In December, our family had the privilege of travelling south to North Carolina in order to participate in the celebration our oldest daughter’s wedding. She was married just a few days before Christmas. It was a beautiful wedding. And, she has married a great young man. We are so happy for her, and him.
After returning to Québec, my wife and I were chilling on our living room sofa, looking at some of the pictures from the wedding. As we were perusing through the photos, we saw a Facebook post that our daughter had posted. Right away we noticed something new. She had changed her last name on her profile to that of her husband’s. At that moment, the realization that she has begun a new family hit us.
Now, for those from Québec who are reading this, in case you were not aware, everywhere in North America, with the exception of our wonderful yet different province, it is typically normal for the wife to take the last name of her husband. This has been the tradition for hundreds of years, and this tradition is based upon very foundational and important biblical principles. So, my wife and I rejoice and fully agree that our daughter taking the last name of her husband is a good and righteous thing. Though it initially shocked us when we saw it, we celebrate it as good and holy.
What is important to know about this tradition is that, not only is it rooted in biblical truth, but it also communicates a true spiritual reality of what occurs when one trusts their life to Christ when they believe the gospel message. When one repents of their sin and places their faith in Jesus, that person becomes a member of a new family: the family of God. In Scripture we see references to families in regard to whether one has trusted in Christ or not.
For example, Scripture refers to those that have not believed in the gospel as sons of disobedience, children of wrath (Ephesians 2:2-3), children of the devil (1 John 3:10), sons of the evil one (Matthew 13:38), and having the devil as a father (John 8:44). While these images are hard for some to understand and accept, spiritually speaking, they are correct metaphors and analogies to use because they teach a true spiritual reality. 1 John 3:10 says, «By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.» Also, a truth to not forget is that according to Ephesians 2:1-4, every single person, before placing their faith in Christ, is a member of the family of the devil. This image is clearly founded in Genesis 3:15 when sin was first committed by man.
On the other side of the coin, we see clear metaphors for those that have placed their trust in Christ as their Lord and Savior. Believers are called sons and daughters of God (2 Corinthians 6:18), sons of light (John 12:36), sons of God (Matthew 5:9; Romans 8:14), children of God (1 John 3:10), and children of obedience (1 Peter 1:14). These too teach a true spiritual reality.
So, a question that should be asked and must be answered is: If every person was born as a child of the devil, how and when does one become a child of God? And this is one of the beautiful and magnificent images and truths we see in a wedding ceremony.
When one gets married, they are pledging themselves to the other person. They take a vow to love and remain with that person until death. Whether times are good or bad, whether one is sick or healthy, they vow to make a new life and a new family with the other person. A wedding is the public testimony of a man and a woman making a clear declaration of their commitment to one another before God and others. At the same time, there is a message of breaking from an old life and a previous family. Genesis 2:24 paints this picture very clearly: «Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.» In a similar way, when one places their faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, they are committing themselves to Him through faith. They are making a clear and decisive decision to begin a new life, one of living and walking with Christ. Like a vow, one’s declaration of faith is a commitment to live faithful to Jesus. It is at this moment that one ceases to be a member of the family of the devil (where sin reigns) and becomes a member of God’s family (where righteousness reigns). In accordance to what Jesus told Nicodemus when He said that one must be born again to see the kingdom of God, one who repents of their sin and believes in Jesus (vows themselves to Him) begins a new life, in a new family (the church), with a new Heavenly Father. They become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is what a wedding and a marriage is to symbolize and represent. Two people deciding (vow) to begin a new life together.
So, how does that relate to the wife taking her husband’s name? Well, in the Bible, God gives us the picture of marriage as a principle of how His people are related to Him. Many times, in Scripture, old and new testament, God is referred to as the groom and His people are referred to as the wife. The clearest New Testament passage on this is in Ephesians 5. So, when one unites to Christ through faith, they become united to Him like a wife. This simile works well because when one is «in Christ» they not only become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), but they also get a new name (Isaiah 56:5; Revelation 2:17; 3:12). Therefore, they take the name of Christ, for they are a part of Christ. They begin to have a new identity. Rather than being children of the devil, they begin a new life as a child of God. The old life is gone, and new life begins. This reality is true in marriage and is to be displayed as both husband and wife leave their parents and begin a new life. Since the husband represents Christ and the wife represents the church (His people), the wife takes the name of her husband.
God created marriage to represent His relationship with His people. The wedding is the public declaration of the vows that husband and wife make with each other. In a similar way, baptism is the public declaration that a believer has «vowed» themselves through faith to Christ. Christ’s vow to us is found in the cross and resurrection. Our response is trusting in Him as He demonstrated His love to us. Baptism is the unashamed testimony that one has pledged themselves to Christ and has begun a new life with Him, taking His name, no longer living for sin, but now living for His honor and glory in righteousness. This is also why it one should be baptized after making a profession of faith (vow) to Christ, and not before. Baptism before faith blurs the biblical image of a marriage as it has to do with salvation in Christ.
With this new name, one inherits a new family, Christ’s family, the church. One where Christ is the head and the members are the body. So, baptism and church membership and implication are not simply traditions that should be optional for those that profess Christ. They are rooted deep in biblical truth that leaps from the pages of Scripture. To reject one or the other, or both, is to diminish God’s reason for creating the institution of marriage. Biblically, one cannot claim to be united to Christ, yet not desire to follow Him in believer’s baptism nor be united to His church. Our identity as His people calls us to be unashamed in our identity with Himself and His church.
So, our daughter no longer bearing my last name is the result of her and her husband making vows to each other and beginning a new life together, as a new family unit. And that wonderful reality displays, as best as humanly possible, the amazing truth that whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord can be saved. Saved from sin. Saved from being a child of the devil and wrath and disobedience. And becoming a child of righteousness, a child of God, bearing His name. While we do not bear His name always perfectly. He vows, pledges, promises, whether in good times or in bad, in our spiritual sickness or health to never abandon us or forsake us. For He has united Himself to us, and us to Him. Through faith on our part. Through the cross and resurrection on His. What a marvellous truth. For those of us who bear His name, may we bear it faithfully, being honored and thankful for being called a child of God.
For those that have not yet placed their faith in Christ, He, in the cross, is on one knee, with His hand open out to you, asking if you would leave your old life of sin, trust your life to Him, and join yourself to Him through faith. If you say yes, a new life awaits you. No longer a child of wrath, but forever a child of God.