A Letter to Rachel

This is a letter from a brother to his sister upon her engagement. Tim explains the importance of setting forth an accurate picture of marriage from the very beginning. It is indeed a picture of the relationship of Christ with his beloved, the church.

Dear Rachel,

The reason I raise the issue of a marriage license is that I care deeply for you and desire that you both start your life together on the right foot honoring God first in all your ways and acting in truth and righteousness.

Because I object to the practice of marriage licenses it does not follow that I believe that the state has no legitimate role in Marriage. My objections to marriage licenses has nothing whatsoever to do with the belief the state has no legitimate role in Christian marriage. In his Word, God has called the state to perform specifically defined functions in society. To recognize, uphold, defend and protect the sacred marriage covenant are legitimate and necessary roles for the civil government.

The real question is not whether or not the state has any biblical role in marriage. We all agree that it does. The real question is "What is that biblical role of the state in Marriage?" Should it recognize, uphold, defend and strengthen the marriage covenant? Or should it go much further and sell permission to all those who wish to enter the creation ordinance, thereby creating marriages. The real question at issue is who is sovereign over marriage.

As God's ministers (Rom 13), the state is duty-bound to recognize and defend that which God has already ordained. Practically speaking, there are many different ways to accomplish this task. However, we must always remember the state is not a law unto itself - if it were it would not be considered a "minister" of God. It does not have the authority to require things beyond what God has defined. It must function under God by making right judgments in light of God's revelation in nature and Scripture. There is such a thing as godly government and there is such a thing as ungodly government.

The stateís role in recognizing, defending, upholding and strengthening covenant marriage is very different than the state's bold (and modern) claim that the status of covenant marriage is lawfully created only by permission of the state. As defined in any dictionary, license actually means "permission to act." Therefore, when you buy a license you buy permission from the state to marry. By that physical act, you agree with the state's false claims to authority and lordship over marriage as if sacred marriage truly is their property to sell or that they in some way create marriages. As a biblical covenant, however, marriage cannot be created by the state. It is created by the agreement, promise and witnessing of the covenant itself. The biblical role of the state is then to publicly recognize (when necessary) and defend that existing covenant. Covenants come first. Then comes the state.

We can see in Scripture that marriage is not the property of the state to sell or in any way make. No biblical marriages contain anyone buying permission or even asking permission from the civil authorities. There is no biblical sanction for the principle nor the practice. You can prove me wrong if you think I am mistaken, but when you look at biblical marriages what do you see? You see permission coming from the covenant families involved. You see the covenant community coming together to celebrate this marriage covenant with a feast. You do not see anyone asking permission of the civil authorities to marry - anywhere.

Why do we think that Christians must ask permission from the state to get married? Well, many say that we are bound to obey the laws of the land. Didnít Jesus teach to render unto Caesar that which rightly belongs to Caesar? Jesus did teach that, but most people, for convenience sake, donít quote the entire teaching of our Lord. He taught to render unto Caesar that which rightly belongs to Caesar... and to God that which rightly belongs to God. What people completely miss is that Jesus was warning against agreeing with the stateís false claims inscribed on the coin. In the context he was warning against Caesarís claim to deity. The relevant point in our situation is the ordinance of covenant marriage is not Caesar's property to sell! It is Godís ordinance built into creation. I believe when the state usurps this authority as lord over marriage (and the family) it has usurped God's rightful authority. By doing that the state has set itself up as a false god. Contrary to what you might have thought before, I find this issue very serious as a disciple of Jesus Christ and the clear way of life he teaches us all to live.

Love,

Tim

Covenant Community Church
P.O. Box 99
Whitehall, MT 59759
406.490.9103
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