Baptizing a cohabitating Christian???

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My wife and I have a visit to make this Tuesday. A young lady who professes to having come to faith in Christ wants to be baptized. The problem is that she is living with a boyfriend. She has 2 sons by a previous relationship, so sexual immorality has been an ongoing issue in her life for quite a while. I tend to immediately respond to things in a cut and dried way. John said, "bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance." If there is not evidence of repentance, then she should not be baptized. But then, I wonder, what if in talking to her she (1) does give a credible profession of faith, and (2) acknowledges that she knows her cohabitating is sin and that she and her boyfirend have definite plans to make this right. I GUESS WHAT I AM STRUGGLING WITH IS THAT NO NEW CONVERT HAS EVER BEEN BAPTIZED HAVING COMPLETELY PUT EVERY SINFUL PRACTICE ASIDE. Living together in sexual immorality is a more obvious sin than a new believer struggling with the use of bad language and yet I think I'd realize the need for spiritual growth and sanctification and discipleship in the latter case and would probably baptize one who acknowledged that bad language is sin and that only with God's help can he as a Christian stop using bad language. The other factor is that others are more likely to know that this person is cohabitating and it would seem as if our church is making a mockery of baptism. It isn't a sin that is more hidden than others and would more likely give our church a bad testimony.

What is your advice? How would you deal with this woman if there is definite evidence of the work of God's grace in her life?

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Wait

My short answer: wait.

Among other things, baptism is an act of obedience to Christ. Separating from a live-in lover is an act of obedience. Is one more important than the other? Is it OK to disobey Christ re. immorality while obeying the command to be baptized? The fact is, to "obey" and be baptized while disobeying re. the live-in means the supposed act of obedience is a farce.

As a pastor, I have faced this exact situation. The only difference is that the guy made a profession of faith, too, and both wanted to be baptized. They acknoweldged their living situation was wrong, so I told them they needed to resolve the living arrangements and then I'd be glad to baptize them. Within a week or so, they ended up splitting up and moving out of the area -- to two different states! Yet they fully intended to be baptized and join a church in their new home area.

So...wait. You don't have to baptize her any time soon--not like her eternal destiny is at stake. Let her demonstrate the genuineness of her commitment to follow Christ by obeying in a very practical area that she knows needs to be rectified.

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Which will make impact?

A couple further thoughts on this situation.

Help the lady see that:
1) Baptism is a public act of obedience to the Lord, but
2) Living together is a public act of disobedience against the Lord.

To the witnesses, which act will define her? Which will negate the other?
To the Lord, which truly demonstrates her heart?
Why does she really want to be baptized?
In your church, does a baptized new convert become a member of your church? If so, does the process of church discipline kick in once she's baptized & become a member?

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agree

I feel the same way as Bryan.
As far as the comparison to other possible areas like use of bad language, I remember that when I was born again, I wanted to make everything right that I could think of. If the preacher had said almost anything needed to change, I would have proceeded with efforts that direction.
Cohabitation is not a slip of the tongue revealing embedded patterns but a commitment to continue in sin.

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BryanBice wrote: Why does she

BryanBice wrote:

Why does she really want to be baptized?

This is a valid question. Many people (esp. from former Catholic backgrounds) somehow feel that baptism is something they "have" to do in order to get more grace or something.

I think it's good advice.

But usually getting out of a cohabitation situation isn't quite as quick as working on your temper or bad language. Face it. It takes a while to arrange living quarters. If there are children involved, schooling, etc. there are a lot of issues at stake. Depending on jobs, finances, etc. it can be quite complicated. Of course, going to the justice of the peace and getting married might just be the easiest, cheapest and most convenient thing to do.

It's not an excuse, but for people who don't compartmentalize the sins as being "big" (immorality) and "small" (anger, bitterness, jealousy) their cohabitation hasn't been a big deal, so in their minds, it's not such a bad thing (probably).

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True enough...

Becky Petersen wrote:
BryanBice wrote:

Why does she really want to be baptized?

This is a valid question. Many people (esp. from former Catholic backgrounds) somehow feel that baptism is something they "have" to do in order to get more grace or something.

I think it's good advice.

But usually getting out of a cohabitation situation isn't quite as quick as working on your temper or bad language. Face it. It takes a while to arrange living quarters. If there are children involved, schooling, etc. there are a lot of issues at stake. Depending on jobs, finances, etc. it can be quite complicated. Of course, going to the justice of the peace and getting married might just be the easiest, cheapest and most convenient thing to do.

It's not an excuse, but for people who don't compartmentalize the sins as being "big" (immorality) and "small" (anger, bitterness, jealousy) their cohabitation hasn't been a big deal, so in their minds, it's not such a bad thing (probably).

True enough that getting out of a cohab situation often does take time, which is why I would wait to baptize until after the situation is resolved. If for no other reason, the delay keeps the need "hot." If I baptize while the couple is still living together, I will remove an impetus for change, and it becomes easy to put off that change. One may argue that it shouldn't matter...that my withholding baptism shouldn't be "used" for such purposes. The reality, of course, is that baby Christians--esp. those with a lack of self-discipline--often need external motivators.

As far as the J.P. goes, it's true enough that just tying the knot might be the "easiest, cheapest, and most convenient thing to do;" however, there are a host of issues that should be considered before suggesting that. If she/they are wanting to join my church, I'd love to see some premarital counseling take place to verify that they even ought to marry. Cohab couples bring a lot of baggage with them. Many shouldn't marry right away...many shouldn't marry at all!

And it's true enough that in our culture cohabbing is not considered immoral, but prudent. Interestingly, though, every couple I've dealt with about this deep down admits they know it's wrong, but justify it on the basis of the "advantages" and "benefits." They also try to squelch their conscience by spouting the mantra that being anti-cohab is "puritanical," "victorian," "old-fashioned," and the like. But when I say, "You know, this living situation is wrong," they concede. So my insistence, then, on a change in living arrangements becomes a step in discipleship for them, helping them to begin acting on their biblically informed conscience.

It's a blessing to see the fruit of an obedient heart, submissive to the will of God!

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update

My wife and I met with the young lady and I did not agree to baptize her, but did talk to her about her situation. She and her boyfriend have been together for about 8 years. They have 2 sons together. She professes to know Christ, he does not. Since he is not saved, he would not move out until they could get married. She has nowhere to go, no family who could take her and her 2 sons in. Money is the other complication. She is an aid in a nursing home and makes a very small income, he has a very good job and the majority of their support comes from his income. He has agreed to get married next June. I didn't get any response about moving the wedding date up ASAP, he might be a drag on getting married any sooner. I wish this young lady could get everything right pronto, but becasue of past sin, it will take time. I'm not an expert at reading one's heart, but she did begin to weep when I mentioned that she might have to wait on being baptized. I talked about what baptism means (Rom. 6) and she professes that is the life she wants to live, but she admits that her living together situation can't be made right overnight especially since she is just one party in the relationship, since there are children involved and since the boyfriend might not cooperate.

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When faced with a similar

When faced with a similar situation, one church offered the young lady a number of housing alternatives (church subsidized apartment, "mother-in-law" type apartment, etc.) that were affordable. Sadly, she turned them all down.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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baptism or confirmation?

Jonathan Charles wrote:
If there is not evidence of repentance, then she should not be baptized.
i know believers' baptism has evolved to be more like a confirmation of belief, but i wonder how much evidence of repentance peter required when 3000 were baptized at pentecost.

i also wonder about your quote from luke 3. is john speaking to those he has already baptized? or is he giving a reason for refusing to baptize? he doesn't tell the people to do xyz and then come back to be baptized. and the things he tells them to do involve general social justice, mercy, kindness and contentment without any specific calls to a more comprehensive moral code.

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I've thought about having her

I've thought about having her wait until after she is married, but that certainly won't mean there has been any repentance. It might just be our church saving face, and that she has done what she wanted to do and still gets baptized after it is done and over. I have talked to some of our deacons. We agree that we minister in a sinful, broken world. This means that we will minister to people for whom sin has created many entanglements. I'd like to just snap my fingers and have such people get everything straightened out in a week, but it isn't always that easy.

There is always the ideal, what should be done in every situation, but then there seems to sometimes be the real, what can be done in a particular situation. For example, God hates divorce, it should not take place. Yet, God had Moses regulate divorce (Dt. 24) because in a sinful world, some men will let their wives go and God didn't want women being taken advantage of being passed around to one man after another and then back to an old husband.

I have to talk to this lady further, but I want to know 3 things. Can she say from the heart that what baptism means (united with Christ in D,B,R, and to walk in newness of life) reflects the kind of life she wants Christ to lead her to live? And does she understand that her cohabitating situation is sin and needs to be made right ASAP? What will she do if her fiance is unwilling to get married in the near future?

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A new twist...

Jonathan Charles wrote:
I've thought about having her wait until after she is married, but that certainly won't mean there has been any repentance. It might just be our church saving face, and that she has done what she wanted to do and still gets baptized after it is done and over. I have talked to some of our deacons. We agree that we minister in a sinful, broken world. This means that we will minister to people for whom sin has created many entanglements. I'd like to just snap my fingers and have such people get everything straightened out in a week, but it isn't always that easy.

There is always the ideal, what should be done in every situation, but then there seems to sometimes be the real, what can be done in a particular situation. For example, God hates divorce, it should not take place. Yet, God had Moses regulate divorce (Dt. 24) because in a sinful world, some men will let their wives go and God didn't want women being taken advantage of being passed around to one man after another and then back to an old husband.

I have to talk to this lady further, but I want to know 3 things. Can she say from the heart that what baptism means (united with Christ in D,B,R, and to walk in newness of life) reflects the kind of life she wants Christ to lead her to live? And does she understand that her cohabitating situation is sin and needs to be made right ASAP? What will she do if her fiance is unwilling to get married in the near future?

Then there's the question of whether you should encourage a Christian to marry an unsaved guy.....

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yes, a woman who is now saved

yes, a woman who is now saved but her husband is not but with whom she has 2 boys. Ideally no Christian woman should marry an unsaved guy, but this isn't a 21 year old girl out of bible college. I think in this case, I would marry them with some marriage counseling and the opportunity to witness to the guy. I've told people in such a situation in the past that they had to be saved and then have had people make spurious professions of faith just for me to marry them. I don't want this guy to do that.

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What our church did was...

Jonathan Charles wrote:
I've thought about having her wait until after she is married, but that certainly won't mean there has been any repentance. It might just be our church saving face, and that she has done what she wanted to do and still gets baptized after it is done and over. I have talked to some of our deacons. We agree that we minister in a sinful, broken world. This means that we will minister to people for whom sin has created many entanglements. I'd like to just snap my fingers and have such people get everything straightened out in a week, but it isn't always that easy.

Our church faced this situation last year. The couple both came for baptism. They had a wedding planned for Spring this year.

Our pastor made the decision to go ahead and baptise them. As in most independent Baptist churches, baptism is the final threshold to membership. In the case of this couple, they were baptised, but not allowed to be members while they cohabited in an unmarried state.

(I am not saying I agreed with what he did: I am just relating what was done.)

Another observation on this thread is valid. Cohabitation is quickly becoming a non-issue in our society, even among lifelong, saved-at-a-young-age believers. It is presented as the norm in every medium. There is negligible social stigma associated with it anymore. In a very real sense, it's kind of like telling someone they can't drink root beer because the name of the drink contains the word "beer". It sounds like a silly analogy, but in a very real sense, it seems that most adults today give as much serious thought to sexual immorality as they do to choosing a soft drink.

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Really?

Jonathan Charles wrote:
yes, a woman who is now saved but her husband is not but with whom she has 2 boys. Ideally no Christian woman should marry an unsaved guy, but this isn't a 21 year old girl out of bible college. I think in this case, I would marry them with some marriage counseling and the opportunity to witness to the guy. I've told people in such a situation in the past that they had to be saved and then have had people make spurious professions of faith just for me to marry them. I don't want this guy to do that.

Certainly you're the pastor of your local church & can follow your conscience, but how do you get around 2 Cor. 6:14? The fact that the couple brought 2 children into the world doesn't really matter, does it? I mean, many Christian girls get pregnant out of wedlock with an unsaved guy's baby--marriage shouldn't be an option. I sympathise with your reluctance to get a "forced profession of faith," but it seems that your desire to prevent that opens you up to sanctioning an unequal yoke and encouraging disobedience.

You really are not in a position where you have to do anything at this point. You are under no obligation to baptize a person whose discipleship is "half-way." You certainly are not obligated to marry the couple. You are obligated to guard the purity of the church and uphold the Scriptures. Be careful here.

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Things like this are never

Things like this are never simple. I have known people to baptize and not to baptize in this situation. If baptism were necessary for salvation, that would be different. But waiting is the best approach, IMO.

"The Midrash Detective"

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BryanBice wrote: Jonathan

BryanBice wrote:
Jonathan Charles wrote:
yes, a woman who is now saved but her husband is not but with whom she has 2 boys. Ideally no Christian woman should marry an unsaved guy, but this isn't a 21 year old girl out of bible college. I think in this case, I would marry them with some marriage counseling and the opportunity to witness to the guy. I've told people in such a situation in the past that they had to be saved and then have had people make spurious professions of faith just for me to marry them. I don't want this guy to do that.

Certainly you're the pastor of your local church & can follow your conscience, but how do you get around 2 Cor. 6:14? The fact that the couple brought 2 children into the world doesn't really matter, does it? I mean, many Christian girls get pregnant out of wedlock with an unsaved guy's baby--marriage shouldn't be an option. I sympathise with your reluctance to get a "forced profession of faith," but it seems that your desire to prevent that opens you up to sanctioning an unequal yoke and encouraging disobedience.

You really are not in a position where you have to do anything at this point. You are under no obligation to baptize a person whose discipleship is "half-way." You certainly are not obligated to marry the couple. You are obligated to guard the purity of the church and uphold the Scriptures. Be careful here.

I made an observation above about divorce. God hates divorce. God does not want divorce to take place. Yet Moses regulated it (Dt. 24) because in a fallen world divorce would take place, even among Israelites. As I understand the regulations set forth by Moses, they were meant to protect women. There is the ideal-what should be done in every situation: People should not divorce; Christian women should not marry unsaved men. But then there is the real-what can/should be done in a given situation in light of past sin. I'm not trying to get around 2 Cor. 6:14 any more than Moses was trying to get around Malachi 2:16. This situation has taught me that getting a new Christian to have a life that is in complete accordance with Scripture isn't as easy as waving a magic wand and immediately, by the weekend, all the problems they have caused in their life by sin are resolved.

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Not the same

Jonathan Charles wrote:
I made an observation above about divorce. God hates divorce. God does not want divorce to take place. Yet Moses regulated it (Dt. 24) because in a fallen world divorce would take place, even among Israelites. As I understand the regulations set forth by Moses, they were meant to protect women. There is the ideal-what should be done in every situation: People should not divorce; Christian women should not marry unsaved men. But then there is the real-what can/should be done in a given situation in light of past sin. I'm not trying to get around 2 Cor. 6:14 any more than Moses was trying to get around Malachi 2:16. This situation has taught me that getting a new Christian to have a life that is in complete accordance with Scripture isn't as easy as waving a magic wand and immediately, by the weekend, all the problems they have caused in their life by sin are resolved.

In no way do I want to minimize the complexity of this situation or the difficulty that we as pastors have in discerning how to counsel people. The lesson you've learned in this situation you will run into time and again over the years of pastoral ministry. But be careful in your thought process. There's a significant difference between God's expression of His "heart" regarding divorce and a clear injunction from Scripture. [By the way, there are other ways of interpreting the Mosaic "accommodation" ]. As a pastor, I cannot in good conscience suggest someone take a course of action that I know clearly violates God's Word.

No matter how you cut it, for this new convert to follow Christ in discipleship is going to demand that she make hard, tough decisions, primarily as a consequence of sin. But this isn't new or unique. Christ told the rich, young ruler to give away his wealth to follow Him. He told another would-be disciple to let the dead bury their dead. Surely you read of the teen girl in Ohio (?) who recently converted from Islam to Christianity, but had to flee her home and the state under a death threat from her family. Many new converts in our world end up being completely abandoned by family and friends when they determine to follow Christ. Many a wife has come to Christ and had to live with a sarcastic, cruel, unbelieving husband--and vice versa, I might add. A woman in VT came to Christ...she had "married" (via Civil Union in VT) her lesbian lover and gave birth to a child for the 2 of them to raise. After coming to Christ, though, she had to abandon the partner, disolve the "Union," and move out of state. It is yet unclear whether the courts will give joint custody/visitation rights to the former partner. These were all hard things demanded of discipleship.

So I would encourage you to uphold the clear mandates of Scripture and not gloss over them or merely treat them as "ideals, but in the real world...." If this new believer is committed to following Christ, present the biblical directives that apply to her options. You might be surprised by some of the creative ways she comes up with in order to obey God's Word and solve some of the complexities of the mess.

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I've thought quite a bit

I've thought quite a bit about this. Whether she should be baptized or not is the bigger issue I'm concerned with, not whether she should marry the man she has a 8 and 5 year old son with. Regarding the latter, I'm not saying that there is the "ideal" but in the real world, the ideal won't always work. I'm saying that, due to sin and the damage people have done to their lives, it isn't always possible to go back and recapture the ideal. So, then what does God expect a person to do? Should a woman do what is right (not marry an unsaved man) but in doing so, do wrong for her boys by taking them away from their father and expect them to grow up without a father? D.A. Carson wrote, "The essence of discernment is knowing that simple rules cannot be expected to crank out an infallible answer."

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Sorry for coming into this

Sorry for coming into this conversation late. However, what seems to be missing here is a discussion late. Many here point out our need to uphold the Biblical mandates, true. However, there are cultural interpretations to these mandates. Marriage customs and laws change from country to country, ethnic group to ethnic group and even time era to time era in a given country.
Being an active author in the 1632 series from Baen Books, one of the problems we have is the need to realize seventeenth century Germany is not 20th century America nor seventeenth century England. We need to realize that 2009 is not 1959 or 1939 America.
What to do? In this case, recognize this as an irregular marriage. (I hesitate to use the term common law as only Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire (posthumously), Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and the District of Columbia currently allow CL marriages.) It's not a place to go gasping and hyperventilating over a couple living "in sin". Eight years, two children and a situation that left on its own would continue for years to come is better than many statute marriage I've seen. So, the intent is to "regularize" the situation.
If the relationship can not be regularized, then we face another situation. But I concur with the sentiments below.

Jonathan Charles wrote:
I've thought quite a bit about this. Whether she should be baptized or not is the bigger issue I'm concerned with, not whether she should marry the man she has a 8 and 5 year old son with. Regarding the latter, I'm not saying that there is the "ideal" but in the real world, the ideal won't always work. I'm saying that, due to sin and the damage people have done to their lives, it isn't always possible to go back and recapture the ideal. So, then what does God expect a person to do? Should a woman do what is right (not marry an unsaved man) but in doing so, do wrong for her boys by taking them away from their father and expect them to grow up without a father? D.A. Carson wrote, "The essence of discernment is knowing that simple rules cannot be expected to crank out an infallible answer."

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Conundrum

BryanBice wrote:
In no way do I want to minimize the complexity of this situation or the difficulty that we as pastors have in discerning how to counsel people. The lesson you've learned in this situation you will run into time and again over the years of pastoral ministry. But be careful in your thought process. There's a significant difference between God's expression of His "heart" regarding divorce and a clear injunction from Scripture. [By the way, there are other ways of interpreting the Mosaic "accommodation" ]. As a pastor, I cannot in good conscience suggest someone take a course of action that I know clearly violates God's Word.

So, if you come into contact with a cohabitating couple, your (well, at least most) response would be that, in order to avoid the sin of fornication, they should marry.

But, if, in preparation for marriage, one of them comes to know Christ as Savior, and the other does not, then they should not get married?

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Understood

Jonathan Charles wrote:
I've thought quite a bit about this. Whether she should be baptized or not is the bigger issue I'm concerned with, not whether she should marry the man she has a 8 and 5 year old son with. Regarding the latter, I'm not saying that there is the "ideal" but in the real world, the ideal won't always work. I'm saying that, due to sin and the damage people have done to their lives, it isn't always possible to go back and recapture the ideal. So, then what does God expect a person to do? Should a woman do what is right (not marry an unsaved man) but in doing so, do wrong for her boys by taking them away from their father and expect them to grow up without a father? D.A. Carson wrote, "The essence of discernment is knowing that simple rules cannot be expected to crank out an infallible answer."

I understand the distinction you're making here re. ideal/real.

Coupled with the previous post re. "irregular marriage," one could argue that the "yoke" was already established by the couple's previous verbal & practical commitments to one another, expressed especially through their sons; however, the "yoke" just wasn't formalized in a wedding ceremony. In other words, though lacking a marriage license, she already is "unequally yoked" by virtue of having come to Christ while her partner remains unsaved. With that established, you may encourage a formalization of the "yoke" (that already exists) through a Justice of the Peace. By doing so, she/they are merely making official and public that which already exists. That removes the "living in sin" stigma, allows the church to baptize her, keeps the family intact, and enables her to fulfill the role of a 1 Peter 3:1-6 wife.

In this solution, the hard things may be 1) convincing her partner to formalize their relationship, and 2) giving up the dreams (if she even had them) of a grand wedding with all the trimmings.

This is a solution I as a pastor could be comfortable with. What think you?

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Maybe...and yes

Rev Karl wrote:

So, if you come into contact with a cohabitating couple, your (well, at least most) response would be that, in order to avoid the sin of fornication, they should marry.

But, if, in preparation for marriage, one of them comes to know Christ as Savior, and the other does not, then they should not get married?

Regarding the first situation, maybe I would suggest they marry, but not necessarily. They should at least stop cohabiting, and (if they want to marry) get lots of good premarital counseling, and maybe get married. Fact is, many cohabiting couples shouldn't marry. Their whole way of thinking that brought them into a cohab situation makes them far more likely to divorce.

Regarding the second scenario, are you talking about the same cohab couple in scenario 1? If so, and their situation is similar to the one Jonathan's dealing with, see my previous post. If it's the typical cohab couple out there today, and one trusts Christ as Savior & the other won't, I would definitely tell the believer he/she needs to forget marriage to the current partner.

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This young lady had a wedding

This young lady had a wedding planned for next June. She said she could afford one by then. I told her it only cost $45 to get married (the price of a Pennyslvania wedding license) and I'd marry here ASAP.

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Response?

Jonathan Charles wrote:
This young lady had a wedding planned for next June. She said she could afford one by then. I told her it only cost $45 to get married (the price of a Pennyslvania wedding license) and I'd marry here ASAP.

How'd she respond?

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It's one I'd be comfortable

It's one I'd be comfortable with.

BryanBice wrote:
SNIP
Coupled with the previous post re. "irregular marriage," one could argue that the "yoke" was already established by the couple's previous verbal & practical commitments to one another, expressed especially through their sons; however, the "yoke" just wasn't formalized in a wedding ceremony. In other words, though lacking a marriage license, she already is "unequally yoked" by virtue of having come to Christ while her partner remains unsaved. With that established, you may encourage a formalization of the "yoke" (that already exists) through a Justice of the Peace. By doing so, she/they are merely making official and public that which already exists. That removes the "living in sin" stigma, allows the church to baptize her, keeps the family intact, and enables her to fulfill the role of a 1 Peter 3:1-6 wife.

In this solution, the hard things may be 1) convincing her partner to formalize their relationship, and 2) giving up the dreams (if she even had them) of a grand wedding with all the trimmings.

This is a solution I as a pastor could be comfortable with. What think you?

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This reminds me of the

This reminds me of the situation in the old Soviet Union among young Evangelical Christian-Baptist couples. In order to get an apartment a couple had to get on a waiting list at the Housing Authority. a few months later, they'd get an apartment. To get on the waiting list they needed a certificate of marriage from the local marriage bureau. The MB would issue one after performing a civil ceremony. Many EC-B couples would go down to the marriage bureau have the civil ceremony, go over to the Housing Authority fill out the paper work get on the list and go to their respective homes. They waited out the interim in celibacy. When the HA finally gave them an apartment, the couple would have their church wedding and "get married."

Jonathan Charles wrote:
This young lady had a wedding planned for next June. She said she could afford one by then. I told her it only cost $45 to get married (the price of a Pennsylvania wedding license) and I'd marry here ASAP.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

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Are they married in God's eyes?

This is somewhat off topic, but applies to this situation.

If a couple co-habitates, has children, and otherwise lives as a married couple, are they acutally married in God's eyes? They have not had an official wedding ceremony, but have otherwise, "leaved, cleaved, and became one flesh". Put another way, is a formal wedding ceremony required for a bibical marriage?

Just some thoughts for which I don't have a clear understanding.

-LGC

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A Christian should obey the

A Christian should obey the laws and customs of the place in which they live, in other words, a Christian should do whatever their community does in order to recognize a couple as married. If in some tribe in Africa, a couple pairs off, lives together faithfully and has kids and the tribe considers them married, then that is fine. But in America there is the custom of getting a wedding license and I think a couple ought to do that.

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Jonathan Charles wrote: This

Jonathan Charles wrote:
This young lady had a wedding planned for next June. She said she could afford one by then. I told her it only cost $45 to get married (the price of a Pennyslvania wedding license) and I'd marry here ASAP.

Just because she gets a civil marriage does not mean they could not have a religious ceremony, or a more formal wedding with all the pomp and circumstance.

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However, please note

the eleven jurisdictions cited above that allow for a common law marriage. And the problem we have here is a "preexisting" condition.

Jonathan Charles wrote:
A Christian should obey the laws and customs of the place in which they live, in other words, a Christian should do whatever their community does in order to recognize a couple as married. If in some tribe in Africa, a couple pairs off, lives together faithfully and has kids and the tribe considers them married, then that is fine. But in America there is the custom of getting a wedding license and I think a couple ought to do that.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

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If the church doesn't follow

If the church doesn't follow the customs of the land in which it ministers, the outside world may perceive the church as condoning immorality. We support a missionary in Ho, Ghana. The custom there is that a man must pay a hefty bride price to the father of the bride. The community does not consider a couple married until the bride price is paid. Most men cannot afford this, at least not immediately. So men and women will cohabitate and he will save up until he has gathered all the things the bride's family is demanding. When these couples come into the Christian church, the church wants to help them. But the difficulty the church has is if they just perform a ceremony with vows, it might make the Christians in the church feel better about the couple, but the outside community still considers the couple unwed. The church can either ignore the local customs or change them, both of which are options fraught with difficulties. The other option is to tell men not to get married until they can pay the bride price. The problem is, this could take a man years to get all that his fiance's father is demanding.

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What are the requirments for Baptism Anyway?

I'm hitting up this discussion late in the game, but i feel like I missed something big here.

1) Is Christian baptism a "baptism of repentance"? - or is that just John's baptism?

2) Are works required for baptism? It seems in scripture (descriptive, not prescriptive- it should be said) that faith and Baptism are connected closely in a way that works are not required. Paul doesn't tell the jailer to repent from jailing Christians. Maybe you could ask the question "can someone living in sin accept Christ or not?" - that's a better question. - or - what did the Samaritan woman do after Jesus left her? But it seems that if someone has believed, they get baptized.

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I Tim 5 Applies.

LCarpenter wrote:
This is somewhat off topic, but applies to this situation.

If a couple co-habitates, has children, and otherwise lives as a married couple, are they acutally married in God's eyes? They have not had an official wedding ceremony, but have otherwise, "leaved, cleaved, and became one flesh". Put another way, is a formal wedding ceremony required for a bibical marriage?

Just some thoughts for which I don't have a clear understanding.


I agree with you here. I don't think that a 'ceremony' does anything other than give external validation to an already existing fact...but it also seems like I'm in the minority here.

My opinion on the question is that based on what we know from Jonathan's observations, that the young lady needs to leave her boyfriend and the church has to step up to the plate and help her out, in keeping with I Timothy 5.

--edit--
Yes, I know she's not a widow. But I think that the church is supposed to help in a situation like this where she wants to do the right thing and the unbelieving boyfriend won't permit it. It's important that she do the right thing and possibly lose the physical/earthly relationship than continue to live in a pattern of sin.

"Our task today is to tell people — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells
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Short answer

ssutter wrote:
I'm hitting up this discussion late in the game, but i feel like I missed something big here.

1) Is Christian baptism a "baptism of repentance"? - or is that just John's baptism?

2) Are works required for baptism? It seems in scripture (descriptive, not prescriptive- it should be said) that faith and Baptism are connected closely in a way that works are not required. Paul doesn't tell the jailer to repent from jailing Christians. Maybe you could ask the question "can someone living in sin accept Christ or not?" - that's a better question. - or - what did the Samaritan woman do after Jesus left her? But it seems that if someone has believed, they get baptized.

Christian baptism is a "baptism of repentance" in that one who's truly come to Christ has repented and been converted and is now being baptized to testify to that. The challenge for the baptizing church is to determine the genuineness of the profession of having repented and been converted. When I'm interviewing candidates for baptism, I'm not looking for sinlessly perfect people who have no struggles with sin. I'm looking for a "forsaking attitude." If their attitude toward the sin they're practicing is, "Hey, we all sin, so it's no big deal" then I'll not baptize them because I do not believe they've come to genuine faith in Christ--they really don't understand the nature of sin, the person of Christ, what really happened on the cross and why, and Christ's claim on their life.

Can someone living in sin accept Christ or not? Well, that depends. If he knows that what he's doing is sinful, knows that following Christ means forsaking that sin, but has no intention of doing so, then he cannot accept Christ. He can like the idea of not going to hell forever, can think he'll escape it by saying a prayer, but in doing so on that basis he hasn't accepted Christ. On the other hand, he can truly accept Christ while living in sin of which he's not aware. A good test of the genuineness of his professed conversion, though, will be his attitude toward the sin when he's made aware of it.

It really doesn't work to argue from the Philippian jailer because it's an argument from silence. [He didn't commit the sin of "jailing Christians," by the way, he was just doing his job as a prison warden. ] More to the point, Luke didn't specify that prior to his conversion he was living in sin X that he still held onto after his conversion. You've also got the dynamic of an apostle baptizing outside the framework of the local church, and Paul was right on the scene when the entire episode unfolded...was able to witness firsthand what was said, how it was said, what his understanding entailed -- there was certainly a great deal more conversation that took place that night than the brief summary of events Luke records for us. And to bring up the Samaritan woman doesn't work either. There is no local church in the picture, nor apparently does she follow through with baptism (according to the record). We have no idea, frankly, if she ever really became a follower of Christ, do we?

I think a better approach to this question is to take it from a church discipline perspective, and take into consideration the related NT passages. In other words, if a new professing believer is living in sin, knows it, has no interest in doing anything about it, but wants to be baptized and (in our church, anyway) join the church, would that make sense, given that he's going to move immediately into the church discipline process? Take, for example, a cohabiting couple. They know what they're doing is sinful & immoral, but they don't want to split up nor do they want to be tied down by a marriage, but they profess to have been saved, want to be baptized and join the church. But how does the church handle it when a church member is practicing immorality, knows it, has been confronted with it, but won't repent and forsake the sin? In our church, they would eventually be voted out of the membership--and I believe that's the biblical pattern. So why would I even baptize them in the first place?

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My father, who is pastor

My father, who is pastor too, shared this story with me. Twenty-five years ago, he led a man and wife to the Lord. They were very faithful to church and are still growing Christians twenty-five years later. But at the time, they were pot smokers. My father did not know that. They confessed years later that whenever he would visit, it would always take them about 5 minutes to answer the door because they had to get the smell of pot out of the house by putting out joints, burning incense, etc. The point is, even with this drug use in their life, he unwittingly baptized them and, in time, God's work of sanctification got rid of this sin in their lives.

So I have a Christian lady who has lived with a man 8+ years, she makes a clear profession of faith, she wants to be baptized. She has confessed that she understands baptism (being united with Christ in His d,b,r and walking in newness of life). She confesses that she knows her living together situation is not right and that it needs to be made right and has pledged to make it right but without giving me a time (next Saturday, by Thanksgiving or whatever).

ssutter has a good point. At this point, having stated clearly from Scripture what she must do next, can I trust God to do his work of sanctification in her life and bring her to where she must be, and go ahead and baptize her? I think I should.

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LCarpenter wrote: This is

LCarpenter wrote:
This is somewhat off topic, but applies to this situation.

If a couple co-habitates, has children, and otherwise lives as a married couple, are they acutally married in God's eyes? They have not had an official wedding ceremony, but have otherwise, "leaved, cleaved, and became one flesh". Put another way, is a formal wedding ceremony required for a bibical marriage?

Just some thoughts for which I don't have a clear understanding.

I would say no. The basis of the leaving, cleaving and becoming one flesh is not sex or cohabitation but covenant relationship. This is one of the pictures drawn from the corollary to spiritual marriage in Eph. 5. Neither of these people have established a covenant relationship before a church or a JP.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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I know I am replying to a

I know I am replying to a post over a year old but I just had to put my .02 cents in. Since when does co-habitating with someone require them to be married? Since when does having a child with someone out of wedlock require them to get married? These are horrible reasons for a couple to be married! I have seen countless couples fall into sexual sin and end up being married because their parents/pastoral leadership told them too only to end up being divorced because their relationship was initially built only upon lust and then outside influences. I agree with Chip's post that a marriage is based on a covenant relationship between the husband and wife. Someone made the comment that this young mother should marry the unsaved father so the two son's would have a father! What kind of nonesense is this? How about her being obedient to Scripture, walk away from the relationship and allow God to work those things out. God expects obedience! When a child of God obey's, God provides for the needs. Yes, she will definely have some troubles because of past failures. Did David have hardship after he repented of his sin of adultry and murder? YES! For the rest of his life! There are always consequences to sin whether those sins were committed before or after salvation. Let us never downplay the severity of our sin.

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ChrisC wrote: Jonathan

ChrisC wrote:
Jonathan Charles wrote:
If there is not evidence of repentance, then she should not be baptized.
i know believers' baptism has evolved to be more like a confirmation of belief, but i wonder how much evidence of repentance peter required when 3000 were baptized at pentecost.

I do have a question about this. How quickly do you baptize people? Do you baptize them with a week or two of profession of faith? What are your requirements for baptism? Will you baptize a smoker?

It would be esp. helpful if someone who actually works with first generation Christians will chime in here (someone who works with them a LOT).

I've wondered about all of our additions to the Scriptures in these matters. We claim to be "scripture alone" but in these kinds of areas it seems like we've a tendency to require a cleaned up life--and sometimes the messes are major and won't clean up in one afternoon or one week. Was Pentecost supposed to be an example for us? What about the Eunich when he made profession and Philip baptized him right away? Was that supposed to be typical?

I'm curious what you all think. We've had various discussions on this in our house. What if you find out that someone is lying to the government? Is that as bad as living together without being married? What is your line for being willing to baptize someone who is interested and claims salvation (and seems to be making progress but hasn't arrived at the typical "second generation cleaned up fundy baptist"'s position of sanctification--at least externally)? Do you have a list of what you would allow or not allow? Do they have to be willing to abide by your church covenant? Does your church have a church covenant? Do they become members upon being baptized or is there a second stage...where they get baptized and then ask to be become a member later--by which time you require that cleaned up life?

Thinking about issues here...

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I am late to the party but here we go.

I do have a question about this. How quickly do you baptize people? Do you baptize them with a week or two of profession of faith? What are your requirements for baptism? Will you baptize a smoker?
Sister, your questions got me to think about the nature and purpose of baptism. Did the Philippian Jailer smoke? Who knows. I will say this he was not perfect when he was baptized. All he had going for him was his newfound faith in Jesus as his Savior. Paul and Silas shared the Gospel and this man plus his family came to the Lord. To think that they hadn't even attended church yet and were baptized should cause us to think about the biblical nature of baptism. What are we doing when we bring people's family and friends together to watch someone get baptized? We are publicly stating the faith these people has embraced. We are not saying these people are perfect, nor are we saying they have their lives all cleaned up.All we are saying is that they have been saved by the blood of Jesus because they placed their faith in it.
Now, I do believe in church membership. If a person joins the church they should be baptized before joining. I just can't think of any reason to keep a true believer from being baptized. Some here would say their refusal to stop living together would prove their salvation to be unreal. I am not so sure. If a person has lived their whole life in sin it takes some time before they understand God's will and have the conviction to adhere to it. Some believers take years before they really start growing. Others grow immediately. The reasons for these are various. Our only question when doing a baptism should be, "did this person understand the Gospel and have they placed their eternal destiny in the hands of Jesus by accepting Him as Savior?" Baptism should be a right to all people who have trusted in Christ.
Now church membership is a different subject in my view. As pastors we can decide if a person's life shows at least some evidence of being saved so these people can become members of the church. I would never want a cohabitating couple to become members of the church if they had not repented of that sin because as members they are going to get involved in ministry and how can you have unrepentant people being involved with or heading up ministries in the church? You can't. We all know the Lord's position on church's who put up wtih sexual immorality. He takes away their lampstand, their witness because they have forsaken a love for holiness.
Marrying people who are in different situations is very tricky. I have appreciated the advice of many on this forum. I did a marriage for a couple who was living together. They'd been together for nine years, living together for five of those. They had the prettiest little five year old daughter named Skye. She had blue eyes and blonde hair. I did the marriage only if they would do counseling. We talked about ways in which their marriage could be successful while others fail. I shared the gospel with them,but both of them didn't receive the Lord. I hate when that happens by the way. Normally I would not do a marriage for a couple who is living together, but in this case I wanted Skye to have a stable home. Most living together situtations do not last that long. Men usually love the convenience of this arrangement because it doesn't cost them anything. They can walk away at anytime without a price tag. Children are the most hurt in this situation because poverty is usually the consequence of such action. If Skye had not been in the situation I would have asked the couple to separate and stay chaste until the time of the wedding. But since she was in the picture I wanted to get them married as fast as possible so she would have at least a chance at a stable and happy home. I believe this couple is still married today. These are some of my thoughts on the issues brought up here and I do appreciate being able to talk about them from my biblical perspective. Thanks to all who have participated.

Don't be a great pastor, just be a pastor and let history judge for itself.