Does "living together" make you married? That seems to be the thought of many people today, who haven't been officially married according to courthouse documents. However, God does not recognize people living together as being married.
The woman at Jacob's well told Jesus, "I have no husband." Jesus replied, "You have well said, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband. What you have said is quite true." (John 4:17-18). If living together made her married, Jesus would have said, "The man you are now living with is your sixth husband." Instead, He did not recognize them as being married even though they were living together.
Hebrews 13:4 says, "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge." "Fornication" is when a single person has sex without being married, while "adultery" is a married person having sex with someone who is not the spouse. If "living together" (having sex) made a person married, then there would be no sin of "fornication." God says He will judge those who defile the marriage bed by living together.
Some people have argued that living together is the best preparation for marriage. They reason that cohabiting gives them a trial period, to see if they are compatible. However, statistics show that people who live together before they get married have a much higher divorce rate than those who don't. If someone doesn't respect the commitment to another before marriage, why would he respect the commitment after marriage?
A father once told his son that he was displeased that he was living with his girlfriend. His son said, "Dad, what difference does a marriage license make? It's just a piece of paper." His father went over to the filing cabinet and pulled out his will. He said, "Son, in my will I have left all my earthly possessions to you when I die." Then the father tore up the will. His son, watching in horror, said, "Dad, what are you doing? Are you leaving me out of your will just because I'm living with my girlfriend without getting married?" His father replied, "Don't worry, son. It's just a piece of paper."
That marriage license is not just a "piece of paper." The license is a legal contract, proving that you have committed yourselves together in marriage. If you have sex the day before you get married, it would be forbidden by God. But if you have sex one hour after you get married, it would blessed by God. What's the difference? What constitutes marriage in God's eyes?
Simply this. Marriage is a covenant made 1) before God, 2) to each other, 3) in eyes of society 4) according to the laws of the land. God says that He witnesses the covenant that a couple makes when they get married. "The Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth…(who) is your companion and your wife by covenant" (Malachi 2:14). A covenant is a contract, agreed upon by two parties. It is a commitment that has a beginning point, and consequences for breaking it.
What about a man and woman living together, but not having sex? This also would not be right for a couple of reasons. 1) Living together opens you to temptation. Even if you aren't having sex now, the likelihood is increased by living together. 2) Other people will naturally assume that you are having sex, which damages your reputation. If you are a Christian, this destroys your witness.
God wants to bless your life, but it must be on His terms. First, He wants you to know Him through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Second, He wants you to stop having sexual relations with someone who is not your spouse. No matter what immorality you have done in your past, God can cleanse you through the blood of Jesus. Then, as Jesus told the woman caught committing adultery, "Go and sin no more" (John 8:11).