by Michael Pearl from No Greater Joy – Excerpt from ‘The Bible on Divorce and Remarriage’
Editor’s note: So here Michael is trying to explain if you state that you are marrying and pray over it then it’s just as valid a marriage as those performed with those pesky government-controlled state licenses. But have conjugal relations without that statement of covenant to marry and it’s mere fornication. Sorry Mike, no marriage license and it’s not legally a marriage no matter how you wave your Bible around.
The Difference between Fornication and Marriage
A sexual relationship without making a binding public commitment is not marriage.
It does join two people into a one-flesh union, but it is still fornication. When Jesus confronted the woman at the well, he declared, “For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband . . .” (John 4:18). He made a distinction between being married—probably divorced and remarried several times—and just shacking up. Apparently the woman was in a relationship with a man to whom she had not made a public commitment. In an era when common law marriages were common, if you had asked the people in the city if the woman was married, they would have said, “No, but she is living with a man right now.” The woman had reached that point in a troubled life filled with disappointment where she did not want to make a binding commitment to any man—at least not to this one, so she enjoyed the benefits of a man without assuming responsibility for a lasting marriage union. That is fornication, and it is an ongoing sin, remedied only by ceasing the relationship or entering into a public convenant.(sic – typo from the book)
There was a time when the constraints of the church and the community guaranteed permanent recognition of a marriage. All that was needed was for the minister to pronounce them husband and wife and for them or their parents to record it in the family Bible. But due to the loss of community and the complexities of the legal structure, it is not that simple today. So apart from a signed marriage licence provided by the state, the best safeguard to assure your rights as a spouse is a signed covenant of marriage drawn up by an attorney and filed at the courthouse.
Your state may not recognize what they call “common law marriage,” but then we shouldn’t recognize their outlaw marriages either. If a private covenant spells out legal responsibilities and privileges, property sharing, children, etc., it must be honored as a legal contract if not as a marriage. After all, the courts do recognize and honor prenuptial agreements or business partnerships. You don’t need a government license to enter holy matrimony, but with the possibility of adverse circumstances arising, you may need a contract to navigate the complexities of marriage in a world controlled by the courts.
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