Bible Question:

Is it truly a marriage in the eyes of God if you are married by a justice of the peace? After all, it is not what God has joined together but what man has joined together.

Bible Answer:

It appears that many people in scripture were married without a justice of the peace, chaplain, priest or some other individual.

Marriage Without “I do”

Adam and Eve are the first example of a couple who were married without an earthly ceremony before a human justice of the peace. But we may not want to push this too hard since God actually arranged and conducted the marriage. Maybe our best example is the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah.

. . . And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming. And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel. For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a vail, and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done. And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. Genesis 24:63-67 (NASB)

There appears to have been no ceremony. No “I dos” and no “Do you take this woman to be . . .” pledges. There was only a commitment to get married to Isaac – before she even met him (Genesis 24:54-60).

When we come to the New Testament, we find wedding ceremonies. The first recorded one is found in Cana.

And on the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and Jesus also was invited, and His disciples, to the wedding. John 2:1-2  (NASB)

When Jesus attended this one, He created new wine after the old wine was gone. Jesus did not object to the wedding. In fact, He helped and supported the wedding. In past times, marriages took place with a public ceremony and sometimes without one. Today, most governments require a marriage ceremony of some kind to make the marriage legal. The wedding becomes a public record of the commitment between the man and the woman. This is the kind of marriage Jesus attended in John 2. God commands us to submit to our government (Romans 13:1 and 1 Peter 2:13). This includes being married by a justice of the peace. So we should honor our government’s requirement regarding marriage ceremonies.

God’s Idea of Marriage

God considers marriage a commitment.

Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Malachi 2:14 (NASB)

Notice how the Holy Spirit worded this passage, “she is . . . your wife by covenant.” That means a commitment between a man and a woman. Marriages are not created by having sexual relations (1 Corinthians 6:16). Marriage is a commitment. God honors the legal ceremony conducted by a justice of the peace, a pastor, priest, a rabbi, or anyone approved by the government as a formal act of commitment between a man and a woman who pledge to live with each other the rest of their lives.


What a justice of the peace has joined together, God has joined together. Sometimes we may marry someone we should not have married such as an unbeliever. It may have occurred before a justice of the peace and not a pastor, but God still honors the marriage. God expects us to remain married and fulfill our commitment. This says it well,


“Do you take this man for better or worse?”


“He can’t be no worse, and they is no hopes of his gettin’ any better, so I takes him as he is.”

– Paul E. Holdcraft

Suggested Links:

What does the Bible mean by an “one-flesh” relationship?
Will God bless an arranged marriage?
What makes a marriage?