Delivered From the Law: What the law can and can’t do! (The Two Covenants Study - Part 2)

Posted Mar 25, 2013 by Jeff Wilson in General Hits: 1,465

 Superseding Natural Law!

Introduction: Welcome to part two of three in the study of the Covenants. Part 1 is available HERE. At face value glancing at the title and subtitle one could easily think, this study is promoting infidelity, and rebellion to law and order! If you read the first study you will know it is certainly not! In this study we will consider how to be delivered from the law of sin and death, how to be free from condemnation to walk in the liberty of Christ. We will examine the purpose of the 10 Commandment law and what it can and can’t do. We will explore how the law takes on a completely different revolutionary perspective when we are living and abiding in Christ. We will also consider the instances when God did extraordinary things that implicated He is in control of everything and is way and above all natural law. We will discover how this is practically significant in terms of the gospel - it promises and provides a power that supersedes the inflexible law of sin and death.


What the law can and can’t do: Now we will further consider the illustration of marriage as we developed and applied in part 1. In a marriage the two individuals that unite are no longer two but become “one flesh”. (Gen 2:24; Eph. 5: 31) In the Old Covenant experience we are married (closely bound) to our first husband – the old *flesh nature/character – the law of sin and death or the broken law. In our fallen state we become so familiar and closely enmeshed with sin that it was part of our very nature/character and identity – we were “no longer two but one.” We might have “known the law” but because we didn’t have the presence of Christ we failed to keep the law – and that’s what made our Christianity a miserable Old Covenant one! There is nothing wrong with the law (it is holy, just and good, glorious etc.) It is a reflection of righteousness. But in the context of the weakness of our flesh nature the apostle Paul wrote, “what the law could not do . . ” (Rom 8:2,3). There are certain things the law can do but there are more things that it simply “could not [and cannot] do in that it is weak through the flesh”! It cannot bring righteousness (Gal. 2:21). The stone written code is powerless to transform the character, give life, save or give us an inheritance Gal 3: 21; Rom 8:3; Gal 2:21; 3:18). But the good news is that “what the law could not do . . ” God can and does do in us through His supernatural transformative power! (Rom 8:3)

 

God is more powerful than natural law! See Matt 14:25-30. The gospel can be likened to walking on water and flying with eagle’s wings! Christ and Peter, at one point, lived beyond the natural law of gravity by miraculously walking on water. Through God’s heart-transforming supernatural power you can live beyond the natural law of sin and eternal death. That which was once unnatural (righteousness) becomes natural. This lesson teaches us God, the heavenly Creator of all law is not subject to any natural law. Sometimes He does extraordinary things for His faithful children that supersede natural law (See Isa 40:31; Heb. 1:3; Dan 3:22-25). The point is, the everlasting gospel is more powerful than the law of sin and death.

 

The Purpose of the Law: What is the purpose of the law then? Why did God give it? The law’s job is to awaken knowledge of sin. It “entered” the world “that the offence [sin] might abound” and that “sin by the Commandment (Rom. 3:20; 5:20). The primary job of the law is to magnify sin that it “might become [be seen as] exceeding sinful” (Rom 7:13). Speaking of the 10 Commandments, as mentioned, the apostle said, “The letter [“ministration of death” “written on stone”] kills but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). In other words, merely focusing on the law, merely attempting to obey it in our own strength without “the Spirit of life” in our hearts is a dead-end road that leads many well meaning sincere professed Christians to secret despair, frustration and disappointment.

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(*Defining the Biblical term “flesh”. Now for a little clarification. Just in case anyone is confused at this point, the word “flesh” mentioned throughout these studies generally refers to the fleshly/self-centered character and NOT merely the physical aspect of our human nature. We will always have the fallen physical nature until Christ’s return when He will change our bodies to glorious and perfect incorruptible ones.)



In fact, obedience from the heart without an indwelling Christ is not merely difficult it is impossible! (John 15:5) The frustration and guilt we experience as a consequence of our failures is what kills the joy, freedom and life of our Christian experience and makes it a legal dry lifeless theory. There is absolutely no fault in the law whatsoever but the fault was with people who, in and of themselves, try to obey it when it is powerless to save. When we have Christ in our hearts and lives we have a radically different relationship and response to the law – we say with David, “Oh how I love Thy law”. It becomes our delight, our meditation “day and night”, it is “a light” and a lamp”, and a source of peace, comfort and guidance to us who love it. Under the New, God’s “Commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3).

 

He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. – Deut. 32:4

 

All God’s are perfect and nothing whatsoever He devises is faulty (Deut. 32:4; James 1:17; Matt 5:48). Concerning the faultless nature of the law, the same could be said of the Old Covenant tabernacle. It was temporary in nature but wasn’t faulty. The people, however involved in its services were. So the Old Covenant tabernacle and its services “was glorious” in that it reflected the heavenly ministration and served a provisional purpose (Heb. 8:5; 9:23). It was a shadow of “good things to come”. Again, God was trying to teach His people the cost of disconnecting themselves from Him (guilt, shame, emotional consequences, and the need for a Savior- a perfect man to offer sacrifice and die in our place).

 

From the curse of Stone to hearts of flesh: The written law on stone (“the ministration of death” and “condemnation”) can never save us or produce righteousness (Gal 2:21). It’s purpose along with the sacrificial law, is “that the offence might abound”, that sin would be magnified and clearly recognized through the consciousness of guilt and shame (Rom. 5:20; 7:9, 13). Otherwise we would feel no need for deliverance, no need of a Savior! But although the law is a description of righteousness, it is not the source of righteousness. Unlike our Savior it cannot provide righteousness but through the guilt it awakens, it CAN “bring us unto to Christ” who is the source of righteousness! (Gal. 3:21,24). The moral 10 Commandment law is a reflection, a photograph of God’s character. Christ on the other hand is the living object of the photograph, the ultimate expression and embodiment of God’s law. Think about this. If you were to ask anyone who is happily married what would they rather kiss, cuddle, hug and talk to “day” or “night” – a static unresponsive photograph of their spouse or their actual living breathing spouse him or herself, it would be almost certain they would say “My spouse!” They’d be crazy to say otherwise! But a small photograph carried around in a purse or wallet still evokes wonderful emotions and memories of their beloved and may help to preserve faithfulness and loyalty. Christ the Son of God is the living breathing, seeing, talking walking law of God demonstrated to whom it was prophesied He would “magnify the law, and make it honorable” (Isa 42:21). The stone law defines righteousness yet it cannot impart righteousness. Christ the embodiment of law can and DOES! He modeled trust and dependence on the Father, and in contemplation of His life through prayer, meditation and reading the Word (particularly the gospels), we meditate on Christ “the end [goal/aim/object] of the law” “day and night”. And then it can be said, “great peace have they which love Thy law and nothing shall offend them [cause them to stumble]” - Psm. 119:165

 

From the slavery of Judicial to the liberty of supernatural: How do we get the law from being merely judicial to becoming natural? The object of the New Covenant is to transfer the law from stone and from dry religious formality, to “the fleshly tables of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:3). It is to bring us from being under judicial law to being under natural law – the supernatural law of the Spirit of life IN Christ Jesus. (John 15: 1-10; Rom. 6:22; 8:3,4). As far as motivation goes, supernatural law, which becomes natural under the New Covenant, is always far more powerful than the Old Covenant judicial. One leads to fear-based motivation, eventual disconnection and failure, and the other is motivated by love, which inspires connection and consequential victory.

 

The law of gravity is an example of natural law. It helps illustrate a spiritual lesson. Gravity is an inflexible law (principle) designed by God that most people, unless they are foolish or intend to self- destruct, live in harmony with. Almost everyone understands gravity exists to ground and protect them. We instinctively know if someone jumps off a high building he or she will suffer very serious physical consequences – possibly death! When they ignore this law and suffer the consequences, it is not God that has inflicted injury upon them but they themselves suffer the law of cause-effect.

 

Christians understand the moral law is a protector and preserver of freedom. Like the law of gravity, the 10 Commandments are inflexible laws of life for our freedom, protection and happiness originating from God. (They cannot be accommodated or changed anymore than His character can be changed). There are inflexible principles inbuilt in the law itself that when violated bring emotional consequences EVERY TIME. Both God AND His laws are protectors and preservers of freedom. (Psm 119:24). “The commandment is a lamp; and the law is a light” to guide in “the way of life” (Prov. 6:23). They preserve our success and welfare by preserving and protecting our relationships – both human and Divine. When Christians transgress and step out of the protection of God’s “law of liberty” (James 1:25; 2:12) and suffer emotional consequences (fear, pain, guilt, resentment, disconnection, fractured relationships, heart-ache, anger, frustration, depression) we need to understand it is not God that has arbitrarily inflicting them. They bring these toxic heavy emotions, and the effects and consequences, upon themselves. The idea that God’s character and His laws are merely judicial or arbitrary leads to open or secret resentment of Him - and even sometimes causes people to despise and reject Him. Just look at atheism for example. Do your homework and you will see atheism came on the heels of the strong rejection of Rome’s depiction of God’s character. During the French Revolution, they said in effect, “if God is like that (the way Papal Rome portrayed Him) then we will not serve Him, in fact we don’t even believe a god like that exists!” I think they have a point! I’d be an atheist too if I thought God was like that. On the other hand, understanding God’s laws (natural and spiritual) as inflexible principles of other-centered love for our happiness and protection makes us think twice about violating them. It helps us to love, revere and respect Him – to “Fear God and give glory to Him”.

 

Lawlessness = the “curse of the law” which is disconnection: Sin or “lawlessness” can be defined as anything we think, say or do that hurts the Father God, the Son or another person (Heb. 6:6). Understanding law this way instead of seeing it merely as “do’s and don’ts” serves as a far more powerful motivator in changing behavior. In hurting others we hurt ourselves and as Christians with sensitive consciences we don’t want to hurt people anymore! Whether we profess to be Christians or not, sin results in fractured human relationships, it causes distrust and disconnection from God and eventually death. Sin and rebellion – the inevitable result of disconnection from God or ignoring another’s welfare in favor of self-reliance - requires sacrifice, and during the Hebrew dispensation there were literally thousands of them. So much so that the surrounding seas near the Jerusalem temple ran crimson/scarlet colored from blood that flowed from the temple into it. Although God originated and ordained the shadowy tabernacle service He had “no pleasure” or “delight” in THIS indifferent attitude and behavior associated with the tabernacle service. Heb.10: 5, 8. By willful unforsaken or cherished sin, we are not required to bring an animal for sacrifice but we do something more serious. The apostle Paul says we “crucify the Son of God a fresh and openly shame Him” - Heb. 6:6 (See also Rev 5:6.)

 

Delivered from the emotional and legal consequences of a broken Law: So the Old Covenant Sanctuary system which included the Ten Commandments was “a schoolmaster” to bring us to Christ Gal 3:24. In trusting in their own righteousness (the epitome of legalism) Rom 10:3 the Holy righteous law of God became a broken law/Covenant and therefore served as “the ministration of condemnation” 2 Cor. 3:9. “The letter [judicial/legal aspect of the law]” without the spirit “kills” but “the Spirit gives life” 2 Cor. 3:6. And under the ceremonial/sacrificial system, and again, the consequences of the moral violation of God’s law (guilt, shame, condemnation . . . . . and then the requirement of an animal sacrifice) were what the book of Galatians refers to as a “schoolmaster”. It taught a clear lesson of the impossibility of obeying God without the motive of love, without His real presence or supernatural power in the life. The Old Covenant/schoolmaster/sanctuary system brought the people to a realization that in order to experience righteousness as a reality they needed to be truly supernaturally converted/born again and literally/spiritually transformed by the renewing of their minds in uniting with Christ and maintain that conversion by submission to God moment-by-moment each and everyday.

 

The things we have been contemplating should help us to make sense of a Bible verse that baffles many conservative Christians: - “The law was not made for a righteous man but the sinner and ungodly” 1 Tim 1:9. How can the moral law be not made for a righteous person if that law is his “delight” and he “meditates on it day and night” and if the “Commandment is a light and the law a lamp” for reproof and instruction? Psm.1: 2; 40:8; 119: 70, 77, 174; Prov. 6:23. Isn’t that a contradiction? Adding some context here helps explain. “The law [sacrificial aspect of the sanctuary schoolmaster system, or in a civil context, the legal penalty for breaking civil laws] was not made for [does not apply to] a righteous [lawfully obedient] man but the lawless, disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners . . . . .” (1 Tim 1:9).

 

Problem: All people, back then and today, have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Although the Old Covenant was provisional it required continual offerings. Christ’s offering of Himself on the other hand was “once and for all”.

 

Solution: The “bringing in of a better hope” - the mediator of the New Covenant Heb. 7:19. The will of God is to cleanse, to take away the first (old) Covenant and establish the “second”. This includes sins that have been cultivated and cherished. The purpose of the New Covenant is for God to put/write the law of liberty on our minds and hearts through the Holy life-giving Spirit of God, (Heb. 8:10; 10:16; 2 Cor. 3:3), to empower us to walk in His laws of life and happiness, live a life of victory and ultimately deliver us from the power of death (See Matt 6:13; Rom 6:14; Heb. 2:14; Phil 4:13; 1 John 5:4.) The purpose of Christ - the central figure of the New Covenant - is to purge our conscience, to purify our minds and hearts from the guilt, shame and condemnation (Heb. 9:14.)

 

Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. – Acts 3:25, 26

 

What is the supreme purpose and object of the covenant and what is the blessing?

And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. – Rom 11: 26, 27

 

Firstly, the covenant is God’s unfailing promise to us. Secondly, the metaphoric expression “Abraham’s seed” is a prophecy referring to Christ. Thirdly, through repentance, the “blessing of Abraham” promises to “turn away ungodliness” from our nature and “take away their [our] sins”, to deliver us from the power of sin and its resulting guilt, shame and condemnation (Rom 8:3; John 3:17; 8:11; 1 John 3:20,21). The fourth object of the New Covenant is to give us an eternal inheritance.

 

Like the previous verse, the following one below (2 Tim 4:18) harmonizes with the New Covenant in affirming deliverance from sin in daily life - IF we have faith and believe! When I hear someone say, “I don’t believe it’s possible to obtain a perfect moral character, I don’t think its possible to experience victory” I usually say, “I whole heartedly agree!!!!” just as I say “I agree” when someone voices an opposite opinion. You might wonder, isn’t that a contradiction? No! Because “If you say you can or you can’t - either way - you are right!!!!” (It seems that generally the people who take the first position do it on the basis of an Old Covenant experience. They try and fail, try and fail and see others try and fail under the Old Covenant. They know no different. Therefore they conclude, in all sincerity, righteousness is not possible. And on this basis of “unbelief” they are absolutely right! Jesus said “according to your faith so be it unto you” (Matt 9:29). But for those with eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to believe there is hope! Jesus said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” Mark 10:27. See also Rom 10:3). Too often we are overly focused on we can’t do instead of what God CAN do! There are two wonderful promises in Holy Scripture that commence with, Now unto Him that is able to . . . . and end with “Amen” (So be it) that both promise victory in Christ. Compare the two verses.

 

Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen. - Jude 24, 25.

 

Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” - Eph. 3: 20, 21.

 

So the Prince of the Covenant is “able to do” and “able to keep”. Notice the following verse in the present and future tense of “shall” and “will” and also very positive and affirmative.

 

And the Lord shall [is able to] deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. - 2 Tim. 4:18

 

How does the Prince of the Covenant cleanse repentant sinners from the power and presence of sin? But now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice [freely given life] of Himself. – Heb. 9: 26

 

Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood [freely given life] he entered in once unto the Holy places [the Heavenly Sanctuary] having obtained eternal redemption for us . . . . . How much more shall the blood [life] of Christ, who through the *eternal Spirit [Holy Spirit and life] offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? – Heb. 9: 12, 14 (Bracketed comments added * See the following texts which clearly indicate Christ as the source of life. 1 Cor. 15:45; John 6:63, 33, 48; 5:26, 39, 40; 20:22; 3:5, 36; 4:10)


So here we see the “eternal Spirit” of Christ is also foundational to the New Covenant. Therefore we need to factor this in and study it a bit more. We will come back to this in a follow up study. What does “blood” represent? It has already been defined earlier but it bears repeating. It is in the above brackets. Did you catch it? It represents life. Moses in Leviticus confirms this.

 

For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood [substitutionary life] that makes atonement for your souls – Lev. 17:11. (See Eph. 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2, 19; Heb. 13:20; 1 John 1:7; Rev. 1:5)


For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. – Rom 5:10. (See also Col 3:4; 2 Tim. 1:10; Gal 2:20 that clearly echo this fact.


Covenantal Justification by Faith (“Saved by His death”): Born again Christians are saved/morally restored by Christ’s death AND life - forgiving grace and empowering grace. This was indicated while Christ’s lifeless form was hanging on the cross. When the soldier pierced His side, two separate streams flowed out: one of blood and the other of water. The blood points to justification through His death (Rom 5:9). The water represents sanctification through His life/Spirit (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2; John 7:37-39) The above verse (Rom 5:10) merges justification and sanctification together. It clearly indicates that we are not only saved from sin by the death of God’s Son (justification) but it indicates we are saved even more so, “much more” in fact, by His life! Being saved by Christ’s death is the basis for our salvation. Being saved by His life is the fruit of salvation. And in order to inherit eternal life we must be saved by the Prince’s death and imparted spiritual life! In my former legalistic mindset I used to believe this “saved by His life” part of the verse referred to following His example. But Christ is far more than our example He “is our life”!!! (See Col. 3:4; 2 Tim. 1:10).

 

When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. – Col. 3:4

 

But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel – 2 Tim 1:10

 

When we repent (develop a hatred of sin and a turning away from it in heart) and in brokenness of spirit confess our sins before God and others we may have hurt or wronged we are legally AND literally completely forgiven and cleansed from all sin. That’s being saved by the death of God’s Son. And that’s good news! But there is more that is rarely recognized! Countless professed Christians world over believe they are saved by the death of God’s Son. Sad to say, it seems however, going by the evidence of their own verbal confessions and the lack of the fruit in their daily life, very few professed Christians understand what it means to be saved by Christ’s life. For the most part their faith is a lifeless theory.

 

Covenantal Sanctification by Faith (“Saved by His life”): Being saved by Christ’s life is the “fruit”, the effect or the result of living in connection with God’s Son (Rom 6:22). It means being vitally connected with Christ moment by moment or as it says in John 15, abiding in Him as a branch and drawing the living sap (Holy Spirit/Spiritual life) from “the True Vine” which represents Christ (John 15:1). This life from/IN Christ principle is also illustrated in the seven (7) annual festivals (divine appointments) connected with the Old Covenant sanctuary service. During Passover the people were required to partake of the unleavened bread and the roasted Passover lamb which both pointed forward to receiving the unblemished spiritual life of the Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7; John 6:35, 48, 51). We celebrate these two divine sacred appointments today during the communion service in a modified way as instructed by Christ. Although the sacrificial laws terminated at the cross, along with the tabernacle services, the commandments, statutes and divine appointments however, were not intended to finish at the cross. They are for our benefit. Notice: Christ’s life points to the experience of sanctification – the sanctified life, or to make it simple, the vitally connected life, a life characterized by abiding IN Christ - “Christ IN you the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27; Rom. 8:10,11; 1 Cor. 1:6; 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal 4:19). You see, the gospel, or good news, does not only consist in what Christ has done for us at Calvary (the foundation of justification / pardon / forgiveness / cleansing / the new moral birth). The good news consists in being saved by Christ’s life - which is equivalent to receiving Christ’s life – the supernatural new moral birth is the beginning of growing into a completely new moral identity and existence.

 

People are only interested in realities: (The Reason why the Gospel Means Good News): People in the today’s world are not interested in theories. They are fed up with theoretical/theological make believe fantasy and religious jargon. “People do what works”. They are only interested in realities. (For example, they know when they exercise and go to the gym they LITERALLY get better toned and healthy and so an increasing number of health buffs do this.) The gospel is more than a dry theological lifeless theory – it is a living force to change the life, it is a reality. Think about it. Take a moment or “In consequence of continual transgression, the moral law was repeated in awful grandeur from Sinai. Christ gave to Moses religious precepts which were to govern the everyday life.

"These statutes were explicitly given to guard the ten commandments. They were not

shadowy types to pass away with the death of Christ. They were to be binding upon man

in every age as long as time should last. These commands were enforced by the power of the

moral law, and they clearly and definitely explained that law.” {RH, May 6, 1875 par. 10} –E.

G. White –The Review and Herald May 6, 1875 –The Law of God.

Christ’s life points to the experience of sanctification – the sanctified life, or to make it simple, the vitally connected life, a life characterized by abiding IN Christ - “Christ IN you the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27; Rom. 8:10,11; 1 Cor. 1:6; 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal 4:19). You see, the gospel, or good news, does not only consist in what Christ has done for us at Calvary (the foundation of justification / pardon / forgiveness / cleansing / the new moral birth). The good news consists in being saved by Christ’s life - which is equivalent to receiving Christ’s life – the supernatural new moral birth is the beginning of growing into a completely new moral identity and existence.

People are only interested in realities: (The Reason why the Gospel Means Good News): People in the today’s world are not interested in theories. They are fed up with theoretical/theological make believe fantasy and religious jargon. “People do what works”. They are only interested in realities. (For example, they know when they exercise and go to the gym they LITERALLY get better toned and healthy and so an increasing number of health buffs do this.) The gospel is more than a dry theological lifeless theory – it is a living force to change the life, it is a reality. Take a moment or two and think about it.

How can the gospel be good news if we merely have our past sins forgiven but still struggle with the present? How can the gospel be good news if we are bound and burdened with guilt of being overcome with today’s sins? How can the gospel be good news if like Saul - the former Paul – in Rom. 7 we want to do good but find in reality we don’t do, or know how to do what is good? I don’t know about you but to me that does not seem like very good news at all, it is what the apostle Paul refers to as being a slave, “under the law” – under its penalty and condemnation . . . So again, the New Covenant is something that provides cleansing from the sins of our past and provides something that positively effects us in our everyday lives, something that if we choose, provides a way of escape from the present temptations of the here and now today! Something that refines and ennobles the character enabling us to receive Christ’s love, something that, providing we choose, empowers us to love and care for others and stop hurting them and thus come under the schoolmaster of shame and a guilty conscience. Let’s stop hurting and start blessing (See Matt 5:16; Eph. 2:7-10; Titus 3:5,8; John 15:5). It is vitally important to be mindful of the fact that the New Covenant of grace is not ‘once saved always saved.’ We need to value and maintain our experience in the New Covenant. Let’s moment-by- moment, day-by-day maintain a vital connection by spiritually abiding in Christ the True Vine!


But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. – Rom 7:6 “The letter killeth but the Spirit giveth life”. “Newness of spirit” is synonymous to “newness of life” (See Rom 6:4) and this is what we are to “walk in”. I pray this article has in some way created a desire in you to be free from the schoolmaster, in whatever shape or form that is, and has implanted in you an unquenchable desire to be “married to another”.