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Let me first give credit for my write-up in the church magazine to Bro, Elder N. U. Akpan and Dr. Bro Uwem Akpan and our retired but not tired Minister E.A.U.Ekong. They motivated me to write that piece; and the church, too, for the opportunity to put it into lecture today. When Elder N. U. Akpan taught about this Church Wedding issue in some churches some months back, I was also worried how the ceremony just suddenly came now into some churches of Christ. Some of my denomination friends would tell me:‘na una de follow us now; small time una go dance for church’. Bro. Uwem Akpan had asked me almost two years ago to investigate this Church wedding doctrine to know how it all started; and our retired Minister gave a sermon 3 years ago on Night Vigil and said in our dialect: tep-tep-tep asuk otoi aduk abang-o esuk edopuyo ese.
Today some churches of Christ are conducting church weddings with all the denominational features of cutting the cake, exchanging marital rings; swearing an oath to live till death do us apart, etc. The two wedding-rings usually blessed by the Church Minister to serve like a religious talisman; equivalent to the Roman Catholic blessing of holy water, holy incense and holy oil. It becomes a modern day religious idolatry when the wedding-rings are blessed to protect married couples, instead of praying to God Himself to protect them. Why bless a wedding ring alone – what of the shoes, the dresses and the ear-rings and the neck-tie they also wear?The ring was to identify a married person when worn on the 4th left finger[the marital or ring finger].
So this lecture is a very interesting one; a lecture presented by the church of Christ, 20 Paul Bassey; in opposition outright to the introduction of church wedding in the Lord’s church. We are saying,it is wrong; they are saying they are not wrong. My job is to speak for the church. My write up was to sincerely support Elder N.U’s lesson; that church wedding is not a Christian practice; and our Minister’s sermon that it is like vigil night case, an apostasy brought slowly into the Lord’s church.I had a lot of information that could not be printed for lack of space in our magazine; so God in His wisdom had directed the Elders to make it an open lecture. I had made deep investigation from my denomination-pastor friends and ordinary members of the denominations and those of the Lord’s church. I first wanted to know why they practised it. At the end I collected 5 important reasons why and how CHURCH WEDDING(WC) is practised in the denominational churches and now in some of our Lord’s churches.
The panelists should note their 5 reasons because we are against the practice; and I am the spokesman for our church today. They have presented their 5reasons which I will give you now to learn how apostasy gets into churches; it is our turn to disprove them and prove ourselves. You do not fault a cause without giving acceptable reason and correction. I shall give the 5 reasons from them and ours. We have 3reasons more to prove our case. Then you will listen and sincerely judge and take a stand – Either for Christ [who is the Way and the Truth] or for Satan [the Deceiver and Liar]. These are their 5 reasons:
They use necessary inference:
This is a common phrase we use without knowing what inference My attention was drawn to 1 Cor. 7:6 and Phil.4:8 to support a practice or a doctrine that looks good, just, lovely and nice into the church. This is what some Ministers of the Lord’s church use to allow Church Wadding; citing that very popular church of Christ Restoration Movement Phraseof 1832 by the Restoration fathers in America.
When I read that 1Cor.7:6, I discovered that Apostle Paul had expressed himself in two ways:
- He stated the compulsory obedience to the commandment of God as given by Christ – “as commanded by the Lord” [1Cor.7:10]. They did not know this passage.
- He then expressed in that passage as – “I speak this by permission;and not of commandment” [1Cor.7:6]. By permission from who?
This speaking by permission has confused them thinking that Paul was seeking permission and was permitted to express his personal opinion as a Minister. Therefore some also think they can have permission and force their own nice and good ideas on church members. Apostle Paul was only saying he, Paul,would permit us to choose, or one may wish to choose any of the options before him; he did not give a commandment and did not get any permission; but to permit us to make a choice. He was talking about the decision to marry or to stay unmarried. He said one could decide not to marry and remain celibate like Christ and himself [Paul] to avoid the burden of marriage and serve God effectively; or one could decide to marry to avoid fornication or burn himself with lust. Therefore Paul was offering two options, as required by God; and not his own personal commandment. Some Ministers and Elders are giving personal rules and ideas very decisively today in the churches of Christ; and the introduction of Church Wedding is one of them so far permitted by the church for them. Moreover, Phil.4:8 is again frequently and wrongly used as a freedom to do what seems true, honest, just and lovely. They carefully avoided adding verse 9 –that says, things that seem nice, honest,just and lovely must be those things Paul had done and had taught. Apostle Jude also added that it must be what the apostles had delivered to us in their Epistles written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit [Jude 3]. Why? This is to help us avoid the offence of adding, modifying and removing the commandment of God as stated in [Rev.22:18-19].
From this point I discovered we have a serious problem understanding the word‘inference’. Inference means to prove,to conclude; to get to the truth. We have to know the type of necessary inference of the Church of Christ: is it inductive necessary inference used in saying that since 3 gifts were given to child Jesus, therefore they were given by 3 wise men; or is it the deductive necessary inference that says since 3 gifts were given to child Jesus but the number of wise men is not given, therefore some wise men gave 3 gifts, and not by 3 wise men. Deductive necessary inference is the one to use to understand the Bible especially when the silence in the Bible still needs further prove. Study the sermon of Peter on Pentecost day, or that of Stephen’s defense before he was stoned or that of Paul before king Agrippa. All was to prove that the prophet who Moses said God will raise in future is that Jesus Christ the Jews killed. He is the Son of God and Saviour as his Father; we are to obey Him to be saved. Today, our Ministers are following the denominations to use simple inductive necessary inference to bring apostasy and heresy into the church and members believe and permit them. I am teaching you today that deductive necessary inference is the only key for obtaining sound doctrine. There is no inference again for a new doctrine after Messianic and Apostolic commands and examples are already there.Where can we find the Biblical deductive inference; open to 2Tim.2:15. Paul said a good gospel workman, Minister, Elder, Deacon and Teacher must study hard and be fully approved of knowledge to be able to divide[meaning, to deduct- in legal, mathematical and statistical languages] the words of God. How do you divide or deduct the word of God? You listen attentively without bias; then use your sound knowledge to remove all the false facts in the story, one by one [that is dividing or deducting the words, take them out, one by one] until you are left with the correct one or the conclusion. Learn from our women who remove pieces of sand, stone and debris from rice seeds in a basin before they cook. Do not take any new doctrine in the church for granted, deduct; according to 1Jn.4:1; test the spirits; investigate if it is in line with the word of God because of false prophets.
Brethren, an inductive inference is the type commonly used by the denominations to deceive the ignorant followers. It is a philosophy of man which would sound quite entertaining. It is used to draw conclusion on repeated observed patterns that are not scientifically proved. At face value it looks true, honest, just and lovely; so Apostle Paul knew Ministers and Elders will use it as an excuse; so he said ‘do it if I had done it or had told you to do it’. Inductive inference is used today for collecting tithes, child dedication, celebrating Xmas and now bringing in the Church wedding. On the other hand, Deductive inference is – inference with truthful facts called premises collected together and given to prove the truth beyond all reasonable doubts.You must deduct [i.e. divide and divide and divide the words of God] until you are left with the truth. That is what any judge would use to decide a case. One of these JWs came and told me Jesus is not God, he is a man, and because no man can see God, so by his inductive inference Jesus cannot be God since he is a man. I said are you sure? He said yes. I asked him ‘was Jesus in heaven before?’ He said yes. Did His Father teach him what to tell us when he came down here? He said yes. I said, was Jesus blind when He was taught by His Father? He said, n-n-n-no, So did Jesus not see his Father when He was taught by his Father? Do you teach your child from the bedroom while your child is in the parlour? According to your inference what do you call one who is not a man but sees God? He said, I will tell our Elders to look at it. I study them in a research and found them to be almost a religious cult group. Their problem is they teach their members by inductive inference in a ROTE METHOD and the best way to do so is to take a Bible verse, and produce a question and provide the answer for it. The learner is forbidden to ask questions or to listen to outsiders; and to strictly use no other book than the one given for the inductive inference by the teacher. So, the learner will never bother to find out the truth. ROTE METHOD is used in teaching the nursery school age children to learn the multiplication table; 2×1=2;2×2=4;2×3=6. If you reverse the order and 3×2; 1nsted of 2×3; there will be no answer]. That is how Awake and Watch Tower magazines are written with questions and answers to members and how the Roman Catholic Missal is written; The Reverend Father said: Dominus Vobiscum. We all answer: Espirit tutu. No one knows why we say it. Read Verse 9 after that Phil.4:8; it does not need any inference again. Our deduction, our truthful conclusion is that Paul said we copy what he did and taught; so if Paul did not join any man and woman as husband and wife in a Church Wedding; then the church wedding introduced by this wrong inference is not among the church of Christ custom or tradition handed down to us from the apostles.. I rest my case there against use of necessary inference for church Wedding.
Universal majority practice
Other Christians are doing it, what is wrong; is it a sin? Are there not Christians like us and no one stops them; what is wrong joining them? What is bad there?
The answer to this is in all what Bro. Elder Godwin George Ekong had taught last month. So, it is spiritually dangerous to introduce any doctrine on the basis of conformity to the majority practice of the people of the world. Christian doctrine is not derived from majority political opinion. It is not by democracy. It is by just a passage in the New Testament: it is what Jesus said and taught [Matt.28:19-20]; only what He taught the apostles for 3 and a-half years; equivalent to University Education. Jesus told them to go and teach us only what he had taught them; they are found in what He said in the Gospels; written in the Epistles and in the Revelation. Jesus never taught where to bless marriage. I rest my case there.
For divine blessing by the church in the church by the man of God:
The idea is that the Traditional Marriages all started in the villages were some sacrifices would be offered for the late father especially for the marriage of the first born daughter [adiaha eyen]. So,to them, it was ungodly, and the couple needs to be blessed again by the church, and in the church; so to conduct a godly marriage again with them by the man of God. It follows that mentality where Satan is painted black and the black man is very satanic with his idol worshipping. Some of the things he does is very idolatrous and must be made holy by the church to receive God’s approval.
This is one of the Roman Catholic’s inductive reasons, when they came and saw our idols and sacrifices; killing of twins and so on. So they want to even do away with our culture such that our traditional names were changed to their traditional Latin/Grecian names after baptism.[My Catholic name is Achilleus, and Confirmation name is Clement]. I was born as Akpan Toby Nkangude. I must be Latinized by name to have a blessed name of dead Catholic bishops.
Now, if our Minister prays at the TM, will God reject it? Is the family’s compound for the TM a place of idols? Is it not “ a Christians family” living there? No marriage between 2 Christians of COC members will ever demand sacrifices. Is the church not invited and being where two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name; have our Ministers and Elders no legibility to pray to God to bless the marriage? Who bears those extra expenses of the poor ones by that rule which is contrary to [Acts.15:28]? I again rest my case on this blessing in the church point.
We have to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.
They say; ‘Is it not there in the Bible, said by Christ?’ This is the Protestant version of the Catholic idea. Some denominational churches including one Lord’s church in Ibiono now demanded a member to do the church wedding first and later the TM on the same day. Read the story very well, Luke 23:21-25; it was on taxation to government; it has nothing to do with church wedding but tax payment. It is a wrong exposition. Jesus said:you are using Caesar’s item, his picture is there on it; so return Caesar’s item you are using to the owner Caesar as his due payment; and for God, you are using God’s item; your body [is the temple of God] and your life [is owned by Him; so return same to God as His due payment. As you must serve government financially by paying its taxes; you must also serve God righteously by offering God your body’s fruits of righteousness. By their fruits you will know them. See what they said against Christ, 23:2
Brethren, by attending the TM to the glory of Caesar which is unholy to the church; and later attend church wedding to the glory of God which is holy according to your belief; are you not drinking the cup of the Devil and that of God? Is it not like serving two Masters – serving GOD and Mormon at the same time. If TM by that logic is for Caesar and CW is for God, why do you now change the order because Jesus said pay to Caesar first then to God? Why disobey Christ if you truly honour Him to do CW before TM? Church and panelists I rest my case there on Caesar’s point.
Finally they say: It is scriptural in the New Testament:
Scriptural here means,in the scripture and specifically in the New Testament. Finally did Jesus not attend marriage at Cana? Did Jesus stop it? He even provided drinks to everybody. How can you say church wedding is bad when it is there kro-kro in the NT and Jesus graced the marriage with drinks; even the chairman was annoyed they brought ‘akpadang’, if not for our Lord Jesus who saved the situation with his mother- Alleluia – Praise the Lord – the Lord is good; all the time. The presence of Jesus was enough blessing for the couple.That was the response of one young Apostolic church Elder with 2 other members.
Brethren this is the commonest inductive inference type used every time by the denominations and our Ministers to deceive the ignorant followers; because it is there in the NT or in the OT. These are my own deductive questions for it: please I want Bro. Jimmy to honestly answer them for us.
- WHO ACTUALLY GAVE THEIR CHILDREN OUT FOR MARRIAGE – THE FAMILY OR THE CHURCH [Gen.2:24]? WHO COLLECTS THE BRIDE PRICE AND EKPUK ITEMS – THE FAMILY OR THE CHURCH?
- WAS JESUS INVITED TO GO AND BLESS THE MARRIED COUPLE AT THAT MARRIAGE?
- WAS THAT MARRIAGE ATTENDED BY CHRIST –A MARRIAGE AT A JEWISH TEMPLE OR A MARRIAGE AT A CHRISTIAN CHURCH OR A JEWISH TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE AT A JEWISH FAMILY COMPOUND?
- WHO PRESIDED AT THAT MARRIAGE – WAS HE A JEWISH PRIEST; OR A CHRISTIAN CHURCH MINISTER; OR AN ORDINARY JEWISH CHAIRMAN OF THE OCASSION CALLED THE GOVERNOR or JESUS CHRIST?
- WHERE ARE WE TOLD THAT THE COUPLE WENT BACK TO BE BLESSED BY THE JEWISH PRIEST AT THE TEMPLE SINCE THE CHAIRMAN WAS NOT A JEWISH PRIEST?
Brethren, do you know the implication of Christ supporting His relative’s marriage by offering that miraculous wine as His first miracle and did not make any statement against it? It was a Jewish traditional marriage and did not want them to have shame so Christ provided wine; and for the disciples who saw it to believe in Him. He obeyed His mother. Was Christ not directly supporting their Jewish traditional marriage? Why should the Church reject our own TM? When Jesus went for the marriage, Christianity never started yet, so it was not even a marriage between two Christians. Therefore Christ did not attend a Christian marriage. We cannot use it as a MESSIANIC or APOSTOLIC command or examples. I also rest my case there.
Panelist, let me add our additional 4point to the opposition to Church Wedding:
BLESSING IS FROM GOD NOT FROM MAN
Marriage began from God by giving Eve to Adam and He directed them also to go and multiply. We all know there was no open ceremony for celebration; however we all feel and see the joy in Adam seeing a woman beside him. Thus the joy of celebrating marriage in the society is natural. When marriage started there was no temple nor church to bless marriages. The blessing was directly done by God for fulfilling His instruction to man and woman, to “leave parents to form a new home” and after that “to multiply”. Marriage is from 2 families before the society at a ceremony or before an authority. It is as old as history and marriage of some kind is found in virtually every society. The Indian Christian wife and Indian Moslem wife pay dowry to the husband’s family; in Europe no side would pay. For Hebrews and Africans, the man pays to wife’s family. Christianity does not say who will pay or how much. Old Testament said the Jewish husband paid. Christianity is concerned with marrying in the Lord [1 Cor. 7:39]; according to the doctrine of Christ – one wife, from the fold of Lord’s church; no divorce again and not marrying a divorcee; and to love each other till death; no tribal and racial hindrances. Therefore a marriage is blessed by God directly when couples fulfill those Christian doctrines and take a partner by the approval of their parents. No Minister has any divine power to bless any marriage it is God that does it. The job of the Minister or Elder is to pray to God to bless the marriage; and it can be done at any place of convenient outside the church. Let us not be carried away by the concept of holy and reverend man and woman -of-God syndrome of the denominations. I rest my case there
CHURCH IS NOT FOR CARNAL WORSHIP PLACE
The primary duties of the church are to serve as the door of entry into the spiritual Kingdom of Christ; the church as the body of Christ is to save souls; to nurture members to grow spiritually to inherit the kingdom. The fact that Christ and Paul did not marry but Peter in particular was married shows that marriage is not a church instituted affair [like prayers, singing, offering, preaching, teaching and studying the scriptures, baptism, fasting, benevolence and the Lord’s meal]; but to see that the married and the unmarried are righteous and faithful in their lives. We Christian do not use church wedding to offer spiritual sacrifices to God. It is a tradition of men that is highly commercialized into business venture. I rest again
CHURCH WEDDING IS NOT AMONG CHURCH CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS IN THE COMMANDMENT OF CHRIST
Like any organization the church of Christ is a spiritual organization. It has its own traditions and customs. Apostle Paul told us in 1 Cor.11:16; if you want to argue too much about covering of head by women and keeping the head uncovered by men; that they [the Jews] did not have a custom where women do not cover their heads at religious meetings; and in the Church of Christ there is also no custom where women do not cover their heads. So the custom, [a church practice] is for women to cover their heads in a religious meeting; and in 2 Thess. 2:15 he said the church has its own traditions which Jude 3 later confirmed. These long historical customs [practices or doctrines] handed down as laws of Christ in His kingdom as we enter it; from generation to generation is called church tradition [or apostolic doctrine-Acts 2:42] given to them by Christ. We are to steadfastly hold on to that tradition. There is no handing down in the tradition of the church where married couples were to be blessed in the church in a CW.
THE ORIGIN OF CHURCH MARRIAGE CAME FROM THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH AS A SACRED [HOLY] SACRAMENT
Apostle Paul travelled with Paul for over 25 year after the church began on Sunday 17th June 33CE from Jewish calculation of their Feast of First Fruits which is called Pentecost by Christian. There is no detailed account of a Christian wedding ceremony Dr. Luke would have written same. It is not until the 12th Century that the Roman Catholic priests became involved in the ceremony and not until the 13th Century that he took charge of it. So the church did not have any role in marriage for almost half its history except to appoint Bishops and Deacons from married members with one wife. With violent persecution, the churches of Christ got suspended for a while in the Roman Empire until Emperor Constantine brought all religions, Jewish, Roman and Christian into a world-church called Roman Catholic Church [i.e. catholic means universal or global]. The Roman Empire strongly used the church to control the minds of people after the military has conquered an area. The Pope who was infallible and holy, representing Jesus Christ was believed to have ability to conjure the blessings of God directly from God anytime on any person, so does other priests .
As the Catholic theologians began to interpret a spiritual significance in marriages; it was not the church of Christ owned by Christ, headed by Christ, bought by Christ, loved by Christ as a wife and therefore named after Christ; which by prophecy began in Jerusalem (zion), that had started the church Wedding; It was the Roman Catholic church that made marriage one of the holy sacraments at many Council meetings from1184 to 1907. They started it without any scriptural support but by the Holy Pontiff Order called CANONS. When it started, only the Royal families and knights would dress in wedding gowns as you see recently in England. The lower strata and poor ones were blessed by the priest to receive a marriage certificate of the church without any ceremony and go to Marriage-Registry to register the marriage for Government.
It is the Protestant churches that dragged both the rich and poor into the church wedding that we have today. The Catholic Church does not stop traditional marriage of the family, the white Reverend Fathers were not invited as it was the people’s custom to TM. The couple needed a matrimonial blessing from the priest to have a church certificate of marriage after their TM, and be recognized as holy marriage; and a member can be crowned a knight of an Order approved by the Pope.They also blessed into the church some items; believing that if done so in the church they will please the people and will become holy.
- The engagement ring, a custom dating back to the Ancient Rome, use of 2 LOOP is religiously believed to represent eternity and everlasting union, because it was believed from medical superstition that a vein or nerve ran directly from the ‘ring’ [4th]finger of the left hand to the heart. Hence a picture of the HEART to symbolize love and togetherness in a round item encircling the couples spiritually. The rings are blessed for the couple to protect and unite them more. In that case it now replaces God as a protector. Europeans had their traditional marriage too before industrialization, civilization and technology dismantled everything including superstitions and too much extended family ties.
- The newly-weds were taught at that time to aid their fertility by drinking a brew made from honey during certain lunar phases shortly after the marriage and it is this tradition from which the world derived the origin of the word ‘honeymoon’. A period of seclusion for the god of fertility to act to bring the new baby to the family. It was believed that soon after honey-moon the wife would announce her pregnancy first to her mother-in-law then the husband, and to their husband’s parents. In the Jewish custom in the Old Testament a newly married man did not go to war immediately he must wait and finish the job he had started [Deut 24:5].
- During the Queen Victoria time romantic love time was required and viewed as the primary requirement before marriage and the rituals of courting became even more formal. An interested gentleman would walk up to a young lady bow, kiss her hand and formally introduced himself and request to take a girl out or return her to her home. He would present his card to her and at the end of the evening the lady would review her options and chose who would be her escort! She would then notify the lucky gentleman by giving him her own card requesting that he escort her home. It is this escorting process that the word ‘courtship’ came from.
- The tradition of having THE WEDDING CAKE CUT in the church replaces the throwing of the pieces of biscuits. Later flowers and gifts items were thrown to the audience and the couples to honour and show love to them.
- Sometimes you see purely funny European culture dramatized by the Minister commanding the groom to ‘kiss the bride’- a culture that is alien to Africans and Asians. Is the Minister teaching the husband what to do in marriage; how many couples today had not been kissing from the first day the girl accepted to marry the boy? We now make a carnal drama in the church, something we do not do in TM to respect our Elders. Today the Roman Catholic Church that mid-wifed the church marriage does not make wearing of bridal-gowns, cutting of cake and offering elaborate feasting compulsory again for everybody. You do it according to your purse.
With these points what should be the position of the Church of Christ today in church wedding: We must do what is commanded to be needful:
- It should allow it to remain a family affair teaching members not to compare themselves to the rich who could afford to spend money. We know it is of vanity rather than to please God but to please men in some weddings.
- To teach to alleviate extra burden on Christians and to avoid idolatrous marriage. The presence of the church as witness rather than the officiating authority is needed. Many have gone home poor from borrowing for church weddings.
- To encourage Christians to marry in the Lord from the fold and live a faithful and happy live.
THEREFORE THERE IS NO COMMAND OF THE LORD THAT MARRIAGE SHOULD BE CONDUCTED BY THE CHURCH.
The question was: WHO ORDERED THE INTRUDUCTION OF CHURCH WEDDING IN THE LORD’S CHURCH?
Answer : IT IS NOT JESUS CHRIST NOR THE APOSTLES BUT MAN’S IDEA.
Let me end the lecture with a humbly APPEAL to our Ministers and Elders in other congregations; I want to remind us that whoever and whenever anyone removes, or adds or modifies any word of our lord Jesus Christ, he is re-writing another gospel [Gal.1:6-9]; do not allow the Holy Spirit lists the church among the seven fallen away churches of Christ in the book of revelation.
And APPEAL to those who are in such churches. I want to repeat the declaration address of late Brother Thomas Campbell: The title of that address to happy members of the restored Autonomous Congregational church of Christ in 1832 at Kentucky, USA was: STAY IN BABYLON AND RECEIVE A TICKET TO HELL; STAY WITH THE BIBLE AND RECEIVE A TICKET TO HEAVEN: THE CHOICE IS YOURS.
Brethren I rest our case against Church Wedding and in support of only the Traditional Marriage; the honourable panelists can give their verdict. God bless us all in Jesus name,Amen.
UYO TOWN CHURCH OF CHRIST, 20 PAUL BASSEY STREET, UYO
INDOOR LECTURE PRESENTED BY BRO A. T. NKANGUDE [PhD]