“These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. ” – John 14: 25-26
“And He teaches the humble His way.
All the paths of the Lord are lovingkindness and truth
To those who keep His covenant and His testimonies….The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him,
And He will make them know His covenant.” – Psalm 25
As the anticipated day for the U.S. Supreme Court ruling approaches and we learn whether the nation’s highest judges have decided to provoke the Lord’s intensified judgment on our land by dictating that all 50 states define civil marriage to include sodomous unions, there has been quite a bit of false assertion among some nervous social conservative thought-leaders that adultery is somehow a lesser sin than sodomy:
Per Brian Fischer of the American Family Association in their blog called The Stand, May 19, 2015: “Now homosexual conduct is sexual sin just as adultery is. In fact, it is a worse form of sexual sin because it deviates even further from God’s design for sexual union than adultery does.”
Does it? So then, did God put Adam into a deep sleep, take a rib out of him, fashion his one-flesh covenant wife, bone-of-his-bones and flesh-of-his-flesh (Genesis 2), and… when he later decided she wasn’t making him “happy”, and he “deserved to be happy”, did God put him into a deep sleep again to take another rib out of him and fashion him a bimbo on the side? Or did God rather say, “the mouth of an adulterous woman is a deep pit. The man who is under the Lord’s WRATH falls into it…” (Proverbs 22:18) ? As Jesus put it, “FROM THE BEGINNING IT WAS NOT SO!” (Matt. 19:8)
And Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, normally a sanctity-of-marriage stalwart who is generally not prone to cultural relativism, remarked on his Facebook page last month in response to an interview with Pastor Andy Stanley concerning the embrace of homosexual practice in Stanley’s church [while taking displeasure in some rather astute Stanley banter about gay wedding cakes vs. those that celebrate adulterous remarriage]:
“Yes, Jesus regarded remarriage after divorce as a form of adultery (probably a weakened form since there is no evidence that he told divorced-and-remarried persons in his audience to separate). Yet his position on remarriage after divorce is extrapolated secondarily from a foundational male-female requirement for sexual relations, which foundation is directly overturned in the acceptance of homosexual unions. Stanley is adopting an approach that an action taken in a lesser offense would apply equally to a greater offense, which is bad logic. The closest parallel to homosexual practice in terms of severity would be a case of adult-consensual incest, not remarriage after divorce.”
SIFC believes is it more to the point, given the heaven-or-hell nature of both abominations, to point out in the alternative that there’s no evidence Jesus didn’t tell the woman at the well to leave her immoral cohabitation arrangement, and plenty of corroborating evidence that He did, even if this detail was not directly captured by the Apostle John in his gospel account. Did Jesus not tell His audience in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:27-32): “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.
“It was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” ?
Jesus persistently used the present indicative Greek verb tense when He spoke of remarriage as ongoing adultery, (as Dr. Gagnon acknowledges himself in a 2009 paper), for as long as the illicit, idolatrous relationship persists. How then is all of the above NOT tantamount to telling people in His audience who lived that way to leave that life of sin or be prepared for the willful eternal consequences?
Dr. Gagnon, do you truly think it’s of no significance at all that the hell-bound list of offenses in 1 Corinthians 6:9, (which the Apostle Paul tells us will never be allowed to mock a holy God), gives adultery, and indeed every other form of heterosexual sin, much higher billing over sodomy? Is not the latter the evil spawn of the former, one to two generations later, following the Church’s widespread embrace of serial/sequential polygamy, which even characterizes the personal practices of many clergy? Do we learn nothing at all from Ezra, chapters 9 and 10 then?
“In 1 Cor 6:9 Paul implicitly brings together porneia (here incest and sex with prostitutes, perhaps too fornication), adultery, and same-sex intercourse as instances of egregious sexual immorality. In 6:9-10 offenders known as pornoi head up the vice list, just as in 5:10 and 5:11. In 6:9 the word appears before “idolaters, adulterers, malakoi, and arsenokoitai.” Why isn’t the word grouped with the three other types of sexually immoral persons? The answer has to do with the fact that the incestuous man is called a pornos in 5:8 and his actions porneia in 5:1. Paul places pornoi at the head of the list, before idolaters and other sex offenders, because it is still the main subject of the discussion. In following pornoi with adulterers, malakoi, and arsenokoitai, Paul does not mean to distinguish the latter three from the rubric pornoi but rather to further specify who would be included under that rubric. The immediate context in ch. 5 (incest, called porneia in 5:1; cf. pornos in 5:8) and 6:12-20 (sex with prostitutes, called porneia in 6:13, 18; cf. porneuo in 6:18 and porne in 6:15-16) makes clear that pornoi would include at least participants in incest and men who have sex with prostitutes. The following three categories of sexual offenders simply fill out explicitly who else would be a pornos. This also explains why the vice lists in 5:10-11 employ pornoi as the sole term denoting sexual offenders; it is a general term that normally covers the sweep of sexual offenses. Similar to 1 Cor 6:9, 1 Tim 1:10 singles out immediately after pornoi “men who lie with males” (arsenokoitai)—not because arsenokoitai are distinct from pornoi but because arsenokoitai are a particularly egregious instance of pornoi.”
SIFC respectfully acknowledges that much of the above may be perfectly correct, but notes that no lexicon published before 1900 translated porneia into any of the above separate sins. Additionally, there is a remarkable similarity in comparing Jesus’ list of vices (such as Mark 7:21) with Paul’s – not much difference is to be found in the pecking order. This is still not to say that sodomy is a lesser sin than adultery. They clearly are of the same foundational order, and the latter exacerbates the former!]
We, in the growing marriage permanence movement, are standing for the divine healing of our individual relationship with our one-flesh covenant mate. But more importantly, and of even higher priority, we stand for their healing of their own bruised relationship with the Father, following the idolatry and self-worship that always characterizes an immoral relationship which invariably usurps the place of their indissoluble marriage covenant with Him. This is consistent with the Lord’s commandment we are given by Paul in 1 Cor. 7:11 and 39, as also universally commended by the Church Fathers of the 1st through 4th centuries, most notably and dramatically by Hermes in the early writing, The Shepherd of Hermas. Pleading with God to snatch our backsliding loved ones from the fire, we are sensitized to the deep significance and symbolism of covenant. We spend much time bolstering our faith against the cultural censure of virtually everyone around us by studying God’s character in His entering into various biblical covenants, especially the exclusive one with us and the companion of our youth, as He did on our wedding day, when HE made us uniquely, irrevocably one-flesh and declared over us “they are no more two, but one flesh. What I have joined, let NO MAN separate.”
The supernatural element of that joining cannot be replicated in any adulterous “marriage” because it lacks God’s participation – He is still uniquely in covenant with the rightful union and will never exit that covenant until the physical death of one of us. Paul bluntly points out in 1 Cor. 6:15, that any man can join himself (and Christ along with him) to a prostitute or adultery partner. However this only makes him one body with him or her in a non-transcendant way, Greek “soma” σῶμά.
Yet this can be contrasted with quite a different Greek word “sarka” σάρκα found in Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:8 and Ephesians 5:31, accompanied by another Greek word synezeuxen συνέζευξεν for “joined together” (Matthew 19:6 and 9; Mark 10:9), something supernatural that only God accomplishes during the Kingdom-lawful wedding, where there is not a prior undissolved marriage covenant, (that is, an estranged living spouse) as Jesus Himself described. We see a third Greek word, proskollēthēsetai προσκολληθήσεται meaning “to cleave together” (Mark 10:7; Ephesians 5:31)
which may be more of a process beyond the ceremony in its future indicative passive usage. By way of further contrast with the illicit “joining” of 1 Cor. 6, the counterpart word for “join with” used there is κολλώμενος (kollōmenos) with a present participle tense, middle or passive voice. Lacking our holy God’s approval or participation, this joining is transitory and gratuitous, it is defiling of mind, body and soul even if a civil or ecclesiastical piece of paper comes to endorse it. Unlike holy matrimony where God’s hand makes them sarx σὰρξ mia μία (one flesh) and they are no longer two but one, and they cannot be unjoined except by death, the illicit joining or the unlawful marriage of serial adulterers characterized by κολλώμενος (kollōmenos) and hen ἓν sōma σῶμά , though these will create an evil soul-tie, they not only can be separated, they must be terminated to avoid falling away from the Lord due to idolatry and a hardened heart against God (Ezra, chapters 9 and 10; John 8:11; 1 Cor. 6:10-11; Gal. 4:30; Gal. 5:21; Gal. 6:7-8; Heb. 13:4) .
(Picture by Sharon Henry)
The truth is, it is impossible to interpret any of the many scriptures on marriage, divorce or (the presumption of) remarriage correctly without thoroughly understanding the covenants God made with mankind, as well as His character in interacting with those covenants, and what, if anything, actually breaks a covenant in which He participates. Get that foundation right, and all fallacy, though it is culturally unpopular to stand on the undiluted truth, is easily avoided. Ignorance of covenant, or a faulty and incomplete understanding of covenant, always leads to profound violation of God’s law from error in rightly dividing His word.
The Hebrew word for covenant is berith, which according to Drs. David W. Jones and John K. Tarwater, “Are Biblical Covenants Dissoluble? Toward a Theology of Marriage,” Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Vol. 7, No. 38, September 18 to September 24, 2005, the basic and original meaning was that of a legal union which was established by a simple act of the will on the part of the more powerful party. In a two-party dissoluble legal civil union without God’s participation, this is usually but not always the husband or dominant provider. In a covenant marriage, which is an irrevocable three-party union, this would be God making the unilateral covenant with the two spouses whom He has supernaturally and exclusively joined as one-flesh:
Yet you ask, Why does He reject [the husbands offering]? Because the Lord was witness [to the covenant made at your marriage] between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously and to whom you were faithless. Yet she IS your companion and the wife of your covenant [made by your marriage vows]. And did not God make [you and your wife] one [flesh]? Did not One make you and preserve your spirit alive? And why [did God make you two] one? Because He sought a godly offspring [from your union]. Therefore take heed to yourselves, and let no one deal treacherously and be faithless to the wife of his youth.
– Malachi 2:14-15
GOD’S CHARACTER IN COVENANT:
“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? “ – Numbers 23:19
“When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God.” – Ecclesiastes 5:4-7
Perhaps we “standers” are prone to assume (wrongly) that learned theologians are as keenly aware of these momentous aspects of being in covenant with God as we are; that they’d be as aware as we are of the implications that only death breaks the marriage covenant, and that God stands with us forever after a wayward spouse attempts to prolong their flight from Him by contracting a civil-only remarriage which purports to legalize their adultery through the transgressing Church’s fraudulent blessing.
We recently re-published in book series the excellent 1957 work by Rev. Milton T. Wells, “Does Divorce Dissolve Marriage?” That faithful book of detailed hermeneutic support for the indissolubility of covenant marriage also did not address a detailed discussion of God’s character in covenant, and this is SIFC’s only complaint about that work, if one can be stated. In general, the more an expositor understands about God’s covenant nature, the less prone they are to making the sorts of erroneous comparisons mentioned above, or of condoning a continuing state of remarriage adultery at the expense of the participants’ souls, as if God is a disinterested bystander. Even a casual reading of Ezekiel 34 should make it clear that He is far from disinterested!
If Dr. Wells had been writing his book in 2007 instead of 1957, he might very well have made a different decision about not putting on paper what was implicitly understood in his heart as he took his lonely and courageous stand against what was deemed “the right side of history” in his day. But then again, such a scathing, authoritative and comprehensive biblical rebuke of the then-emerging spirit that has, in the years since the enactment of unilateral divorce, evolved into the entrenched system he never lived to see, of serial polygamy impacting some 60% of any evangelical congregation, denominational membership and pulpit. Such a book would never have achieved, in 2007, a Foreword written by the General Superintendent of his denomination! Indeed, in the early 2000’s, that denomination made it compulsory for their shepherds to mock God by performing adulterous weddings, where only 30 years earlier AOG by-laws removed from fellowship any of their shepherds who performed a wedding over anyone who had an estranged living spouse.
We should know that a holy, righteous God always keeps His unconditional promises, and more often than not, still patiently keeps His conditional promises for a long season when the other party fails to hold up their end (Numbers 23:19; Deuteronomy 7:9; Malachi 3:6; 2 Peter 3:8-9) .
Jones and Tarwater characterize God’s covenants (in which He unconditionally participates) by three distinctives:
(1) the language used to establish the covenant – “I will”, “I will not forget”, “remember…” , “cannot be annulled”.
(2) the manner in which established – oaths and tokens or symbols, blessings and curses, elaborate ceremonies.
(3) His handling of covenant violations – consequences and restoration rather than dissolution or nullification.
This latter point is probably the most distinctive of any covenant in which God is a participant. Spiritual adultery, in incident after incident, marked the entire 40-year Exodus journey, and in fact, prolonged it. Even Moses, God’s anointed leader wasn’t immune. There would have been no nation of Israel established if God’s covenant with Abraham or Moses had been wholly conditional. Solomon’s physical and spiritual adultery resulted in an evil line of progeny along with his godly descendants. Had God’s covenant with David been revocable, nullified by the generational sin of adultery running in his family, would we have been sent a Savior or ever know the comfort and counsel of the Holy Spirit?
No, instead of divorce being the penalty for breaking faith with God, He cries out “return to Me, for I am married to you“! (Jer. 3:14) He chastises us rather than divorce us. Hebrews 12:7-9 says:
“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? “
British theologian David Pawson’s videos, “The Five Covenants of God“ (2009) give this kind of deep understanding of covenant. He is one of the most prominent contemporary teachers of the biblical permanence of marriage which extends to the exclusion of non-widowed remarriage, according to the explicit and unconditional prohibition of Jesus Christ.
Rev. Pawson explains that the word “Testament” actually means “Covenant”, and laments that the two major divisions of the Bible were not called “Old Covenant ” and “New Covenant”. He further echoes that scripture cannot be properly interpreted without thorough understanding of the five major covenants of the Bible, and carrying forward the context into understanding passages of scripture. He suggests that God’s covenants should in each case be studied by understanding these five crucial element of each:
- The part(ies) with whom it is made
- The specific promise that is made
- Whether it is unconditional or conditional, and whether there is some expectation of God attached that is not a condition
- The duration of the covenant
- The purpose God gives for His making the covenant
1. Noahic Covenant (unconditional) Gen 9: 8-17
Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”.
- Made with: all mankind
- Promised: seasons, sun, rain, and food (plants and animals); never destroy all of mankind and creatures again
- Duration: for as long as the earth remains
- Purpose: that He would once again have a large human family
Expectation: HONOR LIFE (not a condition)
Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. …. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man….Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God
He made man. “As for you, be fruitful and multiply;
Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.”
God always “marries” us, and provides the symbol or token thereof. In this case, the sign or token of His covenant, His “wedding ring” was the rainbow, by which He said He’d remember His vow when men became wayward again and not destroy all of mankind with water ever again. As what Jesus described in Matthew 24 with the “days of Noah” re-manifesting, is it any coincidence or just a strange irony that He looks down today on His mockers who drape themselves in a so-desecrated U.S. flag? Therein is the reason why God only created marriage, why He did not create or ever condone dissolution of marriage (as opposed to a finite season of separation with reconciliation), and why He deems remarriage while a spouse lives to always be adultery.
Result: God has unconditionally kept this promise even though men have repeatedly failed to honor life in their national laws and individually.
2. Abrahamic Covenant (unconditional & partially conditional) Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 15:6-11,18; Genesis 17:4-8
Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed….
Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. And He said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it. ” He said, “O Lord God, how may I know that I will possess it?” So He said to him, “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds…. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying,
“To your descendants I have given this land,
From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates….”
As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you,
And you will be the father of a multitude of nations.
“No longer shall your name be called Abram,
But your name shall be Abraham;
For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.
I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”
- Made with: all Abraham & descendants; all other nations
- Unconditional and conditional elements
- Promised: land and descendents; bless those who bless his family; curse those who curse his family
- Duration: Forever
- Purpose: Establish the nation of Israel; establish ownership of the land
Expectation: faith in God’s future delivery of ownership (not in his life or next several generations); circumcision as a mark of family identity
God married into Abraham’s family by taking the name “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Result: God has repeatedly and dramatically kept this covenant regardless of Israel’s seasons of idolatry and even her apostasy, restoring Israel twice as a nation after long seasons of exile, and dealing forcefully with her many enemies, even in contemporary times.
3. Mosaic Covenant Exodus 19:5-6; Exodus 20:1-17; 23:22-33
“”Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
I am the Lord your God,who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house ofslavery.
“You shall have no other gods before Me.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them. You shall not worship their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their deeds; but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their sacred pillars in pieces. But you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst. There shall be no one miscarrying or barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28 I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you. I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land. I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods. They shall not live in your land, because they will make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”
- Made with: Moses and the nation of Israel
- Conditional – based on 613 laws & Ten Commandments
- Promised: Prosperity and security if they obey God’s laws; exile and adversity if not
- Duration: Until the Messiah and the New Covenant
- Purpose: Occupy the land and build the nation; destroy pagan nations
Expectation: Atone for breach of the law by animal and other sacrifices in the temple.
The sign or token in this case was the stone tablets on which God wrote the law that would sanctify His people, and the Ark of the Covenant in which they travelled and rested.
Result: God delivered on the positive and negative promises according to Israel’s obedience or disobedience until He sent His son. After Jesus went to the cross, this Old Covenant was replaced (superceded) with the New (Messianic) Covenant.
4. Davidic Covenant 2 Sam. 7; 2 Chronicles 13:1-18
The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you. 12 When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, 15 but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”
“Now there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. 3 Abijah began the battle with an army of valiant warriors, 400,000 chosen men, while Jeroboam drew up in battle formation against him with 800,000 chosen men who were valiant warriors. Then Abijah stood on Mount Zemaraim, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, and said, “Listen to me, Jeroboam and all Israel: 5 Do you not know that the Lord God of Israel gave the rule over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt?”
- Made with: Israel and the lineage of David; all mankind with regard to Christ’s kingdom
- Promised: The King of Kings will come from David’s lineage and reign forever
- Duration: Forever
- Purpose: Set up Christ’s ultimate rule and reign over the earth and all nature and mankind
We learn years after David’s death that the symbol for this covenant was salt (2 Chronicles 13:5), similar to the covenant of salt God made with the Levites (Numbers 18:19) to forever provide for them though they would not have an allotment of land. Salt is symbolic as a preservative, just as true, non-adulterous covenant marriage is a preservative in society at-large, and the line of David would one day bring forth Jesus who would perfect and secure for our ability to become that preservative by the Holy Spirit He sent after Him. Our covenant marriage does not need to remain civilly intact in order to have an even stronger preservative effect in an immoral and rebellious society, precisely because it remains intact and indissoluble in the kingdom of God. Sometimes a whisper is heard loudest among the shouts of evil, as salty disciples stand in covenant with God in transcendence of the immoral pronouncements of unrighteous magistrates and apostate shepherds. Many who have done so can testify that civil rightness can be restored overnight after decades of Satan having his evil way, because God is universally faithful to all of His covenants, even when we fallible humans are not.
Result: Jesus was born out of the lineage of David, as promised, despite much of that lineage being corrupt and unfaithful. Many subsequent prophecies of His birth, life and ministries came to pass, while we see signs almost daily that the remainder are coming to pass.
5. Messianic Covenant Jeremiah 31:31-33; Isaiah 9:6-7, 53:4-12; Ezekiel 36:22-36; Hebrews 8:13
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” …..
Jeremiah’s prophecy reflects the promise portion of the New Covenant, which replaces the Mosaic Covenant’s 613 regulations. In their place, God’s law will be internal rather than external; written on our hearts so that we want to honor Him and keep His law. He also promised intimacy with Him, and direct access to us as individuals into His presence. This portion of the covenant is also said to represent the action of the FATHER in the holy trinity. The unconditional nature of this covenant also emerges in Jeremiah 3, where Israel’s rebellion and spiritual adultery causes Him to separate from her for a while, but in Jeremiah 3:14, He says “return to Me, for I am married to you.” Indeed, the gist of the Messianic Covenant is the re-establishment and restoration of Israel after she rejected His Son.
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness….
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
3 He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
9 His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
10 But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
11 As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.
Isaiah’s prophecy also forms a part of the Messianic Covenant, focusing on the SON in the holy trinity, promising us both a suffering servant and a reigning, eternal King.
Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. 23 I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord,” declares the Lord God, “when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. 24 For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. 25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. 28 You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God. 29 Moreover, I will save you from all your uncleanness; and I will call for the grain and multiply it, and I will not bring a famine on you. 30 I will multiply the fruit of the tree and the produce of the field, so that you will not receive again the disgrace of famine among the nations. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and your abominations. 32 I am not doing this for your sake,” declares the Lord God, “let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel!”
33 ‘Thus says the Lord God, “On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places will be rebuilt. 34 The desolate land will be cultivated instead of being a desolation in the sight of everyone who passes by. 35 They will say, ‘This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste, desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited.’ 36 Then the nations that are left round about you will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted that which was desolate; I, the Lord, have spoken and will do it.”
Ezekiel’s prophecies reveal the means the Lord intended to use to bring about His Kingdom in regenerated hearts by sending the HOLY SPIRIT and sealing individuals with Him. This completes the symbolic trinity embedded within this last of the major covenants.
- Made with: all mankind and the nation of Israel
- Unconditional toward mankind and Israel, and conditional upon appropriation by the individual
- Promised: Replacement of the Mosaic Covenant; the sacrifice of His Son for the sins of all; God’s law written on our hearts; the comfort of the Holy Spirit to guide individuals
- Duration: Forever
- Purpose: Redeem mankind to Himself and reverse the curse of Adam
The Messianic Covenant supercedes the Mosaic Covenant for all those who individually appropriate it, and the conditional Mosaic Covenant now fails for all those who do not. This mostly conditional covenant is the only example to be found of a covenant of God that is no longer in full force:
“When God speaks of a new [covenant or agreement], He makes the first one obsolete (out of use). And what is obsolete (out of use and annulled because of age) is ripe for disappearance and to be dispensed with altogether.” Hebrews 8:13 (AMP)
Many who deeply misunderstand God’s character in covenant would brazenly misapply this last passage to serial adulterous re-“marriages” in our evil day of unilateral divorce, but we must ask ourselves, did God not already speak (Matt. 19:5-6; Mark 10:8-9)? Who, then, is actually speaking in this case? Is not the clergyman who vainly pronounces holy matrimony over an adulterous union actually violating the third commandment and taking the Lord’s name in vain?
The symbol of the Messianic covenant is, of course, the cross, but also the empty tomb. However, a very important covenant symbol must not be overlooked: Jesus ceremoniously and symbolically stepped through the entire traditional kiddushin during the last supper in the upper room just before his betrayal and arrest, the culturally-distinctive Hebrew betrothal ceremony by which brides were deemed to be legally married to their Hebrew husbands, typically a year before consummation of the marriage. This became the basis of the sacrament of communion, and it set up for the marriage supper of the Lamb to come in heaven – yet another symbolic covenant.
God’s covenants are always highly symbolic. An important facet of God’s character is that He jealously guards His symbols. Defilement of His symbols, according to several biblical accounts, always yields seemingly disproportionate consequences. Here are just three randomly-selected instances where God showed extreme jealousy for what men might see as “minor” compromises of His covenant symbols:
(1) Moses struck the rock (Numbers 20:8-12) instead of speaking to it to bring forth water as instructed. This disobedience cost Moses his opportunity to enter the promised land. It turns out the rock was symbolic of Jesus Himself.
(2) Priests touched the Ark of the Covenant, containing the very symbol of the Mosaic covenant, when it started to fall from the cart it was being carried on, dying instantly. Priests had been warned to only carry it by the poles that fit the rings in its side. (1 Chronicles 13:9-10).
(3) Two rulers (Saul and Uzziah) were rebuked for offering sacrifices or burning incense in place of the priests, violating the inner temple which was of symbolic construction, and also violating the covenant of salt God had made with the Levites to whom He appointed this task. The penalty for this in Saul’s case was loss of his kingdom to his entire line (perhaps symbolic for not inheriting the kingdom of God), and instant leprosy in Uzziah’s case, which effectively ended his kingship in several actual and symbolic ways. (1 Samuel 13; 2 Chronicles 26)
Jesus is not only the suffering Servant, reigning King, and the Messiah. He is, from Matthew to Revelation, the faithful and true Bridegroom!
In all, Jones and Tarwater catalogue a total 267 Old Testament covenants (“I will”) and 34 New Testament covenants, finding none that were of an unconditional nature that ever failed to be kept by God unconditionally. Their work also explores, and convincingly refutes, the work of other scholars who have sought to argue otherwise, such as Andreas Kostenberger, William Heth, and Gordon Hugenberger.
(Picture by Sharon Henry)
With the immoral civil laws of men that presumed to eviscerate the permanence element of Christ’s law of covenant marriage (Matt. 19:6), now poised to adjudicate away the other non-negotiable element, complementarity (Matt. 19:4), we find ourselves arriving where Jesus foretold we would be as a result of our societal covenant violations:
“Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved....For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.” – Matthew 24: 12-13,37-41
Indeed, none of this is taking the Omniscient One by surprise, and neither has He failed to make divine, advance preparation for it in the very design of the supernatural joining in marriage. One-flesh is unique and has no counterfeit because it has a divine purpose “for such a time as this”.
Solomon wrote: “ Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up”. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Paul reassured and inspired with his timely words: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. ” – 1 Cor. 7:14
And with these: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ….” – 2 Cor. 10:3-5
To be sure, there were earlier lawless days, such as in the Eastern Roman Empire, where God’s design for marriage was nearly expunged through enactment of unilateral civil divorce, but God’s rescue came through historical events that brought down those wicked principalities before homosexual desecration of marriage could gain a foothold. Arguably, these days are more evil than those because now homosexualism has the upper hand, with the solid bedrock of marital permanence once again civilly expunged, and more families fragmented than not, as a result. Could God have foreseen the massive need for a spiritual weapon that is unique to divinely-joined couples, when He said “they are no longer two but one flesh?”
Since He looks on two whom He has divinely and irrevocably joined supernaturally with His own hands, and only sees one person–with whom He remains in covenant, may a wife supernaturally continue in her role as helpmate without her husband’s actual presence, and fill a role that his adultery partner, even with a replacement civil marriage license can never fulfill for him? Can a husband take communion for his born-again, but apostate, covenant wife due to this act fulfilling, to the best of his circumstances, his continuing role before God to be spiritually accountable for his family? Is the bread not also emblematic of the one-flesh entity He joined, partaking together? Is the cup not the symbol of the same marriage covenant? Is not such an implement of spiritual warfare especially fitted to this evil day?
According to Dr. Tony Evans, covenant is important to prayer used in spiritual warfare as well. As he states in the book Kingdom Woman (page 120),
“See there is more that can get God’s attention than His relationship with you, His compassion toward you, or even the sake of His name. As a child of the King, you have fallen heir to “legal rights.” These “rights” exist because of the new covenant that you came into when you trusted Jesus Christ for your salvation. The issue that you may be facing or struggling with today may be an issue of the covenant. If it is, you are free to appeal to God”….[speaking of the widow and the unrighteous judge]…”The judge’s reputation was at stake, since he was not upholding the law, and ultimately was obligated to the law. God is a God of covenant. He is also a God of His word. He has obligated Himself to His own Word. He has tied His name and reputation to what He has said…”
This sums up well God’s character in covenant, and the power of this truth as a weapon of spiritual warfare against a serpent who will never cease the vain attempts to make one-flesh two again.
SIFC began this blog by pointing out that some in kingdom of God may love the Lord, but lack a Spirit-breathed full grasp of His character in covenant. When that happens, the world seeps in, a world that hates the idea of marriage permanence, and a church that misconstrues repentance from adulterous unions ( when dressed up in a marriage license) as “repeat sin”, while it hypocritically will not desist from solemnizing unions that Jesus unambiguously called adulterous. Those who rightly divide God’s word on a technical basis, and agree (in principle) that these remarriages are adultery as Jesus said they are, still need the prayers of standers that the Holy Spirit will write “covenant” on their hearts.
“But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.”
– 1 Cor. 2:14-16
BIOGRAPHIES OF CONTRIBUTORS:
John K. Tarwater is the Director of Student Life and a Professor of Ethics and Church History. He received a Ph.D. in Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Some of his works are featured in Reformed Perspectives, Southwestern Journal of Theology, and World Mission Journal. Dr. Tarwater is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, Society of Biblical Literature, and the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity.
David W. Jones is a professor and author working in the field of Christian ethics. Dr. Jones is currently serving as Professor of Christian Ethics, Associate Dean for Graduate Program Administration, and Director of the Th.M. program at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, NC) where he has been teaching since 2001. Dr. Jones holds a B.S. in pastoral ministries, an M.Div. in pastoral ministry, and a Ph.D. in theological studies with an emphasis in Christian ethics. Dr. Jones’ scholarly interests include biblical ethics, material stewardship (including financial ethics, environmental ethics, and related issues), and topics related to marriage and family life. Dr. Jones serves as a Fellow at the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith & Culture, and is a Research Fellow at the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Rev. J. David Pawson is a British theologian and apologist. B.Sc. in Agriculture, Durham University, M.A. Theology, Wesley House, Cambridge University. Served in the Royal Air Force as a chaplain. Author several books on various Christian living topics.
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