Throughout the Bible, marriage is described using the word “covenant”. In contemporary society, many countries now use a contract called a marriage license. This marriage license is a contract between the couple and the state. The same people who argue that a church or ministry needs a 501c3 to legally send their donors tax credit (which is not true), also argue that couples need a license from the state to be legally married in the eyes of God, which is also false. 

Both the 501c3 and the marriage license are contracts between you and the government, which you enter into by choice giving the state authority over your church or marriage which was not required. 

According to the article, “THE UGLY HISTORY OF THE MARRIAGE LICENSE IN AMERICA”, there was no such thing as a marriage license in American history until around the 1920’s. The states put the marriage license in place as a way to dictate who could and could not get married, for the purpose of making sure that black, white, Asian and Indian races did not mix. That’s right. The article states, “Marriage licenses were invented as a way to stop white people from marrying black people. Because they couldn’t get a license, inter-racial couples, who would have been considered married before the marriage license was available, ceased to be married...Laws against inter-racial marriage persisted long after segregation was deemed unconstitutional in 1957. It wasn’t until 1967 that anti-miscegenation laws were wiped off the books in the southern states. Alabama didn’t bother to take it off the books until 2000...Let’s put the power back into the hands of the people and get rid of the last vestiges of a racist, bigoted practice that is the marriage license. Little did you know that the license you are clamoring for and that is filed away in millions of homes around the country has roots more ugly than the confederate flag that can no longer be purchased on Amazon. com.” 

A marriage license is asking for permission to get married and to live by the contract you are entering into. One does not need permission from the state to get married! Don’t you realize it is your inalienable right under God to get married? Free men have always been able to have a covenant marriage under God performed by a minister with witnesses. Once you enter into a license through the state, the state now has authority in your marriage and your home and can use it against you to take away your children and proceed over divorce hearings etc. So now you are subject to be judged by a secular and possibly very anti-biblical judge who supports LGBTQ etc., making decisions concerning your marriage. Now if one party is serious with God and doesn’t want a divorce, but is seeking restoration, this secular judge with a different set of values and morality than a true born again Christian, is making decisions that only the church should be making. In a covenant marriage, it is much more difficult to leave one’s spouse, because the officiating minister, witnesses and elders in the church are all for restoration and not divorce. 

It is amazing to me that some people are adamant against a 501c3 because it is a state license, but they accuse you of not being married if you have a covenant marriage instead of a state marriage license. How can a person not realize they are putting themselves under the state if they have either of these licenses. 

In the article “PASTORS: SEPARATE CHURCH and CIVIL MARRIAGES” by Daniel James Divine, it states, “...pastors, priests, and other clergy have signed their names to an online pledge renouncing involvement in government-recognized marriages. ‘The Marriage Pledge,’ ...calls on church ministers to ‘separate civil marriage from Christian marriage’ and to refuse signing their names to government-issued marriage certificates. In many jurisdictions, including many of the United States, civil authorities have adopted a definition of marriage that explicitly rejects the age old requirements of male-female pairing, says the pledge, written by two priests, one Anglican and the other Episcopal. The new definition of marriage no long coincides with the Christian understanding of marriage between a man and woman...To continue with church practices that intertwine government marriage with Christian marriage will implicate the Church in a false definition of marriage. Signers of the pledge include Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, and Presbyterian clergy, among others. They say they will commit to ‘disengaging civil and Christian Marriage’ in the performance of pastoral duties: ‘We will no longer serve as agents of the state in marriage. We will no longer sign government-provided marriage certificates. We will ask couples to seek civil marriage separately from their church related vows and blessings.” 

In the article, “MARRIAGE: COVENANT OR CONTRACT?”, “There are four general characteristics of contracts:
1. Contracts are often made for a limited period of time. Although most marriage ceremonies involve the phrase, ‘till death do us part,’ many couples interpret that as, ‘We’re committed to each other if this relationship is mutually beneficial.’ 2. Contracts often deal with specific actions. Most informal contracts made within the marriage also deal with specific actions. Such informal agreements can be a positive way of living out a covenant marriage. 3. Contracts are based on an ‘if..., then...,’ mentality. Couples with this mentality in which one spouse relies on the other spouse for happiness may struggle deeply in the first several years of marriage. 4. Contracts are motivated by the desire to get something. People sign a lease contract because they want to have a car. The salesman signs the contract because he wants a commission. Many conversations in marriage are motivated to get something. 

There are five biblical characteristics of covenants. A covenant, like a contract, is an agreement between two or more persons, but the nature of the agreement is different: 1. Covenants are initiated for the benefit of the other person. Many of us can honestly say that we entered marriage motivated by the deep desire to benefit the person we are about to marry. Our intentions were to make them happy. However, when needs aren’t met, spouses can revert to a contract mentality. 2. In covenant relationships people make unconditional promises. Covenant marriages are characterized by unconditional promises, such as those spoken in traditional wedding vows. 3. Covenant relationships are based on steadfast love. In a marriage, steadfast love refuses to focus on the negative aspects of one’s spouse. Steadfast love is a choice. 4. Covenant relationships view commitments as permanent. Unquestionably the biblical ideal is one man and one woman married to each other for life. As Christians, we must not lower the ideal. This standard can only be attained if we practice the fifth characteristic of covenants. 5. Covenant relationships require confrontation and forgiveness. These two responses are essential in a covenant marriage. Confrontation means holding the other person responsible for his or her actions. Forgiving means a willingness to lift the penalty and continue a loving, growing relationship. Ignoring the failures of your spouse isn’t the road to marital growth. 

Covenant marriage is God’s plan. There may be contracts with the framework of covenant marriage, but for the Christian, marriage is a covenant. God’s best in marriage will never be accomplished without His power.” 

A covenant marriage is the biblical pattern. It is far better than a contract or a marriage license marriage for the reasons stated above. Never criticize a person or couple whether they choose a covenant marriage or a state contract licensed marriage. I have certainly performed both. A covenant biblical marriage is much stronger than a contract marriage license for your spouse, giving one no carnal excuse to terminate the marriage. A couple could choose to do both. 

Blessings, Jonathan Hansen

© 2020 World Ministries International