Title: “This Momentary Marriage”
Author: John Piper
Release Date: August 15, 2012 (revised ed.)
There’s not much to say about this book, but that’s a good thing. If you’ve ever read any of Piper’s other books, you’ll have a good understanding of how Piper interprets Scripture, reasons, and writes. And if you’ve read Desiring God, you’ll already have a taste of the content of this book, since it is really an expansion of the marriage chapter in Desiring God. This book, as in that chapter, is driven by the fundamental understanding that marriage is a depiction of Christ’s relationship with His church (Ephesians 5:22-33). In this book, Piper establishes and explores the “mystery” (Eph. 5:32) that is marriage, and then proceeds to look at many aspects about marriage through the lens of the gospel and the Christ-church relationship.
In that sense, this book is comprehensive, covering male headship and female submission, singleness, sex, procreation and children, and divorce. What I appreciate most about Piper’s writing is that it is unflinchingly centered on the reality that marriage displays Christ’s relationship with His church. (Example: Why is divorce unacceptable? Because it falsely depicts that relationship. Divorce will be an acceptable reality when Christ abandoning His church becomes a reality.) This book draws all its explanations from Scripture, and for that, I am thankful. It solidifies the moral teachings we’ve heard growing up (again, see divorce) and gives those teachings biblical bases. The blessing of having teaching from Scripture and not from religious tradition is that Scripture is unflinchingly centered on the glory of God.
Thus this book is not only comprehensive in description but in didacticism. Piper doesn’t just tell us what the Bible says about marriage and related topics, but through Scripture and the aid of the Spirit, he teaches us why the Bible says these things and how marriage and singleness, sex for pleasure and procreation, physical and spiritual children all work for the glory of God. The glory of God lies ever at the heart of this book, which makes it useful to everyone who reads it. If anyone is thinking, “I’m not married. Is this book for me?” My counterquestion would be, “Do you prize the glory of God?” If your answer is yes, as I hope it is, then this book will be helpful for you. Certainly, Piper has made everyone his audience by addressing the single, the married, and the divorced, but because of the book’s focus on how these things advance His glory, it really is useful for everybody in training them to see His glory in these areas of our lives.
One of the things I’m always grateful that Pastor Piper does in his books is explaining some of the original Greek for us. He has an excellent sense for when this is beneficial, so that he doesn’t overwhelm us with technical explanations. In this book, I was greatly informed by his look at the verse, “He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church” (Eph. 5:28b-29). At first, it looks to me to be an instruction for the husband to care as deeply for his wife as he does for himself. It certainly does mean that, but as Piper looked at the Greek and at other verses where those words appear, I learned about the relationship between those words and the husband’s responsibility as the provider of his household.
Marriage is fundamentally gospel-centered. Ephesians 5 makes that clear, and this book builds on that reality and mystery. This book helps me to look forward to marriage, when I will have the privilege of uniquely displaying the gospel in the way I love and care for my wife as I do my very self. And even though I am not yet married, this book is still helpful to me because it helps me focus on the glory of God through the gospel. I can still glorify God right now in how I use my singleness, in how I think about marriage, and in how I live my life now, whether it be ordinary things or in training for marriage. As with most of his books, Desiring God Ministries makes a PDF of this book available for free. Buy a hard copy if you want to have one on your shelf, or just download the PDF. Either way, I recommend that you read it–I’m sure it will stretch your understanding of the gospel and God’s glory.
(This book was provided free for review by Crossway, but the opinions contained herein are solely my own.)