12 October 2022 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. 5Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.”
(Ecclesiastes 5:4-5; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
My father used to say that a man’s oath was his binding contract to another in the affairs of life. I still believe that is the case even if not expressed with conviction and sincerity. It is a serious matter to break an oath of friendship, business, or loyalty to one’s country. However, there is another kind of oath of a higher order that should never, under any circumstance, be broken – a vow made before God.
The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony given in the traditional Book of Common Prayer of the Reformation Church of England allows only for the marriage of one man and one woman. But it also binds the marriage couple together in love for “so long as they both shall live.”
The marriage vow is repeated before God and in the sight of witnesses. It is symbolic of the same vow of fidelity between Christ and His Church. It is therefore to be undertaken only in reverence, conviction, love and commitment for as long as the two shall live. Here is the opening lines from that ceremony in the Book of Common Prayer:
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this company, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church: which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence and first miracle that he wrought in Cana of Galilee, and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God. Into this holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. If any man can show just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter forever hold his peace.”
If either of the couple have reservation concerning the taking of this vow before God, it is far better that they never make such a vow as expressed in our leading text from Ecclesiastes 5:4-5. A vow before God, and ‘TO’ God, is the most binding an oath any man or woman can make. God Almighty will most definitely hold us accountable for the vow we make in marriage or any other area of our spiritual life. The marriage prayer of blessing reminds us of the significance of that vow made to one another and before God:
“Oh Eternal God, Creator and Preserver of all mankind, Giver of all spiritual grace, the Author of everlasting life; Send thy blessing upon these thy servants, this man and this woman, whom we bless in thy Name; that they, living faithfully together, may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made, (whereof this Ring given and received is a token and pledge,) and may ever remain in perfect love and peace together, and live according to thy laws; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Prayer taken from Solemnization of Matrimony – 1662 & 1928 Books of Common Prayer
Vows lightly uttered, or referencing God’s Name in vain, will bear eternal consequences for the soul of the one making the vow. “When thou shalt vow a vow unto the LORD thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the LORD thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee. 22But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee.” (Deuteronomy 23:21-22)
Since Marriage is the first institution that God instituted in Eden between one man and one woman to reflect that same relationship that should exist between Christ and His Church, it is a sacred relationship that must be reverently kept and observed for as long as the couple live. Though we may break our vows to the detriment of our souls, Christ will never break His marriage vow to the Church in fidelity.
To dishonor the Holy Estate of Matrimony is to dishonor Christ and His Church. Likewise, the Church that is unfaithful to her vows of fidelity to Christ and His Word is not a Church at all, but a synagogue of Satan. We may observe many such churches in our day masquerading under His Name, but their hearts are far from Him. Remember the Seven Churches of Revelations many of which desired to be known as Christian, but fell short of that vow made to the Lord: “And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.” (Isaiah 4:1)