Does the Bible require Christians to be married in a Christian church?
There are two ways of answering your question. Let me approach it this way:
If you are thinking about a church building, there could be a question about having a wedding in, say, a Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the nearest Mormon Temple. Buildings do matter—we can communicate something about where we do things. I performed a wedding once in a beautiful Congregational Church building. The building was beautiful but the church’s theology was terrible! But, no, there is no Bible verse which says we must have a wedding in a particular place; we just need to show prudence.
However, going in a different direction, the Bible does speak to the issue of marriage in these ways:
1) Marriage is ordained by God (Gen. 2:24) and therefore if two Christians are getting married they should want it to glorify God and to focus the attention not just on how lovely the bride is or how handsome the groom is, but on the God who alone can bless marriage and the Savior who alone can enable two sinners to say “I do.” In this sense the marriage of two Christians is different. I have performed weddings where the bride and groom wanted congregational singing of hymns and we treated the ceremony like a worship service with the preaching of the Word, prayer, a benediction (but no offering although the father of the bride may have wished for one!) It is important that the ceremony be Christ-centered but it can be held in many different places.
2) A key concept to keep before our young people is that it is two Christians, those who have professed their faith in Jesus Christ, who are getting married. In this sense, yes, we get married within the bounds of the church, not the building but within the bounds of the visible church. Here Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:39 “only in the Lord” and 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” set the parameters. Countless Christians have found to their sorrow that it really does matter if you marry a non-Christian or someone who professes faith in Christ only in order to be married. I have had to counsel some of those folks and the problems never disappear unless the unbelieving spouse is converted and frequently the unbeliever will pull the believer away from a vibrant walk in Christ. That is not universally true but is very common. The Old Testament is filled with the examples of those who didn’t “get married in the church” or within the covenant community and they are not pretty stories, witness Solomon or Ahab.
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