Some couples today choose to cohabit without having a state-issued marriage license because filing with the state may mean having less retirement and Social Security benefits. But what does the Bible say about that?
The Scriptures state that marriage is a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman. “So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:21–24).
The principles “one woman for one man for one lifetime” is for all people. Jesus affirmed the same truth: “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10:6–9).
The marriage union takes place by a mutual commitment before God in a public vow. Couples commit publicly before God and man to be dedicated only to each other in a relationship that would last as long as they both shall live (1 Corinthians 7:39) for God hates divorce (Malachi 2:14). Without a public bond, couples find it easier to end their secret commitment.
So, the exchanging of vows during a wedding ceremony and obtaining a legal license is necessary to God and man. A state-issued license does not make a couple married but it is the covenant oath before God and witnesses that seals their marriage. Thus, a public ceremony in church allows Christian couples to start their union before family and friends with a testimony of their good intentions.
Christians are to “aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man” (2 Corinthians 8:21; Romans 12:17). A couple should not seek to escape the requirements of the law (Romans 13:1-7). Without legal marriage, the sexual relationship is condemned in Scripture (Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:2). Therefore, it is important that the Christian marriage be honorable in the sight of all people. All Christians should live above reproach so that Christ can be honored in all actions (1 Corinthians 10:31).
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In His service,