Friday, March 19, 2021

The Covenant of Marriage

"She is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.” (Malachi 2:14b)

Today we want to focus on marriage as a covenant. Paul has pointed to this in Ephesians 5 by speaking of earthly marriage as analogous to the relationship between Christ and the church. The bond between Jesus and His bride is the new covenant, and so the marriage bond itself can be seen as a covenant. Malachi 2:14 explicitly calls it such.

There are several aspects of a covenant we should consider. First, a covenant establishes a bond between two parties, in this case the husband and wife. At the heart of this bond is a promise, the promise of faithfulness.

Second, a covenant establishes obligations. A primary obligation in marriage is, of course, fidelity. The husband is obligated to lead his wife in love, and she is obligated to submit to him in the fear of the Lord.

Third, a covenant is public. It is contracted before witnesses. There is a great difference between the whispered pledges of a boy in the back seat of a car and the solemn vows of a young man before God and man in the ceremony of holy matrimony. This public character of the covenant means that marriage is a social institution, and society has an interest in preserving it. As an institution, marriage is to be regulated by the Word of God.

That the marriage covenant is not simply a private affair becomes clear when we consider divorce. Divorce wrecks the lives of children. Divorce destroys peace of mind and damages the effectiveness of employees. Divorce upsets friends and family. And, for Christians, an ungodly divorce forces the elders of the church to exercise discipline.

Marriage is the closest possible relationship between two depraved human beings. Thus, marriage is potentially the scene of more hurt and pain than any other relationship. We need all the help we can get to make our marriages work, and so it is a good thing that marriage is a covenant, and that it is public.

Privately consider this question: Have you ever wished you could get out of your marriage? Did the public character of your marriage, the fact that people would observe your divorce, help force you to work harder at making your marriage work?