Marriage: Covenant or Contract?

As I mentioned in my post about Malachi, I needed to do more research on the concept of marriage as a covenant versus a contract. Here is an excellent article I found on Family Life Today.

If you liked this, then go to for a three-part interview series on Family Life Today about covenant marriage. You can either read or listen to this series.

The following interview came right out of the third series called “The Four Essentials of Marriage”. This is one of the most succinct descriptions I have seen of what a covenant marriage means.

Dennis Rainey: Earlier on FamilyLife Today you said that covenant-keeping love is the basis of a great marriage. Now, we’ve been talking about covenant, we’ve even given your seven promises of covenant-keeping love. Would you define what a covenant is, because we haven’t done that.

Fred: Covenant is simply an oath. It is the most sacred, the most sacrificial, the most serious commitment that anyone can ever make. Sacrifice is at the core of covenant. It’s a walk of death in the Old Testament, where you walk through those dead animals and saying, in that walk, “God I am dying to selfishness, to a life of independence, and I’m committing my life to someone else. And, God, if I ever break this covenant, kill me on the spot.” That’s how serious covenant is. It’s the most serious commitment anyone could make.You see, a contract is made in suspicion. That’s about loopholes; that’s about outs. A contract is a signing of the names. Covenant is a binding of the heart. I like to say it’s a tattoo on the heart that you can’t remove it without leaving scars. It’s a commitment that’s – it’s as deep as life. The only way you’re going to get heaven in your life is by a covenant. The only way you’re going to get heaven in your marriage is by a covenant.

Dennis: Well, now, let’s back up for a moment. There may be a listener who doesn’t know what you’re talking about – about getting heaven in your life through a covenant.

Fred: Most people have heard about the Bible. The Bible is the story of God’s blood covenant that He made with Abraham, and that He consummated in Jesus Christ. Jesus became the sacrifice. He gave His life on a cross to pay our sin debt so that we could be saved so that we could become God’s child, a member of God’s forever family. And God says, “I am a covenant-keeping God,” and when He offers us the gift of salvation, it is a promise that we know He will stand by because He cannot lie, He will not lie, He cannot fail, He will not fail. So he is a covenant-keeping God.The Bible is a covenant book. God is a covenant God, and we are a covenant people. So the way you enter a relationship with Christ is you ask Him to come into your heart, you commit your life to Him, He has committed Himself to you – that’s covenant. And then out of that is this marriage relationship, because marriage is a picture of God’s relation to Israel, and then Christ’s relation to the church. Israel acted up so many times and were so unfaithful to God, but God was always faithful to them. And in the New Testament, Jesus, who ever loves His church and will keep every promise He has made the church, and that’s the kind of marriage we are to have. We are to love our mate like Christ love us; like He loves the church. Jesus was willing to give Himself for His church, and we are willing to give ourselves for each other in this thing called “covenant marriage.”

Dennis: And, Bob, I don’t want our listeners to miss what Fred was saying – that the ability for me to love Barbara and to make that kind of promise to her begins and finds its starting point in my relationship with Jesus Christ. If I’ve not established a covenant relationship with Him, I really don’t have the ability to love Barbara the way she needs to be loved, and that’s why people trying to do marriage without a relationship with the Creator who was the one who sought us out with covenant-keeping love in the first place, it’s impossible to do it right, isn’t it, Fred? I mean – how can you do marriage without first knowing God?

Fred: You can’t. In fact, a couple over in Alabama entered a contest, and they won it with this description of marriage – marriage with God. “We gave when we wanted to receive; we served when we wanted to feast; we shared when we wanted to keep; we listened when we wanted to talk; we submitted when we wanted to reign; we forgave when we wanted to remember; we stayed when we wanted to leave.” And it’s that kind of marriage that you need God to help you have that kind of attitude, that kind of spirit, and that kind of staying power.

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