Common Law Marriage

Did you realize that nowhere in the Bible does it tell us how to become married? It does not describe a particular ceremony a couple must go through. It does not tell us at what age we can get married, nor does it even give us any vows that a couple must to say in order to become a married couple. It does teach that marriage is between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24). 

   Having a sexual relationship does not make a couple married. In the Bible a sexual relationship between a man and woman who are not married is called “fornication” (I Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:19 KJV). If individuals who are not married who have a sexual relationship are married when they have that relationship, there would be no such thing as “fornication.” All sexual relationships would either be acts of “getting married” or adultery. 

   Just because a man and woman live together does not make them married. This can become a common law marriage, but just living together does not make it a common law marriage. (More on this below).

   The closest description as to when a man and woman are married is given in Genesis 2:24 which says, “a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined (cleave, KJV)to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” When that happens, they are married. Since God has not legislated as to when a marriage takes place, often the States or government will legislate what a couple must do in order to be married. God teaches us that we must obey the laws of the government as long as those laws do not violate His laws (Romans 13:1-7; Acts 5:29). Therefore, to be married couples must do whatever the State requires them to do to be married. It may only be to sign a paper stating they are now a married couple. What if a State does not require anything of a couple or as is common in several States that States recognize what is called “a common law marriage?”

    “A common law marriage in the state of Colorado can be defined as a marriage so long as the man and the womanare over the age of eighteen and agree to maintain a marital status. This means that the couple lives together, displays a marital status, and wishes to be recognized as husband and wife.” Colorado Family Law Guide says, “A common law marriage in Colorado is another way of entering into a marriage - an alternative to a ceremonial marriage by which a couple will obtain a marriage license and then go through a ceremony. At the end of the day, a couple in a common law marriage is “just as married” as any other married couple, but may encounter issues actually proving their marriage exists.”

    Just living together does not make them married. They must each mutually and publicly let it be made known that they consider themselves as a married couple. They can do this by expressing that publicly or by filing a joint tax return. Contrary to a common view that if a couple lives together for “X” number of years they are considered married. Once there is a “common law marriage” the only way that can legally be broken is by obtaining a legal divorce. These States recognize common law marriages: Colorado, Washington D.C., Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.

    The fact that some States have common law marriages and some do not presents problems. What if a common law couple moves to a State that does not accept common law marriages? Are they married or do they have to comply with that States’ requirement for marriage? Often States do recognize couples coming from common law States, but often their regulation is that the common law marriage must have occurred before a certain date. Fore example, Florida states they the couple must have been “married” before 1968. Other States have other dates they accept. 

    Quiet often couples live together for a period of time and then decide that they want to be married. Until they make that commitment to be married and manifest what it takes to be recognized as a married couple, are committing the sin for fornication.

    I may be simple minded, but if a couple wants to be married, why not comply with the State’s requirements rather than just declaring marriage by common law? Generally speaking, all that is required is that a couple pay for a marriage license, sign it, and get another proper person to sign it. (In Colorado it can be anyone. Colorado does not require it to be a minister nor a state official). They do not have to go through any sort of ceremony. 


Wayne Burger

When Does Worship Start?

   The Bible records Christians assembling together for several different purposes, not all of which were for worship. For example, in Acts 15 the brethren came together for the purpose of having a “business meeting.” A group of Christians came to Antioch from Jerusalem and began teaching error. Because they had come from Jerusalem, the brethren in Antioch sent them to Jerusalem to resolve the problem. They did not come together to worship; they came together to resolve an issue. In First Corinthians 5 Paul told the church to come together to withdraw fellowship from a sinful brother. They came together for that purpose. They did not come together to worship.

   The New Testament Christians also came together for times of Bible study and for worship. Again, these were two different kinds of assemblies. One can see that there were two different kinds of assembles by the words that were used giving instructions about the meetings.

   In the assembly described in I Corinthians 14:34 “The women are to keep silent in the churches.” The Greek word for “silent” (sigatosan) means that she is not to speak in the assembly. In I Timothy 2:8-12 Paul describes another kind of assembly and he said, “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet” I Timothy 2:11-12. It is interesting that the English uses the word “quietly” and “quiet” whereas in I Corinthians the English word is “silent.” The translators are trying to show that there is a difference in the Greek words. The Greek word in I Timothy 2:11 & 12 is hesuchia. In I Corinthians the word means “absolute silence.” In I Timothy the word means she can speak, but it must be with an attitude of submissiveness. She is limited in that she cannot be the teacher of the class in which men are present, but she can be in a class and can speak in the class.

   The fact that there are two different Greek words indicates that these are two different kinds of assemblies. The I Corinthian passage speaks of the assembly in which the congregation is offering worship to God. The assembly in I Timothy is a spiritual gather where there is prayer and study of God’s word, but it is not an assembly where God is offered worship. In this kind of assembly, she can speak, but not be the teacher of the class.

    How does one know which kind of assembly is being conducted?The kind of assembly is determined by the purpose or intent for which Christians have come together. Just as in Acts 15 they came together for the purpose of discussing a problem and in I Corinthians 5 they came together for the purpose of withdrawing fellowship from an unfaithful Christian. So, in I Corinthians 14 they came together to worship and in I Timothy they came together to study the Bible. The Bible study is not an activity devoted to worship God, but to edify, educate, and strengthen Christians. In the worship assembly women are not to take a leading part – they are not to speak in terms of preaching. In I Timothy she can contribute to the discuss of spiritual matters, but she cannot lead the discussion.

   If Christians assemble for Bible study and then the same group of Christians begin to worship the distinction between the two assemblies has to be made known some way. Let’s say the first hour is a Bible class. It is for teaching people. The next hour is to worship God through the five avenues God demands. When the worship assembly begins, women are limited in what they can do. The difference is the purpose for assembling. The difference in the two assemblies may be distinguished by making an announcement as to the purpose of the meeting, or the difference in the meetings may just be understood because of long practice so that one knows, the Bible class is first, and the worship assembly is second.

   So, when does worship begin? It begins when those who assemble know that these activities are devoted to God, just like a group knows that the purpose of assembling is for the purpose of withdrawing fellowship or for the purpose of conducting business. Each time Christians assemble, they need to know the purpose for the assembly.


Wayne Burger

Celibacy and Sin

    Because there has been so much in the news about the sexual abuse that has been happening in the Catholic Church for so many years, the topic below is a timely explanation of God’s view of marriage. Cecil May Jr. has been a faithful gospel preacher for sixty years or more and has taught in several Christian universities.

Wayne Burger

Celibacy and Sin

     Everyone is saddened by the thousands of young people, devout altar boys and female seminarians, sexually abused by priests; those who should have been their spiritual mentors representing Christ to them. The Roman Church hierarchy is corrupt both in doctrine and in orals. Corruption of doctrine leads to corruption in morality. 

    The sexual drive is one of the strongest human urges, right alongside self-preservation, thirst and hunger, all implanted in us by our Creator. God speaks to this in Scripture, 

    “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband…Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (I Corinthians 7:2-5).

    “To the unmarried and the widows I say it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (I Corinthians 7:9). 

    “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4).

    The Roman Church teaches that conceiving children is the only legitimate reason for sex, even for a married couple. For that reason it forbids mechanical birth control. Since even marital sex, according to them, is less than holy, they found it necessary to concoct the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and Perpetual Virginity of Mary. It is also the reason for the commandment of celibacy for Priests and Nuns. All of that clearly contradicts I Corinthians 7 and Hebrews 13, cited above.

    The Douay version of the Bible, the Roman Catholic approved translation comparable to the KJV, expressly says, “The bishop must be married only once” (I Timothy 3:2). A footnote explains, “Priestly celibacy is of later ecclesiastical origin.” In other words, the Bible says one thing, but the church changed it. To require celibacy of a large number of men with ordinary sex drives and to put them in close proximity to young boys and nubile female seminarians is asking for trouble, which they have received in great abundance. The Bible calls “forbidding to marry” the“teaching of demons” (I Timothy 4:1).

    “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled.” “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” 


Cecil May Jr., Dean Emeritus Faulkner University

A Prince and a King

July 22, 2013 the world, and especially Great Britain, became excited because another royal prince was born - George Alexander Louis was born to Kate and Prince William. He was born into prominence and wealth. News of this great event circled the globe in a matter of minutes.

    Over two thousand years ago another Prince was born. He was not born to prominent parents, nor into wealth. He was laid in a manger out of which the animals had previous eaten. Human news media did not announce His birth to the whole world, but an angel and then a heavenly host announced it to a few shepherds (Luke 2). 

    Jesus is not just a prince in an earthly kingdom, but Prince of life itself (Acts 3:15). The Greek word translated “Prince” means “Originator.”  Jesus is “Prince of Life” because He gave life to all (John 1:4). He not only gives us physical life, He can give us eternal life (John 11:25-26).

   Prince George is third in line to become King of England, - a future possibility, but with Jesus’ kingship was not just a possibility, but a certainty.  It is not a future goal; it is a present reality. Today He is King of kings, and Lord of lords (I Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14). His kingdom is the church (Matthew 16:18-19). You and I can be translated into that kingdom (Colossians 1:13-14). 

    Are you in the kingdom over which Christ reigns? God, the Father wants to rescue you from the domain of darkness, and transfer you into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). There, the Prince of Life can give you peace.  It is “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, (which) will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:7. Make Jesus the King of your life today.

Wayne Burger


Baptism: If...Then

We ought to be motivated based on what the consequences of our action will be. Maybe we will refrain from doing something because of the bad consequences. Maybe we are eager to do something because of the blessing that comes with it. We might think of this as an “if – then” arrangement.  If this is true and offers these blessing then what are the consequences if these actions are not done?

Honoring Fathers

Although it is an old quote it conveys a message for today. “Dad is destiny. More than virtually any other factor, a father’s presence in the family will determine a child’s success or failure… Fatherlessness is the most destructive trend of our generation.”  And then the last sentence, “Real progress will come only when there is renewed conviction that being a loving father and a good husband is the best part of being a man” U. S. News and Report, February 27, 1995, “Why Fathers Count.”  It is no wonder that our nation has set aside a day to honor fathers.

  He is to be honored because he provides the physical necessities of life for his family. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” I Timothy 5:8. After the sin of Adam God laid down this principle, “By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19.

He is to be honored because he realizes that providing the physical necessities of this life is secondary to providing for the spiritual nourishment for his family. Jesus gave fathers the proper priority, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things (physical necessities) will be added to you” Matthew 6:33. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” Ephesians 6:4.

He is to be honored because he exhorts, encourages, and implores his children in love (I Thessalonians 2:11). To exhort means that fathers instruct their children in the right path. To encourage literally means to cheer up. To implore is to beg, to plead or to insist.

Wayne Burger