By Larry Ray Hafley
From Indiana: “Are there any scriptural objections to prevent conducting a marriage ceremony (not reception, etc.) inside a church building? (This would include the exchanging of vows and remarks by the evangelist only.)”
The answer to this question depends on who you ask! Seriously, this response will not suit, soothe, or satisfy everyone, but a few thoughts may be helpful. It is hoped that no feuds or factions will form from this question or its answer.
Our querist has inserted a very important qualification. There will be no wedding reception, rice throwing, secular songs, the traditional trappings of a social event, and “This would include the exchanging of vows and remarks by the evangelist only.” I have serious reservations about the pomp and pageantry of many weddings because ostentatious showmanship takes precedence over the solemn setting of teaching and an exchange of marriage vows.
The Building And Teaching
The meeting house of a church is an expediency. It is authorized by general authority under the command to “assemble.” The church is charged to teach and to relieve its needy (1 Thess. 1:8; Acts 6:1-6; 1 Tim. 5:16). There is nothing specific about the method or “how” the church is to teach. During a wedding such as described by our inquirer, I would preach a sermon on the history, purposes and laws of God respecting marriage. I believe I may do this in a church building when no bridal party is before me. May I not do the same thing in the same place when a couple is before me desirous of being married, of exchanging vows? The bridal pair is a living demonstration and illustration of the teaching that is done.
The church building is not sacred, in the Roman Catholic sense. It is not a shrine. It is not God’s sanctuary. The church is God’s temple, His sanctuary (Eph. 2:19-22). The church building is not. However, the building should riot be a public auditorium to be used for any and every purpose and activity. It exists as a place for the church to do what God has authorized it to do. The church must teach. A wedding as a teaching situation, not as a social, secular event, is justified since the command to teach is general and not specific as to how it shall be done. The church building is not a wedding chapel, but a wedding affords an occasion for teaching. A meeting house is not a funeral parlor, but it provides opportunity for gospel preaching. A church house is not a baptismal site, but a baptismal service gives time for the performance of what God has commanded of the individual and for teaching and admonition on the subject.
Conclusion And Admonitions
The following is not a rebuke or a reprimand to our querist. It is good that he desires to know if there are scriptural objections to a practice. However, let us first ask, “Where is the authority?” before we ask, “Are there any scriptural objections?”
And again, let there be no divisions over such matters. Too much strife and too many quarrels have been gendered and generated by well meaning brethren who have tried to make laws in areas where God has not specifically legislated. Let all be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. L
Truth Magazine XVIII: 5, p. 75
December 5, 1974