I came across this verse today (bold added):

1 Corinthians 6:15-17 (NASB)
15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.” 17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.

In light of this verse:

Mark 10:7-9 (NKJV)
‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Does this imply that the act of consensual sex initiates a marriage in the eyes of God?

Note: My doctrinal tradition is protestant.

  • 2
    You ought to specify your doctrinal tradition because you only attracted a couple of Catholics, one of which doesn't know anything about the Bible.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 21:15
  • I suggest you also specify whether you mean consensual sex. E.g. rape does not imply marriage. Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 11:09
  • Protestant is too broad, I'm afraid. You will have to narrow it further.
    – user3961
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 5:36

8 Answers 8


No, for a whole lot of reasons.

  1. Old Testament Law says that a man who has sex with an unmarried woman has to marry her. That would be unnecessary if having sex made them married.
  2. If that were the case, some teacher somewhere would be reminding people that they had to treat the people they had sex with as if they were wives.
  3. Tamar has sex with Judah because he won't consent to give her to his son in marriage. After they have sex, there is no thought that they are married. Judah relents and allows Tamar to marry his son.
  4. As pointed out elsewhere, fornication and adultery would both be non-existent events if the act of sex made you married.
  5. David has sex with Bathsheba, and then later marries her. Also unnecessary if the sex made them married.

Having sex "makes you one flesh", and that is something that should be reserved for marriage.

As for Mark 10: "a man shall...be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh". That's two things that should happen, not one.

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    +1, Good answer. But here are a few thoughts: is it possible that references to marriage in your points 1, 3, and 5 refer to human marriage? In other words, like many other Jewish institutions, God instituted a law of marriage among the Israelites that is a shadow of the marriage that takes place in God's eyes? Also, if becoming one flesh refers only to sex, then what is the implication of "Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate"?
    – user971
    Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 15:43
  • I don't believe there is any significant evidence for the separation of ancient Jewish legal marriage and 'heavenly marriage' . In modern times while there can be a difference between marriage as defined by the church and marriage as defined by the state, I see absolutely no evidence that the mere act of sex could be considered marriage. Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 15:58
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    Counterpoints: 1) the Law says to marry the woman to put legal (and economic) force behind what has already been done physically and spiritually. 3 & 5) Not everything done by the characters in the Bible was in line with the way God designed it to be. 4) Perhaps fornication is wrong because the spiritual union has no commitment behind it (from the individuals and the community). Adultery would be wrong, because by spiritually joining yourself to another woman, you would be spiritually divorcing yourself from your wife.
    – Matt White
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 19:58
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    @Jim The statement "a man who has sex with an unmarried woman has to marry her" is not complete. The OT law says that the woman could demand he marry her, but if she didn't want to marry him, he instead had to pay a fine. I suspect the intent was to provide an option in cases of date rape and the like.
    – Jay
    Commented Apr 13, 2012 at 7:12
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    @Matt White RE #4: But that's Clayworth's point: Having sex does not make you married. It has to involve commitment.
    – Jay
    Commented Apr 13, 2012 at 7:13

Short and sweet answer: No, otherwise fornication would be impossible.

  • Ah, a good point
    – user971
    Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 20:39
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    But is fornication an accurate translation? I don't remember it in many modern Bible versions. Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 20:58
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    Even if fornication isn't accurate, adultery between a married and unmarried person wouldn't be possible (at least not in cultures where polygamy is practiced).
    – Flimzy
    Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 1:42
  • @Wikis The word fornication is in the RSV where it is listed as one of the evils which comes "from the heart" (Matt. 15:19). I view the RSV as about as definitive a translation as they come. Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 12:00
  • Yeah, I see. Together with @Flimzy's response, I think your answer makes sense. Thx. Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 12:43

Jesus does not seem to consider merely being with a man to make him your husband.

John 4:16-19 (DRA)
16 Jesus saith to her: Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17 The woman answered, and said: I have no husband. Jesus said to her: Thou hast said well, I have no husband:
    18 For thou hast had five husbands: and he whom thou now hast, is not thy husband. This thou hast said truly.
    19 The woman saith to him: Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.

However, another reading this verse will lead you to one amazing conclusion which was pointed out by my Bishop in Madison, Wisconsin (I don't know where he got it from). He said that to the Jews, the number 7 was a perfect number. Once it reached the 7th thing, it wasn't going to get any better. So this lady had 5 husbands, but 7 lovers. The 7th being Jesus, the penultimate lover of her soul.

Not that you care, but to a Catholic, we might say, if she gave up her old ways, that she was married to Christ. We're pretty particular about what conjugal relations make up marriage, but very liberal about what spiritual relations constitute marriage.

Marriage is that which makes husband and wife, mother and father.

  • Counterpoint to you: So Mary and Joseph were not married when Christ was born? Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 20:49
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    @cwallenpoole: counterpoint to your counterpoint, no, they were pledged to be married. Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 20:54
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    Peter: is that Biblical or church teaching? Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 20:55
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    This would also imply that it was not possible to be in a covenant relationship in the eyes of God without consummation. Few as they may be I think there is precedent for this being possible.
    – Caleb
    Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 20:55
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    @Wikis OTOH, Matt 1:24 says that she was his wife. The difference between the verses is probably grounds for an entirely different question. Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 12:09

I don't know any place in the Bible that actually defines marriage, but there are some clues, like:

Gen 34:1-4 Shechem has sexual relations with Dinah, and then AFTER doing this, says he wants to marry her.

As Cwallenpoole points out, if sex equaled marriage, then there could be no such thing as adultery or premarital sex by definition.

I don't know any place in the Bible that refers to two people who have a one-night stand as "married". The Bible describes plenty of such activity, so it's not for lack of an example.

Gen 2:24 says a man will "leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife". The implication is that marriage is more than just sex: it involves a long-term commitment.

In Matt 19:3-12, Jesus says that divorce is allowed only in very limited circumstances. So marriage is a life-time commitment.

I think the reasonable conclusion is that it includes a life-time commitment to live with the other person and to limit one's sexual activity to one's husband or wife. (Multiple wives was apparently permitted or at least tolerated. I don't know any references to multiple husbands in the Bible.)

The Bible doesn't require any particular ceremoney or ritual to become married. Whether God would accept two people just saying, "Hey, let's declare ourselves married", I don't know. If they were stranded on an island with no pastor or priest around to perform a marriage ceremony, I think God would accept that. If they refuse to have a ceremony because they don't want to make a formal commitment, I don't think God would accept that.

  • "As Cwallenpoole points out, if sex equaled marriage, then there could be no such thing as adultery..." --- Of course there would be. Two virgins have sex. They are married. The man has sex with another woman. He's an adulterer. You see, having sex with anyone other than your spouse while your spouse is living is adultery. I don't understand how you get the notion that adultery wouldn't be possible.
    – user900
    Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 7:29
  • @H3br3wHamm3r81 Okay, clearly "premarital sex" would not be logically possible if having sex makes you married by definition. Adultery would not be possible in the sense that it would be the same as bigamy. It would be meaningless to say "he had sex with a woman who was not his wife", you'd have to say "he now has two wives". Maybe if you assume that a man can have two wives but a woman can't have two husbands, then sex with a woman already married to someone else would be adultery. (Or vice versa, if a woman can have two husbands, etc.)
    – Jay
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 14:30

The words of Jesus answer this:

The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.

John 4:18

Clearly Jesus did not associate the Samaritans woman's relationship with marriage.


It is strange to me that we talk about the 'sacrament of marriage'. I suppose that works for a Roman Catholic... however I don't find any description in Scripture that tells me exactly what constitutes marriage. There is no specific ceremony given.

We see however in Genesis 4:1 (Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the Lord.”) that Eve was already Adam's wife before this act. Had the previously consummated their marriage? Even as far back as Genesis 2:21-24 Eve appears to be called Adam's wife, I would assume here before any consummation of anything.

Another example can be found in Genesis 24:67 (Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife...) This passage seems to support the view that Sex = marriage, however I do not agree that it does.

My thought is that marriage has more to do with our intentions before God to be joined as one flesh permanently and fornication has to do with not having that intention. So that sex with no intention to become married does not equate to marriage, but sex with intention to be one flesh does equal marriage in God's eyes.


Considering both biblical and secular traditions of marriage, what seems to be required for a valid marriage is public acknowledgement and acceptance of the relationship with sex being something that traditionally follows the public recognition.

The New Testament demonstrates strong parallels between marriage and baptism. As a Baptist, if you're a believer you're expected to make a public declaration (Mat 10:32-33, Luk 12:8-9) of your faith through baptism (Mar 16:16). In marriage you make a public declaration of your commitment to your spouse.

Jesus' first recorded miracle was at a wedding feast, and in one of his parables he spoke of the foolish virgins waiting for the bridegroom. As someone has already mentioned he spoke of the Samaritan woman as not being married to the man she was currently with. There's plenty of scripture that compares marriage with the church's and individual's relationship with Christ, and nowhere is the suggestion that either is a hidden thing kept out of public knowledge.

I'd say sex without public recognition of a relationship is not marriage, but on the other hand public recognition doesn't need to be as elaborate as many people make it.

While there is mention in the Bible of abiding by local laws (eg render under Caesar what is Caesar's), in many countries there's no law that states that you are required to hold a marriage certificate to be accepted as a couple. It certainly provides legal recognition, but comparing a registry office marriage with no friends or family present to a celebration with them present, but with no official paperwork, I think in some ways the latter might actually represent a more authentic marriage in the eyes of God, unless there were some reason that family would not support the marriage, (however from a Christian perspective even if blood relatives don't support the marriage there's still the church family).

Jesus was extremely clear that divorce for any reason other than sexual immorality (Mat 5:32) on the part of a spouse is adultery, so to suggest sex with good intent is "marriage in God's eyes", it would also have to follow that failure to follow up on that good intent makes both adulterers.

Paul speaks of marriage to avoid inflamed passions leading to sin (1 Cor. 7), but he also urges restraint even in marriage, as to him, Christ should be the supreme centre of our attention. I don't think Paul was suggesting married people should not enjoy sex, but more that sex should not be such a preoccupation that there's no time left for Christ.


In another viewpoint, Tony Evans, calls sex outside of marriage, a "non-marriage marriage".

Sex was designed & intended to create a lifelong bond between the man & woman. He shares the analogy of sex being like gluing two boards together with extremely strong glue. Sex without the commitment of marriage, when the two part the boards actually rip apart leaving parts of each board glued to the other board. So sex outside of marriage has some of the characteristics of marriage, one flesh in a sense, but not the lifelong commitment or the maintainenance of a lifelong relationship.

I don't know exactly which sermon he said this in, but this is a good starting point

Also, OnePlace has some of his recent sermons.