What Doesn't Create a Marriage?

December 07, 2020—According to the Bible, of course

Is a marriage certificate necessary? Is a marriage only valid in a church? Does a marriage exist only after physical intimacy?

This post will be brief and limited. Maybe I’ll flesh these things out later. I’m learning what the Bible says about marriage, divorce, and remarriage and wanted to jot down some things.

Marriage certificates

They aren’t strictly necessary. They fall under “obeying the governing authorities” but a marriage can still technically exist without them.

Trivially, marriages have been around longer than marriage certificates.

Okay, sure my state wasn’t even a state when the Bible was written, but what about older equivalents to government-issued certificates? Well, if you can find civil government’s involvement in Genesis 2 then you’re a better man than me.


It isn’t strictly necessary to get married by a church.

Again, many marriages in the Bible happened outside of any religious context yet were still considered valid.

For example, 1 Corinthians 7:12–13 talks about believing people having unbelieving spouses. The unbelieving spouses wouldn’t be spouses at all if the marriage were only valid in the context of the church. Jesus commanded faithfulness in marriages (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9) that existed prior to the New Testament Church. And there are other examples in the Bible of marriages performed with very little fanfare and even without involvement by religious authorities.


Biblical marriage must exist prior to intercourse. That’s clear from 1 Corinthians 7. In the Bible’s terms intercourse outside of marriage is not good. And Paul said it’s better to get married than burn with passion, because in marriage there is a God-ordained outlet for the passion.

In other words there’s room for intercourse only after marriage. So that can’t be what creates a marriage

The point

None of these things are what create a marriage.