by Josh Bryant
Many a pastor has heard the phrase "we're married in God's eyes" as a justification for cohabitation outside of marriage - at least cohabitation prior to a wedding ceremony. The argument is that Scripture does not describe a wedding ceremony and thus it is not required. All that Scripture requires is a commitment to be married. Although it is claimed that this line of reasoning is based on Scripture, it ignores an overarching theme of the New Testament.
Marriage in the New Testament is clearly utilized to depict Christ's relationship with the church. Jesus described the Kingdom of God in the parable of the wedding feast (Mt. 22:1-14). In that parable, the King throws a wedding banquet for His Son. He sent servants to summon those who were invited, but the did not come. In fact, the invitees mistreated and killed the servants. The King instructed the servants to go into the world and invite everyone to the feast, and the banquet was filled with guests. Paul expands on the parable in a much more practical sense in demonstrating how marriage reflects Christ's relationship with the church (Eph. 5:22-33). John described the celebration after the defeat of Babylon as a vast multitude saying "Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, reigns! Let us be glad, rejoice, and give him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has prepared herself... Blessed are those invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb!" (Rev. 19:6b-7, 9b).
Clearly there is soteriological and eschatological significance in marriage. Couples often are forced to invite people they barely know and rarely see to their wedding. Likewise, we are commanded to go and make disciples of all nations, to invite everyone we meet to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Inasmuch as there is no salvation without a public confession of Christ as Lord (cf. Rom. 10:8-10 "If you confess with your mouth...you will be saved...one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation."), there is no marriage without a public confession of one man's and one woman's confession of their commitment to lifelong fidelity.
Additionally, the church is the original arbiter of biblical marriage. Government involvement in marriage is a relatively new creation. In 1215, the church created the "banns of marriage" which required a public proclamation of the marriage from the pulpit. It wasn't until the 14th century that the church conscripted governments to help enforce the banns of marriage by requiring governmental permission to get married - a marriage license.
Now in the 21st century, government's role in marriage and marriage-like relationships is starting to deteriorate. Most scholars agree that Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), has ended the notion that cohabitation outside of marriage is a crime. Common law marriage and "palimony" still enter into the picture when a relationship ends that does not involve a wedding ceremony. Marvin v. Marvin, 18 C.3d 660 (1976). All that remains is the different tax treatment of lawfully married couples. Some legislatures have even taken up legislation that would remove the government from the process all together after Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (2015), which legalized same-sex marriage across the country. As such, the church is likely to be the sole arbiter of marriage; legally the institution seems to be losing favor.
All that to say, marriage without ceremony is no marriage - at least not in the biblical use of the word. Pastors should not shy away from arguments that a couple is married in the eyes of God. Without the church, that is not biblically the case.
On December 4, 2017 at 7:00pm, Josh Bryant will be hosting a free interactive webinar called Making the Family Budget. What does a budget have to do with the law? Great question! In short, a budget is a great risk management tool. A budget can help you manage financial struggles by "telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went" (a famous Dave Ramsey-ism). Financial struggles can lead to all sorts of legal troubles: divorce, bankruptcy, foreclosure, eviction, repossession, wage garnishments, and more.
In the interactive Making the Family Budget Webinar, we'll discuss:
We'll conclude with a unique time of question and answer where you'll not only have an opportunity to ask questions, but provide encouragement and your own best practices to others in the group.
Normally, a webinar like this would cost $10 per household unless you signed up for one of our membership plans. The Online Access plan would give you a 20% discount, so it would only cost $8 per household. I'm giving this one to everyone for free as if you were an Attorney Access member. See all the benefits of the membership plans I have available and subscribe for one here.
Sign up for this free webinar by Josh Bryant called Making the Family Budget by clicking here. Don't forget to use Facebook to note your attendance as well.
Christmas has come and gone. All the Christmas stuff has been moved to the clearance aisle, which means that the colors of the holiday aisle have been transformed from green, red, and gold to pink, red, and white. It's time to start thinking about Valentine's Day already. Why not invest in some real, quality time with your spouse or fiancé this Valentine's Day by attending Marital Matter, a 2-day marriage workshop at First Baptist Rogers? Here are 10 reasons why you should come.
1. Decrease the risk of diabetes and obesity. A quick google search indicates that Americans will spend over $1 Trillion on candy, including over 36 million boxes of chocolate and over 8 billion of those chalky candy hearts. Don't contribute to the risk of diabetes and obesity of your significant other (or yourself if you're like me and eat what you bought your spouse)!
2. Make the world smell better. Google also shows that over 200 million roses will needlessly die in February. Can you imagine how much better the world would smell if we wouldn't kill so many beautifully smelling plants?
3. Increase cotton supplies. I don't know how many teddy bears are sold each Valentine's Day, but it's a lot. Let's keep cotton prices down by not increasing demand and decreasing supply so much in February.
4. Break the consumer cycle. In all seriousness (or at least some), Valentine's Day has become a bit of a consumer holiday. Some studies estimate that as a couple you'll spend around $225 on stuff this Valentine's Day. Marital Matter is substantially more affordable!
5. Get a better return on your investment. Ok seriously, you'll get a better return on your Valentine's Day expenditures by coming to Marital Matter, where you'll discuss budgeting, your view of money, and other ways in which money comes into marriage. If what you learn saves you just $100 per month, next year you'll have paid for the next six Valentine's Days. In 10 years you'll have saved $12,000 and in 50 you'll have saved $60,000. Are those bears, candies, and roses going to do that for you?
6. Spice it up. Ok guys - you know what Valentine's Day is really for. Let's just say there's a reason why pregnancy test sales double in February. At Marital Matter, you'll learn that there's so much more to sex than just sex. There's intimacy, connection, romance, affection, and so much more. You'll hear what the Bible has to say about the incredible gift of sex.
7. Tone it down. Now I know most of you have never gotten into an argument with your significant other. Ok, that's a lie. I know most of you have. At Marital Matter, you'll learn how to resolve the inevitable conflict that comes into your relationship in a manner that both of you don't walk away feeling awful, and hopefully without any screaming, yelling, pushing, shoving, kicking, biting, or other less productive activities.
8. Get it out. Are you tired of hearing her say, "share your feelings with me" or something similar? When he's talking are you already planning your comeback? At Marital Matter, you'll discuss the two components of communication (assertiveness and active listening) and learn skills that help you do both better than you do now.
9. Bring Him in. My Dad officiated my wedding ceremony, and he described marriage as a triangle with my wife and I at opposite ends of the bottom corners and God at the top corner. His point was that the closer we got to God, the closer we'd get to each other. At Marital Matter, you'll learn why spiritual beliefs are a key component of marriage, and what marriage is itself more of a spiritual union than anything else.
10. Know where you stand. My former boss told me on my first day of my first job out of college that you can't manage what you can't measure. At Marital Matter, you'll take an assessment that identifies the degree to which you agree on several different components of marriage and how satisfied each of you are in those areas. This is a very fruitful and wise exercise. Knowing where you stand and learning skills to improve your marriage will help you walk away from this workshop ready to make 2016 the best year of your married life!
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I follow Christ. I have a beautiful wife Megan and three wonderful children, Harrisen, Rebekah, and Carter. I have an M.Div. from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, am licensed to practice law in several state and federal courts, and live in Rogers, Arkansas. I write a blog and produce a podcast. And I do it all that others may know Christ.