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Question and Answer

Must Christians be married in a Christian church?


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.

About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

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You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

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