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Sender's name: Stephen
My question deals with what makes a person married. I was raised in a church that taught the act of sex with another made two people married not a ceremony. Is this biblical? One preacher I have talked with disagreed with my church. The reason for this question is that I am a virgin and want to know if marrying a nonvirgin (never married in a ceremony) is adultery. I am familiar with what Jesus says about divorce and remarriage. Thank you for taking the time to answer my question.
The Bible does not give instructions for a marriage ceremony. We do have some verses that might shed some light on your question.
"If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then turns against her, and charges her with shameful deeds and publicly defames her, and says, 'I took this woman, but when I came near her, I did not find her a virgin,' then the girl's father and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of the girl's virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. The girl's father shall say to the elders, 'I gave my daughter to this man for a wife, but he turned against her; and behold, he has charged her with shameful deeds, saying, "I did not find your daughter a virgin." But this is the evidence of my daughter's virginity.' And they shall spread the garment before the elders of the city. So the elders of that city shall take the man and chastise him, and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give it to the girl's father, because he publicly defamed a virgin of Israel. And she shall remain his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days. But if this charge is true, that the girl was not found a virgin, then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father's house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you (Duet 22:13-21)."
This assumes that the father and daughter passed of the girl as a virgin. So this is probably not applicable to your question. But notice, it does not say that they were to locate the original man she had sex with and that she was to be his wife.
"If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the dowry for virgins (Exodus 22:16-17)."
Here you have the case of a man who has sex with a virgin, and they were to be married. But it was not required, the father could refuse. This suggests that the very acts of sex itself does not constitute marriage.
It appears that what constitutes marriage is a covenant of some sort.
"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 (Mal 2:14)."
Notice the phrase, "wife by covenant." Today we call it "marriage vows" rather than covenant, but the idea is the same. We vow, or covenant to be a wife or husband till death do us part.
In the New Testament, there are many mentions of wedding feasts and wedding festivals (Matt 22:12; 25:10; Luke 12:36; 14:8; John 2:1ff), which would have included a ceremonial covenant of some sort.
Losing your virginity to someone other than your husband is wrong. The Bible calls it fornication. However, it does not appear that this in itself constitutes a marriage. It takes a covenant.
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