Married by the Book

As a licensed counselor, I have read more than my share of books on managing emotions and relationships.  Unfortunately they are all the same.  Sure they each have a slightly different take.  Some even include their own unique Venn diagrams of emotional issues and how they relate to physical boundaries.  Even the Christian books simply take what everyone else has already done and add a dash of Scripture, especially the latter part of Ephesians for flavor.

So when a friend told me that she had read a fantastic book on marriage, I have to admit I had a generous level of skepticism.  I trust her judgment so thought to myself, “What’s the harm?”  Perceiving my reservation, she sat me down and read a few pages from the first chapter.  My curiosity sparked, I graciously borrowed her copy.

Marriage: Powered by Gospel

In his book When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage, Dave Harvey essentially redefines marriage for Christians.  It has often been said that there is so much planning that goes into the wedding itself, that new couples often forget about everything after the honeymoon.  Even the most diligent of Christian couples who want to follow every piece of advice do their premarital counseling, get to know each others’ parents, and may even ask their blessing.

Captivated by the vision they are starring at, it is easy for the bride and groom to completely miss when the minister says, “What God had joined together, let no man separate.”

Wait, what God had joined together?  Did they not decide to get married?

The Bible is very clear, that the sanctity of marriage is the way that marriage draws us to Him.  It is no accident that marriage is what Scripture uses as an image of Christ’s relationship with the Church.  Ephesians 5 lays it out clearly that as Christ gave his life for the Church, husbands should love their wives with a self-sacrificing love.  As the Church submits to the authority of Christ, so women are called to submit to the authority of their husbands.  The Bible is obviously not politically correct in this position, but there is a beauty of the partnership.

A Powerful Reality

But let’s not stop there.  In a bold and challenging sweep of language and biblical reference, Dave Harvey takes this image even further.  He acknowledges something that we too often forget in marriage: both of us are sinners in need of grace.  Sharing their first dance as a married couple, what wife wants to gaze into the eyes of this man of hers and think that he will never complete her like Renee Zellweger apparently does for Tom Cruise?  Carrying her over the threshold, what man wants to really think that this woman is a wretched sinner?

Yet it is this very truth that, when neglected, can cause irreparable damage.  The truth is that neither person can be everything to the other.  Neither the bride nor the groom will ever be perfect.  If it is God who has indeed joined these two people together, it is God and God alone who will be able to keep them together.  It is the ugliness of their sin, that when acknowledged, can open the doors and windows to the awesome power of the Gospel that has already redeemed each individually, but which now has the power to sanctify the marriage itself.

Listen to Dave Harvey, himself, talk about why he wrote the book:


Embracing one another as sinners means that we can lovingly lavish grace and mercy on one another.  Taking hold of our own depravity means that we can see the our spouse as someone in need of the Gospel, someone to whom we have the honor and privilege of preaching the good news.  We have the pleasure of pointing our loved one to the One who does complete us.  It is here that the imputed love of God becomes the love we share for our spouse that “no man [can] separate.”


About Aaron Gardner

Aaron is a counselor and student of the Bible, passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He lives in central Indiana with his wife, one-year-old son and their two dogs. View all posts by Aaron Gardner

5 responses to “Married by the Book

  • Boz

    “women are called to submit to the authority of their husbands.”

    Do you personally agree with this?

  • Aaron

    Sola Scriptura!

    Besides, you must have missed the other half of that: in a biblical marriage if the wife is submissive then the husband is self-sacrificing. It is in a sense a balanced submission.

  • Melanie Jongsma

    Aaron, this book you’re describing reminds me of a Bible study I used to know about, called “Getting the Marriage God Intended you to Have.” It was designed to teach couples to get in the habit of reading the Bible and praying together, drawing closer to God and thus drawing closer to each other. I don’t know if this study is available anymore. It was written by Pastor Steve Elzinga when he was at the Bible League. He is now at Pathway Church. Here’s a link to their Contact Us page, in case you’re interested:

  • l4courtney

    this is really interesting…i will definitely catalog this so i can offer this book to my newly engaged friends…

  • Cally


    I’d like you to go in depth a little bit more about a wife submitting to her husband. Let’s hypothetically say a wife is opposed to a decision her husband has made concerning her own health. Let’s say it is western medicine vs. homoepathic medicine or that he is basically in agreement with what the western doctor has decided is best. Let’s also say the church that her husband decides is the correct church for the family to go to is also in agreement with her husband. Is the wife left with the decision that that is the best decision for her and direct providence from the Lord?

    You could hypothetically also change the scenario to a more dramatic one in which the church does not believe in any medicine and the husband agrees with this, but the wife does not and her life could be in danger. How could she biblically defend her cause or could she?

%d bloggers like this: