Romans 13:1-2 is one of several passages in Scripture that refers to the importance of believers honoring governmental authority in general: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves." (NIV)
These verses give position number 2 (the couple is married in the eyes of God when the couple is legally married) a stronger biblical basis for support.
The problem, however, with a legal process only is that some governments require couples to go against the laws of God in order to be legally married. Also, there were many marriages that took place in history before governmental laws were established for marriage. Even today some countries have no legal requirements for marriage.
Therefore, a more correct biblical position for a couple, as believers, would be to submit to governmental authority and recognize the laws of the land, as long as that authority does not require them to break one of the laws of God.
ExcusesI have heard many excuses about why a legal marriage should not be required:
- "If we marry, we'll lose certain financial benefits."
- "I have bad credit. It will ruin my spouse's credit if we get married."
- "A piece of paper won't make any difference. It's our love and private commitment to each other that matters."
"You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God." (NLT)
Stepping out in faith and obedience requires us to trust in the Master as we follow his will. There is absolutely nothing we will give up for the sake of obedience that will compare to the blessing and joy of obedience. We will never really know, though, until we take the plunge and give it a try.
ConclusionAs Christians, it is important to focus on the true purpose of marriage when considering the wedding ceremony. Although the details are ultimately between the couple and God, the scriptural example encourages believers to enter into marriage in a way that honors God's covenant relationship, submits to the laws of God first and then the laws of the land, and gives public demonstration of the holy commitment that is being made. This can be carried out in a simple, private ceremony with only a few witnesses, or a large traditional wedding.
The details are not what's important, but rather, the couple's covenant commitment before God and men.