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Scriptural Marriage and Government (Legal) Marriage

Genesis 2:24– That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Matthew 19:4 –(Jesus) And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

I should preface my comments by stating I highly recommend legal marriage in most cases.  It makes life much more navigable, especially if you have children regarding schools, doctors, health insurance, property ownership, legal liability, etc. However, for believers, we must hold to Scripture when determining who is married by God’s design.

I have told my fellow officiates of legal marriages the ONLY function we provide to couples is the validating of a LEGAL married status with the government. Period.  This is because the ONLY ones involved in a man and woman entering into the marriage relationship described in Genesis 2 and Matthew 19 are the couple who leave, cleave, and become one flesh who are then joined by God. Period.  No preacher, no Justice of the Peace, no Judge, no rabbi, no man, woman, or beast can unite a man and woman in the marriage relationship God instituted in the Garden.

A key point: God the Creator instituted marriage for the humans He created. ANY man and woman who leave, cleave and become one flesh (sex) are married by God’s design. These can be nonbelievers, atheists, Gnostics, agnostics, etc.  THUS, there is no such thing as “Christian marriage.” You do not have to be a follower of Christ to be Scripturally married. You don’t have to worship God to be Scripturally married.  God offered no such qualification. Marriage is for His human creatures, not just for His followers.

FACT: The conditions for marriage in Scripture and the requirements for a legal marriage HAVE NOTHING IN COMMON. (The government has removed the “one man-one woman” stipulation, which eliminated the only commonality which at one time did exist.)
Consider this scenario: A man and a woman buy a government marriage license and have it signed by a government officiate. They are legally married. Next, they move in with other partners and have children with them.  Their government legal status is STILL “married” to each other until they obtain a legal divorce.

Scenario 2:  A couple have a monogamous relationship, are faithful, committed to each other and have children. However they are not legally married. The folks where they go to church condemn them for “living in sin.” But are they? ONLY if you allow the secular government standard for marriage to apply, which in turn would define what is “living in sin.” ( I actually observed this in a church I attended.)

An obvious question: Is a couple “shacking up” in a Scriptural marriage? Answer-If they do not have the commitment God requires, then they are committing fornication/adultery. Because, of course, sex alone does not make you married. You do become one flesh with sex but without the commitment of leaving and cleaving, you are committing fornication.

It is important to remember God joins a couple because ONLY He knows their hearts and knows if they are committed as He requires for His marriage design.

For those who believe we should live “by the laws of the land”: If there is no law requiring a couple to be legally married, then having a Scriptural marriage is not defying any law of the government.

Conclusion: A couple Scripturally married does not need a legal marriage for their Scriptural marriage to be “complete” or  “fulfilled.” A legal marriage makes them no “more married” than a Scriptural one. A legal marriage is simply a contract with the government which provides status with and benefits from the secular government.

In wedding ceremonies, when I pronounce the couple husband and wife, I now say:

“And now by the authority given me by the state, I now pronounce you husband and wife according to the state and for its purposes.”

This is, of course, after I fully explained earlier in the ceremony how ONLY God joins man and woman in marriage according to Scripture – an interesting concept with this view.

Some couples I have legally married were already Scripturally married before the legal ceremony. (They already did the “Leave, cleave, and become one flesh.”) And some weren’t Scripturally married until afterward. (One flesh, sex, component.)

Tim Babb – 2016