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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
Preached At:Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church
 Ancaster, Ontario
Title:Fulfil your vows
Text:LD 37 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Keeping Vows

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Singing: Ps. 50:1,2,7; Ps. 61:1,4,5,6; Ps. 75:6; Ps. 75:1; Ps. 119:17,22,40

Reading: Eccl. 5:1-7
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

If you were elected to high office in the land, you would be sworn into that office.
E.g., recently the new McGuinty cabinet was sworn into office at Queen's Park in Toronto.
The new cabinet ministers were placed under the oath of office:
I, NN, do solemnly and sincerely promise and swear that I will truly and faithfully, and to the best of my skill and knowledge, execute the powers and trusts reposed in me as [Minister of a certain portfolio] So help me God.

If you were ever subpoenaed to appear in court, say as a witness, then you would be called upon to swear to tell the truth.
There are, in our society, these two kinds of oaths.
They are there to maintain fidelity (faithfulness) and truth.
As the catechism indicates, there are certain times when, in order to promote fidelity and truth, an oath is appropriate.
In order to promote the glory of God and the good of the neighbour, an oath is sometimes needed.

Whoever takes an oath-whoever speaks under oath-had better know what he is doing.
For, whether or not that person acknowledges it,
... a lawful oath (QA 102) is a calling upon God,
who alone knows the heart,
to bear witness to the truth,
and to punish me if I swear falsely.

That is necessary out there in the world-there where the lie prevails and talk is cheap.
But it's not like that in the church, is it?
We do not give the lie any space in church, do we?
You cannot say that talk is cheap in the church, can you?

In the church, we are careful how we speak, aren't we?
The Apostle Paul says that we are to speak the truth in love.
We speak the truth.
We have nothing to do with the lie; rather, we speak the truth.
Because we are born again by the Spirit of Him who is the Way, the Life and the Truth.
We speak the truth.
We do not need the oath once in awhile to confirm what we are saying.
We always speak the truth, right?

And not only do we speak the truth.
But we speak the truth in love.
We do not hammer each other with the truth.
With what we think is true-according to the facts.
But we speak the truth carefully.
We speak it in love.
Love for each other.
In the church we always speak to the glory of God and for our neighbour's good.

We do not need the oath in church.
But that is only because we realize that every word we speak, we speak in the presence of God.
We know that God is always the witness to what we say.
He is.
God is witness to everything you say.
He is witness to every thought of your heart.
He is very displeased if we do not speak the truth.
He is very displeased if we speak the truth, in hatred.

It is a serious matter.
How we speak; what we say; the words we use; the way we say what we say: it is a serious business.
Do you know where liars will end up on the last day?
Revelation 21:8 tells us.
Their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur-the second death.
Together with the unbelieving, the vile, murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, idolaters, liars will end up in the fiery lake of burning sulphur.
Think about it.
Using words is a serious business.
No small matter.

I said that we do not use the oath in church.
However there are times when we make, what is called, a vow.
A vow is solemn promise made to God.
Everyone else is quiet for a moment as you make your vow.
It is taking a responsibility upon yourself, and then solemnly promising God that you will faithful fulfill that responsibility.
At certain moments in church life we make such a vow.

That is what I would speak to you about this afternoon.
About our vows.
The vows we make to God.


1. We make our vows to God
2. Examples of vows in church life
3. Why vows must be kept

1. The first thing we need to realize is that when we make a vow, we make it to God.
We are promising God something.
Often we speak about a bride and groom exchanging vows.
Or about speaking their vows to each other.
That is not quite right.
Bride and groom do not speak their vows to each other.
Rather, they speak them to God.
Whoever formulated the wedding vows that we use in our churches understood that very well.
It puts the vows in the third person.
E.g., the bridegroom is asked whether he declares before the Lord (as the Lord is his witness-the character of an oath) and the two legal human witnesses, that he will love and guide her (his wife) faithfully, maintain her, live with her in holiness, etc.
The minister is asking the bridegroom whether he promises the Lord that he will love and take care of his wife.
It is a vow to the Lord.

And so it is not quite right to change the "him" and "her" to "you."
Bride and groom are not, first of all, making promise to each other.
Rather, they are making promises to God.
Much more serious.

Scripture teaches that vows are made to God.
Eccl. 5:4 says: "When you make a vow to God..."
Psa 76:11 says: "Make vows to the LORD your God..."
The Bible speaks about vows some 80 times.
And every time but one it speaks about making vows to God.
The only time it speaks about making a vow to someone other than God is in Jer 44:25 where we read about Israel making vows to the Queen of heaven.
They were making vows to a false god.
But that just proves the point.
Vows are promises made to God.

2. What kind of vows to we make in church life?
We have already mentioned the marriage vows.
Bride and groom promising God they will be faithful to each other, until death.
Husbands, wives, you have promised God you will be faithful to each other.
Of course, you have promised each other that.
But beyond that, greater that that, on your wedding day you made a solemn promise to God.

Husbands, you promised God you would love and guide your wife faithfully, maintain her, and live with her in holiness, according to the holy gospel.
You promised God you would never forsake her, but be true to her always, in good days and bad, in riches and poverty, in health and sickness, for as long as you both shall live.

Do you love your wife with this undying, unending, unrelenting love?
The love we speak of is the love Christ has for his church.
(Eph 5:25) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...
Are you like Christ to your wife?
Do you love her with Christ-like love.
A love that always seeks to give what it can give.
A love that does not seek to get what it can get.
Rather, a love by which you empty yourself and seek the well-being of your wife.
Husbands, you promised God you would love your wife in such a way.
Do you?

You also promised to guide your wife.
The Bible teaches that the husband is the head of his wife.
The head of the marriage relationship.
We speak of male headship-entirely biblical.
A Christian wife wants her husband to be a faithful leader.
To provide leadership in the home, in their marriage, in spiritual matters, in the raising of the children.
Are you providing that, men?
Firm, loving leadership.
That's what a marriage needs.
Strong, loving leadership from the man.
That's what our homes need.

If the husbands will not guide things, will not provide the leadership God calls them to and which they have vowed to provide, that marriage, that home, has a huge vacuum.
The leadership deficit creates a huge, destructive vacuum.
What will often happen is that the wife will then fill the vacuum. She will step into the empty spot her husband has faithlessly made.
Often she will valiantly try to provide leadership in the marriage and home, but God did not equip her to be the leader.
That's not part of her God-given calling.
And eventually, she will run out of steam.
She will become fatigued and will not be able to do it anymore.
Over time she will burn out and crash.
Because of the husband's laziness, disobedience, faithlessness to God.
Because he has broken his vow.

And so, husbands, resolve to love your wives with a Christ-like love, and resolve to provide good Christian leadership in your marriage and home.

Wives, you promised God (made a solemn vow to God) that you would love and obey your husband, assist him, and live with him in holiness, according to the holy gospel?
You promised never to forsake him, but to be true to him always, in good days and bad, in riches and poverty, in health and sickness, for as long as you both shall live.

Whereas the husband vows to love and guide his wife, the wife vows to love and obey her husband.
This also comes from Eph 5:22 where Paul said: Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
Wives vow to follow the guidance, the leadership, of their husbands.
To place themselves under the headship of their husbands.

This is not popular nowadays.
We have had the women's liberation movement.
We talk about feminists-even radical feminists.
But, really, it has never been popular.
The fact that Paul had to teach this command indicates that women were rebelling against their husbands in his time.

Any wife who thinks it is a shame to submit herself to the leadership of her husband does not understand what the Bible teaches about this.
For Paul adds: Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
The relationship between husband and wife is to be a reflection of the relationship between Christ and his church.
Can you imagine a more blessed relationship than the one between Christ and his church?
Christ the bridegroom, the church his bride?
There is no more blessed relationship, and in our marriages we get to be a reflection of that.

And we vow that we will.
Let's make sure we keep our marriage vows.

There are other vows.
Parents make vows to God when they present their children for baptism.
They promise God they will raise their children in the ways of the Lord.
Are you keeping that vow you made to God, you who are parents?
Are you teaching your children to walk in God's paths?

Members of the church makes vows when they make a public profession of faith.
Think of the fourth membership vow.
You vow to commit your whole life to the Lord's service as a living member of His church?
You vow to submit willingly to the admonition and discipline of the church if ever you should become delinquent in doctrine or in conduct?
The membership book of this congregation is littered with the names of people who have broken those vows.
Who have withdrawn themselves from the church.
Once they stood here and made a vow to God by which they committed their entire lives to God as a member of His church.
Where are they now?
They have joined that group called Promise Breakers.

We could go on to speak of the vows that ministers, elders and deacons vow to God when they are ordained to office, but let us, rather, press on to the last point.

3. Why vows must be kept.

Eccl. 5 teaches us why we must keep the vows we make.
There are three reasons.
i) If you break your vow you show yourself to be a fool.
ii) If you break your vow you are committing sin.
iii) If you break your vow you make God angry.

(Eccl 5:4) When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.
A fool, here, is someone who makes all kinds of bring promises.
Who talks a lot never listens.
He is described in the first verses of Eccl. 5.
He is quick with his mouth, even in the presence of God.
He is hasty.
Immediately he's got something to say and he wants to be heard. He makes vows to God about this and that.
But he does not keep them.
God says that man is a fool.
A Promise Breaker is a fool.
(Eccl 5:5 NIV) It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.

ii) Breaking a vow is sin.
(Eccl 5:6 NIV) Do not let your mouth lead you into sin.
We read here about someone who makes a vow and then says: "My vow was a mistake."
If someone breaks, say, the marriage vows and says: Oh, it was a mistake to marry him/her!, that is sin.
Then your mouth has led him to sin.

iii) And, finally, it makes God angry.
Vow breaking makes God angry.
Promise breakers make God angry.
God's anger leads to destruction.
Verse 6: Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands?

Let us take this seriously.
Making vows is a serious business.
Not to be done lightly.
Vows are to be kept, lest we face the anger of God.

Vows must be kept as Christ kept his vows.
By the Spirit of prophecy in the OT-in many places-, he vowed to come to be our Saviour.
And then, in the fullness of time, he did come.
He kept the promise he had made ages before.

In the book of Revelation, the Lord Jesus is called "the Faithful Witness."
He is the Way, the Life and the Truth.

By the renewing work of his Spirit, he makes us able to keep our vows.
To be like him; to keep our vows.
We can faithfully keep our vows because Christ kept his.
We can faithfully keep our vows as Christ kept his.
We will fulfill our vows as professed members of the church; in our marriages; as we seek to raise our children in the Lord's ways.
Satan, the great liar, will try to get us to break our vows.
He will try to make us liars like him.
But we will say: Begone Satan.
Out of my life!
Go to where you belong.
We will speak the truth.
We will fulfill our vows to God.
We will keep the promises we made to God.

Then, with the words of a Psalm such as Ps. 75, we will shout and sing our songs of praise to God.

We will pay our vows to God.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright 2003, Rev. George van Popta

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