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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

22 August 2007

The Necessity of Church Weddings

Q: Where in the Bible does it say about any one getting married and do you have to get married in a church for it to be right in the eyes of God?

Martin and Katy LutherA: Marriage extends from Adam and Eve through the dawn of the New Jerusalem in Revelation. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that marriage is a good gift from God. However, while God is quite firm about our behavior within marriage — for example, no adultery and no divorce — He never established a rite or ceremony.

Much of the world actually practices a two-step process: A state or secular ceremony, often before a judge or magistrate establishes legal validity. After this, the couple goes to their church, not be married but to receive God’s blessing and the Christian Church’s approval upon their established covenant and vows. In states that allow a mere declaration (e.g., “She and I are married”) to establish the fact, not even a civil ceremony is necessary. The same is true in “common law” states, where living together for a certain period of time establishes a legal marriage.

A Renaissance WeddingHowever, why would a Christian couple not want fellow believers to join with them in celebration of the two becoming “one flesh. (Genesis 2:24, et al.)”? Shouldn’t they crave other Christians’ support, particularly their prayers for God’s blessings upon this new marital union? Of course, you can have a “church wedding” at home or elsewhere — it’s not a building but the Word of God and Christian participants that define the act.

Additionally, a worshipful, joyful wedding service at home or in a house of worship helps emphasize the connection between husband-wife relationships with that of Christ and His Church (see Ephesians 5:22-33) It also prefigures the greater joy and perfect worship all believers will experience when Christ the Bridegroom is forever joined with His perfect Bride, the Holy Christian Church, in the Resurrection (see Revelation 21:9-27).

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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