What makes a marriage meaningful? Some answers to this might focus on the wedding ceremony, or the diamond rings, or even the love between a man and woman. The Bible tells us that marriage is only a shadow of the greater reality, that is, the relationship God has with us! So then, how does the heavenly marriage between Christ and the Church shape the dynamic we have in our earthly marriages?
1. What is it about?
‘This Momentary Marriage’ is first and foremost a book about the enduring covenant between Christ and his church. John Piper points us to the heavenly marriage as a framework for understanding God’s purpose in our earthly marriages. His thesis is clear, namely that marriage is mainly about displaying the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church. This naturally drives him to explore the role of marriage in God’s redemptive plan and how that’s lived out to the glory of God.
Piper dedicates several chapters to explain the unique roles of headship and submission within the marriage relationship, the distinct gift of singleness, and difficult reality of divorce.
2. What did you learn?
Contrary to the negative view that society, or even Christians, might have towards singleness, Piper searches the Scriptures to find a different story. He traces the Lord’s promises in Isaiah 56 made to the eunuchs who keep his Sabbaths. Though they are without physical offspring, he still promises them an everlasting name and blessings better than that of sons and daughters. How is this possible? We flip back to Isaiah 53 and see Christ who was cut off in our place. Singleness proclaims this radical gospel truth that only through faith does one enter God’s family and only relationships in Christ are truly permanent. Rather than giving into to the false dichotomy of whether marriage or singleness is better, he acknowledges the nuanced truth that both serve to magnify Christ in unique ways that the other cannot.
Piper also particularly emphasises the role of marriage in raising children. To nobody’s surprise, he claims that marriage is for making children. But what he means is making children disciples of Jesus. Marriage is not merely to create biological offspring but intended for adding to the followers of Jesus. While this is primarily the responsibility of the father as head, he also recognises the difficulty of parenting in a world afflicted by sin. In response, he communicates the power of the gospel to redeem sinful parents struggling to raise sinful children, through the love shown in Christ Jesus. This is a concept he explores earlier in his chapters on the gospel’s ability to enable lasting change & humble forgiveness within marriage.
3. What did you enjoy?
I enjoyed John Piper’s staunch approach towards framing marriage in light of Christ’s relationship with the church. His firm commitment to biblical principles provides a solid foundation when navigating through the difficult issues of submission and headship, as well as divorce. While other authors may be tempted to exclude these controversial topics, Piper offers clear scriptural imperatives as well as his own personal convictions. This really challenged me to reconsider my own position and appreciate other views more sympathetically. This book is concerned with the ‘why’ questions behind marriage rather than prescribing practical solutions. Prepare to be faced with serious pastoral concerns and discern how to apply them in your own context.
4. Why should other people read it?
Our contemporary society holds quite a low view of marriage, reducing it to a mere agreement to live together and raise children for as long as the two remain ‘in love’. If that ‘spark’ isn’t there anymore, then divorce is an easy option. Increasingly, couples are delaying marriage all while living together in sexual sin. We have even begun to accept and celebrate same-sex relationships as a cheap parody of marriage. More than ever, we desperately need to rediscover the biblical vision for marriage.
Whether you’re currently married, heading towards marriage or planning to remain single in Christ, this book pushes us to centre our relationships on Christ. Marriage is a temporary gift of God given to point us in greater love and appreciation for him. Until this momentary marriage passes away and we see the heavenly reality with our own eyes, let us remember that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”.