Marriage has been defined in America as The legal union of one man and one woman for federal and inter-state recognition purposes in the United States. Let us look into the scriptures and show that believers should enter into marriage in a way that honors God’s covenant relationship, submits to the laws of God first and then the laws of the land, and gives public demonstration of the holy commitment that is being made. There are voices in the land that would encourage a man and a woman, not legally married, to live together and call it holy. This message is intended to show the error of that way, and demonstrate from the scriptures what a real Biblical Marriage really is.
A sweet and tender account of a marriage occurs in the Book of Ruth, Chapter Four. In this chapter the potential groom followed the laws of his own land, and had mature, capable men serve as witness to his desire to wed the woman Ruth. Ruth was not a Jew; rather, she was a widow from Moab, a people traditionally separate from the Jews in heritage, laws, customs, and faith.
Ruth 4:1-11 Then went Boaz up to the gate, and sat him down there: and, behold, the kinsman of whom Boaz spake came by; unto whom he said, Ho, such a one! turn aside, sit down here. And he turned aside, and sat down. 2 And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, Sit ye down here. And they sat down. 3 And he said unto the kinsman, Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech’s: 4 And I thought to advertise thee, saying, Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: but if thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee. And he said, I will redeem it. 5 Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance. 6 And the kinsman said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance: redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it. 7 Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour: and this was a testimony in Israel. 8 Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee. So he drew off his shoe. 9 And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, of the hand of Naomi. 10 Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day. 11 And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses. The Lord make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem.
The preceding chapters of the Book of Ruth describe Naomi and family being in the country Moab. Ruth is married to Naomi’s son, and the son dies (as does Naomi’s husband Elimelech and her other son) and Naomi decides to return to Israel. Ruth choses to go with Naomi. In time Boaz, in Israel, beholds Ruth and an affection grows, and Boaz desires to take her as his wife. They did not live together beforehand. They did not have a private agreement that they would be faithful to each other and forsake all others and then live together. Rather, according to the laws and customs of the time, Boaz, in the presence of mature, credible witnesses, first redeemed the property in question, as this led to his taking Ruth as his wife, and this was witnessed by another who had a first claim on the property as well as the woman, and good men assented to the word of Boaz in that Ruth would indeed be his wife. We see here behavior that honors God first, is in keeping with the laws of the land, and is done in public before multiple witnesses. There was property involved and there was a marriage involved. Both required witnesses for validation. Further Ruth, who was a Moabitess by birth and heritage, submitted to the laws and customs of Israel since she was living now in Israel.
Of note too, when we honor God then God honors us. From this union came a son and this is the tenderest part of the story as we read in Ruth 4:17 And the women her neighbors gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David. Boaz and Ruth entered in marriage God’s way, and the mother-in-law Naomi, as well as Ruth, who had endured hardship were in the end blessed above measure. Ruth raised a son who would marry and his wife would bear a son, and that son would himself father seven sons, the youngest being David, the future king of Israel, the greatest king Israel ever saw. Further, Ruth, the Moabitess, became of the lineage of the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ the Righteous. A woman grafted into the faith, just like you and me. A woman brought into God’s kingdom by faith. A woman who found a home among another people, and became great in the land. Biblical Marriage, it has a lot of benefits!
A New Testament example of Biblical Marriage occurred when Jesus did his first miracle. In Israel, and among the Jews, public marriages were commonplace. This was the norm among honorable people of the community. In those days a marriage ceremony could and sometimes did last many days. Regardless, it was still done in a way that honored God, was consistent with the laws of the land, observed traditions local to the community, and involved many witnesses.
John 2:1-11 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: 2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. 3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. 4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. 5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. 6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. 7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. 9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. 11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
Regarding the marriage, we note that there were many non-family members present. Witnesses are not necessary to apply for a marriage license, but state law requires that at least two witnesses be present at the ceremony and that the witnesses are at least twelve years old. With Jesus and every one of the disciples being there, this custom and safeguard was in place. Jesus thought enough of a wedding to be present, thus establishing the value and upholding the traditions of good men and the laws of the land at that time, for all of the aspects of a Christian Marriage. Having Jesus at anything is a good thing. The first miracle of Christ Jesus the Lord was performed at a public wedding. Biblical Marriage, it has a lot of benefits!
Marriage is God’s idea and for the overwhelming percentage of time it’s God’s plan for the individual. It is rare that God calls a person to be unmarried for their entire life. Paul was an exception to the marriage plan, yet he taught extensively on marriage, the family, and raising children. Peter was married. Some persons marry later in life, having a calling early out that is best carried out as a single person. There are multiple verses and passages that can be studied regarding the family. There are also many passages that give credibility and authority to the State, and the laws of the land. In the Old Testament a lot of the first five Books have to do with societal laws and observances. In the New Testament the principle passage regarding the authority of the State is Romans 13:1-7 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
Jesus himself recognized the State as described in Mark 12:13-17 And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. 14 And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? 15 Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. 16 And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. 17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him. When Jesus said to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s he recognized that the citizenry had an obligation to the government, and that men are to submit to the civil government. So too in marriage, the Christian has an obligation to submit to the civil government regarding legal marriage. This is just and proper in God’s eyes.
From the beginning the State is an institution ordained by God. The prophet wrote in Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. God founded the Hebrew nation, which would become Israel. It was founded upon a promise to Abraham all the way back to the book of Genesis. Abram comes on the scene in the end of Genesis Chapter 11, but the promise that he would found a great nation was given in Chapter 12. Genesis 12:1-3 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee: 2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
In the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, we read of, among other things, God’s laws regarding how the society of a whole was to act. Remember, that the Old Testament is the story of a nation, the Jewish nation, and the New Testament is the story of a person, Jesus Christ. Again, the nation was founded and nurtured to bring the man Jesus Christ into the world. So there is much to read in these first five books about how the nation was to act, and the civil laws it was to keep. For instance, there were laws regarding property, laws regarding sanitation, laws regarding marriage, laws regarding civil authority. The Ten Commandments were given. Laws regarding treatment of servants, laws regarding acts of violence were given, laws concerning the responsibility of owners, of restitution, of human relations, and of worship. All of these were given on a “national” level, but they concerned the individual.
With my own ears more than once I have heard religious persons say that the person they are living with is their lawful spouse, even though there is no recognition by the laws of this land and there are no witnesses who signed as witnesses. Does this honor God? Is this consistent with Christian teaching? There are the claims that they love one another and the marriage certificate is but a piece of paper. In light of the passage above regarding Ruth in the Old Testament and Jesus at the wedding in Cana in the New Testament, do you think a Biblical Marriage can exist in the United States without the benefit of a marriage license (required by our nation to be legal) or the presence of witnesses? Marriage is a covenant not to be abused or ignored. Malachi 2:14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. The marriage covenant is spiritual, but it is also legally tangible, in that it is a signed and witnessed written agreement with legal standing per the laws of the land.
The Bible is not silent on the idea of persons living together outside the marriage covenant. Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. Exodus 20:14 Thou shalt not commit adultery. Proverbs 6:32 But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Jesus met a woman one time who entered in with religious-sounding dialogue, but her heart was found out. Persons living in error will often do this – talk religious talk, but inside they know that they are wrong in their actions. How many young people decide to live together and bring shame and dishonor to themselves, their testimony, their parents, the gospel, and call it right and holy in their own eyes? It is historically verifiable that Jewish custom did not recognize common law marriage, that is, marriage being assumed due to the length of time a person was living with someone. Consider Jesus and his interaction with the woman at the well.
John 4:7-18 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. 8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) 9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. 11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? 12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
Jesus here, being the friend of sinners, and ministering about in the highways and byways, comes across this woman at the well. She’s from another land, Samaria. Samaria and Israel were not friendly with one another. But even in Samaria they had laws concerning marriage. Jesus did not recognize the man she was presently living with as being her husband. She had had five husbands. Finally, she was simply living with a man. She was lost, and Jesus came to give her life, but he still did not endorse her live-in boyfriend as her rightful husband. People don’t like to be lonely and many otherwise good and decent people will turn to living with another person to avoid loneliness. In years past a very good friend of mine, old enough to be my dad, lived with another woman. He wanted to marry her (he said), but she didn’t want to get legally married because of property and inheritance issues. So they lived together. Some don’t get married because they cannot afford a wedding. My church performs complete wedding ceremonies at no cost for persons who are living together but want to be married. Now think about that – a complete wedding furnished at no cost with music, a minister, a venue, and even photographs. This reflects how the Christian community respects marriage and reflects the church being pro-active to stem the ever rising tide of illegitimacy in our nation.
In America we have a law called the Defense of Marriage Act. It is under severe attack, and at the highest level of our own government this law and the Christian view of the sanctity of marriage are disdained. The question can be posed – why is the government involved in marriage? The reality is that government is involved in marriage and it has a right to regulate marriage for the sake of the individual, property, child rearing, and a host of other legal, ethical, and moral reasons. So long as laws do not disrespect God, then the Christian in their nation has an obligation to obey those laws, and the law of the land in the United States is that a legal marriage requires a license and that license represents a number of things, including: health/ blood check (in some jurisdictions), age verification, proper witnesses, the legal waiting period has been met (typically three days), proof of who you are, and that you will be married by a person legally recognized as being authorized to perform a marriage, you and your spouse sign it, as well as two witnesses. The idea of two witnesses signing a document has its roots in Old Testament law and is reaffirmed in the New Testament. Deuteronomy 19:15 One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. 1 Timothy 5:19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
As of this writing I have two daughters who are married and a third to be married in less than a year. Marriage is honorable and I raise all of my children, with their mother, to honor God, be responsible, and in due time marry and have their own family. This is God’s way. My oldest daughter is married to a man native to the Philippines. The marriage was performed in the United States consistent with the laws of my nation and my state, Washington. We had a legal Christian wedding ceremony that included not only American traditions, but Filipino traditions. My other married daughter did not have any Filipino traditions in her wedding, because she didn’t marry a Filipino man. So you see the details of the wedding ceremony do not have to be identical, the main thing is that the wedding honors God, respects and observes the laws of the land, and is witnessed by mature, credible persons. I walked down the aisle in both weddings with my daughters, one in a church, the other in an outdoor venue. Both times with joy I gave my daughter’s hand to the man who would now be the lawful authority in their lives, above their own father. This is right and proper. In time I’ll enjoy many grandchildren (I have one already!). My wife and I will enjoy the fruit of our labors in raising children, eight of them. My desire is that I live to see all of my children married, fulfilling their life’s calling, and having children of their own. Biblical Marriage, it has a lot of benefits!
Let us affirm that marriage is God-ordained. Matthew 19:4-6 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. I might add that what God has ordained let not man pervert. Let us not fall into error by thinking that marriage is man-made. It is God-ordained and there are proper provisions in place to know what a Biblical Marriage is and is not.
Marriage is a covenant, a solemn binding agreement made before God and man. The religious ceremony of the wedding before church and community emphasizes that marriage is more than a legal agreement between two individuals. The church has a responsibility to support and nurture the marriage that has been affirmed by public vows.
A Biblical Marriage is to be between two believers. Two persons, a man and a woman, of sufficient legal age, both with a Christian testimony and both committed to the cause of Christ. Paul the apostle writes in 2 Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? It is not proper at all for a Christian man to marry a non-Christian woman, or for a Christian woman to marry a non-Christian man. Should it come to pass that within the marriage of two non-believers, one becomes a believer, then the scriptures also have teaching regarding this marriage, as found in 1 Corinthians 7:13-15 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.
The Assemblies of God, an orthodox Protestant Christian denomination I have been a part of for almost 20 years, says the following: “The church urges every couple who is contemplating marriage to seek Christian counsel and to address the important questions that will eventually affect the marriage. Honest discussions of key issues should occur long before the wedding, and preferably before the engagement. Such discussion should focus on key life issues such as: career aspirations, family plans, life-style expectations, relationships with extended family and friends, financial management, communication skills, church affiliation, etc. Because marriages must be built on honesty, a thorough and open disclosure of both partner’s backgrounds and histories should also be unveiled long before marriage. In doing so, all significant and consequential issues should be resolved, particularly those that will cause emotional pain, require understanding, and need forgiveness.” This is a marvelously written paragraph, showing maturity, sensitivity, and practicality in matters of high importance.
My denomination, my local church, my prison ministry, all recognize that God’s best and perfect way is not always what everyone experiences. For some the pain of a bad marriage, or marriages, has hardened them toward ever being married again. This is a conclusion that can be reached regarding the woman at the well. I have known two women in my life who were each married five different times and also lived as the Samaritan woman, that is, living with a man or men not their husbands. But in one of those cases the woman today is a radiant Christian, advancing the cause of Christ, fulfilled as a woman of faith who, like Ruth, was grafted into the family of God by faith. Our loving savior Jesus Christ, the “branch of Jesse,” welcomes the sinner into his arms, to minister health and healing of the body and the emotions, and to forgive us of our sins, including sins regarding marriage.
The first marriage ceremony was performed by God himself. Genesis 2:18-24 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. 19 And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. 21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. This is the standard, this is the picture. Before Adam and Eve had any husband/wife relations, God performed the ceremony, and Eve was called Adam’s wife. This is from the very first Book of the Bible.
In the very last book of the Bible there is more reference to marriage. Revelation 22:16-19 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. 17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. 18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. Do you wish to add to the scriptures what you think Biblical Marriage is? Do you want take away from the scriptures the admonition to follow the laws of the land? Do you want to discount the role of government in the affairs of men? To do so puts you in a very unattractive position.
The Biblical Marriage is a reflection of Christ and his Church. Consider the scriptures in Ephesians 5:23-32 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 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. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 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. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Now I ask you, is living with someone not your lawful wife or husband something that is a reflection of Christ and his church? The picture of marriage expands into something much broader, with the husband and wife relationship illustrating the relationship between Christ and the church. Husbands are urged to lay down their lives in sacrificial love and protection. And in this safe and cherished embrace of a loving husband, what wife would not be willing to submit to his leadership?
Men and women living together, outside the confines of marriage, are violating God’s ways and are living in sin. Men of God will speak out on this to their brethren who are in this error. Paul said in Galatians 3:10 Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? Darkness does not like the light, as it exposes their sin. John the Baptist spoke out against King Herod and his immoral living. Mark 6:18-27 For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife. 19 Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: 20 For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. 21 And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; 22 And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. … And she said, The head of John the Baptist. … 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison.
Herod was a reprobate, and John the Baptist still rebuked him for his immoral living. But we also see in the scriptures that it is proper to bring correction to a brother in the faith. I have done this and though the response was not as dramatic as being beheaded, still the response was one where I was accused of not knowing the scriptures, of being judgmental, of showing no grace or love, and I was even threatened with legal action, just for speaking up about sin! It would be sin on my part to not speak up. Christians are supposed to correct a brother who is in error. The Apostle Paul instructs the church at Corinth the following: 1 Corinthians 5:9-12 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. 11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. 12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
Note that Paul said in verse 12, For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? In modern language Paul is saying I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers? God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decide when our brothers and sisters are out of line and, if necessary, clean house. That paraphrase was taken from The Message Bible.
It is error to live with someone not your legal wife or husband. To live this way is immoral. This cannot happen in the community of believers, even if the one in error sees his situation as God-honoring and Biblical. Darkness doesn’t want its deeds exposed. My position is firm – I do not approve of persons living together outside of marriage, especially when that person calls himself a brother. It is a horrible testimony that will end in shipwreck and the person themselves missing heaven. Sexual sin is bad, really bad, according the scriptures. It is a Christian’s duty to confront sin within the Christian community.
Matthew 24 likens the kingdom of Heaven to a wedding. Interesting. Jesus never said, “the kingdom of heaven is like two persons living together, who by their own personal vows live like husband and wife…” This is not at all what the kingdom of Heaven is like or about.
So, what if you are already in a co-habitation situation and are not married? What should you do? All of the attitudes below require repentance, a change in behavior, and recognizing the error and asking God’s forgiveness. Then set the matter straight and walk in victory. Consider the following situations:
- We’re living together already and cannot afford a wedding. Immediately refrain from husband/wife relations, one of you move in with a parent or friend, make arrangements to get a marriage license, and find a minister or government official who will marry you in the presence of witnesses. If you live in the Seattle area, my church, Cedar Park Assembly of God, will marry you for no charge.
- We believe we’re married by our private vows, but are abstaining from husband/wife relations until we can get legally married. Believe what you want, but you are not married according to United States law. Further, if you were married then living together without husband/wife relations is likewise against scripture. 1 Corinthians 7:4-5 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. 5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency [lack of self-control]. Further, the Bible teaches in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-23 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. 23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Anyone who would consider themselves to be married in the eyes of God but then purposely abstain from husband/wife relations is clearly confused. Either you are married or you are not. Well, you are not married, so don’t pretend you are. One of the two should move out of the co-habitation relationship and then arrange for a proper, legal marriage.
- We believe common-law marriage allows us to live together as married couples. Jesus didn’t endorse common law marriage with the woman at the well. Don’t deceive yourself. In some lands common law marriage is recognized. Common law marriage is secular; it is not a Biblical Marriage.
- We don’t believe the State has a say in whether we’re married or not. The State does have a say in legal marriage, that’s the law. Accept it. God endorsed the State. The State has an interest in society, law, order, justice, children, commerce, and marriage, to name a few.
- We believe a marriage license is just a piece of paper. This is among the most juvenile and ignorant comments someone can make. The marriage license represents something, just like money (cash), bills of sale, diplomas, titles to cars or homes or other property; the paper means something. Honestly, to make a case that a marriage license is just a piece of paper is to have no knowledge of, or appreciation for, our legal system, economic system, governmental system, education system, or any other public or private enterprise system. If your employer or customer withheld payment to you because money “is just a piece of paper” what would you think of the “piece of paper” argument then?
- If we get married I will lose other financial benefits. Matthew 18:9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. Welcome to being a responsible Christian. Either get married and forsake the other financial benefits (real or imagined), or live single and retain your financial benefits. God is the one who said in Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. There is a consequence to living in adultery, including missing heaven, bringing shame to yourself, your family, and the cause of Christ. Mark 8:36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
- Weddings are expensive; we should put that money to paying bills instead. Weddings don’t have to be expensive, but they can be. Family members and friends of the groom in our one daughter’s wedding flew in from multiple distant States. That’s a lot of inconvenience and expense for sure, but it’s worth it. It reflects the commitment of the full family to support the newlyweds as they begin their married lives together. It reflects community approval. It reflects a holy celebration worthy of much effort. It reflects respect and honor for God and Bible. This is why we work and produce, so we can celebrate special times with lifelong memories. Life is more than just paying bills!
- We don’t care what you say; we believe we’re married even though we have no license. You will find those who will agree with you, and you can comfort yourself with that if you wish. But this paper makes the case that a Biblical Marriage involves God, it involves witnesses, and it involves the State. To live together is to invite the wrath of God and the judgment of God on you both according to this study. Galatians 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Repent and believe the scriptures. Christian person, if you are living with someone not your legal spouse, you are living in sin and you will be judged. Repent and bring forth fruit worthy of repentance. Take positive action to correct your sin.
- I have a lot of Christian friends who say it’s OK to live as a married couple without a State license. Your friends are wrong. We are to submit to the laws of the land when they don’t violate God’s laws. Your friends cannot pick and choose what they want to accept in the Scriptures.
- God understands my situation and he’ll give me grace, even if you don’t Brother Bob. If you have no conscience about your lifestyle (living together), and the Holy Spirit is not convicting you of this sin, and you are willfully and habitually repeating this sin, then at worst you are not a Christian, and at best you are immature, ignorant, and unlearned in the things of God. 1 John 2:3-5 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. These verses are not hard to interpret.
I’d be remiss to present a paper on Biblical Marriage without also referencing the Book the Song of Solomon. The Song of Solomon is a book written to extol the virtues of love between a husband and wife. The book clearly presents marriage as God’s design. A man and woman are to live together within the context of marriage, loving each other spiritually, emotionally, and physically. From a commentary I read, the book (more poetry) takes the form of a dialogue between a husband (the king) and his wife (the Shulamite). The book can be divided into three sections: the courtship (1:1-3:5); the wedding (3:6-5:1); and the maturing marriage (5:2-8:14). This would be a good book to read regarding Biblical Marriage.
The teachings on Biblical Marriage are not taken from one verse which says “Thus says the Lord, a marriage has to have witnesses and be sanctioned by the State and a license provided.” No verse in the Bible says that. Doctrine/teaching is derived from taking the whole counsel of God, as I’ve sought to do in this message, and compare scripture with scripture to find a position. Many will agree; some will disagree. Regardless, you have my view, a view shared by many mature men and women of faith in the Christian community. Additionally, this message has been reviewed by competent ministers for their approval, being that this is an important subject. Not a one of them endorsed living together outside of a legal marriage as being consistent with the will of God.
In summary these are the six necessary ingredients for a Biblical Marriage.
- One man, one woman.
- Each person committed to Christ Jesus, saved by his blood.
- The laws of the land are observed (including licensing, including not already being married), as long as they are not counter-biblical.
- Each person is prepared for a lifelong commitment.
- The marriage is performed by a legally qualified person.
- The marriage has bona-fide witnesses.
All six ingredients are necessary for a Biblical Marriage. Today in my own country two men or two women can be married in some States. Men and women are married who are either both non-Christian or one is a Christian and another is not. For many they simply live together without any legal commitment. For some, they carry on the charade of being married, having given vows privately, usually without an authority person qualified to give the marriage oath, and no witnesses either. Laws of the land can change; the laws of God do not change.
Often when I teach or preach in any setting I’ll say, “If the Bible says to do it and you’re not doing it, then start doing it, and if the Bible says not to do it, and you’re doing it, then stop doing it.” This applies to living together while not being legally married. Beloved, get married. Do it right. Get on with living within the will of God. Repent and believe the scriptures. Don’t destroy your soul over this! (Proverbs 6:32)
Laws and customs differ from Counties and States within the United States. I have attended a wedding in India. It was an enormous event, with hundreds and hundreds present. I knew the uncle of the groom, and I was personally invited to this wedding, which coincided with our 2010 India missions trip. I had the honor of speaking at the reception and pronouncing a prayer. Many witnesses attended this God-honoring ceremony. Much prayer; much scripture. The wedding followed Indian law and custom. Nice!
While in Ghana in 2011 I met a minister from Liberia. Liberia has two recognized, legal marriages. One is traditional, and one is statutory. The traditional marriage gives provision for having up to four wives and has obligations, such as dowry paid to the bride’s family. The statutory marriage only allows for one wife, among other provisions. One cannot have a traditional and a statutory marriage, they have to pick one over the other. The traditional one is more family-oriented and observes local customs. In both cases, there are property laws, there are divorce laws, and there is government recognition of the marriage. In Liberia, Africa, and many Western African countries, traditional and statutory marriages are legally recognized by their government. The State is certainly involved. Co-habitation is not recognized by the State.
The picture shows my oldest daughter Rebecca and her husband Gabe on their wedding day, June 2012. Note the legal marriage certificate. The service was officiated by my younger brother David (an elder licensed to perform weddings) who read scripture and prayed. The wedding certificate was signed by the bride and the groom and two other witnesses. It is properly dated. The wedding was held before a great crowd of witnesses; family and friends. I pronounced a prayer during the service. God was honored, laws were obeyed, customs were followed, and witnesses signed the document and many more participated, all consistent with Biblical Marriage. Beloved, this is how it works! Do you think this reflects the holiness of God and the church, the bride of Christ? Sure it does, and it can for you too! Go God’s way, and enjoy the blessings that come with it.