Chapter 5. Weddings and Funerals

Weddings

1. Marriage is ordained by God for the welfare and happiness of humanity. God has ordained that marriage is between one man and one woman, for their joy and sanctification, for the raising of children, and for the more certain continuance of the church. In marriage husband and wife leave their parents and cleave to one another faithfully, and are not separated except by death.

2. As God created marriage in the beginning, it is not peculiar to the church, nor a sacrament, but is integral to all societies and nations, and is therefore rightly recognized by both church and state. The state, therefore, should recognize the role of the church in solemnizing marriages, and the church should respect and abide by all reasonable and sound civil regulations that do not violate Scripture. The pastor in particular should ensure that sound state regulations are fulfilled, while also keeping the church’s own record of marriages.

3. As God has commanded that when Christians marry, they must marry in the Lord, has instructed all husbands and wives how to live together, and has even used marriage as an analogy for the love between Jesus Christ and His church, it is right and proper that marriages be solemnized by the church and witnessed by credible witnesses.

4. Ordinarily, weddings should not be held on the Lord’s Day. If circumstances make this necessary, care must be taken that the wedding ceremony not interfere with the public worship of the church.

5. The following order and wording are suggested:

a. When bride and groom are before the pastor, he may say,We are gathered in the presence of God and this company to join this man and this woman in the holy estate of marriage. God instituted marriage in the beginning, and by it signifies the mystical union of Jesus Christ and his church. Jesus honored marriage by doing his first miraculous sign at a wedding, and He declared ‘what God has joined together, let no man separate.’ Marriage is therefore not to be entered into lightly, but reverently and soberly, and in the fear of God.

b. The pastor should then pray for God’s blessing on the union about to be effected.

c. Scripture may be read, and a suitable sermon given. Gen. 2:18-25; Ruth 1:16-17; Eph. 5:22-33; and Col. 3:12-15 are a few of many appropriate passages.

d. The pastor shall next ask the parties to join their hands and shall ask the groom to repeat after him these or similar words,

I, N, take you, N, to be my lawfully wedded wife, and covenant before God and these witnesses, to be your loving and faithful husband: for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.

And the bride shall answer with these or similar words,

I, N, take you, N, to be my lawfully wedded husband, and covenant before God and these witnesses, to be your loving and faithful wife: for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.

e. If rings are used, the pastor may ask, “What pledge do you give of your marriage vows?” As (each) ring is presented to its recipient, the pastor may say,

Give and receive this ring as a token of your marriage vows. May it be to you a symbol of the value, constancy, and purity of your wedded love, and a seal of the solemn vows you have made to one another before God.

f. The pastor may then say,

By virtue of the authority vested in me as a minister of the Gospel, and in accordance with the laws of God and of this commonwealth, I now pronounce you husband and wife. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.

g. The ceremony may then conclude with a prayer for God’s blessing.

6. Where applicable, marriage following the publication of Banns may be pursued according to local regulations. The form may be as follows:

I hereby publish the Banns of Marriage between Miss N of [city, province], and Mr. N. of [city, province], who are engaged to be married on the Nth [day] of [month, year] in [city, province]. If any of you know cause, or just impediment, why these two persons should not be joined together in holy Marriage, you are to declare it to the elders of this congregation. This is the first [second, or third] time of publishing these Banns.

Funerals

The Christian funeral should honor Jesus Christ and comfort the bereaved. It can be held in whatever place and at whatever time is most suitable, though the Lord’s Day should be avoided if possible. It should be simple and without unnecessary display. Though the deceased may be lovingly remembered, the funeral is ultimately to praise God, not man.

As there is a great difference between the end of the believer and the unbeliever, so the funeral service may need to be modified. The suggested service that follows has been constructed with the believer in mind. However, the pastor should never declare the deceased to have died unsaved (God alone being the Judge), nor imply the salvation of those whose lives supply no grounds for such a hope. Rather, he is to point to Jesus Christ as our sole hope in life and in death.

There should be no compromise with secret orders. If called to officiate
where such orders desire to perform their ritual, the pastor should make his service distinctly separate. (See Testimony 25:19.)

Likewise, neither the pastor nor any Christian may offer worship or veneration to any idol or ancestor. The pastor should ensure that the funeral is clearly free of idol worship.

Christians should mourn with those who mourn, yet not mourn as those without hope. Therefore it is right and proper for Christians to gather with their families and loved ones before and after funerals, so long as their allegiance to the Lord Jesus is not compromised by any unbiblical practices such as ancestor worship or prayers for or to the dead.

It is appropriate to consult the family about favorite passages of Scripture and inviting other pastors of like precious faith to share in the service.

1. The Scriptures should be selected with care, the prayers should be well considered, and the address should set forth Christ and his salvation as the basis of comfort and counsel for the living.

2. The following is a suggested order for the funeral service:

a. Introduction: an appropriate Scripture, such as John 11:25-26; Ps. 103:13-14; 116:15; 124:8; Rom. 14:7-9; Job 1:21; 19:25-27, or 2 Cor. 1:3-4

b. Prayer

c. Psalm

d. Scripture reading. Two or three of the following may be chosen: Scriptures that provide comfort, (e.g. Ps. 23; 39:4ff; 90; 103; and 130); Scriptures that preach salvation, (e.g. John 3:16ff; 10:9-11; 14:1-11; Rom. 5:1-11; 8:1-11); and Scriptures that speak of the Resurrection, (e.g. Ps. 73:23-26; I Cor. 15:20-28, 35-58; Rev. 21:1-4, 22-27; and 22:1-7).

e. Sermon. It should be timely, of an appropriate length, provide comfort, avoid undue praise of the dead, and honor Christ.

f. Psalm

g. Prayer

3. At the grave the pastor may use words like these:

We commit the body to the grave in the hope of a glorious resurrection through faith in Him who is the resurrection and the life.

Suitable Scripture may be read, such as I Cor. 15:53-58, or the benefits of Christ cited (see WSC Q&A 37 & 38). A brief prayer may conclude the
service.

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