My dear readers,
Marriage and Baptism – Its Relationship
Under Article 7: Main Practices of the Church, Article 7.9 states: “WEDDINGS: The solemnisation of marriages between born-again believers. The groom must be a baptised believer and the bride either a baptised believer or a catechumen (2 Cor 6:14; Eph 5:21-33).” What is the biblical rationale behind this teaching and practice?
Meaning of a Christian Wedding – The Christian wedding is also called a Holy Matrimony. It is holy in the sight of God and Christians. It was instituted by God before there was sin on earth! Marriage was ordained by God, not by man or the church. As believers we must have the blessings of God as we enter into the next most important phase of our lives. The problem of divorce in the world, with the devil controlling it, is that he will try his utmost to destroy all marriages, especially the marriage of God's children. When that happens, the witness of the believer will be ruined for good. That is why God originally intended marriage to be for life and only till death will the couple part. Matthew 19:4-6 “And he [Jesus Christ] answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Divorce was given by God in the Law of Moses because of the hardness of sinful man’s heart. But Christians have hearts of flesh. The unconditional marriage vow of “in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer... till death do us part” is not theoretical or an ideal but a reality that God has empowered both the Christian groom and the Christian bride to honour and keep, by His grace.
The sin of man brought the curse of a hardened heart. Children of God who have been saved are given hearts of flesh and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to help them overcome the curse. Divorce should not be considered when the marriage is between a Christian man and a Christian woman, and when both of them fulfil the biblical guidelines of marriage stated in Ephesians 5:21-33. Marriage is always important to God, before and after the fall.
After the fall, this is how God describes a Christian marriage: Ephesians 5:31-33 “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” [Emphasis added] The marriage between Christians illustrates the union between Christ and His invisible church! This is a spiritual significance that we need to take note of as we consider marriage and attend weddings. When a person who professes that Christ died for his sins and he is a Christian marries an unbeliever, it is a great insult to God that such a union could ever be possible. That is why truly born again Christians cannot be present to witness such a union, especially when it is their own children’s. If we as believers truly love Christ and our children, we must not participate in such a sinful union! It will hurt the Name of Christ. God’s blessing of a happy marriage is real, and just as Christ was present at the wedding in Cana of Galilee to perform His first miracle, God will bless the marriage between a Christian man and a Christian woman. But the blessing is not without conditions. Both have to be born again believers.
But how do we know whether the professing believer is a believer or not? Jeremiah 17:9 warns “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” We cannot read hearts. Only God can! Did God provide His church with a way to ensure that a marriage union does not harm the Name of Christ?
Meaning of the Sacrament of Water Baptism – God gave His church the sacrament of Water Baptism to ensure that Holy Matrimony is acceptable in the sight of God and the witness of Christ in the church in this world is not tarnished or compromised. Water Baptism is the most important first act in a professing believer’s life after salvation. This is his first public act of obedience before his loved ones and friends. Jesus says in Matthew 28:19-20 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Baptism is the believer’s public confession of his new found faith in Christ. He is testifying to his family, loved ones and friends that Jesus Christ is his Lord and Saviour because Christ lived and died for his sins and rose from the dead for his justification. He is now a child of God. They would be able to see the difference best as they knew him before salvation! From henceforth, they will see Christ in his life. They will hear the words of Christ from his lips. They will see holiness and godliness. His life will be characterized by righteousness according to Holy Scriptures. This is a blessed occasion that should mean more to the believer than his first birthday. This sacrament signifies his second birth in Christ!
With this public confession, people will examine and compare his life with the life of Christ. If he does not live a holy life, others around him will be stumbled. Christians will admonish him because they love him and because he is shaming the Name of Christ by his sinful life. Brothers and sisters in Christ will be his “keepers”. If he is truly born again, he will be grateful and thankful and repent of his sins and stop shaming Christ’s holy Name. This is only possible because of his public confession by Water Baptism.
A believer who is NOT baptized, when he can be, is either ashamed of Christ or not born again! A believer is denying Christ if he refuses to be baptized. This denial has a serious consequence. Jesus says in Matthew 10:32-38 “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. 34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. 37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” [Emphasis added]
To follow Christ as His disciple begins with denial. Matthew 16:24 “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
God has given to all who confess Christ as Lord and Saviour the privilege to bear the Name of Christ by calling themselves Christians! Hence the sacrament of Water Baptism! However, God expects His children to not shame the blessed Name of His only begotten Son by sinning. How can one deduce that the groom and the bride are believers? It is through the sacrament of Water Baptism! By a person’s refusal to be baptized, one has biblical grounds to consider that person as unbeliever. That is why God gave the citation of 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”
Article 7.9 states that the groom has to be baptized but the bride can either be baptized or is attending catechism to be baptized. Why? The groom is to be the head of the new home. He must be baptized in order to fulfil his role as the spiritual head of the new home. The head of the husband is Christ, and the head of the wife is the husband! 1 Corinthians 11:3 “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” The spiritual well-being of the wife is in his holy hands. The bride as a catechumen has testified of her salvation and is in the process of being baptized as she has not completed her catechism classes.
Conclusion – Holy Matrimony is always a blessed and happy occasion for all family members, loved ones and friends. But how can it be when God is unhappy because His children do not marry according to His prescribed teaching? How can God’s children truly attend and wish the couple God’s blessing when they know that the couple is marrying in disobedience to God's Holy Word? The honour and glory of God and Christ are at stake when a professing believer marries an unbeliever or a non-baptized professing believer. Let us all who have professed salvation in Christ fulfil all righteousness in our Christian holy matrimony. The most important Person who must be pleased with our marriage has to be God our heavenly Father and Christ our Lord! God’s approval is of paramount importance if we want Him to bless us as we begin our lives as Christian husbands and wives.
Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service
Rev Dr Quek Suan Yew, Pastor