Tag Archives: conditions

What Is God’s Intent With: “Till Death Do Us Part”

The greater part of the church has viewed the duration of a marriage covenant in a fundamentally flawed way, which has steered believers into thinking that God always forbids divorce. This critical flaw needs to be recognized and corrected before the church properly understands God’s will as revealed in scripture on marital divorce and in particular as it relates to God’s children who are unequally yoked in marriage.

Before we get started observe and remember Merriam Webster’s definition of “covenant”: 1. a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement : compact
2. A written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action.

Brief observation: A commonly held but difficult to define belief is seen in the writings of many who hold a prohibitive view on divorce.  This belief or understanding could be called, “The Mystical Covenant of Marriage” because it mystifies the marriage relationship almost morphing it into something entirely different than the agreement between two people, which is its actual meaning or function.

The common belief regarding the marriage covenant has many forms, but in the final analysis it is the belief that a marriage covenant is so much more than an agreement between two or more parties. The belief has an ethereal aura about it as its possessors never reveal what exactly is meant by “so much more” than an agreement, but one thing is clear: Marriage covenants, as these people envision them, do not follow the laws of a covenant. Marriage covenants have taken on magical qualities instead of righteous, moral and legal qualities that normally govern covenants. It would seem that those who hold to this idea want to raise covenants to a higher plane were it is not required to stay within the bounds of scripture and reason. Of course, no such plane exists—covenants do not have mystical qualities. Reason and scripture are sufficient for all to comprehend truth.

Placing a concept into the unknown, untouchable realm is a ploy of those who want to go beyond what God has revealed in His word. If someone thinks a covenant is more than an agreement, then they should spell out the details plainly for one and all to see. But of course, this cannot be done because a covenant is merely an agreement between two or more parties.  Like any other agreement, marriage covenants must logically function as covenants are intended to function. The expected fallout for ignoring the moral, righteous and legal aspects of marriage covenants is tremendous injury to God’s people, which is precisely what has taken place for centuries–expressly it is God’s people who have been so terribly injured by this man-made injunction against divorce for those saints unequally yoked in marriage.

One brave soul who holds the mystical understanding of covenants attempted to demonstrate how marital covenants operate by rules that no other covenants are bond under. Gary Chapman’s five points below will illustrate how covenants are viewed as mystical. To be fair Chapman is comparing the idea of a marriage contract with what the bible calls a marriage covenant. Obviously many people enter marriage with the idea that they can always get out if they so choose anytime they desire. Christians must not overreact in their response to the sins of the culture.  Making divorce unattainable to those for whom God has provided it is every bit as sinful as breaking marriage covenants whenever one pleases for any reason whatsoever.

The reader will see that Chapman’s points defy scripture and reason, which demonstrates a desire to establish the marriage covenant as a mystical union that cannot be broken for any reason. We will first show Chapman’s points and then briefly rebut each one.

Chapman‘s Five Covenant Characteristics

“A covenant, like a contract, is an agreement between two or more persons, but the nature of the agreement is different.  The biblical pattern reveals five characteristics of covenants.”
1. Covenants are initiated for the benefit of the other person.

“Many of us can honestly say that we entered marriage motivated by the deep desire to benefit the person we were about to marry. Our intention was to make them happy. However, when needs aren’t met, spouses can revert to a contract mentality.”

Blog Author:

Chapman first states that a covenant is an agreement, but the nature of the agreement is different.  This statement is illogical.  If a covenant is an agreement, which is precisely what it is, then its nature must be that of an agreement as well.  Chapman’s logical failure here and elsewhere is that he begins with the premise that God hates divorce and His children can never get divorced and then builds backwards to defend his premise.  Therefore his premise is both the foundation and the conclusion to his argument, which in this case is also contrary to reason.

Chapman states that “people enter marriage covenants to benefit the other person.”

Certainly some measure of this had better be true, but the reality is that covenants are enacted for the benefit or protection of both parties, and each enters into a covenant primarily to protect themselves.  This is not selfish, but wise.

Covenants are not required to act in ways that will benefit others.  Neither does it require a covenant to continue being a victim to an abusive person.  People regularly engage in both of these behaviors without a covenant in place.

Although each partner in a covenant should be considering seriously the promises they are making they must not lose site of the promises being made to them because those are the promises that their own good performance cannot guarantee.  The covenant is a binding agreement between two or more parties.  Two equal parties should expect to benefit equally if the covenant is operating correctly.  This balance is what makes the relationship flourish and keeps the covenant going strong.  The purpose of a covenant is to protect both signatories from deceptive or wicked behavior from the other.  However, no protection can be obtained once divorce has been removed from the equation.  If the innocent partner cannot divorce themselves from the wicked partner, then the wicked partner has no motivation to repent of their wickedness.

Chapman:

2. “In covenant relationships people make unconditional promises.
Covenant marriages are characterized by unconditional promises, such as those spoken in traditional wedding vows.”

Blog Author:

Chapman is simply wrong.  First of all, he refers to “marriage” here as “covenant marriages”, with which he apparently means to divide marriage into two classes: Covenant marriages and contract marriages.  God instituted marriage and it is what it is.  People either enter marriage or they do not, but two different types of marriage do not exist.  If Chapman can get his readers to buy into the notion that two types of marriage exist, then he could argue that the one that cannot be dissolved is far better than the one that can be, but two types of marriage do not exist.  In addition, his statement is illogical.  If two types of marriage did exist, then the one that could be dissolved would be far better than the one that could not be dissolved–not merely for the sake of dissolution, but for the protection of any innocent partner should the other partner be deceitful and wicked.

Now as for Chapman’s primary proposition that “in covenant relationships people make unconditional promises” he is also quite wrong.  In covenant relationships people make conditional promises.

Unconditional promises are simply untenable in a world populated by sinners.  Unconditional promises sounds like a fruit of unconditional love.  Unconditional love is very much misunderstood by most Christians.  God chose a people for Himself and His choice was unconditional, which means that he did not choose them because of anything good that he saw in them.  His choice was entirely due to his own good pleasure.  Thus it can be said that God has unconditionally loved his own children.  However, when God unconditionally loves an undeserving sinner he transforms that sinner by forgiving him of his sins, by granting him the righteousness of Christ, and by giving him the gift of the Holy Spirit who continues the work that the Father has begun in that person—a work of sanctification.

Note: Martin Luther’s first of his ninety-five theses was that everyday of the Christian’s life is to be one of daily repentance.  God does not have any perpetually rebellious children whom He continues loving in spite of their refusal to repent.  This is a picture that is uniquely humanistic.  Because men do not have God’s power to transform wicked people into saints, their claims of unconditional love from one human to another will often be detrimental to the person being “unconditionally loved”.  A sense of entitlement grows into a destructive self-centeredness that sees others as a means to serve their ends.  Becoming narcissists, they learn to view others with contempt and expect to be served and worshiped.  As can be easily seen this relationship is even worse for the person who thinks they can unconditionally love an unrepentant sinner–something even God does not do as mentioned just a moment ago.

Chapman:

3. Covenant relationships are based on steadfast love.

“In a marriage, steadfast love refuses to focus on the negative aspects of one’s spouse. Steadfast love is a choice.”

Blog Author:

Covenant relationships are based on keeping the conditions of the covenant including love.

Steadfast love sounds similar to scriptures oft repeated “everIasting lovingkindness of God”, but that’s God. If human love were steadfast, then the fall would not have taken place and sin would not exist. Covenants exist because human love is anything but steadfast. The reader must guard against being too romantic on this point. Though the heart wants to agree with Chapman the mind knows better.

Nevertheless, fallen man cannot love apart from God who is love. Do men have some great relationships? Yes, but why? Are they entirely altruistic? In a fallen world the answer is never. Not even in a fallen world where a chosen few have been set apart by/for God. Good relationships between men exist because both sides are getting something out of the relationship, which is why marriage needs a covenant that has conditions that must be met in order to secure the marriage benefits.

Chapman:

4. Covenant relationships view commitments as permanent.

“Unquestionably the biblical ideal is one man and one woman married to each other for life.  As Christians, we must not lower the ideal.  This standard can only be attained if we practice the fifth characteristic of covenants.”

Blog Author:

Chapman’s statement is so unbelievably illogical.  When a person makes a commitment he obligates himself.  Only when he keeps his obligation is his commitment permanent.  But the second he loses site of his obligation or just simply ignores it, then his commitment is worthless and void–it proves to be temporary–not at all permanent.

Therefore, covenant relationships view commitments as obligations.  If and when those obligations are kept, then those commitments prove to have been permanent.  This can never be known up front.  There is always the possibility that a marriage partner will break their commitments to which they obligated themselves.  This is why God provided marital divorce to protect the innocent spouse.  As Jesus said, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way” (Matthew 19:8).  So then, Jesus is saying that prior to the fall commitments could be relied upon, but since men’s hearts became hard divorce is God’s remedy to protect the innocent spouses from covenant breakers–those who refuse to be obligated to keep their commitments.

Since we all live in a fallen world human commitments are as reliable as human love. God’s word instructs His children not to take vows because their word should be enough. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.”  It is all fine and good to say a commitment should be permanent, but what should the proper response be to those who will not be obligated to keep their commitments?  It is unwise to reward such behavior.  Wisdom dictates strong negative consequences for such.  Destruction, brokenness and ultimately death and eternal damnation await these scoundrels.  How foolish it is to insist God’s children remain united to them in this lifetime.  “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate God and thus bring the wrath of God upon yourself?” (2 Chron. 19:2)

Chapman:

5. Covenant relationships require confrontation and forgiveness.

“These two responses are essential in a covenant marriage.  Confrontation means holding the other person responsible for his or her actions.  Forgiving means a willingness to lift the penalty and continue a loving, growing relationship.  Ignoring the failures of your spouse isn’t the road to marital growth.”

Blog Author:

Of the five points this is the only solid one, but Chapman applies it so very poorly.

The outcome of confrontation and forgiveness is entirely dependent upon the participants.  With two penitents a good outcome should be expected.  With one penitent and one unrepentant soul a separation should be the outcome.  And with two unrepentant souls a godless free-for-all can be the expected outcome.  Come what may, confrontation will end in one of two ways.  The offender can either repent or rebel.  Repentance brings about reconciliation.  Rebellion destroys and tears apart relationships.

Thus it is not up to the faithful partner to determine the outcome.  Forgiveness can be offered regardless of the direction that the treacherous spouse takes, but wisdom still insists that the innocent partner be removed from the evil, unrepentant partner.  A house divided against itself cannot stand.  Chapman says, “Forgiving means a willingness to lift the penalty and continue a loving, growing relationship.”  First of all, God did not lift the penalty—He paid it.  Men, unlike God cannot forgive another man of his sins so as to transform him.  Man’s forgiveness lies in his determination to not seek vengeance, but wisdom demands a separation between good and evil people.  “Do not be bound together with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14).  No matter how good and godly a man is he cannot have “a loving, growing relationship” with the godless.  If you doubt this, just refresh your memory of the story of Jehoshaphat and his son in 2 Chronicles.  God’s children can be loving and kind to the children of Satan, but they cannot have growing relationships with them.

At least Gary Chapman had the bold integrity to make an attempt at explaining why so many see covenants as something mystical and more than agreements.  However, in so doing he removes the mystical nature and gives arguments that can be refuted, which is why most will not define their meaning in calling marriage a mystical union.  Nevertheless, both scripture and reason dictate that a covenant is an agreement…nothing less and nothing more.  An agreement by any other name is still an agreement, and it must follow the laws of agreements.

Defining Covenants

A covenant is an agreement.  It is legally binding both by God’s laws and by the laws of world governments.  Covenants are, generally speaking, legal documents that bind two or more people together for a specific purpose for a predetermined amount of time.  Covenants are made up of several components.

The three primary components are as follows:

1st THE BENEFIT (or promise), without which there would be no motivation to become party to a covenant. Most people are appropriately leery of signing legal agreements or covenants because they realize that the signatories will be obligated to perform whatever they agreed to well into the future. Therefore only two types of people willingly enter into covenants: first, those who perceive the BENEFIT of the covenant to far outweigh the obligations to which they place themselves under, and secondly, those treacherous scoundrels who have little or no intention of keeping the obligations of the covenant.

The 2nd primary component is THE CONDITION(S), without which the BENEFIT would not likely be obtained or realized. When a wicked party to a covenant ceases to meet their obligation of fulfilling the CONDITIONS, then the BENEFIT should stop being awarded to that party. If the BENEFIT continues to be made available to the offending party, then the innocent party becomes the foolish party as 2 Thes. 3:10 suggests:“If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat either.” This is not a divorce thing, it is a wisdom thing. It is unwise to remain in an agreement that is injurious to you (Prov. 6:1-5), it is unwise to trade with someone using a false balance and scales, it is unwise to continue being a victim, it is unwise to allow another to intentionally or unintentionally take advantage of you, etc.

The 3rd primary component is THE DURATION, without which one’s obligations would never end.  The DURATION is why there are one year leases on apartments, a three year lease on a car, a 15 year house mortgage and so on.  Some people mistakenly think that a marriage covenant has a perpetual DURATION, but they are wrong.  Some of the shortest covenants ever made have been marriage covenants, because as soon as one of the two parties dies the covenant is kaput.  Even the best marriages will not continue in heaven.

We will briefly take a closer look at these three important components of a marriage covenant.

Much of the church has fundamentally misunderstood the DURATION in a marriage covenant.  Why?

The DURATION has some aspects of a BENEFIT and some aspects of the CONDITIONS but remains its own aspect of a covenant.

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The church’s fundamental flaw has been to understand or categorize the DURATION, in essence, as though it were one of the CONDITIONS.  The reality is that DURATION is a distinct aspect of a covenant as are CONDITIONS and BENEFITS.  All three are distinct from one another, but the church has tried to subject DURATION under the CONDITIONS.

In so doing they entirely discounted and even slighted the DURATION’S ability to add to the BENEFITS.  Understanding DURATION in this light caused the church to think that a divorce is itself the breaking of a CONDITION when in fact a divorce is merely recognition and acceptance that both the covenant and its DURATION have been terminated due to the CONDITIONS being violated.

The very existence of the CONDITIONS logically establishes the possibility of a second DURATION.  The obvious intended duration (“From the beginning”, prior to the fall) was forever.  Once sin entered the garden of Eden, then the intended duration was changed until death.  However, sin entering into the marriage covenant added a second possible duration, which is the breaking of the CONDITIONS of the covenant.  Taking the hard-heartedness of man (due to the fall) into the equation the DURATION of marriage covenants are 1. Until the death of one or both parties (Death did not enter the world until the fall into sin), or 2. Until one or both parties violate the CONDITIONS due to sinfulness.

Therefore, the flawed understanding of DURATION (viewing it as a CONDITION) allows churchmen to think that an innocent partner’s divorce action, in response to their spouse’s refusal to keep the CONDITIONS, is tantamount to returning evil for evil because the innocent party in so doing would be breaking the CONDTION of a life-long DURATION.  Obviously the problem with this reasoning is that the DURATION is not a CONDITION; therefore, when the DURATION comes to an abrupt end, due to the violation of the conditions, the faithful party is no longer bound by the covenant, so the faithful party does not transgress the CONDITIONS or any other of God’s laws in divorcing and marrying another in the Lord.  In this scenario the innocent partner has merely recognized a spiritual reality that the DURATION of their marriage covenant has concluded due to the violation or transgression of the CONDITIONS by their partner; a divorce is the legal acknowledgement of the spiritual reality already existing.

There is one exception in which DURATION does have the appearance of sharing the aspect of CONDITION:

So then, when does DURATION have the appearance of a CONDITION? The DURATION of a marriage covenant itself looks like a CONDITION when either party seeks a divorce without any apparent broken CONDITIONS.  This seems to be the scenario in Matthew 19 when the Pharisees are questioning Jesus about divorce for any reason at all.  Jesus rightly understood that these religious leaders were committing adultery, under the cover of darkness, and wanted to use divorce to make their sin appear to be a legal divorce action.  So Jesus called their use of divorce adultery because adultery was the sin they were committing and divorce was the rouse they had hoped to use to justify their sin of adultery.

It is very common for the breaking of marital conditions to be done under the cover of darkness, which means that nobody knows that one or more conditions of the marriage covenant have been broken.  Very often even the innocent marriage partner does not know that the covenant has been broken.  It is not until this information comes into the light that the innocent marriage partner can begin to think about what has happened and what their response must be.  In the absence of broken CONDITIONS, and hence a broken covenant, the married couple still belong to one another and a relationship with a third party (including a new marriage) would be adulterous.  In this case and only in this case the DURATION has the appearance of a CONDITION.

The DURATION can also share the aspect of BENEFIT:

And how does DURATION share the aspect of BENEFIT?  The relationship between BENEFIT and DURATION is much closer than the relationship between CONDITIONS and DURATION.  If the marriage covenant is beneficial, then the longer it’s DURATION the greater it’s BENEFIT.  This is easily seen in all godly marriages.  When a believing man and his believing wife are deeply in love with one another they never want this love relationship to end, so the longest possible DURATION enhances the BENEFIT to the married couple.  If marriages were like child raising and this deeply loving Christian marriage had to end in twenty years it is apparent how this married couple would greatly prefer a life-long covenant and view such as a BENEFIT.

As another example, heaven’s DURATION is eternal.  Nobody understands the eternal DURATION of heaven to be a CONDITION that man must keep.  Rather all joyfully recognize heaven’s DURATION as a divinely granted BENEFIT.  The CONDITION for receiving this BENEFIT for the eternal DURATION of heaven was to be chosen of God and found in Christ Jesus.

Similarly to the false doctrine of marriage being a mystical union the false doctrine on purgatory claims that the BENEFIT of heaven is not really eternal in its DURATION. Without being motivated by a false doctrine nobody in this scenario would ever confuse the BENEFIT of eternal life in heaven with DURATION (hundreds of year in purgatory first).  This shows the damage done by false doctrines when it comes to understanding biblical instructions.

Had the church properly understood that the only way in which the DURATION shares the aspect of CONDITION is when one or both parties seek to exit the covenant without any broken CONDITIONS, then they could have understood the necessity of God’s allowance for divorce when the CONDITIONS were violated.

On the other hand, because the church has failed to understand how the DURATION is much more like a BENEFIT than a CONDITION they have failed to see the wisdom of withdrawing the BENEFIT (a life-long marriage) to an unrepentant scoundrel who routinely violates the CONDITIONS of the marriage covenant.

Note: It is important to bear in mind that the second way in which the DURATION shares the aspect of a BENEFIT is that it also acts as a protection for the innocent party by breaking the covenant in the event of violated CONDITIONS.  If the DURATION does not end once the CONDITIONS are violated, then the marriage BENEFIT becomes an evil affliction, a curse and an impediment to righteousness and sanctification for the faithful spouse, which is why the DURATION is a benefit for the godly partner whether or not the CONDTIONS have been broken.  When the church has forced its members to remain in broken marriages with unrepentant scoundrels the DURATION ceases being a BENEFIT to the faithful spouse as it has been prevented, by a dogma, from functioning as a protection for faithful participants.  In this horrible state of affairs it is the wicked CONDITION violator who now receives a BENEFIT by the DURATION not being concluded or terminated.

Why Did This Happen and To Where Has It Lead?

All the research in the world will not likely uncover the precise moment and the identity of the first theologian to introduce this flawed understanding of the marriage covenant.  No doubt a great researcher could likely nail down the century it began, but no single man is likely the originator though perhaps such a man exists.  Common sense dictates that the prevailing understanding on the marriage covenant’s DURATION was necessarily, albeit subconsciously, manipulated so that it would act more like a CONDITION in order to avoid contradictions in the prevailing view on marriage and divorce.  The prevailing view existed in part because of some strong words found in a few biblical passages that caused people to jump to the conclusion that divorce is never allowed.  The following strong words in scripture have become platitudes that push the unthinking hordes into the direction of restricting divorce in every instance: “God hates divorce”, and “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery”, and “If the unbelieving spouse is willing to stay, then let him stay”.

If divorce is forbidden, then marriages cannot be covenants (Malachi 2:14) because covenants have CONDITIONS that will terminate the DURATION and thereby the covenant.  In order to mesh the forbidden view of divorce with God’s word the marriage covenant had to undertake a metamorphosis.  This transformation of the marriage covenant, no doubt, seemed quite natural as men juxtaposed the marriage covenant with God’s unilateral covenants, which gave the strong impression that man could in no way interfere with either type of covenant.

However, a great distinction exists that was conveniently ignored. God’s unilateral covenants were different in that God promised to keep the conditions for both parties to the covenant.  This clearly does not apply with bilateral marriage covenants between a man and a woman who are both fallen.  Of course the problem is that this metamorphosis only took place in a “man-made concept” about marriage–it is not real.  Because this man-made concept gained wide acceptance, sadly, it has had a huge impact on God’s people.  Most think that the impact has been positive, but it has been, in fact, very negative.  It is always negative when men miss the mark established by the word of God.  It matters little whether they miss the mark on the side of excessive liberty or on the side of restrictive legalism the mark has been missed…man’s will and not God’s has been observed.  And a path of destruction many centuries wide lays in the wake.  May God forgive us and help us hit the mark that He has set before us.

Biblical view on divorce


What is a Covenant? (authorship unknown)

Many of the biblical covenants contained identifiable components comparable to ancient secular agreements. Bradshaw lists the following (1998):
1. Title or preamble, which identified the parties and their relationship to each other.
2. Historical prologue, which explained why the suzerain demanded allegiance from the vassal.
3. Stipulations and law. All secular covenants were conditional, and were nullified through failure to observe the specified conditions (Busenitz 1999, p.180).
4. Deposit in the temple (the heart of society) and periodic public reading.
5. List of witnesses. God Himself was the principle witness in Biblical covenants (Estes 2003).
6. Oaths, ceremonies, and symbols. Every covenant had its accompanying sign. The covenant with Noah had the rainbow, Abraham was given circumcision, and the Mosaic covenant was observed by the Sabbath day (Deffinbaugh 2006a).
7. Sanctions. If the treaty were to be broken the suzerain could declare that act as the agent of the deities and attack the vassal kingdom. Biblical covenants contained blessings and curses which functioned as incentives.

Covenants Between God and Man

When God entered into a relationship with man, He held absolute unilateral sovereignty. He initiated, defined and confirmed each covenant, not on the basis of human merit but solely according to His own grace and mercy. People were “recipients, not contributors” (Van Groningen 1996). There was no “bargaining, bartering, or contracting” with God (Robertson 1980) and yet in all, man retained his power to choose to keep or reject, to obey or transgress. In short, God was wholly responsible for covenantal security. Man’s part was merely to accept and obey (Busenitz 1999, p.179).

The Nature of God’s Covenants

“God’s covenants contain two especially important components: terms and duration. Although humans may reach covenants or other agreements through their own devices, God’s covenants with people are usually unilateral. He alone determines the terms and conditions; humans choose whether to accept them.
“For example, after God clearly defined aspects of the covenant He was making with the nation of Israel, including the blessings for honoring it and the consequences for ignoring it (Leviticus 26;Deuteronomy 28-30), both parties – God and the people of Israel -accepted it. Through this process God and Israel entered into a covenant relationship, a binding commitment to honor and fulfill their respective roles.
“A second important concept for us to understand about God’s covenant with Israel is its continuing relevance to our day. In reaffirming the covenant with the generation of Israelites who were poised to enter the Promised Land, Moses explained that they were doing this “that (God) may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, but with him who stands here with us today before the LORD our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today” (Deuteronomy 29:13-15). The covenant clearly applied to Israel’s descendants as well.”[1]

Given, on the one hand, the unilateral nature of divine covenant and its gracious and promissory nature, while on the other, the presence of stipulations the question of the conditionality or otherwise of individual covenants is a difficult one, and there is diversity of opinion. John Murray understands the answer to be in the relational aspect of the covenant which when present “implies mutuality” so that the conditions “are simply the reciprocal responses of faith, love and obedience, apart from which the enjoyment of the covenant blessing and of the covenant relation are inconceivable. In a word, keeping the covenant presupposes the covenant relation as established rather than the condition upon which its establishment is contingent” (Murray, 19).

The Six Parts to A Covenant

A basic understanding of what a covenant is will help as we study the covenants of the Bible and how they relate to us. There are several covenants mentioned in the Bible and most of them have six basic parts in common, they are the parties, promises, conditions, duration, sign and dedication.
Let us look at how each of these parts of the covenant fit together.

The Parties
A covenant is an agreement or treaty between two people or groups of people.

The Promises
Each party declares his promises to the other party.

The Conditions
Each party is responsible to fulfill his promises. If one fails to keep his promise (breaks the covenant), the other is no longer bound to the covenant.

The Duration
The length of time that the covenant is binding upon each party.

The Sign
Often there is a visual object used as the sign of the covenant. When the parties of the covenant look upon the sign, they are reminded of the covenant. This may be an object (such as a ring in a marriage covenant) or the covenant contract itself.

The Dedication
A dedication is performed, often in the form of a ceremony. This often involves the shedding of blood.


It Is Lawful to Leave a Broken Covenant.

People want simple answers to their questions.  Yes or no, does God’s law allow for marital divorce?  Yes or no, is it lawful to exit a broken covenant?  The problem with simplicity is that it can be limiting or overly restrictive.  Simple answers are insufficient for complicated problems.  And very often biblical doctrines and the application of those doctrines are just too complex to reduce them to simple answers.  Sadly, the people who want nothing more than simple answers can rely upon sloppy theologians who make a living providing simple answers.  Frequently, the outcome of simple answers for the body of Christ is division.  For example, those whose simple answer is that marital divorce is always a sin create a division with those who think divorce is permissible and with those who truly understand the purpose for the components of a covenant.

When one spouse breaks one or more conditions (a component of a covenant) of the marriage covenant their marriage partner is no longer bound by the covenant because it has been broken. For example, when a married man is addicted to pornography and he refuses to get professional help so that he can escape the addiction, he is breaking the covenant’s condition of fidelity to his wife. He is guilty of infidelity by preferring lurid images of strange women to his wife.  In so doing he has broken his marital covenant with his wife.

Now those who define “until death do us part” as a divine prohibition on divorce would say this situation is unfortunate for this woman, but she still must remain faithful even with a broken marriage covenant and a husband who is perpetually committing infidelity. They claim that she would be committing a crime against her husband and a sin against our Lord if she were to break the marriage covenant by divorcing her unfaithful husband. They claim that her vows are broken by her divorcing her husband—vows made in the presence of witnesses and before God.

Where to begin, those who hold to this unbiblical and illogical position should bring forward as evidence the vow that says I shall remain faithful to this covenant regardless of my spouse perpetually breaking the conditions of the covenant. The purpose of the conditions is to assure that both parties are protected from this kind of deception. Covenant conditions exist so that both parties will be assured of receiving the benefits (another component of a covenant) for which they enter the covenant in the first place.

The purpose of a covenant is to convey one or more benefits upon one or both parties to the covenant.  A bilateral covenant (such as the marriage covenant) conveys benefits on each party—otherwise the parties would not bind themselves in a covenant.  A covenant obligates it’s participants.  People do not unnecessarily obligate themselves.  However, people will obligate themselves if there is a desired benefit for doing so.  Keeping the covenant’s conditions allows both parties continued access to the benefit(s) promised.  So when it becomes manifest that either partner to the covenant is breaking one or more conditions of the covenant, then they have effectively broken the covenant itself and are guilty of withholding the promised benefit(s); therefore, the injured covenant partner is no longer bound by the covenant (as it has been broken) freeing them to enter into a new covenant with someone who is willing and able to keep the covenant conditions.

Some will argue that as believers in Christ Jesus we should follow God’s example and forgive our spouses even when they break the conditions of the marriage covenant?  This of course restricts divorce more severely than Christ Himself who gave us the exception clause: “except in the case of pornia” (a term with broad meaning but surely encompassing adultery).  In addition, God forgiving covenant breakers is a false argument because it is not what God does.  God sends unrepentant sinners (covenant breakers) to eternal damnation—“away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thes. 1:9).  God only enters into relationship with covenant keepers.  Of course it is God who keeps the covenant on behalf of His beloved children, but the covenant between God and His children is perfect as God is perfect and its conditions and blessings are all intact.

Not only does God give his children the righteousness of Christ, which maintains their good standing in their covenant with God, but God also places His Holy Spirit within them to cause them to walk according to His statutes and he empowers each of them to observe his ordinances (Ezekiel 36:27).  So the reality is that each of God’s chosen children are keepers of all of the conditions of the covenant that God has welcomed them into for His glory and for their salvation.  As a result both parties of the beloved’s covenant with God will receive the blessings for which they entered the covenant.

God is and will be fully glorified and shown to be worthy of all praise and His chosen vessels of mercy will receive salvation and an eternity as the children of God.  God guarantees both ends of the covenant.  Neither party must languish in and serve a broken covenant providing blessings to their spurious partner while being defiled and derided by that same person, which is precisely what the anti-divorce crowd insists upon for the innocent spouse.  Many Old Testament passages depict God decrying Israel’s (God’s bride) unfaithfulness.  Through captivities and exiles God disciplines his bride trying to get her to be faithful but his efforts were to no avail.  Ultimately God divorces Israel for her unfaithfulness (Jeremiah 3:8, Isaiah 50:1)).  Then God takes a bride who remains faithful because she wears the white garments washed by the blood of Jesus Christ.  The righteousness of Christ keeps her faithful.

God would not remain in a broken covenant with wicked Israel or with the more wicked Judah because God knows that light and darkness cannot come together just as there can be no partnership between righteousness and lawlessness.  As Christ has no harmony with ungodliness or destruction and the temple of God cannot be in agreement with idols, neither can a believer share a life in common with an unbeliever.  Most in the church have made the tremendous error of causing man to serve the marriage covenant rather than allowing the marriage covenant to serve man.

Those who claim that divorce is always a sin would argue that Christians must follow the law of love and endure their unfaithful partner with long-suffering because their reward in heaven will be great.  Their reward in heaven will be great because Jesus has won it for them.  Having long-suffering for the brethren is not at issue in a marriage to an unbelieving spouse.  Believers suffer the imperfections of one another because it is the loving thing to do and because each one remains imperfect as long as they are in the flesh, but believers are commanded to separate themselves from the unrepentant because bad company corrupts good morals, because a believer and an unbeliever have nothing in common, because Ezra’s godly example demands as much, and because God did so to Israel.

The damage done to the believer who is frightened by “Christian” superstition into remaining in an unequally yoked marriage with the threat of God’s eternal wrath is awful indeed.  Remaining in a broken marriage covenant forces the innocent spouse into an unrighteous arrangement.  Their wicked spouse has broken the conditions of the covenant effectively negating the benefits promised to the innocent spouse while the innocent spouse is expected to keep providing the benefits to the wicked spouse without an end in sight.  These wicked spouses are even more evil than the person who claims to have purchased a new house, who has taken possession of the house, who has placed their name on the deed, who has promised to pay for the house, but who has failed to pay a dime and has no intention of ever paying for the house that they are effectively trying to steal from the original home owner.  In fact, if this person then gutted the house of all it’s woodwork, marble and granite, heater and air conditioner, the chandeliers and lamps, the windows, the appliances, and even striped the electrical wiring, the pluming and the landscaping plants before they were finally evicted, then this illustration of the wicked spouse in an unequally yoked marriage would be more precise.

Matthew Henry highlighted an additional evil when he said that the children in an unequally yoked marriage will receive an undue influence from the unbelieving spouse because the children come into the world slaves to unrighteousness, which causes them to feel a greater kinship with their unbelieving parent.  In addition, the believing spouse will be discouraged in their own sanctification efforts, and the children will be encouraged to sin without consequence, seeing that their unbelieving parent is more often than not rewarded for taking tremendous advantage of the believing spouse.

Another sad reality of the position that says the dissolution of an unequally yoked marriage is always a crime against man and a sin against God is that it gives the appearance of turning the unbelieving marriage partner into the innocent victim while at the same time slandering the name and reputation of the believing spouse who has kept the conditions of the marriage covenant often for years or decades without receiving God’s intended benefits, which were promised by the unbelieving spouse, but withdrawn. The obedient child of God is turned upon and torn to pieces by the very people (other Christians) who should be most supportive as in the days of Ezra.  Perhaps the reader has heard the saying that “Only Christians kill their wounded”?

By seeking a divorce the obedient child of God is following God’s command not to be in any unequally yoked relationship (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; Ezra 10: 3, 11; Judges 3:6-8; Deut. 21:10-14; Psalm 89:38-45), yet he will be portrayed by many in the church as the offender against God and man, while the true offender snickers as they are lofted as the poor victim.  The godless spouse often goes beyond snickering to libeling their believing partner in order to bring undeserved discredit to them.  Anti-divorce Christians happily join forces with the godless partner in order to shame and pressure the believer into repenting of their decision to divorce their unrepentant, unbelieving spouse.  Of course doing so would require them to break with scripture, reason and their own conscience, which does not seem to bother those who hold this shameful man-made doctrine of no divorce ever.

So then, is it lawful to leave a broken covenant?  The answer found in God’s word and by eminent reason is an emphatic yes.  It is a fools errand to remain in a broken covenant.  Having said that, the answer found in most Christian circles is no–you made your bed and now you are going to have to sleep in it.  Let the reader decide whether or not they prefer the approbation of God or the praise of men.  But as for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord…all of us.


Legal Marriage Vs. God’s Institution of Marriage

Marital union in any of the United States of America is not necessarily the same as marital union from a biblical point of view; one is merely legal in nature and the other is both spiritual and legal. When a man and a women desire to marry one another they will go to the state in which they reside and apply for a marriage license.  In order to receive this license they must meet certain criteria.  Examples would include: neither can be currently legally married to someone else, both must have identification proving their identity, they must be one male and one female (Supreme Court changed this as of June 26, 2015) and they must pay a licensing fee and then wait a short period of time while these facts are verified.  Marriage by a government agency represents the legal aspects of a marital union.

However, marriage predates civil governments.  The first covenant in the history of man is the Covenant of Creation (God’s Covenant of Redemption is the first covenant, which predates creation including humanity).  Marriage is part of the Creation Covenant. God instituted marriage when He said that Adam needed a suitable mate, so He created woman from the rib of Adam indicating that a women is suppose to come alongside of a man and be his helpmate—ideally for life.  A spiritual marriage is also legal under God’s law, which is not recognized by all men even though all men will be held accountable to God’s laws.  Therefore, it is possible to enter into a biblical marriage (legal under God’s laws and spiritual) without getting civilly married in one of the fifty states–after all people have been getting married for thousands of years without a license from the state of California.

Consider a couple of biblical examples: In Genesis chapter 29 Laban tricked Jacob into becoming married to Leah when it was actually Rachel that he intended to marry. Laban’s deception could not have worked if they would have had civil ceremonies prior to the spiritual union that takes place when a man and women become one through sexual union. A week later we learn, from verse 30, that Rachel also became Jacob’s wife, and all that was necessary to make their seven years of love a marriage was for them to join in sexual intercourse—“So Jacob went in to Rachel also…”

A generation earlier Isaac married Rebekah by having sexual relations with her the same day that he met her. Genesis 24:67 says, “Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” These spiritual marriages were not preceded by civil ceremonies nor did these patriarchs obtain a marriage license of any kind, yet they were real marriages that lasted until the death of one of the two partners.

Let it be very clearly stated that these examples are not biblical evidence advocating sexual relations early in a relationship.  Rebekah was brought to Isaac for the express purpose of becoming his wife.  He had already agreed to the process and she had agreed to the process that God was using to bring them together as husband and wife.  They did not have physical relations on their first date; they came together in order to become husband and wife.  Their commitment to marriage preceded their sexual union, which consummated the marital covenant.  Sexual relations outside of marriage is fornication or adultery and must not be committed by the children of God.

Today in the United States of America many would likely argue that believers in Christ Jesus cannot be “Spiritually Married” without being legally married by the laws of one of the fifty states.  The reality is that a marriage in the eyes of God does not require a license from any human government.  If a man and a woman unite themselves one to another first by commitment and then by sexual relations they are in fact married in the eyes of God. Churches should welcome them into the family of God for worship, fellowship and for sharing in the work of the church.  So why would a Christian get legally married under the laws of a government?

Being legally married in the United States endows one with over 1,000 benefits not afforded to the unwed. For example, they may file joint returns on their income tax forms, they may hold property together and it automatically passes to the survivor in the event of death, they have access to one another’s health records, they may receive social security benefits from their spouses income, the state will oversee an equitable distribution of property in the event of a divorce, and on and on.

To 501(c)(3) or not to 501(c)(3) That Is the Question.

Just as individuals may obtain marriage licenses from states, in the same way, churches in America usually get what is called a 501(c)(3) that allows them to be tax-exempt religious organizations.  Sadly most church leaders seem to be ignorant of the fact that churches are automatically exempt and do not need to file an application for a 501(c)(3) with the government.  Nevertheless, most churches get a 501(c)(3) upon formation just as most Christians get a marriage license from the state of residence upon marrying.

The purpose of getting a 501(c)(3) is not so that a body of believers can be a church.  A group of believers who form a church without a 501(c)(3) are considered just as much a church.  Not only are most churches unaware that a 501(c)(3) is redundant and unnecessary, but most people seem to be ignorant to the fact that marriage licenses are not necessary in order to enter God’s institution of marriage.

FYI: The 501(c)(3) designation is necessary for charities, para-church organizations and nonprofits, to gain the same tax advantages automatically afforded to churches.

If marriage licenses are not necessary for a true marriage, then why does anyone get them?  Tax exemption for churches and legal benefits for marriages can be very valuable for numerous reasons.  It is almost unheard of to marry in the United States without first getting a marriage license because of the over 1,000 state and federal benefits enticing the utilization of state licenses.  In fact, those benefits are so coveted that homosexuals are waging very successful battles to win the right to be legally married in the United States (though the prize they most cherish is total cultural acceptance of homosexuality [including morally] as a normative lifestyle).

Note: The very same churchmen that refuse to recognize a spiritual marriage between a man and a woman if their marriage has not also been made official with a state sanctioned license will also reject a marriage between two homosexuals who have obtained the very same state license. Did you catch that?  This alone should demonstrate the obvious fact that spiritual marriage in the eyes of God and state sanctioned marriages are, in fact, two separate entities—one instituted by God and the other observed by the nations.  The fact that Christians almost always obtained these two at the same time must not cause believers to lose sight of the fact that they may also be obtained separately.  Christians should be far more reluctant to co-mingle that which is from God with that which is by man because that which is by man will eventually become profane and the admixture will ruin the gifts of God.

Just as a genuine body of believers does not need a 501(c)(3) to form a legitimate church neither does a godly man and woman need a marriage license to form a legitimate marriage partnership.  As individual states continue a rapid declension into morally corrupt entities, Christians may one day cease going to them for licenses to marry.  It is not God’s institution of marriage that is being profaned by the inclusion of homosexual marriages into their marital statutes, but it is the moral authority of the state that is being profaned.

Governments descending into socialism begin to make laws that discourage Christian morality and ethics.  The citizens of these governments begin to avoid marriage all together.  Socialists/communists hate Christianity  because Christianity and capitalism compliment one another just as atheism and socialism/communism compliment one another.

As governments slide toward socialism they begin to motivate their citizens to behave more and more irresponsibly.  The millennial generation has rejected legal marriages in numbers that far exceed previous generations.  This is because government benefits would be lost to single parents if they were to become legally married.  So millennials still live together like a nuclear family, but they bypass the institution of marriage.  Because they think that marriage via a state license is the warp and woof of marriage they consider themselves single, which means that they are not spiritually married either.

When the day comes that the states begin to drop all marital benefits or more likely extend them to everyone (effectively ending the demand for legal marriage) the very Christians who claim legal marriage is necessary will at that time make our argument and they will do so using God’s word as their source of truth (as we do now).

Legal marriages in the United States have been so expedient for believers and unbelievers alike that believers never concerned themselves with the possibility that the secular governments would someday become unrighteous in their dealings with God’s ancient institution.  It appears that is changing.

Update: The Supreme Court took the gay marriage issue out of the hands of the states by legalizing it in all 50 states on June 26, 2015.

Post Script:

Do not misunderstand our meaning in this article.  The state, like marriage, was instituted by God.  Members of the body of Christ must submit themselves to the authority of the state unless its laws encourage or demand breaking God’s law.  One of the critical functions of the state is to protect, uphold and support the institution of marriage.  This includes making laws governing marriage and its dissolution.  We believe that although the state makes laws governing marriage it is nonetheless
God who instituted it; therefore, a man and a woman may enter into the marriage covenant in accordance with God’s laws with or without the cooperation of the state.

Once married they must submit themselves to the laws of the state regarding marriage and its dissolution, but they are bound first by God’s laws regarding marriage and its dissolution.  Thus they must first have biblical grounds for divorce before they get divorced.  Merely getting a divorce under the laws of the state does not free the believer from God’s laws governing marriage and divorce.  The result of a legal divorce without biblical grounds would be a legally divorced person who is still married to their spouse in the eyes of God, which is why Jesus said those who get a divorce will be guilty of adultery.

On the other hand, a believer can be caught up in a drawn out divorce preceding while already spiritually divorced from their spouse.  Clearly in the later case the believer will be treated by the state as though they were still married, and they will need to abide by the state’s laws regarding marriage.  Therefore, believers who become spiritually divorced should pursue legal divorce as soon as it is made available for them.