We have examined so far in this series the various texts in the New Testament which illustrate that man can forfeit the salvation found in Jesus Christ. We have also seen how the Abrahamic covenant - a pattern for the new covenant relationship - also required Abraham and his seed to keep the covenant God had established.
Yet, that leads to the logical question of, "What does it mean to keep God's covenant? What responsibilities do man have to stay in the covenant relationship with God?"
In His word, God provides the perfect illustration for this in the institution of marriage.
The Bride of Christ
"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church." Ephesians 5:26-32
This is a great mystery, yet God makes it clear: our relationship in covenant with Him is reflected in the covenant of marriage between a husband and wife. This depiction not only portrays how much God loves and cherishes us, but it speaks to the type of relationship we have with Him. Therefore, examining ancient Jewish traditions around marriage can provide us with a greater understanding of our own covenant with the Lord.
During a betrothal, a man prepares a marriage contract (called a Ketubah) and presents that to the bride and her father. One of the stipulations of the contract is the "bride price". This is the amount the man is willing to compensate the bride's family for the honor of marrying her. The Bride of Christ is the Church; and the "bride price" paid was His own life.
"For ye are bought with a price..." I Corinthians 6:20a
Once the terms of the marriage contract were agreed upon, the bride and groom would appear in the Chuppah (canopy) to seal the betrothal vows.
The young man would pour the bride a glass of wine. If the bride drank the wine, this then signified her acceptance of the proposal and the two were now betrothed. They had now entered into covenant together, the covenant of marriage. The bride had a choice in this matter; ensuring that she was willing to marry the groom who proposed was a critical part of the betrothal process.
"And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Matthew 26:27-28
The bridegroom would then bestow gifts unto the Bride as a token of his love and to remind her of him in their absence.
"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." John 14:26
"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Acts 2:38
Although the official marriage ceremony has not yet taken place, the betrothal was legally binding and could only be undone via a bill of divorcement.
After the betrothal was concluded, the bridegroom would go back to his father's house to prepare a honeymoon chamber for him and his bride.
"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." John 14:2-3
The groom himself does not know when he will return to receive his bride. His focus at this time is to prepare the place for his bride. As the groom's father oversees these preparations, he will let the groom know once the chamber is ready.
"But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." Matthew 24:36
"But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." Mark 13:32
The Bride's responsibility during this time was to prepare herself for her groom's return and wait for him.
"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless." II Peter 3:10-14
As part of these preparations, she would undergo a Mikveh, which was a cleansing bath. Mikveh also means baptism, representing the spiritual cleansing that the Bride of Christ goes through for her groom, Jesus.
"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." Ephesians 5:25-27
Once the honeymoon chamber is ready and the wedding is to begin, the groom - along with his groomsmen - go to retrieve the bride. They announce their coming by blowing the shofar, which signifies to the bride that the time has come. Upon hearing the shofar, the bride and her bridesmaids - who have been waiting for this moment - can trim their lamps and be ready to greet him.
"Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." Matthew 25:1-10
The most important thing the Bride has to do during the groom's absence is making herself ready and to be waiting for the groom's return. Those who are not ready and prepared do not make it in.
The bride and groom then go into the honeymoon chamber for 7 days to consummate the marriage. This time would also verify the purity of the bride by bearing witness to her virginity, usually in a blood-stained bed sheet. It was grounds for divorce (the root word for apostasy) if a bride was found not to be a virgin. Once the seven days were concluded, there would be a great feast celebrated with friends and family, which then concludes the marriage process.
"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God." Revelation 19:7-9
Unlike the sheet spotted with blood, the evidence of righteousness for believers in Jesus will be fine white linen washed clean by His precious blood.
An Exchange of Vows
In examining the ancient Jewish wedding rites, we gain more understanding of our covenant with Jesus. It provides an historical and accurate depiction of "covenant responsibilities" that both the bride and the bridegroom have in preparing for the marriage covenant.
The vows associated with this covenant are represented by each step in the marriage process and are signified in the exchange of rings. In modern marriages, even in Judaism, verbal vows are spoken at this time to capture the commitment that both parties make to the covenant of marriage.
Typical vows include references such as, "I promise to love you for better or worse, though sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, until death do we part." What is the picture conveyed here? That each will honor this covenant of love no matter what happens, no matter what comes, even until death. Each is committing to stay in covenant with the other.
A reflection of these "vows" is also illustrated in Scripture. Interestingly enough, this text is often perverted to make it seem as if it supports Once Saved Always Saved doctrine, but the reality of the text is something far from that...and much more beautiful.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:35-39
These are God's promises to us in this covenant...and our promises to Him.
The first part reflects our vows to God. It depicts things that we experience as His children; it is written from our perspective. God, I won't let the things I encounter in this earth - even unpleasant and threatening things - deter me from the love I have found in you. Whether tribulation, distress, persecution, famine...and even death. I will not be swayed, but I will endure them because of the love we share.
The next section reflects God's vow to us. It is written from God's perspective, a Heavenly view that sees what is beyond our earthly realm.
Paul starts saying, "For I am persuaded..." Persuaded by whom? By God, and by His love for us! Paul believes and is persuaded by God's promises in this area. In these promises, God commits that things we cannot see nor control, things which we know not, spiritual powers which may come against us, none of these things will separate us from His love.
Notice again what God promises us, "...neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us." This text does not dismiss the personal choice and faithfulness of the person staying in covenant to God.
It specifically says "nor any other" creature. So the natural question is, "Anyone other than whom?" Clearly "creature" can only reference the believer for God is the Creator, not a created being. God is promising not to let anyone else (any other) come between Him and the believer. Yet again, there is no absolving of the believer to remain faithful nor does God promise to keep the believer in the covenant.
Just as in a marriage covenant, each party bears responsibility for keeping and honoring the covenant that is made. It is truly a reflection of an exchange of vows as we both promise to be faithful to the other - no matter what - until the end, even death.
This is why - when we reviewed the conditions for salvation earlier - we see God continually admonishing believers to abide, remain, stay faithful, endure, watch. It is nothing less than what we promise to do as we join in covenant with Him (Romans 8:35-38).
There exists a covenant between God and man, and both are party to the conditions of the covenant. The finished work is what Jesus has done to bring about the covenant. It is now incumbent upon man to receive that finished work and enter into the NEW covenant with God the Father through Jesus Christ in faith.
The next article will deal specifically with the the sealing of believers who have entered into covenant with God.
This article is part of a 6-part series evaluating a doctrine referred to as Once Saved Always Saved, Eternal Unconditional Security, or Preservation of the Saints.
- God Doesn't Mince Words
- Salvation is a Result of Covenant
- God's Relationship With Man is Based on Covenant
- Was the Abrahamic Covenant Unconditional?
- Covenant Responsibilities
- Eternal Life is a Gift
- Nothing Can Separate You From the Love of God
- You Cannot Be Unborn
- You Can Only Lose Fellowship with God
- You Can Only Lose Your Reward
- Predestined by God
- Eternal Life is "Eternal"
- All means ALL