Will You Marry a Couple Already Living Together? (Episode 365)

The following is a transcript of the audio.

This question comes in to us in many different forms. Here’s the essence of it: Pastor John, would you marry a heterosexual Christian couple who are living together? If so, how is that different than marrying two men or two women in a same-sex marriage? If not, why not?

I would marry them in certain circumstances. I start with the conviction that sexual relations outside marriage is sin. I think that is clearly taught in 1 Corinthians 6:18. Flee fornication. 1 Corinthians 7:2. Because of the temptation to sexual immorality each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. So I start there. I dealt with a number of couples over the years who are at different stages of spiritual maturity and commitment to Jesus and obedience to his commands. And some I have been willing to marry and some I haven’t.

For example, just give me an illustration. If a couple is pregnant and living together regularly sleeping together because they think that because they are committed and moving towards marriage sexual relations is ok. You meet those folks. There are a lot of them out there. What I say to this couple is that they are living in sin and would they repent and bear the fruit... I like to say this in Luke 3:8... worthy of repentance, fitting repentance. And that fruit would be move out and stop living together until you are married. Now if they refuse I tell them: No, I won’t do the wedding. And if they are members of my church they would be disciplined for that kind of willful sin and in my experience couples have walked away. They have gone to find somebody else who will agree with their values. But here is the other situation. If they see the wrong of what they are doing and repent and bear the fruit of purity and public display of the lordship of Jesus in their lives, then I would move forward with their wedding plan, all other things being in proper order. They are moving out of a living situation, living in chastity would testify both to God and to me and to all the people they know who really know what is going on, yes they do. They think they may have it concealed, but they don’t. That they are really serious about repenting of their sin. They are sorry for what they have done. They are turning to God for forgiveness through Jesus. And that bears a beautiful testimony of the grace of God in their lives. In that case, yeah, I will follow through with the wedding. And the reason this seems right to me is that neither the sin of fornication nor the presence of a baby makes repentance and holiness impossible. We have talked before on this podcast of the painful failure to offer pure and virgin bodies to each other at the altar of marriage. We have talked about that. That is a great sadness. But it is not unforgivable. Purity on the other side of sin is possible through the justifying and sanctifying work of Christ. That is what I want these couples who have sinned to embrace. And the fact that they in their past have the sin of fornication and a child is present in the womb doesn’t diminish the possibility of purity and holiness in the present and in the future.

I am not sure how the person who asked the question is thinking when they ask: Well, if you are willing to do that, why wouldn’t you marry two men or two women? But here is the difference. And it is the main relevant difference. If two men had been sleeping together in a same sex relationship and came to me wanting to marry them and said they were sorry for the sin of sleeping together before they were married, I would willingly help them receive forgiveness and trust Jesus and find repentance and move forward in holiness. If they then looked at 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 which says men who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God. They look at that. And they admitted that they were in danger of destruction in the past and still wanted to move forward into a relationship I would say: No, because now you are moving back into the very same sin that you just moved out of. Now that is the difference from the couple that is about to be married. They are moving out of the sin of fornication. They are being chaste. They are marrying according to God’s ordinance and they are not sinning in the marriage. Whereas the same sex couple are moving out of a sinful relationship and about to turn and move into another one, because when Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: Men who practice homosexuality... he doesn't say: Except in the case of marriage. There is no such thing as homosexual marriage. It doesn't exist. It is a mirage in our culture. The Bible knows nothing of it and therefore it can’t be used as a warrant in order to justify homosexual behavior.

So I want people to repent of the sin they have done. God holds out hope for all sinners who will turn away from the sins of the past, embrace Christ as their righteousness and their forgiveness and move forward into lives of holiness.

Thank you Pastor John. For that episode on “the painful failure to offer pure and virgin bodies to each other at the altar of marriage,” see the episode titled, “When Past Sexual Sin Haunts Your Wedding,” that’s episode #336 in the archive. Also see two other related episodes: “How Far Is Too Far Before Marriage?” (Episode 73), and, “When a Christian Won’t Repent from Sexual Sin” (Episode 148). You can find all these episodes, along with over 360 others, in the Ask Pastor John app, a free download for the iPhone and Android. We’ve recently added a search bar at the top of the screen, making it the best and most convenient way to navigate the entire podcast archive. … I’m your host Tony Reinke, we’ll see you tomorrow when I ask: does justification-centered sanctification lead to antinomianism? We’ll see you then.

Related resources: *When Past Sexual Sin Haunts Your Wedding *How Far Is Too Far Before Marriage? * When a Christian Won't Repent from Sexual Sin