What might make you uncomfortable:The marriage covenant is intended to reflect God's un-ending covenant with man. We belong to our spouses permanently on earth in the marriage covenant. In the same way, we belong to God permanently in eternity.
Covenant. It's an intense word, isn't it? Readers of this passage in Romans would have had a cultural background pertaining to the concept of "covenant." Therefore in order to fully explore today's reading we must delve into the idea of a covenants and how this affects our relationship with Jesus.
Essentially, a covenant is an agreement. To covenant with someone means to agree or contract with another (New Oxford American Dictionary).
Covenant is a theme throughout the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. One could even say that each Testament represents a different Covenant - a different way in which God chose to relate to man.
Here are three things to know about covenants:
1. They are permanent: A contract has an end date ones its terms are fulfilled by each party. Covenants are different - they are permanent unless a party alters the terms.
2. They are ratified by blood: Interestingly enough, the Hebrew word for covenant, bĕriyth has its root in another word, bereth. Bereth means "to cut." Covenants were always ratified by blood. The Old Covenant between God and the Hebrew people was ratified by the blood of sacrifice and circumcision (Leviticus 19:11). The new Covenant between God and all peoples is ratified by the blood of Jesus shed on the Cross.
3. The Old Testament is a story of God's Covenant with Israel: Essentially, here's what happened: God revealed Himself to Abraham and promised to give Abraham descendants. He said that Abraham's descendants would be blessed by God in order that all the other nations would be blessed (Genesis 12). Abraham's descendants were given a law after being rescued out of slavery and given the land promised to them through the covenant. God promised to bless them and give them life if the obeyed the law, but also told them that disobedience would have grave consequences.
Because of human wickedness, this law had to be very specific. It covered aspects of civil society, ceremonial acts of worship, and moral responsibility.
The Old Covenant and RomansNew Christians in Paul's time were asking the question, "Does this Old Covenant apply to us?" Because not only Jews were accepting Jesus but also Gentiles (those who weren't Jews), questions arose. Were people converting to Judaism or some other way of life? How much of the Old laws given to Israel were Christians supposed to follow?
Marriage as an examplePaul gives the example of marriage to answer this question. He says that the marriage covenant stands as long as both the husband and wife are alive (7:2). Only when one spouse dies is the other released from marriage (7:3).
Marriage is a covenant that is intended to stand as a prophetic example to the world of God's covenant with us today. When Paul speaks of marriage, he says:
This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32)
Marriage is permanent, and it is ratified by man and woman become "one flesh" - physically via sexual intimacy but also spiritually before God (Ephesians 5:30).
Author's note: This is obviously an uncomfortable topic today because of the common nature of divorce. If you have been through a divorce, there is grace from God to begin a new covenant before the Lord with your current spouse. But this is why God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) - it breaks a covenant that was supposed to represent God's covenant with us.
Now, a New CovenantThe example of marriage teaches us something: if one spouse dies, the covenant is null and void. Remember the devotional "The Grateful Dead?" Someone did die: the old "you!"
When our old life died, we became a new creation in Christ and God made a New Covenant with us. We don't have to obey the laws of Judaism. Today, we live in the law of love (James 2:8).
In the New Covenant we BELONG to Christ and we BEAR FRUIT for Christ (7:5). The nature of the relationship, however, is not one of law but of grace.
But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code (Romans 7:6).
ApplicationAre you keeping your covenants? Your marriage covenant? Your covenant to God?
Ask God to show you any way you can keep the covenants He has brought into your life.