|Volume 17 Number 2 February 2015||
May a Denominational
Preacher Marry Christians?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
A correspondent inquires whether it is permissible for a denominational preacher to officiate the wedding of Christians. After all, true Christians and members of the Lord’s church distinguish themselves from so-called denominational Christians and the manmade denominations of which they are members. Is it biblically permissible for a denominational preacher to officiate the wedding of Christians? Is it less than ideal for a denominational preacher to perform the wedding of Christians?
The Bible makes a distinction between illicit sex (e.g., fornication, adultery, homosexuality, etc.) and sanctified sex (i.e., between a husband and his wife). “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy” (1 Corinthians 7:14 NKJV). “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).
However, the Bible does not specify details for officiating marriages. Incidentally, Scripture does not record whether there was even any officiating of the first ever marriage – between Adam and Eve. “Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:22; 3:12). Of course, there was no one besides Adam, Eve and God before whom officiating a marriage could occur. There was no cultural norm yet for officiating marriages, and there were no civil laws yet respecting officiating of marriages.
Over the years, cultural customs adopted various procedures for recognition of a husband and a wife or marriage, perhaps without the formality that we typically associate with officiating marriages. For instance, Isaac selected his wife by taking her to his mother’s tent and treating her as his wife. “Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death” (Genesis 24:67). Likewise, Jacob celebrated his selection of a wife with a feast and retiring with his wife elect to his tent or bedroom. “And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast. Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her” (Genesis 29:22-23). Compare this procedure with the Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14), the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) and similar passages (Esther 2:18).
In addition to cultural customs, nations enacted marriage laws, too. For instance, the marriage of Boaz and Ruth was effected by conformance to legal requirements (Ruth 4:1-11), though there may not have been an officiating of marriage of the type with which we are familiar in modern times. In many countries today, marriages occur in accordance with God’s law (i.e., husband and wife to avoid fornication, 1 Corinthians 7:2), according to cultural customs and per marriage laws.
One might observe that cultural customs and marriage laws comprise mankind’s input into the subject of marriage, whereas God’s law is obviously divine in origin. For a marriage to be recognized by God, it must be in keeping with divinely given law (e.g., Matthew 19:9) and in accordance with mankind’s prescription for marriage (Romans 13:1-7). Should the law of God and the human viewpoint on what constitutes marriage contradict (e.g., homosexual marriage, marriage of guilty parties to divorce, etc.), God’s law trumps man’s cultural customs and marriage laws in sinful particulars but not in other areas not conflicting with God’s law.
Officiating of marriages in contemporary times often amounts to filling out an official form by a governmental authorized marriage officer (e.g., judge, justice of the peace, court clerk, religious minister, etc.), the parties to the marriage and witnesses. The pomp and ceremony that may be associated with a marriage are not part of the legal requirements and are not specified in Scripture. In other words, officiating of a marriage is not a religious activity regulated by the Bible (for all living today, the New Testament), though a religious minister may be an authorized marriage officer.
Therefore, it is biblically permissible for a denominational preacher to officiate the marriage of Christians. It, then, becomes a matter of personal judgment – not a matter of critical review. There may be several factors that lead one to opt for officiating of one’s marriage by a denominational preacher. Yet, especially among brethren in societies or in nations where Christians conscientiously try to distinguish genuine Christianity from denominations, it would seem prudent if possible to avoid validating denominationalism or appearing to lower the Lord’s church to being on par with denominationalism. It would seem to be a better option if available to choose as one’s marriage officer a minister for the churches of Christ or a government marriage officer where the religious element is absent. Still, though, in the absence of scriptural specification, it is not sinful for a denominational preacher to officiate the marriage of Christians.
What is the Biblical Plan of Salvation?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Dear Mr. Rushmore, The gospel is not repentance, confession, baptism and faith. The gospel is 1 Cor. 15:1-8. This is what Paul taught as the gospel and he learned the gospel from Christ Himself, Gal. 1:11-12. I do not think Christ gave Paul your gospel. In fact Paul said the if anyone teaches a different gospel that the one he declairs that person is cursed. Darrel Clark
The English word “gospel” appears 101 times in the New Testament, beginning with Matthew 4:23, which reads in part, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom…” (NKJV). “Gospel” is translated from related words, a noun and a verb, which mean “a good message” and “to announce good news” (Biblesoft’s).
First Corinthians 15:1-4 provides an overview definition of the Gospel thusly.
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
Those are the facts of the Gospel. However, those facts must be obeyed for the Gospel to be the power of salvation for anyone. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16); salvation attributed to the Gospel includes faith or belief. “In flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; Romans 10:16; 1 Peter 4:17); the Gospel must be obeyed in order for one to attain salvation.
Since the summary description of the apostle Paul of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) pertains to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, how can one obey the Gospel? The same apostle provided the answer to that question in Romans 6:3-5.
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.
One enacts for himself or herself the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ in Christian baptism – immersion in water – a going into and coming up out of (Acts 8:38-39).
Fittingly, the one baptism (Ephesians 4:5) is the point at which a person receives the “remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), sins are washed away (Acts 22:16) and one is saved (1 Peter 3:21; Mark 16:16). Our Lord also associated with salvation repentance (Luke 13:3) and confessing Him to be the Christ (Matthew 10:32-33; John 8:24).
Biblical faith is based on the evidence of God’s Word (Romans 10:17); examination of Scripture is followed on the road to salvation by faith. Following faith, then, a person can repent of sins and confess that Jesus is the Christ. Prior to examining God’s divine truth in the New Testament, no one could possibly know what to believe, know of what to repent or know that he or she ought to confess that Jesus is the Christ. The natural sequence is the Word of God, faith, repentance, confession of Christ and baptism. Anyone who believes or promotes a so-called gospel different from the biblical description of the Gospel certainly will fall under condemnation (Galatians 1:6-9).
Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, 2006.
Can a Woman Officiate
a Marriage Ceremony?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
A reader asks, “Can a woman officiate a marriage ceremony?” I am sure that the person posing question really means, “May a woman or is she permitted by the Bible to officiate a marriage ceremony?” The word “can” relates to capacity or ability, whereas “may” sometimes pertains to permission to do something. Certainly, a woman “can” officiate a wedding if permitted to do so by applicable laws (e.g., judge, justice of the peace, marriage officer, religious minister). The question remains whether she “may” do that with God’s approval.
Many people presume that performing weddings is a religious activity since often religious ministers officiate marriage ceremonies. However, performing marriages is not described in the Bible as a religious activity, and no duties relative to officiating marriage ceremonies appear in the New Testament ascribed to Gospel preachers, evangelists or religious ministers. Rather, the common supposition that marriages are the special purview of “the church” derives from historical Catholicism and denominationalism – not the New Testament. In modern times, religious officiates of marriage ceremonies receive their authority not from religious groups but from governmental law.
Therefore, a woman who acts in accordance with applicable laws of the land as a judge, a justice of the peace or some other secular, public marriage officer “can” and “may” officiate marriage ceremonies. However, women ought not to perform weddings as Gospel preachers, evangelists or religious ministers since those roles are not biblically permitted for women respecting mixed audiences of men and women (1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Corinthians 14:34). Scripture forbids those roles for women, so even if the law of the land says that they can perform weddings, there should not be any women preachers, evangelists or ministers available to do so. The fact that denominational and apostate churches may ordain women into those functions neither changes New Testament teaching nor should it affect the Lord’s church.
Yet, it is conceivable that a Christian woman could be licensed by the government to perform weddings as a marriage officer representing the churches of Christ, but the confusion that would result would blur the distinction unnecessarily between the Lord’s church and manmade religions, besides the confusion that would occur within the churches of Christ. Usually and maybe universally, one of the requirements to be allowed to officiate marriages is that the one performing the wedding ceremonies be recognized by his (or her) religious group as a preacher, evangelist or minister; that alone would disqualify a Christian woman from being licensed to officiate a marriage ceremony.