For Christians, what constitutes marriage? Is it Government validation, ceremony, Sex or God?

Have we asked ourselves, as Christians, what really constitutes marriage? Is it Government validation, parental validation, wedding ceremony validation, Sex or God’s validation?


All sex outside of marriage is sin. To God, sex is not marriage. Sex is one of the benefits in marriage for a married couple to share affection love and enjoy natural procreation. Firstly, Jesus was very specific when speaking to the Samaritan woman in John 4: saying “…For you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband” (verse 18). Secondly, Exodus 22:16-17 clearly not only distinguishes between sex and marriage, it also instructs that, if a man sleeps with a woman outside of marriage, he must marry her. It says: “If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. 17 If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins.

So the above scriptures show that the simple act of having sex does not constitute a marriage before God. Having sex outside of marriage is sin no matter how you both feel for each other. If you have been living together unmarried before God, you can repent to have God cleans your relationship so it can honor God, that is marriage. If sex was marriage, there would be no fornication to speak of in the New Testament.



Government validation is usually necessary for certain reasons. For several years in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, men have abused women. So governments have tried to protect women from the evil of some men. For example, many men don’t play their roles as biological parents. That is why many women are single parents or take care of the children. Another example is when, in several cultures, men divorced their wives and did not share the common wealth built together. So when government validate marriages, it is for legal protection both women, children and men. So, as christians, we should not consider government that our marriage is validated when we sign the marriage certificate.

The Bible does not say government’s official recognition constitutes marriage. In much of the early history of mankind, there was no centralized government to oversee marriages and divorces. For God, no governments have authority over marriage and divorce. Although Jesus attended the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11) and Jacob had a ceremony when he married Leah (Genesis 29:21-25), the Bible does not say that a social function constitutes marriage. In some cases, as with slaves and during times of war, it may not even be possible. Although weddings should be times of joy and celebration, God does not require that joy to be public.

There are many things that the Bible does not specifically, precisely describe, but can be determined by considering the intent and spirit of God’s commands, as well as His character. This means that the Christian should take culture into consideration. For instance, we are not to dress as the opposite sex (Deuteronomy 22:5), but cultures have different clothing norms—dresses are universal for women in some ages, while jeans are appropriate in others; men may wear kilts, but it is inappropriate for them to wear a woman’s skirt. The point is that no one in a particular place and time should be confused about a believer’s gender.

Similarly, there should be little ambiguity as to whether a couple is married. The initiation of marriage should follow societal norms as much as possible. If government validation is required, it should be sought. If a ceremony and witnesses of some sort are expected, they should be provided. Then again, if the situation is such that a ceremony is forbidden or sex impossible, they are not scripturally required as long as it is clear that the couple is married. The only strict biblical requirement for marriage is that the couple should leave their parents and cleave to each other. Other cultural norms that do not go against any specific biblical instructions should be followed as closely as possible.

Why is Government divorce not recognized by God? 

This will shock many of you but, government or court validated divorces are not recognized by God. Three scriptural references are enough to show you why many who divorced via courts or government institutions are not divorced as far as God is concerned. This means they are living in an adulteries’ marriages or lives. What does the Bible say:

Matthew 5:32 English Standard Version 2016 (ESV)
But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Matthew 19:9 English Standard Version 2016 (ESV)
And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

1 Corinthians 6: 1-7 If any of you has a grievance against another, how dare he go to law before the unrighteous instead of before the saints! 2Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!

4So if you need to settle everyday matters, do you appoint as judges those of no standing in the church? 5I say this to your shame. Is there really no one among you wise enough to arbitrate between his brothers? 6Instead, one brother goes to law against another, and this in front of unbelievers!

7The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means that you are thoroughly defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, even against your own brothers!

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