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The Covenant of Marriage

Posted by Mike Mccauley
Mike Mccauley
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on Tuesday, 08 July 2014
in Pastors' Corner

The Covenant of Marriage Scripture: Malachi 2:14d Series: Elevating Marriage and its Sanctity, Pt. 2 of 6

Sermon Summary

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Introduction. GOD VIEWS MARRIAGE as a “covenantal” relationship (Malachi 2:14d). The closest word to the concept of covenant in our modern day language is contract. However, the word “contract” is insufficient to convey the concepts of a covenant. Now, what does the word “covenant” mean? The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary says, “A covenant is an agreement between two or more persons in which the following four factors or elements are present: parties, conditions, results, security” (Pfeiffer, Vos and Rea 1975). The Bible speaks of several major covenants. For instance, we have the Noahic (Genesis 9:1-18), Abrahamic (Genesis 12:1-15:17), Mosaic (Exodus 20:1-31:18), Palestinian (Deuteronomy 28-30), Davidic (2 Samuel 7:4-16), and the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-33). Likewise, marriage is a covenant. Marriage is a solemn covenant entered into by one man and one woman in perfect freedom, in which they pledge their love and fidelity, one to other, in joy and in sorrow, in health and in sickness, in prosperity and in adversity, so long as they both shall live. It is terminable in God’s sight only by death, or by gross infidelity, or by separation on the part of an unbelieving spouse (Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Romans 7:2-3; 1 Corinthians 7:15). Let us now probe a little deeper into the concepts of covenant, and later into the Blood Covenant.
1. The Three Facets of Covenant. In my introduction, I mentioned that there were four factors or elements in a covenant: parties, conditions, results, and security. Well, Dr. Tony Evans in his book, Marriage Matters, captures the same ideas but expresses them as the three facets of covenant. He says, “There are three fundamental facets that make up a covenant: transcendence, hierarchy, and ethics” (Evans 2014). He defines these facets in the following manner:
Transcendence simply means that God is in charge. In essence, God is both the author and the authority of the covenant. He came up with the idea, orchestrated its inception, created the partners, united the two, and established the parameters.
Hierarchy simply defined is a chain of command. It is an order that functions within a particular alignment. There is equal value, but different function.
Ethics involves three independent elements: rules, sanctions, and continuity.
In sum, the bottom line of a covenant is a spiritually binding relationship between God and His people inclusive of certain agreements, conditions, benefits, and gifts. Now, armed with the above ideas in mind, let us descend further into covenant concepts. In antiquity, covenants were sealed in blood ritual, called “Blood Covenants.”
2. The Blood Covenant. The Blood Covenant derives its name from the ancient practice of slaughtering animals with the selected covenant representatives taking the “walk of blood.” An example of this is in scripture is the blood covenant made by God with Abram in Genesis 15. From a bird’s eye view concerning chapter 15, Ross writes in The Bible Knowledge Commentary the following: “After Abram’s rescue of Lot and blessing from Melchizedek, the Lord formally made a covenant with Abram, thereby confirming the promise given earlier (Genesis 12:2-3) (Ross 2004). God instructs Abram to acquire three animals—a heifer, a goat, and a ram (v.9); and he also brought a dove and a young pigeon. In the covenant cutting ritual, Abram would split the larger animals down the middle and lay the severed pieces opposite of each other. Customary, the two representatives would make the walk of blood between the halves, signifying the consequence if either party would break the covenant. The Holman Christian Standard Bible notes on Genesis 15:17: 
When the sun had set the Lord climaxed the mystery by causing a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch to appear and pass between the divided animals. Both elements symbolized essential aspects of God; the smoke perhaps representing divine inscrutability, and the flame God’s power. By going between the divided carcasses, the Lord was solemnly obligating Himself to fulfill the terms of the covenant—symbolically indicating that He would Himself be split asunder if He failed to carry out His promises (Howard 2010).
Let me stress an important point here, God put Abram into a deep prophetic sleep whereby he is a spectator and not a participant at this point (Genesis 15:12) and He [God] made the walk of blood alone. Keil and Delitzsch note, “For although a covenant always establishes a reciprocal relation between two individuals, yet in that covenant which God concluded with a man, the man did not stand on an equality with God, but God established the relation of fellowship by His promise and His gracious condescension to the man, who was first purely a recipient, and was only qualified and bound to fulfill the obligations consequent upon the covenant by the reception of gifts of grace” (Keil and Delitzsch 2006). The doctrine of blood covenant is even ingrained in marriage as revealed by the Apostle Paul.
In 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, Paul discusses sexual immorality and makes a very important statement in verse 16. He says, “Don’t you know that anyone joined to a prostitute is one body with her? For Scripture says, the two will become one flesh.” The bold face print here is an allusion to Genesis 2:24 where Adam is joined to Eve in marriage. Paul is not implying per say that the offender here is married to the prostitute, but like the consummation in marriage the two become one in body. By implication, sexual unions outside the bonds of marriage can generate possible soul ties that can lead to unhealthy emotional attachments that can be detrimental to the parties so involved. Not to mention, such sinful activity grieves the Holy Spirit as His temple is desecrated (1 Corinthians 6:19). Thus, Paul exhorts believers to flee sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18).
Conclusion. God is a covenant making and keeping deity. And the New Covenant (or Testament) is built upon better promises and is sealed with the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Likewise, the Marriage Covenant is sealed at consummation between one man and woman and should last for a lifetime, and ideally terminating in death (Romans 7:2-3). Just as the Bible takes covenant relationships seriously, so should we!
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