I would like to know how funerals and weddings were started in the church.
The origin for both of these services is found in the days of Adam and Eve. The book of Genesis is the seedbed for every doctrine found in the rest of the Bible. It is the place of beginnings. There are many matters that will find a more developed maturity, which is related in the Bible at later times, but the beginnings of all things as pertaining to us are found in Genesis.
The first wedding is found in Genesis 2:21–25. The ceremony is short but complete in putting man and woman together as mates for life. This is the model that is still used today in modern ceremonies. I have quoted many times from this passage to provide the setting for the wedding service. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” The fact that God intended that this service should serve as a model for all marriages is found in these words. Adam and Eve did not have father or mother. They were created fully mature human beings right from the hand of God, yet the text helps us to understand the process of husband and wife coming together in a bond of matrimony unto themselves till the end of time. There are several other marriages spoken of in the Bible, but the one that captures our attention is found in the New Testament story of John 2.
Culturally, wedding ceremonies differ. But there is one thing that is acknowledged by all cultures and that is a recognition that two people are united in marriage to signify that they are not just living together in an adulterous lifestyle. Whether or not a piece of paper [marriage license] is present is not the issue. The issue is that the community has recognized that these two have left their homes of father and mother and are setting up their own home. So a wedding is a means of keeping law and order in the community. Otherwise chaos would result such as we see in society today where marriage laws are allowed to go unenforced.
A funeral takes place as a means of allowing grief to be processed. Grief is an emotion which, if not allowed to be expressed, can and does cause great mental distress. The process of dealing with the death of a friend or of a family member is important to the whole plan of salvation. Death is a reminder to what sin causes. (Romans 6:23.) But like the plan of salvation, God has a healing process in dealing with grief. Everyone who loves is vulnerable to the pain of grief, for love means attachment, and all human attachments are subject to loss. But grief need not, should not, be a destructive emotion of loss without hope.
Knowing this, we find that Jesus attended several funerals in the New Testament. The shortest text in the New Testament is John 11:35: “Jesus wept.” Funerals are for the purpose of getting the grief process started so that life for the living can go on.
Because marriages and funerals are an integral part of human life, they must also be a part of the life of church members. This is why these two issues are found in Scripture. For both weddings and funerals, the focus must be upon how God enters into the process. God as the center of the marriage and a funeral with God as the center provides hope for a sinful world. Never miss the fact that human emotions need to be expressed—joy in the wedding and sorrow in the loss of a loved one. Jesus has given us examples in both of these.
Pastor Mike Baugher is Associate Speaker for Steps to Life Ministry. If you have a question you would like Pastor Mike to answer, e-mail it to: firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail it to: LandMarks, P. O. Box 782828, Wichita, KS 67278.