Does the Sin of Fornication Constitute Marriage?

Jessie G. Jenkins
Tucumcari, New Mexico

l have a very good friend and brother in Christ who is stationed in Germany. He is doing a good deal of preaching to the army personnel, and as a result is having a pretty close association with the German preacher there. I have recently received a letter from this friend wanting my comments on a position taken by this German preacher. His position is that if a man commits fornication with a woman, he is married to her in the eyes of God and will have to either take the woman for his wife or never marry. His proof texts are Exodus 22:16 and Deuteronomy 22:22-29.

Let it be understood that I am not minimizing the sin of fornication. It is not only a sin against God, but is a sin against the body as well. (I Cor. 6:18.) And it will certainly be taught against as long as I am in the local church here. But as this position is not peculiar to this preacher or to Germany, but is espoused by preachers and brethren in America, I do want to examine the proof texts to see if they merit the conclusion that some brethren draw from them.

Exodus 22:16-17

"And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins." First, before a man could be sure that fornication constituted marriage he would have to ascertain that the woman involved was a virgin; for this was a law relative to virgins. Second, if the virgin's father refused to give her unto the man with whom she had relations, will the teacher of this theory insist that the man pay the virgin's father "money" according to the dowry of virgins?"

Third, Exodus 22: 18-20 reads: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death. He that sacrificeth unto any god, save the Lord only he shall be utterly destroyed."Will the man who teaches that verses 16 and 17 are binding today make the same application of verses 18-20? Will he take a witch, a man that lay with a beast, or a man that sacrifices to another God and put him to death? Certainly not! This shows that he knows, if he will just stop and think, that this was part of the law of Moses, and that it is not binding today.

Deuteronomy 22:22-29

In verses 28 and 29 you will note that it says that if a man lie with a virgin "and they be found," he is to give her father fifty shekels of silver, "and she shall be his wife." First, for this to be binding, the maid had to be a virgin. Second, it was to be enacted "if they be found." I wonder if God joins them as man and wife if they be found, but does not if they be not found' Third, after they had had the act and after they had been found, they were not even then man and wife: for he was to obtain the consent of her father (and pay him dowry if he demanded it) before she became his wife.

Now let us notice a few things in the context. Verse 22: If a man be found laying with a married woman, would the teacher of this theory insist on putting evil away from Israel by putting both of them to death? Verses 23-24: If a man lay with a virgin in the city, would the teacher of this theory think that he is to take them out of the city and stone them to death? Let him try it: and he will not only be sinning in God's sight, but he will also pay the penalty of the civil law for murder!

If this passage from Moses law is binding today we are going to have to take it all. I am not going to just let a man have verses 28 and 29 so he can prove his false theory. The passage is either binding or it is not. A member of the church does not have any more right to pick him a pet verse from Moses' law to prove his theory on marriage than the Christian Church preacher has the right to pick him a pet verse to prove his theory on instrumental music in worship, or than the Seventh Day Adventist has the right to pick a pet verse to prove his theory on Sabbath keeping, or than the Mormon has the right to pick a pet verse to prove his theory on polygamy.

I will point out to our brethren who teach this theory on marriage that if they have to go to the Law of Moses for authority for their teachings: then, "Christ has become of no effect to you; ye are fallen from grace." (Gal. 5:4.) And I would point out that if they are going to try to bind one part of the law of Moses, they are "debtor to do the whole law. " (Gal. 5: 3.)

Finally, I would point out that this theory makes it impossible for a single man and woman to commit fornication. If the act seals marriage in God's sight, then it is a lawful act. So a man and woman wouldn't be committing fornication; they would just be getting married! Pshaw!

Truth Magazine VII: 2, pp. 15, 24
November 1962