66 - Is a civil marriage considered...?
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66.  Dear Dr. Smith
Is a civil marriage considered as valid as one conducted by a church minister?  My fiancée and I would still like to hold a ceremony in our church but would like to get married now. Does the Bible speak of this? I feel the civil marriage will fulfill legal obligations but know as Christians we must also fulfill God's will.
Thank you in advance for your response.

Anxious for the Altar

Dear Anxious for the Altar
A civil marriage is one in which the marriage ceremony is performed either by a government or civil official. It’s a wedding that takes place without any religious affiliation and meets only the legal requirements of the law. However, for Christians, the following should be taken into account:
•    Marriage is not just signing a piece of paper, it is a commitment before God.
•    Marriage is not just a legal requirement is a Spiritual obligation.
•    Marriage is not just a written contract it is a living covenant.
•    Marriage is not just two people and a judge of this age, it is two people with “The Judge of all the ages”

The North American Division of Seventh-day Adventist released a study done by Monte Sahlin, Center for Creative Ministry in 2010. From a randomize sample of 1,397 Adventist Families, 14% got married by a Civil Official and 2% by other. One could conclude that this 16%  (14% + 2%) got married without getting any form of pre-marital counseling. There is a strong correlation between pre-marital counseling and marriage stability.

The notion of holding a ceremony in the Church later on but getting married now is just a farce. If you are going to cook rice and peas you don’t cook the peas now and eat it and then cook the rice later and eat it and then say you ate rice and peas. You cannot put the cart before the horse and ask the cart to pull the horse. You cannot ask the “Civil” to lead the “Religious”

The Bible clearly warns about taking a brother to court, “dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust…” (1 Cor 6:1) and describes the behavior of the unjust judge (Luke 18). While the Bible does not address civil marriages, one can argue that if God forbade the believer from going before the “judge” for matters concerning a fellow brother, what would God say of a brother taking a sister to the “civil judge” for marriage?

I am aware of the fact that in some cultures a civil marriage is a requirement and as such, the couple has to have two ceremonies, a civil and a religious. In extreme cases like those where it is mandated by law, it’s a matter of rendering unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.  (Matt 22: 21)

I hope my answer is of some help, I pray God that you will do the right thing, keep courageous. God bless.

Dr. Smith