Building up believers and the New Testament church

The Wedding Day

Who Marries People

There is a practical question we often encounter: who marries a couple? If we consider the Genesis account, I believe we must conclude that it was God who pronounced Adam and Eve one. He brought Eve to Adam and presented her as his wife. It was quite simple. No other man was involved.

Some may feel that this answer is too simplistic for our day, but I would ask us to seriously consider this question before God. Today so much of that original simplicity has been lost. Religious organizations and governments have stepped into the picture. But can we find any other place in the scripture where God's original plan has been altered or expanded? Personally, I cannot find it.

There are many who believe that the church marries people, but can we find this in the scripture? If not, why not? I believe there are at least three reasons we do not find it. First, according to the Genesis account, a couple is married in God's eyes when they leave father and mother and join themselves together as one. The church cannot bring about that union. Only a man and woman can, and once they do, it is God who pronounces them married in His sight because of their action. Man cannot add to this or take away from it. It is a fact before God, and man only observes or witnesses what takes place.

In addition, when the church or men in the church step into this place of pronouncing couples married, it takes our eyes off God and we begin to invest authority in men that they do not have. Where can we find in scripture that God gives men authority to pronounce a couple man and wife? When we go this way we can end up looking for man's approval to marry, for his blessing on the marriage, and worse than that, it opens the door for man to annul the marriage, contrary to the will of God. It puts man in a place that God never intended for him to be.

Thirdly, we do not see in the scripture that marriage is within the calling of the church. The church as the body of Christ is called to declare to the world the nature of God, which is love. It has never been called to "marry and bury," so to speak. The church is spiritual in nature, and when men even with their best intentions bring the church into functions God has not ordained for it, we are distracted from God's purpose and cannot know His blessings on these things.

There is no mediator between God and man other than Jesus Christ, and there should be no other person involved between a husband and his wife. It is a relationship between them alone. Only God can bring them together properly and only God can keep them together in a union. It is a step of faith between them and God. They must know that God has brought them together, and all of their expectation must be on God alone.

What about the government? Does the government determine who is married and who is not? We do not see any government of man at the first wedding. We also do not see government in later accounts, such as the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 24). Marriage is not an institution created by government. It was created by God alone. A government may pronounce a couple man and wife, but does that make it true? Similarly, a government may pronounce a divorce, but is that true? What do we do with this commandment of our Lord: "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." (Matthew 19:6)

Civil governments have created laws for mankind to try to keep order in society according to man's understanding and the condition of the society at a particular time, but God's laws are much higher. They are timeless and cross-cultural. We should note at this point that God's law of marriage is for the human race, not just for Christians. Even if a couple does not acknowledge the authority of God, if they have joined themselves together, they are one in God's eyes and the relationship is valid until death separates them. They may never come to acknowledge Christ as Lord, but if they do, they were married before they came to the Lord and they are still married after they come to the Lord. Their response to the Lord does not alter the union that was created the day they left father and mother and became one flesh in God's eyes.

As Christians, then, what is our obligation to the laws of the land? Here is Peter's instruction: "Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men-- as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God." (1 Peter 2:13-16)

From this I would conclude that God wants us to honor the civil laws of marriage as far as we can. But we do so for the sake of testimony, not to determine whether we are married or not. If a couple is married in God's eyes based on their union, they are man and wife whether they have obeyed the laws of the land or not. Furthermore, if they have not obeyed the laws of the land, their testimony before men may not be pure, but that does not give them a right to separate and marry again. If God has joined them, they are joined until death separates.

While these things may not be obvious to us at this time, I encourage each one to search the scriptures and see if these things are true. I would point us back to our Head who is Christ. He must reveal the truth to each one, that we may move in faith together in our union with Him.