Marriage Covenant Theology – Justification

Justification which refers to a person possessing a righteous state before God is the necessary pre-requisite to entering into the marriage covenant relationship w/God. In the redemptive history of the Bible, we experience two forms: one which is now obsolete, the other which is presently in force.  They may be referred to as Passover Justification and Payment Justification. 

Passover Justification existed before the New Covenant and was realized by the worshiper through the observance of animal sacrifices and the additional clean laws[1] established under the Mosaic Covenant.  However, the atonement producing this justification was only superficial, merely passing over sin and therefore rapidly became obsolete and unacceptable before God once Payment Justification was secured. 

Payment Justification was secured exclusively through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ under the New Covenant and is realized by the worshiper simply through putting faith in Christ and His death alone.  Unlike the former however, the atonement producing this justification effects real payment for and removal of sin.  Payment Justification which will remain in force until the end of the Age, now exists as mankind’s only legitimate form of justification. 

2.1. The words translated “justification” or “righteousness” (or one of their derivatives) share the same δικαι root (e.g. Rom 4:5 – δικαιοσúνην; Rom 4:25 – δικαíωσιν), mean the same thing and are therefore used interchangeably throughout the Bible (e.g. Rom 3:28 w/ 9:30).

2.2. Without justification there is no hope of entering into a marriage covenant relationship w/God (e.g. Eph 2:11-13[2]).

2.3. The OT words “forgiven, washed, cleansed[3], sanctified” are used interchangeably w/the word or doctrine of justification in the NT and therefore reveal this to not only be their meaning in the OT, but also the existence of some form of justification during that time[4] (Rom 4:5-6; Psa 32:1-5; Lev 4:20-35; 1Co 6:11; Tit 3:5-7; 1Jo 1:9; Psa 51:2, 7, 10; Lev 16:30; Eze 36:25, 33, 37:23; Zec 13:1; Exo 31:13).

2.4. That some form of justification did exist under the OT is also made apparent by the considering the fact that the NT uses the OT priesthood and their work in atoning for sin as the basis for Christ’s in securing justification[5] (e.g. Heb 4:14-5:9, 7:26-28, 10:11-12).

2.5. Re: “…justification before the NC was superficial, passing over sins only whereas justification through Christ and under the NC offers real payment for and removal of sin.” (Rom 3:23-25; Heb 9:9-14, 24-10:18).

2.6. Re: “…Christ’s death alone as the exclusive basis for payment justification.” (passive obedience v. active obedience) (Rom 5:18; 2Co 5:21; Eph 1:7; Col 1:9-23; 1Pe 2:24; Heb 10:10, 14, 13:12)[6].

2.7.  Re: “…justification before the NC as obsolete and now realized exclusively through faith alone in Christ alone and as the only legitimate form of justification and salvation until the end of the Age.”

(Heb 7:12, 8:13, 9:8-15; Rom 3:28; Act 4:12; 2Th 1:5-8 w/Mat 13:39-42).  

[1] Clean laws include those described in Leviticus 1-18.  All clean laws fit into one of 5 categories:  circumcision, sacrifices, Sabbaths, separation and kosher foods.

[2] This passage reveals that Jesus Christ is the specific person w/in Godhead responsible for making covenant w/Israel just as He is the One Who makes it w/the church under the NC (Luk 22:20).  The Scriptures may point in this direction as it relates to all covenants and Jesus (consider Jud 1:5; 1Co 10:1-9; Joh 8:56-58; Heb 7:1-3; 1Pe 3:18-20).

[3] Though not necessarily pertinent to this discussion, the words “wash, cleanse” do communicate an important aspect regarding our justification: that it is more than just forensic, but also moral (for further explanation see  Jarrett, R. Scott, p.10-11).

[4] The fact that these words in the OT most often deal either explicitly or implicitly w/issues of sin and being set apart to God as holy further support the fact that there are indeed communicating some form of justification (i.e. a person possessing a righteous state before God).

[5] The fact that some form of justification was needed in the OT becomes all the more apparent when one again considers it is impossible to be in relationship w/God unless that is case (as supported in 2.2.)

[6] Where this truth becomes most important is when considering the place of the Law.  Those holding to the Active Obedience position believe that Justification through Christ required also meritorious works which Christ accomplished before His death.  This however creates a works-based system of righteousness that is nowhere found in the Bible nor was ever a part of God’s purpose in establishing the Law.  This will be further discussed under the section entitled “Law”.