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Is it Biblical for Christians to Get Married without a Marriage License?

Is it Biblical for Christians to Get Married without a Marriage License?

Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at

Dear Roger,

The man I am love with is anti-social, and a very shy person. He lives in the country with little to no communication with others, other than a small number of work companions and his parents. He has never been married. He has no children. He tells me he loves me and wants us to be together forever. He says we have a commitment under God to each other.

However, he feels that going to get a "piece of paper" (marriage license) is not biblical. It is another man made law where the government can get money from you. I have researched this as best I can and actually have not found that I won’t go to heaven if we do not have a marriage license. 

I do know fornication will keep me from heaven, but as he states, we are committed and a marriage is a commitment, not a “piece of paper". Will God keep me from heaven if I do not have this license?

Confused Bride-to-Be

Dear Confused,

Obviously, marriage covenants are important to God. Why would a license be needed? 

Let’s start with a few biblical examples: 

When was the first wedding? 

God presented Adam with his wife Eve in Genesis 2:24. After every act of creation, God declared that it was “good.” But when God saw Adam, he said it was “not good” for him to be alone, and God made a helper perfectly fit for Adam. “Who gave this woman to be married to this man?” God did! Adam and Eve became “one flesh” and bore children.

God must be the center of your union. Paul describing Christ, the husband, and His church, the bride, in Ephesians 5, paints the perfect picture of marriage:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

There are three reasons you should consider an official marriage license. 

1. Because God says to honor the government. 

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. God has established the authorities that exist. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” (Romans 13:1-7)

The United States provides valuable benefits and protections for couples obtaining an official marriage license. (See the list at the end of this article.)

2. Because marriage ceremonies were practiced in Jesus’ time.

Wedding ceremonies have been practiced around the world for centuries. Abraham took great care to obtain a godly woman for his son Isaac. God answered Abraham’s prayer by “cattle-watering.”  The patriarch’s servant presented a dowry to young Rebekah, and an agreement was made between families. 

Boaz received permission to marry Ruth by approaching the elders at the city gate. Instead of a license, he used a sandal! (Ruth 4:2-5)

Jesus first miracle was performed at the wedding at Cana. He would not have attended such an event if He did not approve of what was occurring. Jesus’ presence at a wedding ceremony by no means indicates that God requires a wedding ceremony, but it does indicate that a wedding ceremony is acceptable in God’s sight.

Also, Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is one of many examples where Jewish law required a certificate of divorce to dissolve a marriage. The fact that a divorce certificate was needed indicates that a Jewish marriage was a binding relationship under the law.

3. Because a marriage license is a binding covenant.

God used altars and covenants as physical reminders of contracts, promises made between God and His people. Just as a wedding ring reminds a husband and wife of the vows they made to love, honor and cherish each other, a license is a binding document of the covenant made between a man and woman. 

Every culture has an event, action, covenant, vow, or proclamation that is recognized as declaring a man and woman to be married.

If God is convicting you to get a marriage license, then do not violate your conscience. It will impair your relationship to God and to your potential mate. If he truly loves you, he will honor your beliefs. 

Now, as promised, here is a list of benefits and protections for couples that choose to become legally married in the United States:

  • Joint parental rights of children
  • Joint adoption
  • Status as “next of kin” for hospital and medical decisions
  • Right to make decisions about the disposal of loved one’s remains
  • Immigration and residence for partners from other countries
  • Crime victims recovery benefits
  • Domestic violence protection orders
  • Judicial protections and immunity
  • Automatic inheritance in the absence of a will
  • Public safety officers death benefits
  • Spousal veteran’s benefits
  • Social Security
  • Medicare
  • Joint filing of tax returns
  • Wrongful death benefits for surviving partner and children
  • Bereavement or sick leave to care for partner and children
  • Child support
  • Joint insurance plans
  • Tax credits including child tax credit
  • Deferred compensation for pensions and IRA’s
  • Estate and gift tax benefits
  • Welfare and public assistance
  • Joint housing for the elderly
  • Credit protection
  • Medical care for survivors and dependents of certain veterans

A legal document probably won’t change how whether or not you “feel married.” You value what God values when your heart is changed, and this only occurs when you place your trust in God so you are in agreement with Him. (Hebrews 4:12)

I hope this helps!

Sincerely, Roger

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

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