It has often been said that the greatest contract into which one will enter is the contract of marriage. Those words that we so often hear stated at weddings are powerful, yet so often forgotten or left by the wayside in people’s lives. When you think about the vows often given at weddings, intended to seal that contract, they often go something akin to this: “I pledge my love and life, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, ’til death do us part.”
However, I would submit to you that the marriage contract is the second greatest contract into which one will enter. The first is the Christian’s contract between self and God. When someone becomes a Christian by obedience to the Gospel, he or she has become contractually obligated to the service of God. Paul exemplified this mentality when he wrote: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). When I obey the commands of God, enter that watery grave of baptism, and rise as a new creation in Christ (Rom. 6:3-6): I have made a contract with God that I will remain with him and serve him for the rest of my life.
When considering the Christian’s contract with the Lord it is interesting to note that the church is referenced as the bride of Christ (Rev. 21:2; Eph. 5:25). It is the pure bride that will be presented before the Father on that final day of judgment (1 Cor. 15:24). Therefore, it is quite interesting to consider the ways in which the vows that we commonly apply to marriage equally apply to our relationship with Christ. Please take a few moments and meditate upon each of the aforementioned statements individually.
“I pledge my love and life” – Paul wrote, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). In addition, our Lord said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Mat. 22:37). When we become Christians, we pledge to God our love for him and our willingness to present our lives as living sacrifices of service.
“For better or worse” – One has only to read the book of Acts to see the myriad ways this part comes into play in the life of the Christian. The fair weather Christian will never last in the service of God. Paul explained why when he wrote to Timothy from a Roman prison: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). He would also write during his first imprisonment, “For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phi. 4:11).
“In sickness and in health” – One example of such dedication to God is seen in Epaphroditus, when Paul wrote of him: “Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow” (Phi. 2:25-27).
“For richer or poorer” – God never promises riches to his people in this life; in fact, he tells us not to be focused upon physical riches on Earth (Mat. 6:19-21). One of the greatest examples of this factor is found in the “Hall of Faith” about those not mentioned by name: “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Heb. 11:37-38). While some have prospered greatly in the service of God, many have lost everything seeking him. We must be equally faithful to him on whichever side of the coin we find ourselves.
“‘Til death do us part” – This is the only part that needs to be adapted somewhat. Instead of the normal statement, we should amend that to, “‘Til death bring us together.” The promise of Christ to the church at Smyrna comes to the forefront when he said: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). Death is not something the Christian dreads, but anticipates with the knowledge that the end of this life means, “there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). To which only needs to be added his words to the Thessalonians when he writes: “And so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 The. 4:17).
When we become Christians, we create a contract between us and God to love him and give him our all for the rest of our lives. Do we understand that commitment? Do we take it as seriously as we should our marriage vows? We must, and it is no wonder that God equates our breach of contract in his service with adultery (Jam. 4:4); because, spiritually, that is exactly what it is.
Therefore, let us always keep the terms of our contract before us, understanding the obligation to “pledge my love and life, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, ’til death bring us together.”