The Banner of Truth has just released Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Christian Marriage, and it made my week.
Originally sermons on Ephesians 5:21-33, then published with Lloyd-Jones’ other Ephesians sermons as Life in the Spirit, they have recently been hard to track down in print. Spring is usually my hunting season for the old volume as I buy wedding presents for new couples. But no more: this edition is in stock, has a decent (though paperback) cover, blows nearly every other marriage book out of the water, and is worth its weight in gold.
While Lloyd-Jones does speak of marriage, of the roles of husbands and wives, of living together, etc., he speaks most of the gospel and of Christ. While so many marriage books are about keeping the relationship together, addressing different roles, emphasizing male needs/female needs, this one addresses the soul. Here is a book for any believer, married or single, because it is a book about the gospel. And while the gospel and Christian marriage do become more clear through the book (especially in contrast to an unbelieving marriage, which is increasingly blurred in our culture, and even in “evangelical” books on marriage) the main thing I always came away with after reading is what Paul himself wrote – “It is a great mystery!” Being in awe of the gospel and the person of Christ is the one thing guaranteed to fuel your marriage and make it a more accurate picture of Christ and His church. Here is a taste:
“Here we get a view of marriage which is not possible but within the Christian faith; it is lifted up to the position of the relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and the church. So the Christian’s attitude towards marriage is always a positive one, and he should always be straining after this ideal. The Christian’s view must not be negative in the sense that, because certain new factors have entered in, therefore this marriage ought to last, whereas the [pagan] marriage is not likely to do so. That is purely negative. It is not merely that we avoid certain things that are true of the [unbeliever]; we must have this ideal, positive conception of marriage. It is something that we must always think of in terms of the relationship of the Lord Jesus Christ and the church. We have to learn to test ourselves by constantly asking the question: Does my married life really correspond to that relationship? Is it manifesting it? Is it being governed by it?
In other words, in the Christian position we do not stop thinking about these things when we have been married a few months. We go on thinking, and we think more and more, and the more Christian we become and the more we grow in grace, the more we think about our marriage, and the more we are concerned that it should conform to this heavenly pattern, to this glorious ideal of the relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and the church. This is something which is difficult to put into words. What I am trying to convey is that the great difference between the marriage of Christians and the marriage of non-Christians should be that in the case of the Christian, the marriage becomes progressively more wonderful, more glorious as it conforms to and attains the ideal increasingly. We all, surely, see the significance of that as we apply it to what is so commonly true of marriage, not only among non-Christians, but alas, among Christians also. The Christian conception of marriage is one that continues to grow and develop and increase.”