“And as they did not study to have knowledge of God, God delivered them to a worthless mind to do what is not lawful, being filled with all kinds of unrighteousness, wickedness, greediness, and evil. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and meanness. They are gossipers, slanderers, and haters of God. They are insolent, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, and disobeyers of parents. They are without understanding, covenant breakers, without affections, and without mercy. They know the decrees of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do them, but also approve of those who do them.”
One of the many results of worshiping the creation rather than the creator is that people become “covenant breakers.” The word in question is ἀσύνθεστος (asunthestos) and is often translated as “faithless” or “untrustworthy” in our English Bibles. Like many words in this particular passage, ἀσύνθεστος (asunthestos) begins with the “alpha primitive,” meaning that it is the negation of the word συντίθημι (suntithemi), which refers to working our an agreement in good order, typically in the form of a contract or a covenant. Thus, those who are ἀσύνθεστος (asunthestos) are those people who either break said contracts or who otherwise ignore them.
While the making and breaking of contracts is something found all over in the business world, one ought not expect it within the church — covenant breaking of this sort is the result of idolatry! Nevertheless, a brief survey of the American church will reveal that it is rampant within the walls of God’s house today. People commonly see the vows they take as mere conventions rather than as a life and death covenant before the Living God in the presence of witnesses.
Thus, when attendance is lagging, people will respond by saying, “Well, you know that I have just been busy.” When they are not teaching their children the Christian faith, they say, “Well, I want them to make their own decisions.” When people are not growing in their faith and understanding of God’s Word, they say, “Well, theology is for the pastor and those who go to seminary” (which, by the way, is the death-knell of a church!). When churches do not practice church discipline, leaders say, “Well, if we do, they will just be offended and attend the church down the street.” And when unBiblical ideas find themselves in church services through the songs that are sung or the ideas that are addressed, people say, “Well, cultural views have changed.”
Cultural views have indeed changed, but not God’s views. And a vow is meant to transcend culture. One takes them before the Living God and asks God himself to hold you accountable to said vows. This is indeed true in our marriages, but it is also true with the vows we take to our local church (and in the case of pastors and Elders, to the denomination). As long as that church remains a True Church, one is bound to abide under that church’s authority. When a church descends into teaching false doctrine, failing to practice the Sacraments as Jesus instituted them, or stops disciplining its members, then one is free from one’s covenant to the church because the church has broken and nullified it…not you as an individual. And the church will be judged by God.
Nevertheless, what we find in much of the visible church today are groups of people who care little about the vows they make and care even less about holding others to their vows. Discipline has almost disappeared from the church…and sadly, when discipline is practiced, it is often practiced with a vindictive spirit rather than with a spirit that seeks reconciliation. This again is a mark of the culture’s desire to worship the creation rather than the creator — a culture that seeks to please itself in worship rather than pleasing God.