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Renewal Blog

Recommended Reading: The Meaning of Marriage


This is the season of engagements and new relationships. Our reccommended reading for the past month focuses on a biblical understanding of marriage. GenerationLINK Resident, Zach Hart, shares his thoughts on Tim Keller's book, The Meaning of Marriage. For those of you who are married, engaged or hope to someday be married, we recommend this book, along with When Sinners Say "I Do" by Dave Harvey, to help you grow in a greater understanding of biblical marriage, and how to glorify God in and through your relationships.

I used to sell a certain type of knives. These knives were ridiculously expensive. I couldn’t afford them, and a lot of people I knew could not afford them. The sales strategy was effective though. These knives were so helpful and valuable that we knew if we could just get them in front of people, give them just a taste, a hint, of how beneficial these knives would be for their home, families would see their great value and snatch them up quickly. So we went out and set up meeting after meeting with friends and family just to give them a taste of the product that would change their world. We believed in the product that much, even if we could not afford it ourselves. So here is a taste, a sample of 2 points and some application from Tim Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage, which will be more valuable and beneficial for your marriage then a nice set of knives and not nearly as expensive. It’s benefit does not come from worldly knowledge but from upholding the gospel in marriage through the principled wisdom God gives us in his scriptures.

The first taste is that Keller, from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, warns against self-centered pictures of marriage where one looks to his spouse to fill him up. He says, ”Christians have learned that the worship of God with the whole heart in the assurance of his love through the work of Jesus Christ is the thing their souls were meant to ‘run on.’” If we try to “run on” the love of our spouse we lay on them a weight they can not bear. They were not made to be worshipped and cannot stand under the weight of that pressure. The grace of God in Christ Jesus that has brought us salvation is our foundation for being a good spouse. And, Keller tells us, ”Only if you are filled with the Spirit will you have all you need to perform the duty of serving your spouse in particular.” This is a humbling truth and it should drive us to our knees in prayer for grace. We need the Spirit to strengthen us for loving our spouse and we need grace in constant forgiveness for eventual failure in this endeavor. This truth is echoed when Keller says, “That gospel message should both humble and lift the believer up at the same time.”

The second bite I want you to savor is from Keller’s chapter called, Loving the Stranger. The premise of this chapter is that in marriage people are “unmasked” and revealed. This is a natural consequence of marriage. You learn more about your spouse and they will learn more about you, and much of that will be the sin that lingers behind the daily mask that is put on for others. His admonition is to approach your spouse with truth, love, and grace. From Ephesians 5 Keller encourages us to give our spouse the okay to talk to us about our sin. This is the truth aspect. We have to realize that for the Christian our identity is in Christ, our Great Hope, and though we still sin we are no longer slaves to that sin but to righteousness. The gospel drives his advice. It is because of the hope of the gospel that we speak in truth to each other, by the Spirit we are strengthened to actively love each other, and because of the grace of Christ Jesus to us in the gospel that we are able to forgive each other.

These are just a few bites from the great big platter that is this book. Keller also covers issues such as: the secret, the essence, and the mission of marriage, gender roles, singleness, and sex in marriage. Hopefully you are encouraged to dive into The Meaning of Marriage and chew on the sweet truths that Keller draws straight from the scriptures because though marriage can be difficult, it is a beautiful reflection to the world of the marriage that we have as the Church to our Lord Jesus Christ.