Cohabitation Confusion: What does the Bible say?
The fact that many couples live together without the legal commitment of marriage surprises few in our morally dysfunctional society. What is surprising is the number of professing Christians who choose to live together without the benefit of marriage.
Churches and families are increasingly faced with the question of how to respond to these individuals who believe their personal commitments to one another are morally equivalent to legal marriage.
Every moral issue is fundamentally a biblical issue. Genesis 2:18-25 describes marriage as a divine institution. God presented Adam with Eve and established the first marriage.
Genesis 2:24 is the basis for all future marriages: “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.” When Jesus was asked about grounds for divorce, He quoted this verse with regard to a legal, binding marriage relationship (Matt. 19:5).
When God revealed the law to Moses on Mount Sinai, there were many regulations regarding marriage. A man who seduced a virgin and had sexual relations with her before marriage was required to pay the father of the girl and was required to marry her if the father permitted (Ex. 22:16). Sexual relations with a virgin betrothed to another resulted in death by stoning of both parties (Deut. 22:23-24). These laws revealed the importance of marriage and the sin of premarital sex.
Malachi 2:13-16 speaks against the abandonment of wives by husbands. They are accused of breaking faith and abandoning their marriage covenants (v. 14). God’s intention was that sexual relationships between a man and a woman should occur only after a legal covenant was established. The covenant was to provide security and a formal obligation that could not be easily abandoned. Governmental regulation of marriage recognizes the importance of protecting the rights of marriage partners and children.
The New Testament also forbids sexual relations outside marriage. Hebrews 13:4 commands everyone to honor the institution of marriage. In 1 Timothy 4:3, Paul warned that a sign of the end times would be an abandonment of the divine institution of marriage.
Despite the arguments of some, the odds of a successful marriage do not increase because a couple lives together before marriage. In fact, studies reveal the opposite is true.
Where do professing Christian couples find justification for living together without marriage? Their own desires and an immoral culture provide support, but God’s Word is neither vague nor confusing on this point: A personal commitment between a man and woman is not the moral equivalent of a biblical marriage.