I Promise…

Overseeing the ceremony in which the Lord brings together in the covenantal bond of marriage those He has called you to pastor is one of the greatest joys of pastoral ministry

“Sadly, we see just how little most value vow taking in our day. We see with what flippancy men and women will throw away their marriage and how easily they walk away from the church when they find one or two things with which they do not agree. The great need of our day is to get a theology of vows and to commit to fulfilling those vows that we have vowed to God.”

 

A few months ago, I had the privilege of meeting with a young couple in our congregation in order to choose vows for their wedding. We decided to look at some historic Protestant marriage vows. Ultimately, we ended up with a combination of the marriage vows in the Directory of Public Worship and the vows of the Christian Reformed Churchtogether with some personal additions. Here are the vows we decided on:

Groom: I, ______, take you, ______, to be my wife and I promise and covenant before God and all who are present here to be your loving and faithful husband, until God shall separate us by death. By the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, I will, endeavor to love you and give myself up for you, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. I will serve you with tenderness and respect, and encourage you to develop the gifts that God has given you. I will seek out your forgiveness when I fail to do the things I have vowed.

Bride: I, ______, take you, _______, to be my husband, and I promise and covenant before God and all who are present here to be your loving and faithful wife, until God shall separate us by death. By the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, I will, endeavor to love you and submit to you, as the church loves and submits to Christ. I will serve you with tenderness and respect, and encourage you to develop the gifts that God has given you. I will seek out your forgiveness when I fail to do the things I have vowed.

Overseeing the ceremony in which the Lord brings together in the covenantal bond of marriage those He has called you to pastor is one of the greatest joys of pastoral ministry. It is also one of most solemn aspects of pastoral ministry. In officiating a marriage, the minister is mediating the vow taking between men and God. The unique thing about Christian marriage, as is also true with regard to church membership, is that men and women are making covenant promises to God.

When we examine and receive members in our local churches in the Presbyterian Church in America, we ask those coming for membership to take five vows:

1. Do you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His sovereign mercy?

2. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?

3. Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?

4. Do you promise to support the Church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?

5. Do you submit yourselves to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?

These vows contain the substance of the basics of Christian knowledge, practice and commitment to the Church. During the private exams for membership, the session of New Covenant asks those coming for membership questions that relate to the five vows.

Sadly, we see just how little most value vow taking in our day. We see with what flippancy men and women will throw away their marriage and how easily they walk away from the church when they find one or two things with which they do not agree. The great need of our day is to get a theology of vows and to commit to fulfilling those vows that we have vowed to God. In order to do so, we need to consider afresh the nature of vows.

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