Marriage Covenant Theology

Rings-for-websiteAll saving relationships between God and man in the Bible are patterned after the marriage covenant. There are five [1] major marriage covenants in the Bible: the Adamic Covenant [2], Noahic Covenant, Abrahamic Covenant, Mosaic Covenant and New Covenant.

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.  For heuristic reasons 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 [3] 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 worshipper 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.

Before the New Covenant circumcision was the mandatory physical sign established by God to confirm one’s justification, entrance into the marriage covenant and later the marriage covenant community [4].  However, because of the superior form of justification and marriage gift offered under the New Covenant, both the sign and its requirement have changed [5].  Baptism is now the mandatory [6] physical sign which both replaces circumcision and improves upon it by the faith it requires, the superior form of justification it points to and the marriage gift of the Holy Spirit it promises.

In the Bible the phrase “the Law” typically refers to either the specific words of instruction given to Moses under the Old Covenant or the entire first five books of the Old Testament.

From a theological perspective however, God’s laws are embodied in far more than just what was communicated to Moses.  The establishing of law is the purpose behind all of His words in the Bible.  Because of this, timeless instruction is to be derived not simply from His direct commands, but everything else we find in the Scriptures including its narrative accounts and historical paradigms [7].  That being said, there is a bi-partite distinction that must be made when understanding God’s law [8].  For heuristic reasons those distinctions will be called the Clean Laws and the Moral Commands.

Clean Laws refer to those laws given by God as the means to gaining a justified state and marriage covenant relationship with Him.  Moral Commands on the other hand, refer to all the remaining instruction which those justified and in marriage covenant with God must faithfully obey if they are to maintain this state and relationship.  Every marriage covenant in the Bible contains both and improves on rather than destroys the laws of the covenant before it.  This is especially true of the New Covenant which does not abolish any of the Clean Laws or Moral Commands of the prior marriage covenants, but rather seeks to fulfill [9] all of them: the Clean Laws through faith in Christ and the Moral Commands through the law of Christ [10].

Therefore, from an hermeneutical perspective, the Bible is a book whose entire content from Genesis to Revelation is to be seen as God’s relevant and authoritative law for mankind today—even for those not in marriage covenant with Him (i.e. The New Covenant).  In other words, it is both Testaments of the Bible that inform and establish for us what is pleasing to God as well as what judgment will based upon for those who live in rebellion.

Watch and listen as this biblical theology is presented and supported from Scripture by Pastor Scott.


[1] An historical paradigm is a form of narrative account whose instruction is established more by the pattern of events/actions associated with it rather than the meaning behind each event/action.  For something in Scripture to be considered an historical paradigm it must meet one of the following criteria: 1) it is explicitly referenced as such (see 4.4.), 2) it is repeated as the consistent practice/response in relation to the same situation/subject (e.g. baptism after repentance/faith), 3) it exists in Scripture as the exclusive approach to producing fundamental change in a situation/subject (e.g. Act 11:19-26—“them” v23 to “church” v26).

[2] Though this may seem strange, it is not the first time such distinctions in God’s law have been made.  Covenant Theology for instance, views the Mosaic Law according to a tri-partite distinction: civil, ceremonial, moral.

[3] This word is to be understood in the same way Jesus uses it in Mat 5:17.  It means to “fully obey or carry out” as in, “The soldier fulfilled the orders of his commanding officer.”

[4] “Law of Christ” = The OT laws as interpreted by Christ and the NT authors.  This then becomes the real task of the Christian when attempting to understand and apply the OT law to their own lives: determining what such laws look like as interpreted by Christ and the NT authors.  This requires more than just a literal understanding of the particular OT law in question.  It requires also understanding God’s purpose in giving it since it is here that we most often find its NC fulfillment/equivalent.  Therefore the proper question to ask when dealing w/the commands of the OT is, “Where do I find this law (or what does it look like) in the law of Christ?” versus “What has been repeated/repealed?”

[5] After Abraham, God’s marriage covenant only exists w/the covenant community and not the individual.  This is clearly seen by the fact that spousal terminology is reserved for the nation of Israel and the church (e.g. Jer 31:32; Eph 5:22-24).

[6] Paedobaptists make a fatal flaw in this regard: b/c they fail to see the extent of soteriological change which has occurred under the New Covenant, they fail also to recognize that more has changed than just the sign.

[7]All of the signs which God has commanded that man observe function as mandatory in this way:  Anyone unwilling to observe the sign—or to observe it correctly will not only fail to receive what it represents/symbolizes—but should also expect a curse (e.g. Exo 12:1-13; 1Co 11:27-30).

[8] Covenant Theology recognizes six including also the Davidic Covenant.  Though an important covenant in God’s redemptive plan, it was established in relation to kingship not salvation (see 2Sa 7 and 23).  In this regard David himself operated under the Mosaic covenant.

[9] Though one may initially question calling the Adamic Covenant  a “saving relationship” since there was no sin at the time it was inaugurated, what must be considered is the fact that this is where it ended up: in God providing an addendum and means of atonement thus taking the role of Savior in that covenant as well (Gen 3:21).

[10] 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.