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  We will establish that when a man and a woman cohabitate they are living contrary to God’s standard.  In fact, they are living in a state of perpetual fornication.  To establish this fact, we will look at three main aspects of marriage, and we will also determine at what point God considers a man and a woman married.   

   Webster’s dictionary states that marriage is the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband and wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law.  Notice that this definition states that marriage is:

  1. A unity of a person of the opposite  sex (man & woman)

  2. A consensual & contractual relationship

  3. Recognized by law

Let us look at the three aspects of marriage:

1The Sanctity of Marriage: Sanctity is defined as holiness or sacredness.  Sanctity of marriage is a holy union before the eyes of God between one man and one woman.  This holy union travels all the way back to the start of creation.  Lets look at some verses in the 2nd chapter of Genesis:

   a. In verse 18, God said that it is not good for man to be alone so he created woman from one of Adam’s ribs.

    b. In verses 23 – 24, Adam said, "Eve is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."  This holy union before the eyes of God constituted marriage in paradise.

Throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, sanctity of marriage is considered the normal state of man.  The command to our first parents before the fall was to be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth. God carried out His purpose for the world through marriage.  The following scriptures establish that marriage is the normal state of man and woman and that marriage is also very highly favored:

    a. Jeremiah 29:6 – Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.

    b. Ezra 9:14 – should we again break Your commandments, and join in marriage with the people committing these abominations? Would You not be angry with us until You had consumed us, so that there would be no remnant or survivor?

    c.  Judges 12:9 — He had thirty sons. And he gave away thirty daughters in marriage, and brought in thirty daughters from elsewhere for his sons. He judged Israel seven years.

   d. Proverb 18:22 – He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.

The sanctity of marriage can also be seen throughout the New Testament.  Let’s look at some New Testament scriptures:

    a. Hebrews 13:4 – “Marriage is honorable among all, and the  bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”  

    Note: This scripture clearly reflects that those who engage in sexual relationships outside of marriage are considered fornicators and adulterers and will face the judgment of God.

   b. I Corinthians 7:2 – Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality,

let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own


      Note: This scripture clearly reflects that those who engage in sexual relationships outside of marriage are considered immoral.

   c. 1 Timothy 5:14 – Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

   d. Matthew 22:2 – “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son,

  e. Rom 7:2 - For example, by law a married woman is bound to her

husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage

Both the Old and New Testaments teach that the marriage relationship is the most intimate and sacred relationship that can exist on earth. The strongest and most convincing proof of the sanctity of marriage is that both Old and New Testaments show marriage as the symbol between God and His people. In Isaiah 54:5, God said “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; …”  Also, the departure of God’s people from Him is illustrated by a reference to a wife forsaking her husband; while God’s forbearance, tenderness, and love, are compared to those of a faithful husband to his wife.  

The following Scriptures clearly show marriage as the symbol between God and His people:

   a.  Isaiah 62:5 states – … “And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you”.

  b.  Revelation 21:9 states – “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”  

  c.  Ephesians 5:22-23 states – – “22 Wives, submit to your own

husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body”

2.  Marriage as a Divine Institution:

The Bible presents marriage as a divine institution.  When we say that marriage is a divine institution, we are saying that marriage began with God, and was established by Him when He “created the heavens and the earth”.     Let’s look closely at some reasons why marriage is a divine institution:

  a. God made male and female and ordained marriage as the indispensable means to continue the human race

  b. Marriage was instituted before the existence of civil society, and therefore cannot in its essential nature be a civil institution so any man and woman cast together on a desert island, could lawfully take each other as husband and wife.  It is a degradation of the institution to make it a mere civil contract.

 c.  God commanded men to marry, when He commanded them to increase, and multiply and replenish the earth. d.  God’s word prescribes the duties belonging to the marriage relationship.  His will for man and woman is to be lawfully united in marriage.  He has also determined the continuance of the relationship and the causes which justify its dissolution.  These matters are not subject to the will of the husband or wife nor to the authority of the State but to God.

The vow of mutual fidelity (marital faithfulness and loyalty) made by husband and wife is also made by God.  Marriage is not only a voluntary mutual compact between husband and wife where they promise to be faithful to each other but is also an act in direct obedience to God.  The couple promises to God that they will live together as man and wife according to His word, and any violation of the marriage relationship is a violation of a vow to God.  

Marriage should be entered upon with due solemnity in the fear of God; and should be celebrated, i.e., the ceremony should be performed by a minister of Christ.  The minister alone is authorized to see to it that the law of God is adhered to; and he alone can receive and register the marriage vows as made to God.  The civil magistrate can only witness it as a civil contract. 

Since the essence of the marriage contract is the mutual union of the parties in the sight of God  and in the presence of witnesses, it is absolutely necessary that it be celebrated by a minister of religion or even by a civil magistrate.  For example, it may be lawfully solemnized (to perform the ceremony of marriage) as among the Quakers, without the intervention of a minister or civil magistrate.  It is extremely important that Christians keep in view that the marriage is a divine institution, and it is incumbent of Christians to insist that the marriage be solemnized in a religious service.   Marriage is not a human institution devised as a convenient way to sort out social responsibilities.  If God didn’t leave us instructions about marriage after establishing it, then marriage could be regulated according to our personal whims.  If marriage were a human invention, then different types of marriages could have equal value such as polygamy (the taking of several wives) or polyandry (the sharing of a wife by several husbands).  Monogamy (the life-long union of one man to one woman) would have no intrinsic value than any other type of marriage.

3Marriage as a Civil Institution

Let’s look at marriage as a civil institution.  Since man is a servant of God and bound to obey His word, it is consistent that man is also a servant of the state and bound to obey its laws.  Romans 13:1-2 says, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves”.   

Marriage as a Divine institution is also, in another aspect, a civil institution.  Marriage is a civil institution in so far as:

  a. It must be recognized and enforced by the state.

  b. It imposes civil obligations which the state has the right to

enforce. For example, a husband is bound to sustain his wife.

  c. It involves, on both sides, rights to property; and the claims

of children born in wedlock to the property of their parents.

All questions concerning property fall legitimately under the

control of the civil law.

  d. It belongs to the state and as the guardian of these rights, the state determines what marriages are lawful and what marriages are unlawful, how the contract is to be solemnized and authenticated, and what shall be its legal consequences.

e. We must remember that Christians are bound to obey the state laws but only if the laws are consistent with a good conscience.  The legitimate power of the state in all these matters is limited by the revealed will of God.  It is a violation of the principles of civil and religious liberty for the state to make its will paramount to the will of God. Plain as this principle seems to be, it is constantly disregarded in almost all Christian nations. 

Because marriage is in some of its aspects a civil institution, men have treated it as though it were a mere business engagement. They ignore that it is a divine institution that is regulated and controlled by divine laws. Civil legislatures should remember that they can no more annul the laws of God than the laws of nature.  The following verses prove this:

 a.  Jesus to Pilate: “You would have no power over me at all if it had not been given you from above…”  John 19:11

 b.  “By me monarchs rule and princes decree what is right; by me rulers govern, so do nobles, the lawful authorities.” Proverbs 8:15-16

 At What Point Does God consider a Couple Married? Let us look at the three most common viewpoints concerning this question:

    1. God only considers a couple married when they are legally married. The scriptural support typically given to this view is the verses that advocate submission to the government:

  a.  Romans 13:1-7 — 1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves......... 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

   b. 1 Peter 2:17 — Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

The argument is that if the government requires certain “paperwork” to be completed before a marriage is recognized; a couple should submit themselves to whatever process the government requires.  It is definitely biblical for a couple to submit to the government as long as the requirements do not contradict God’s Word and are reasonable.   

The argument also states that since the authorities that exist have been established by God, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted and will bring judgment on themselves.”  There are some minor weaknesses and problems with this view.  First, there were marriages before any government was organized.  Second, even today, there are some countries that have no governmental recognition of marriage, and/or no legal requirements for marriage.  Third, there are some governments that place unbiblical requirements on a marriage before it is legally recognized.  

2. God only considers a couple married when they have completed some kind of formal wedding ceremony.    Similar to the way, in many cultures, that a father gives away his daughter at the wedding, some interpreters see God’s bringing Eve to Adam (Genesis 2:22) as God  overseeing the first wedding “ceremony.”    In the book of John chapter 2, Jesus attended a wedding ceremony, and he would not have attended the event if He did not approve of what was occurring.  Jesus’ attending a wedding ceremony by no means indicates that God requires a wedding ceremony, but it most definitely does indicate that a wedding ceremony is acceptable in God’s sight.  Nearly every culture in the history of humanity has had some kind of formal wedding ceremony.  In every culture there is an event, action, covenant, or proclamation that is recognized as declaring a man and woman to be married. 

3. God only considers a couple married at the moment they have sexual intercourse. There are some who argue that if any man and woman have sex, God considers the two of them to be married.  Such a viewpoint is not biblically sound. The basis for this argument is the fact that sexual intercourse between a husband and wife is the ultimate fulfillment of the “one flesh” principle (Genesis 2:24; Mathew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31).   In this sense, sexual intercourse is the final “seal” on a marriage covenant. However, if a couple is legally and ceremonially married, but for some reason is unable to engage in sexual intercourse, the couple is still considered married.  It is not biblical to consider a couple who have had sexual intercourse—but who have not observed any of the other aspects of a marriage covenant—to be married.  Scriptures such as 1 Corinthians indicate that sex before marriage is immoral.     If sexual intercourse causes a couple to become married, it could not be considered immoral, as the couple would be considered married the moment they engaged in sexual intercourse.  There is absolutely no biblical basis for an unmarried couple to have sex and then declare themselves to be married, thereby declaring all future sexual relations to be moral and God-honoring. 

If we think that a man and woman can live together without a civil sanction, what do we do with the words adultery and fornication that appears in God’s word?  Who do we apply these words too.  Deuteronomy 5:18 states “‘And you shall not commit adultery.”  If we look at what Jesus said about this verse on his sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:27 – 28   27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart, Jesus shows that marriage is not consistent with impurity in thought, speech and behavior. 


We state the following:

Sanctity of marriage –Marriage is a holy union before the eyes of God between one man and one woman.

Marriage is a Divine Institution – Marriage began with God, and was established by God at the beginning of human history when He “created the heavens and the earth”.

Marriage is a Civil Institution – Since man is a servant of God and bound to obey His word, it is not inconsistent that man is also a servant of the state and bound to obey its laws.  Marriage as an ordinance of God is also, in another aspect, a civil institution

God only considers a couple married when they have completed some kind of formal wedding ceremony

God considers a man and a woman to be married at the moment they have sexual intercourse

    It would seem that the following principles should be followed bearing in mind that a couple who cohabitates without being married is committing fornication and definitely does not meet God’s standards:

1. As long as the requirements are reasonable and not against the Bible, a couple should seek whatever formal recognition is available.  

2. A couple should follow whatever cultural and familial practices are typically employed to recognize a couple as “officially married.”

    3. If possible, a couple should consummate the marriage sexually, fulfilling the physical aspect of the “one flesh” principle.

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