Matthew Introduction – Part 14: The Saving Gospel is a Marriage Covenant

Speaker: Scott Jarrett | Apr 24, 2016

6.4.3. What it is: A marriage covenant

The plan of salvation communicated throughout the Bible’s redemptive history is always the same (e.g. Heb 8:5-6 = the “DNA” of God’s redemptive plan remains the same). It involves people entering into a marriage covenant with God[1]. Consider: God’s salvation always includes a covenant (Adamic = Hos 6:7; Noahic = Gen 6:18; Abrahamic = Gen 17:2; Old = Exo 19:5; New = Luk 22:20) All such covenants established between God and human beings are marriage covenants (e.g. Jer 31:31-32; Eph 5:22-32)[2] The following is also true in relation to the gospel (i.e. way/plan of salvation) presented in the Bible: Jesus is the Husband of all the marriage (saving) covenants in the Bible – not just the New Covenant! (Eph 5:22-23, 32; Mat 26:26-28 = By establishing the NC, Jesus reveals Himself to the be specific Person w/in the Godhead assigned to this unique and important role. He is the “Lord of the Covenants”; e.g. Jud 1:5; 1Co 10:4, 9; 1Pe 3:18-20; Joh 8:56-58; Heb 7:1-3) FAITH IS NECESSARY TO GAIN MARRIAGE TO JESUS AND A JUSTIFIED STATE BEFORE GOD: The baptism of faith (in Jesus Christ) is now the way to enter into (i.e. gain) a marriage covenant relationship with Jesus Christ and receive a right/justified/forgiven standing before God (Rom 3:28 w/1Pe 3:21; Joh 3:5). This sacrament was given exclusively to His church (Mat 16:18-19 w/Joh 20:22-23) FAITHFULNESS IS ALSO NECESSARY TO MAINTAIN OUR JUSTIFIED/MARRIED STATUS[3]: Just like our human marriages, our marriage to Jesus is also conditioned upon faithful obedience. In other words, we must “maintain what we gained” (Deu 4:40, 6:1-3, 7:9-12, 8:6, 11, 28:1-2, 29:9-20; Hos 2:20; Mat 3:8-10 w/Dan 4:27; Mat 5:13, 24:42-25:46, 28:18-20; Rom 11:19-22; Gal 2:15-21; Eph 4:1; Phi 1:9-11, 2:12-16, 3:8-16; Col 1:22-23; 2Th 2:11-12, 3:11-15; Heb 3:6, 14, 10:35-39; Jam 1:25-27, 2:14-26; 1Pe 1:5-9, 14-17; 2Pe 1:5-11, 3:14-18; 2Jo 1:8-9; Jud 1:20-21; Rev 2:10, 26, 3:4-5)[4] As such, Jesus is never the Savior of anyone unwilling to submit to Him as Lord. In other words, the Bible teaches “Lord before Savior” (Exo 20:5-6; Isa 58:1-59:2; Jer 4:1-2, 14, 5:1-7, 24-25, 7:22-23, 9:12-16, 12:16-17, 26:3-6, 13, 36:3, 38:20, 44:10-11; Mat 8:1-13; Luk 3:3-18, 6:46-49; 2Pe 2:1; Jud 1:3-4) The Law of God in its entirety is still in force as what we must be faithful to (Mal 4:1-6; Mat 5:17-19; e.g. Rom 13:8-10; 1Co 9:7-11; 14:34; If the Law is not in force then why does Paul appeal to it?)[5]. The only change may be in application (e.g. clean laws: works of the law v. faith) The consequences for unfaithfulness to God’s Law is cursing – even divorce – i.e. loss of our covenant relationship, our justification and the promises of salvation. It can also mean apostasy (Deu 28:15-68, 29:18-21, 24-25; Isa 50:1; Jer 3:8, 34:15-18; Dan 9:5-16; Hos 1:1-4, 4:1, 6, 10-12, Mat 12:30-31 w/18:17 w/Joh 20:22-23; Rom 11:19-22; Gal 5:4; 1Ti 1:19-20; Jam 5:19-20; 2Pe 1:9, 2:20-22 Heb 6:4-6, 10:26 – consider v1-14: qualitative or quantitative?) and/or loss of the covenant community (e.g. Israel – Mat 21:43; Rev 2:5) The reward for faithfulness to God’s Law is the consummation of the marriage: face to face “intimacy” w/Jesus in Paradise (2Co 11:2 w/Rev 19:6-8; consider also Rev 22:4 w/Exo 28:36-38 w/Exo 19:5 and Hos 4:6 w/Isa 3:17-4:1 w/Eze 16:8-12 = the priest represented God’s priestly people and wife and therefore wore the wedding garment as the promise of coming consummation to those who remained faithful). Understanding salvation as a marriage covenant not only means we are getting the gospel right but also: Is consistent w/the Bible’s teaching on judgment according to works since it is our works which maintain the covenant (Jer 32:18-19; Rom 2:6-11; 2Co 5:9-10; Rev 20:11-15) That it is about far more than just a relationship since not all relationships require a covenant – i.e. the existence of certain obligations or commitments, penalties or rewards[6] We are protected from the heretical: View of the gospel as more of an insurance policy (v. a marriage)[7] Methods of Evangelical humanism (i.e. appeal to our identity/rights as the key to our eternal assurance versus the biblical prescription: appeal to our obligation[8]…e.g. Mat 19:1ff; 1Co 6:7-11, 18-20; 2Pe 1:5-11).

[1] Technically, we are betrothed. However, in the Ancient East, this was considered a form of marriage. With this in mind, consider (Deu 20:7; Mat 1:18-20; 2Co 11:2).

[2] Though not explicit, the Adamic, Noahic and Abrahamic were also marriages. This can be seen when one considers that God speaks of such covenants in the objective (Hos 6:7 – “the covenant” v. “their covenant”) and possessive voice (Gen 6:18, 17:2 – “My covenant”) demonstrating them all to be the same in kind.

[3] Contra to men like J.G. Machen, maintenance does not imply merit. What person in a healthy marriage believes they must earn their spouse’s affection, or other benefits associated with such union? At the same time, who would be so foolish to think that their relationship is not conditioned upon the vows of faithfulness each professed on their wedding day?

[4] In other words, the saving covenants of the Bible are all bi-lateral: both parties are obligated to the fulfillment of certain conditions if the covenant is to remain in place/force. Evangelicals like to argue that the New covenant is unilateral (one obligated party – Jesus). Their conviction stems from an erroneous belief that God made two covenants w/Abraham (Gen 15:18 and 17:7), the former being unilateral and a foreshadowing of the New Covenant. The Bible teaches only one covenant w/Abraham, (Gen 17:7). The 15th chapter simply represents the pre-requisite work of atonement necessary to all saving covenants (Psa 50:5; Heb 9:18).

[5] Contra J. MacArthur. On Gal 3:2 he comments, “Paul appealed to the Galatians’ own salvation to refute the Judaizers’ false teaching that keeping the law is necessary to salvation.” (MacArthur Study Bible)

[6] “Among its 283 occurrences in 263 verses some sense of obligation typically attends the presence of covenant. For this reason, covenants are said to be kept (17x), commanded (7x), remembered (14x), confirmed (3x), and one is to be faithful to the covenant (1x), or hold fast to the covenant (1x). Also problematic for any interpretation of covenant which would reduce it to a relationship are a number of examples, such as Ezr 10:3; 2Ki 11:4; 2Chr 23:1; and Jer 34:8-10 where covenant does not appear to effect a relationship at all, but merely secures a stipulated course of action. For reasons such as these. E. Kutsch has argued that covenant never establishes a relationship. Instead, virtually everywhere it consists of an obligation, whether self-imposed, as in a promise or the undertaking of a commitment, or imposed on another, as in a law. M. Kline defines covenant as a ‘sanction-sealed commitment (or obligation) to maintain a particular relationship or follow a stipulated course of action’, or M.L. Newman, who defines covenant as a ‘formal relationship of obligation between two parties…sealed by a solemn oath or cultic rite.’” – Gordon Hugenberger (Marriage As A Covenant)

[7] Insurance policy: 1) pymt of premium guarantees that the original relationship will remain intact. 2) avoiding damage due to unauthorized activity is nice but not necessary for the relationship to continue.; Marriage: 1) pymt of premium (i.e. getting married), does not guarantee the relationship will remain intact, but only that the relationship has begun. 2)avoiding damage due to unauthorized activity is necessary if the relationship is to continue.

[8] According to Meic Pearse, this change occurred during the 18th century Enlightenment. Christianity, had up to this point, always been obligation-oriented. During this period however, it shifted to become identity/rights -oriented. Hence the emphasis on human rights so popular in our day and age and the rejection of anything that hints of duty or obligation.