Defining the Covenant

Personal and structural…

“Jordan’s definition of the covenant is striking. It unveils both the Trinitarian nature of the covenant and the covenantal nature of the Trinity, as well as the connections between a Trinitarian definition of the covenant and the structure of Biblical covenants granted to man. His teaching on the subject is not summarized in any single place, but his work The Law of the Covenant contains a compact and highly suggestive discussion, introducing the basic issues.

In this exposition of Biblical law, Jordan explains the covenant in these words, ‘The term “covenant” is frequently used in Christian theology, but with various shades of meaning. I shall be using it to identify, the personal, binding, structural relationship among the Persons of God and His people.’ As he goes on to show, the notion of a binding personal relationship which is clearly structured is the basic Biblical notion of a covenant.

Marriage, the very first covenantal relationship among men and the foundation of all others is the quintessential covenant. The relationship binds — ’till death.’ It is a structured relationship with authority and roles distributed between husband and wife. It is a personal relationship — ‘husbands love your wives as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it.’ A man and woman living together without the bond of the covenant may have a personal relationship, but they are guilty of fornication. A man and woman married may fulfill the structural requirements of the covenant bond, but fail to love one another, separating the personal from the structural aspect of the marriage covenant.

The covenant oath, the personal love, and the structures of authority and responsibility are all required for a Biblically righteous marriage. What the marriage covenant illustrates is that the covenant is a ‘social structure.’ As Jordan points out, in the Biblical notion of the covenant, law and love, form and freedom, are in harmony. The love of the covenant is expressed not in spite of the oath or in spite of fulfilling the duties of the covenant, but precisely through the solemn taking of an oath and the faithful fulfillment of one’s duty.”

Ralph Allan Smith, James Jordan’s Trinitarianism,

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