Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Just Married

I wonder, when do couples officially become married in God's sight. Is it when they sign the register, walk the aisle, have sexual intercourse...when? Your comments, biblical or just random musings welcome.

(I am not meaning in a legal state sense)

21 comments:

Annette said...

Have often wondered about this as obviously Adam & Eve and the first however many generations had nobody to officiate a marriage ceremony yet God gave them to one another so at what point did this become marriage?

Shieldsy said...

It's a bit like 'when' did someone become a Christian ... when they repented, when they got baptised, when they first took an interest in Jesus, when they received the Holy Spirit?

Or, as our Bible College lecturer put it, when is a fruitcake not a fruitcake ... when there's no raisens, no sugar, no cherries?

For my mind the 2 essential 'ingredients' of a marriage are the vows and the sexual consummation.

Dave said...

Thanks Annette/Shieldsy,

The vows are crucial and the Adam and Eve example is good. Official marriages are quite a recent thing, I may re post some of this as it is a fascinating topic, and one that can help us having so many hang ups about cohabiting...just researching but will be back.
Not sure about the sexual consumation with a fruitcake though, maybe I missed your point:)

dinsy said...

Do both parts of the "essential ingredients" have to be present, or just one? Don't think sex makes a marriage, equally don't think vows but no consumation (there are occasional cases) does not make a marriage. Though as this is grounds for annulment at least in the Catholic church if my understanding is correct, maybe sex is more important.

Vows crucial? Said to whom, each other only, with witnesses, said before God? Intended inside but not overtly stated?

I did not consider myself any more married having gone through a civil wedding ceremony than I did after 8 years of living with my partner. Still don't, after another 8 years of married bliss! We have not made any vows before God, or to God about our marriage. Does that make it less valid than someone who has?

Does God not judge by what is in the heart, rather than what is said or written on pieces of paper? I would be surprised if a God of grace pays much attention to bits of paper, aisles, or any other laws or customs invented by man.

Shieldsy said...

I agree that God is not interested in bits of paper, or ceremonies. But I think God is interested in vows (...very closely related to covenants). God doesn't need them to be spoken out loud but since we're not marrying God but another person I think it is important that they are verbalised (and preferably witnessed for the sake of accountability). And I don't think the vows even have to be addressed to Him explicitly.

Both parts of the "essential ingredients" have to be there otherwise they wouldn't be essential! Sexual consummation is needed (IMHO) to distinguish it from any other relationship. And it is my understanding that it is the sexual act that somehow makes people 'one-flesh' in God's eyes.

You are right in saying that God doesn't have to regard human customs or ceremonies. But I think you're missing the point - customs & ceremonies are their for our sake not God's. People don't just make up customs for the sake of it. They're usually brought about for extremely practical reasons, it's just we're very adept at passing on HOW to do things but forget the more important aspect which is WHY we do things. Most aspects of a marriage ceremony (civil or 'relgious') are present for immensly practical reasons.

Meg said...

Consummation with a fruitcake... Dave, you have a unique brain! If you happen to marry one (where I live, "fruitcake" is synonymous with "crazy person," and I assume that Said Fruitcake is "compos mentis" enough to know what (s)he is doing) and consummate the union, then, yeah, you betcha, you're married to a fruitcake. :>) Seriously, though, if we see the covenant between husband and wife in the same way as the Abrahamic one that God made with believing Israel - and then engrafted in the true Church with the new covenant sealed in the blood of His Son - then, I believe, when the vows are made publicly, it becomes a marriage. And it's indissoluble except by death, because that's what God intended for people (a covenant that God makes lives as long as either of the parties; it cannot exist between spiritually dead people and a living God. Neither can a covenant exist between a dead spouse and a living one. Another question: does God recognize civil divorce and thus bless serial monogamy? Try discussing that one even with conservative theologians - oy! I did it and will never do it again.).

Marriages of unbelievers are just as valid and binding in the eyes of God as those of believers, right?

If sexual consummation makes a marriage, then what about adultery? Does that make another marriage and fracture the first one to the point that it no longer exists? Some people here, even in the church, say yes.

Dave, you're right: this merits much more discussion.

Dinsy, you're married. ;>) And you're right about non-consummation constituting grounds for annulment in the RCC (I was raised a Catholic) - but now there are about 1,100 other grounds for annulment as well.

Meg

Peter said...

I was Married (long time ago) as a non Christian to a non Christian. The marraige was blessed by God at least three times. God brought us together.... unquestionably even in our unregenerated state so who's to judge in what constitutes a marraige.... God or man. It has nothing to do with a piece of paper or a the prayers of a pious pastor It has to do with thanking God publicly for his blessing on the union of two of His created beings. (I hope this doesn't get me into trouble.)This is only my opinion and not the official party line.

PeterinScotland said...

I believe that marriage is a public statement, and that since society does not regard the amount of leaving and cleaving involved in cohabitation as being a lifelong commitment such that adultery would have been committed if someone "moved on", then there needs to be the public commitment. I'm perfectly happy with a registry office wedding, but as the Westminster Directory for Public Worship says (if I remember aright, and paraphrasing) - it is good for prayer to be made on such an important occasion, hence a Christian ceremony is good. And since it is illegal to have any religious element in a UK secular ceremony, then I guess for most people that means a church service is the best way to go.

Dave said...

One point to make in passing...marriage was instituted by God prior to the law or to the New Covenant. Therefore it is a creational event.
There is no such thing as 'christian' marriage - all marriage is ordained by God when a man and a woman join together.

dinsy said...

"Neither can a covenant exist between a dead spouse and a living one." - Meg, I assume you mean a "spiritually" dead spouse here.

Why not? Paul recognises marriage between a believer and a non-believer. He even says something about the christian partner "sanctifying" the other one (whatever that means in practice - can we have a later thread on this one Dave?).

So you say I am married, but then that no covenant can exist between me and my husband!
(By the way, I'm getting a bit fed up of hearing my husband described as "dead"!)


Peter I.S. - Trouble with church wedding for a pair of genuine, practising non-believers is they have to acknowledge a God they don't believe in, that's why I wouldn't have one. It's hypocritical.

Just because some bunch of (presumably long dead?) people think prayer is good, doesn't mean it is so for those who think there is nothing to pray to.

If you're a humanist, you don't need prayer, and if you're a pagan, you should be allowed pagan worship in your service. Of course they get round it, as do once divorced christians, by having a civil and a religious ceremony.

Annette said...

Dinsy, i may be wrong but I don't think that Meg was referring to the spiritually dead, but that the marriage covenant remains until physical death, ie. "Till death do us part"
But I've maybe got that wrong?

dinsy said...

Thanks Annette. This whole death/spiritual death thing gets very confusing.

Any chance we can agree on a different term for what people are referring to as "spiritually dead" without using the word "dead" ?

We probably need to agree a meaning too. I assume it is being used to mean "not a christian" which is quite a different thing to having no spiritual life at all (ie. completely materialistic, no belief in anything outside the physical world).

I suggest we stick to "not of God" for those who are not christians/jews/messianic, and "materialist" for the rest.

Meg said...

Annette, you are absolutely correct as to what I meant. I consider myself married until my husband physically dies. If he were not a believer, then I'm still married to him... Although believers are not to be "unequally yoked," if we marry an unbeliever, we're as married as anyone else. Sure, a believing spouse may sanctify an unbelieving spouse - and their children - and may be the means by which the unbeliever is saved. I know a dear lady who's saved but her husband is not - her faith and her hope for his eventual salvation is breath-taking to me. It's a true picture of the love that Christ has for His people, in action. She sacrifices for him; she prays unceasingly for him. Sort of Romans 5:6-7, lived out in the mundane...
Before we were saved, we were all "dead in trespasses and sins." (Ephesians 2:1, 5.) Then, after we're saved, we're dead to sin but alive to Christ (Galatians 2:20). And how wonderful all this is!

Meg

Dave said...

Any chance we can agree on a different term for what people are referring to as "spiritually dead" without using the word "dead" ?

What about 'outside of the Kingdom of God', but I am not sure how important it is to give a label, but I agree, the 'dead' thing is not the best.

dinsy said...

Thanks for explaining more fully Meg, I wasn't sure what you were saying before.

Just one thought occurs to me, and I've never thought about it in this context before: Does marriage necessarily end on the (physical) death of one or both or the spouses? Just because our bodies are dead, do our souls have to come "unmarried"?

I really hope not. I think we are all agreed that marriage is more than a physical union?
If we have "already passed from death into life" then what is there left to die when our bodies die?

(As an aside, I believe that God's covenant of grace with us is eternal and transcends death.)

Shieldsy said...

"Does marriage necessarily end on the (physical) death of one or both or the spouses? ... I really hope not."

Of course it ends on death. As Meg(?) said, a covenenant only lasts whilst both parties are alive ... specifically one that says "until death do us part". That's why we have to 'die' (crucified with Christ) before the power of the old covenant of law is no longer in force over us, and before we can enter the new covenant of grace.

And as Jesus made clear, there is no marriage in heaven. It would also mean that people who remarry after death of spouse commit adultery.

dinsy said...

Lots of marriages don't have "till death do us part" - mine included.
As for covenants, they can outlast a party to the covenant, it depends on how they are written and what they say. Wills for example can last beyond the death of the testator.

Are you referring to Mat.22? This is at least as much about resurrection as it is about marriage. The RSV says "in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage" which seems to mean new marriages post resurrection. It doesn't actually say that existing marriages are necessarily terminated. Of course there are lots of versions, and I don't read Greek! If you mean some other text, will you tell us which one?

If you are united in your soul to your spouse, why should that soul union be torn apart just because of the passing of the transient body? Perhaps you don't believe souls can be united? If a marriage is only between physical bodies, why bother getting married, at least in present day UK? Physical togetherness and mutual support can be satisfied by co-habitation, there is no longer a stigma on children born out of wedlock, and there is at least a resonable degree of surety of maintenance for children if the parents separate.

I am absolutely sure that most marriages end with the death of one of the partners, particularly where that was specified in the marriage contract. I don't see why this should universally be the case.

As regards God's own covenants with humanity, surely the covenant of law was made with the Jews, it is not binding on all peoples for all time. Is it not that which sets the Jews apart as God's chosen people? If it is not their covenant with God, what does make the Jews God's people?

Meg said...

Well, Dinsy, I, too, hope that we'll be reunited with our spouses in heaven (I don't relish the thought of not seeing and being with my husband in eternity - but that's from my earthly perspective, of course). I do believe that if one of us were to die, the other would be free to remarry, of course, and so -- that leads to Jesus's reply to those who asked Him whose wife would a woman be who had been widowed by seven brothers...

I guess I should concede that I'm coming from the perspective of the Protestant Reformed Church in America (www.prca.org; I attend a congregation of theirs regularly), from that of John Piper and the PRCA's David Engelsma regarding the indissolubility of marriage. Prof. Engelsma wrote a book called "Marriage: the Mystery of Christ and the Church;" it's a fine discussion on the topic. I rely also on Steven Key and Kenneth Koole of the PRCA for instruction on this; they've written extensively on the subject as well. I'm not a member of the PRCA, but I do admire its teachings on several subjects.

I have no desire to irk anyone with "my views," because they'll always be as flawed as I am as long as I'm in the flesh... I like to rely on God's teachings in the Bible and as exposited by credible preachers and teachers of His Word. Of course, we have to be Bereans and continue to study ourselves... The vast majority of my experience in churches is composed of being rejected for even raising a question, especially in this area, where serial monogamy is the norm among Christians, not just the world.

The state I live in has had a "no-fault divorce" statute on the books for a couple of decades, which just means that a party who wants a divorce states in a boilerplate pleading that "the marital relationship has been broken to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved." There is no investigation into the truth or lack thereof of that allegation. The party then gets a county circuit court judge to rubber-stamp the judgment (even when children are involved) and -- that's that. They're divorced, according to the state, and may remarry within the week if they wish. A party who wishes to work on the marriage rather than end it is "out of luck." "Fault" is only considered when it comes to dividing up the property; if one has committed adultery and the other hasn't, most of the property will likely go to the "innocent" party. I do not believe that this is God's approved model for His people, and this type of civil divorce action makes an absolute mockery of marriage itself. But it's the law of the land here, and any attempts to change it have failed miserably.

I don't know whether things are different in the U.K. -- I would hope they are...

As to the Jews, God has always "loved them because He loved them." Rabbinic Jews are not in "the new covenant," but Messianics are. Rabbinic Jews rely on the Mosaic covenant, which is broken. (I attend a Messianic synagogue every Saturday; I get this teaching all the time.) Romans 9, 10 and 11! The Abrahamic covenant lives, but only as to believing Jews and Gentiles. I do believe that marriage is supposed to be a picture of the unbreakable covenant that God has with the true Church which is made up of believing Gentiles and Jews...

Meg

Shieldsy said...

Hi Dinsy

You might not have said the words "Til death us do part", but even in a civil ceremony the registrar has to remind the couple that the vows they make are "entered into for life". After the death of one or other of the parties you are free from covenent vows.

I concede that not all covenants are terminated by the death of one of the parties ... but on the subject of marriage it would appear that they are.

My understanding of the whole illustration in Mt 22 was that the lady in the hypothetical question would be none of their wives coz there is no marriage. I assume we will recognise & know people in their resurrected state, but I don't think we'll love certain people more in heaven. Consoling though it might be to think so, I can't find any Biblical thing to back that idea up. My guess is that it'll be like being married to everyone! Imagine that ... being able to love & be loved perfectly ... that's got to be heaven.

Dave said...

My guess is that it'll be like being married to everyone! Imagine that ... being able to love & be loved perfectly ... that's got to be heaven.

As marriage is creational then why not have it in heaven, it was good for adam and eve, will we still have sex in heaven, will we still live in families and work etc. I think so, but all of this will take place in a resurrected state. We must remember that we will live on earth, not in some heavenley cloud place, the JW's have a good idea of the future state, shame they include the 144000 in heaven bit though

Brian Robertson said...

Right I have it here is the answer to the question.
Are you ready....


Dave is asking a question on predestination!

The answer is ........sory im on dial up.

 

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