IS MARRIAGE JUST A LEGAL CONTRACT?


Recently a minister asked my opinion about performing a wedding for a couple that has no affiliation with a church. In other words this couple is not Christian. To my surprise he told me that another minister refused to perform a wedding for any couple not committed to following Christ. The next several minutes were spent discussing the biblical principle of marriage with the final resolution being that matrimony is a God ordained institute not to be entered into unadvisedly. As a matter of conscience no minister should be required to perform any ceremony such as baptism, wedding, or funeral that is outside the individuals comfort zone or religious beliefs. Further more the law does not require but rather allows a minister to perform a wedding.

This conversation caused me to think of people who have expressed the view to me that marriage is just a legal contract. A contract is written in a manner that outlines specific agreed upon terms and conditions. A covenant is a binding agreement with no expiration until one party breaks the covenant with the other or becomes void due to death. The similarity between a contract and a covenant is when either is broken through inappropriate action, consequences occur.

To properly apply steadfast rules to any situation there must be some form of model to use as a guide. The bible gives us a model by which to view the marriage covenant. Genesis 2:18-25 gives us the account of woman being created out of man and concludes with the two being united by God.

Genesis 2:18-25 New International Version                                                       18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” 19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,  for she was taken out of man.” 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

In the garden of Eden there was no unmet need man would have. Adam had a responsibility or God given job which was to name the animals. As a side note Adam’s responsibility can be viewed as the first scientific occupation. In order to fulfill God’s plan for the earth a suitable helper was needed. None could possibly be found among all the known creation so God created woman out of the flesh of man.

Something to ponder that cannot be supported biblically is what the first human was like prior to woman being created. It is possible that man was ‘complete’ prior to the creation of woman. It may be that Adam was created with the full range of human intellect and emotion. Additionally a part of his emotion and intellect range may have been given to Eve during her creation leaving neither man or woman truly complete. This could be an explanation of why man and woman are drawn to each other.

Genesis 2:22 indicates that God brought woman to man as a gift without implying a mandate to Adam to accept the gift.

In verse 23 Adam names the new creation ‘woman’. It should be no surprise that Adam’s first response would be to name the new creation as it was his responsibility to name all creatures.

Verse 24 explains that a man should leave the security and comfort afforded of staying with his parents and cleave or “stick like glue” to his wife. The premise here is man and wife cannot be separated without causing permanent damage to the other, similar to pulling apart two objects glued together.

Verse 25 indicates that nothing was hidden from view of each other. Their unashamed nakedness can be considered as having no concerns about each other.

Some principles that can be found in the story of the first marriage are;

  • God created woman from and for man.
  • God personally instituted marriage, not man.
  • It is proper for parents to expect and allow their children to be committed to a spouse for a lifetime.
  • A couple joined in marriage cannot be separated from each other without causing permanent damage.
  • Within a marriage covenant man and wife can expect to be completely vulnerable to the other without shame or concern.

The principles found within the original marriage covenant provide for a healthy family structure which in turn leads to a healthy civilization.

As a nation the church is faced with the reality of a shift in cultural acceptance that allows for non-biblical definitions of marriage to be acceptable. This leads to extreme views on acceptable marital practices. Views can range from only allowing certain social classes or religious practices to be considered truly married all the way to time specific agreements between two humans as being validated in matrimony. Ignoring the core values presented in biblical teaching leads to a system of human made rules. A timeless standard must be in place to prevent the complete breakdown of morals in any given culture. The standards found in the Holy Bible are relevant for today and if applied properly can preserve and restore our families.

Rev. Burt Schwab

About burtschwab

I currently live in Iowa, USA. I serve as an assisting pastor of a unique small church. My goals are to simply live life as a journey and embrace each day. I am married to a wife with similar passions and that makes me a blessed man.
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