see you then…
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* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.