Today, I want to introduce to you two important concepts about marriage. I want you to understand the difference between a consumer marriage vs a covenant marriage. One of the reasons why marriages struggle and even fail is because one or both of them approach marriage as a consumer rather than approaching it as a covenant.

Let me give you a caution. What you are about to hear will bother some of you. It will sound unfair, impossible, and not right. Somewhere in this message you will say, “Yeah, but….”

  • If you are married, you will recognize immediately where you have a consumer marriage mindset and will need to adjust to a covenant mindset if you want your marriage to heal, become stronger, and be what God designed it to be.
  • If you are getting married, you and your spouse will need to evaluate yourself and your future spouse on whether you are entering into this marriage with a consumer mindset or a covenant mindset.
  • If you are single and would like to get married someday, you need to begin thinking about you as a spouse and marriage as a covenant relationship.

To help get you started, I’m going to introduce to you what the Bible says about a covenant marriage.

Let’s start with Malachi 2:13-14,

“Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant” (NIV).

If you have a Christian marriage and you make a vow to God, to your wife or husband, and in front of witnesses you are entering into a marriage covenant. This covenant is more than a contract and more than an agreement. It is a promise to God, to your spouse, and to those witnessing that you will choose to love this person now and in the future.

You see this covenant marriage again in Proverbs 2:17, “She has abandoned her husband and ignores the covenant she made before God” (NLT). Marriage is a covenant between you, your spouse, and God. Instead of ignoring it, I want you to embrace it, understand it, and reap the benefits of it.

To help us understand what a covenant marriage is, I want to contrast it with a consumer marriage.

Consumer Marriage

What is a consumer marriage? To help us understand this, let me describe a consumer relationship. A person wants a certain product. They go to a store that has that product. They are willing to pay the amount for that product. They pay the amount and get the product they want. Then one day, the store changes the product. The consumer decides the product is no longer worth the cost because the product has changed. It has become something they don’t want. So, the consumer goes to another store looking for the product they want. They find what they want at the other store and are willing to pay the price for that new product.

In a consumer relationship you have something similar. For example, let’s say you are the consumer. You meet someone that has what you are looking for. You invest time and money into the relationship. If you have a consumer mindset in this relationship then you will expect certain things from them like staying healthy, affection, time, sex, attention, words of affirmation, gifts, and so on.

Here’s the problem. In a consumer relationship or consumer marriage, the marriage will only last as long as your needs are being met. If the person changes, if the product changes, you will begin to look to others to find what you want. Your needs and wants become more important than the relationship.

In a consumer marriage we stay connected to people only as long as they are meeting our particular needs at a acceptable cost to us. When we cease to make a profit – that is, when the relationship appears to require more love and affirmation from us than we are getting back – then we “cut our losses” and drop the relationship. This has also been called “commodification,” a process by which social relationships are reduced to economic exchange relationships.

The idea of a “covenant marriage” is disappearing in our culture and when you hear about a “covenant marriage” for the first time it will sound ridiculous and impossible. That is exactly what the devil wants you to think.

Most people base their marriage on a consumer mindset.

Covenant Marriage

In sharp contrast with our culture and consumer marriage there is the covenant marriage. The Bible teaches that the essence of marriage is a sacrificial commitment to the good of the other. Let’s look at some Biblical aspects of a covenant marriage. There is more to this covenant marriage than I have time to share this morning, but this will get you thinking in the right direction.

A covenant marriage is a giving of persons

Number one, a covenant marriage is a giving of persons. When you enter into a covenant marriage you are giving yourself to someone else. You are saying, “I belong to you. I am yours.” You are giving your body and life to this person.

This is why Ephesians 5 says, “Husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her…” (Eph. 5:25, NLT). That is covenant language. This is also why Ephesians 5 says, “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22, NLT). That is covenant language. In a covenant marriage the husband and wife are both vowing to each other their lives. This is why 1 Corinthians 7:4 says, “The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife” (NLT). As the husband and wife give their persons and being to one another they become “one flesh.”

This brings to us Genesis 2:24, which you often hear at weddings. It says, “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one” (NLT). The word “joined to” (Hebrew: dabaq) can be translated “cleave” or “united to” or “bonds with” or “hold fast to.” It is a Hebrew word that literally means to be glued to something. It is used to describe someone being united to someone else through a covenant, a binding promise, or oath. In a covenant marriage you are glueing yourself and attaching yourself so closing to this other person that you are considered as “one.” A covenant marriage is the giving of yourself completely to someone else.

A covenant marriage is a giving of promises

Number two, a covenant marriage is a giving of promises. A covenant marriage says, “I promise to love you now and in the future.” Pam and I were almost married for 35 years before she went on to heaven. During that time, she was married to six different men, and they were all me. Let me explain.

Personal growth science has demonstrated that people change significantly about every 7 years. This is obvious when you see the person is young. Let’s take Johnny for a moment. Johnny changes quite a bit from 7 to 14, but he also changes significantly from 14 to 21, but Johnny also will be significantly different from 21 to 28 and 28 to 35 and 35 to 42 and 42 to 49 and 49 to 56. Pam and I were married when I was 21 that means Pam was married to 6 different Jeffs. It was still me, but I was not the same. I had grown and changed over the years. By the way, this may explain why the average divorce is around year 7. The person they married has changed enough they begin to say, “This is not the person I married.” That statement is true, they are not the same person. They have changed. A covenant marriage says, “I will love you and be committed to you as you change over the years.” 

A covenant mindset says, “I love you now and I know you will be different in the future and I’m going to love you then as well. You may get better or you may get worse, but I choosing to glue myself to you and love as you change throughout life.”

You hear this type of mindset in Song of Solomon 8:6-7, “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned” (NLT). Covenant love becomes a seal over someone’s heart and life.

If you have a covenant mindset you are saying, “I promise to love you over the years as you change. I have given myself to you. I am one with you. If you get sick, I promise to love you. If you lose your mind, I promise to love you. If you get fat, I promise to love you. If you forget who I am, I promise to love you. If you become the person I didn’t marry, I promise to love you.” A covenant marriage is giving a promise to love this person in the future.

A covenant marriage is spiritual

Number three, a covenant marriage is spiritual. It is spiritual in nature because it involves God. God is at the heart and core of a covenant marriage. This is one of the essential differences between a consumer marriage and a covenant marriage. When it comes to God and a covenant marriage there are three things you need to know.

God’s authority is placed over your marriage

First, in a covenant marriage God’s authority is placed over that marriage. He is the one that is going to supernaturally glue you and your spouse together. He is the one that sets the rules and boundaries for your marriage. He is the one who decides how the wife should respond to her husband and how the husband should respond to his wife. This is why God’s Word says in Ephesians 5 says, “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church” and “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (vs. 25, 22). Jesus is not only the standard but also the authority of how you are to love your spouse. In a covenant marriage, you are giving God the authority to tell you how to love your spouse and treat your spouse.

God’s Word guides your marriage

Since God has authority over you and your marriage, this means you allow and accept God’s Word to guide you and your marriage. What this means is you are going to study, learn, and apply what God’s Word says about being a husband or wife.

Husband, you will hear God’s Word say things like this.

  • 1 Corinthians 7:4, “The husband gives authority over his body to his wife” (NLT).
  • Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands…, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her…” (NLT).
  • Ephesians 5:33, “Each man must love his wife as he loves himself” (NLT).
  • Colossians 3:19, “Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly” (Col. 3:19).
  • 1 Peter 3:7, “You husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered” (NLT).

A covenant husband will study and research what this means for him and his marriage. He will want to know how this looks in real life and real time and in real situations with his wife. 

Wife, you will hear God’s Word say things like this.

  • Titus 2:4, “These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children” (NLT).
  • Ephesians 5:33, “The wife must respect her husband” (NLT).
  • Colossians 3:18, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord” (NLT).
  • Proverbs 31:10-12, “Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life” (NLT).

Husband, if you have a covenant mindset you will study God’s Word on what it means to be a godly and loving husband for your wife. Wife, if you have a covenant mindset you will study God’s Word on what it means to be a godly and loving wife. God’s Word becomes the authority and standard for how you are to love your spouse.

God’s Spirit strengthens your marriage

Because God has created this covenant marriage and is deeply involved in this covenant marriage His Spirit will strengthen you to do and be the spouse you need to be. He will strengthen and empower you to love and treat your spouse the way you should.

Immediately before God’s Word gives instructions on being a husband and wife, His Word says something significant. Listen carefully to Ephesians 5:15-18, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit…” (NLT). To be “filled with the Holy Spirit” means you are being driven by the control and empowerment of God’s Spirit that enables you to live out God’s Word in your life.

To love your spouse the way God wants you to love and treat your spouse requires the Holy Spirit controlling your life. You cannot do it on your own. When you are filled with the Spirit you will “be careful [in] how you life.” You will live “like those who are wise” and you will make wise and godly decision as a spouse. You will “make the most of every opportunity” to bless, encourage, and build up your spouse. You will not “act thoughtlessly” toward your spouse. You will “understand what the Lord wants you to do” regarding how to love and treat your spouse. When you have a covenant mindset, God will strengthen you to do what you need to do.

A covenant marriage is a call to sacrifice

What do we have so far? A covenant marriage is a giving of persons, a giving of promises, and is spiritual. Number four, a covenant marriage is a call to sacrifice.

The word sacrifice means “to give up something that is valuable to you in order to help another person.” You give up something good in order to achieve something better. When you sacrifice for another, you are showing commitment, dedication, and loyalty to that person.

Listen again to Ephesians 5:25 which says, “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her…” (NLT). Husband, this means you are going to give up your life for your wife. You are going to live for her. You will sacrifice for her, die to yourself for her. You are going to do everything in your power to bless, help, encourage, cherish, value, nurture, and lead her as a someone who loves God and loves her. It will take sacrifice.

The same is true for the wife. It will take sacrifice to be your husband’s helpmate, to follow his leadership in the home, and to treat him with respect.

Philippians 2:3 can be applied to both the husband and wife which says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (NLT). Once you find yourself more interested in you, your agenda, your growth, your joy, and your development than your spouse’s you are drifting away from a covenant mindset and drifting into a consumer mindset in regards to your marriage.

To love your spouse will take sacrifice. You will have to give up something for them. You may have to give up a dream, a hobby, or happiness. A covenant mindset is willing to die to self for the other. They are willing to give up so the marriage can gain. Sacrificing hurts.

A covenant marriage is a display of commitment

One more thing. Number five, a covenant marriage is a display of commitment. It is a display of commitment because you willingly agree to choose to love this person for the rest of your life or their life. God’s design for a covenant marriage is for that marriage to remain intact for the duration of their lives. In Matthew 19 Jesus was asked about marriage and part of His response was, “Haven’t you read the Scriptures…. They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female….” He then goes on to say, “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together” (Matt. 19:4-6, NLT). When you have a covenant mindset, divorce is the last thing on your mind. It’s not the first, second, or third… it’s the last thing on your mind. This requires commitment and dedication. It takes sacrifice.

Does God allow for divorce? Absolutely. He understands the depth and the harm sin can reek on a marriage. If you are divorced, and thinking about getting remarried or you have been divorced and are remarried begin having a covenant mindset in the marriage you are currently in. Start where you are and let’s grow.

A covenant marriage says, “I forgive you” and “I love you.” A covenant marriage says, “I know you have weaknesses and faults and I’m going to overlook them, but at the same time I’m going to help you become stronger.” A covenant mindset says, “I’m committed to your growth, development, and maturity even if you are not committed to mine. I’m committed to love you even if you stop loving me. I’m dedicated to forgiving you even if you don’t forgive me. I’m going to be faithful to you even if you are not faithful to me. I will be devoted to you even if you are not devoted to me.”

One of the purposes of marriage is to demonstrate God’s love. God loved you while you were still a sinner, He loved you after you were saved and born again, He loved you even though you still sinned against Him after you were a part of His family. God has a covenant love toward you. God forgives you, loves you, and will not forsake you even when you turn your back on Him. He has a covenant love toward you. This is the same kind of love He wants you to have toward your spouse.

Conclusion

You may be thinking that a covenant relationship is impossible. However, many of you have already experience a covenant relationship where you loved more than the other, sacrificed more than the other, was committed and dedicated more than the other, and have given yourself and died to yourself over and over for this person. It’s your children. Most parents intuitively have a covenant mindset when it comes to their children. That is a similar mindset that you apply to your spouse.

Hebrews 13:4 says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all.” One way to honor marriage is to agree with God that it is a covenant relationship not to be taken lightly or entered into on whim.