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If there’s one place God’s people display his gospel and glory so clearly, and yet their sin and folly are just as evident, it’s marriage.

Chad and Emily Van Dixhoorn have written Gospel Shaped Marriage to help us understand how the gospel of grace shapes our marriages to the glory of God.

As soon as you pick up the book, you’ll notice its obvious strength: it’s short! The book is a manageable length for all readers, yet full of wonderful nuggets of gold. Each chapter was excellent, but even better were the themes that ran throughout, drawing each chapter together. Here are three.

1. Marriage is Multi-purposed

The Van Dixhoorns help the readers to think deeply about marriage. In the opening pages they explain why God has given marriage as a good gift to humanity. They go through so many wonderful reasons, that you are left with a big view of marriage, and an even bigger view of God! The Bible’s reasons for marriage are not limited to companionship or childbearing. We can add sexual purity, society’s good, raising children in the church, and depicting the gospel.

Gospel-Shaped Marriage: Grace for Sinners to Love Like Saints

Gospel-Shaped Marriage: Grace for Sinners to Love Like Saints

Crossway. 160.

Married Christians, and those preparing for marriage, know that they’re sinners—and that their sin threatens God’s great purposes for their union. But how often do believers recognize that they are also saints, equipped through God’s power to create a healthy, loving marriage?

In Gospel-Shaped Marriage, Chad and Emily Van Dixhoorn encourage couples with how Christ calls and enables them to love their spouse. They give a brief assessment of the biblical design for marriage while offering practical, proven advice for husbands and wives. Drawing from Scripture and the writings of Puritan minister William Gouge, their advice also prepares churches, friends, and others to support married couples in their lives.

Crossway. 160.

I’ve found some marriage books tend to focus on one purpose of marriage and then try to squeeze a lot of content through that lens. This book maintains an expansive view of marriage and so the application throughout is broad. It was a personal challenge as to whether I was idolising one of these purposes above the others, and therefore missing out on some of God’s goodness for my marriage. The Van Dixhoorns made uncomfortable points of application beyond my ordinary thinking, giving me much to mull over. They do so pastorally, humbly sharing examples from their own lives, and offering insights they’ve learnt over time.

2. Our Saviour Helps us

Throughout the book we are reminded again and again that we need a Saviour. We’re introduced to the 3 P’s: the price the Saviour paid; the pattern the Saviour set; and the power the Saviour provides.

Jesus saves us when we fail in our duties and responsibilities. He also gives us an example to follow, especially his love toward us when we were unlovable. This simple truth doesn’t leave room for us to be the most unlovable people towards our Lord. No! As Christians, we want to please our Lord.

The chapter on mutual submission makes a similar point when it comes to our roles in marriage. For example, one of my responsibilities is to submit to my husband, but another responsibility is to be a wife that he delights in leading. It’s tempting to think my responsibility ends at submission, but once again, the Van Dixhoorns expand our perspectives to help us think about our part in our husband’s roles; we’re to follow the pattern our Saviour set. Instead of grumbling and complaining about our spouses, we are pushed toward love, considering our own attitude and behaviour before God. We can’t do this ourselves, but the Saviour provides the power we need for our marriages to flourish.

The Saviour provides the power we need for our marriages to flourish.

3. Theology Shouldn’t be Discarded

Finally, we must bring our theology into our marriage, our families, and the bedroom. We have to think God’s way, and let that shape our purposes and practice.

We have hope that our marriages will flourish if we live God’s way. Even in a season or situation that is difficult or tragic, our theology helps us to live Christianly in those circumstances. The Van Dixhoorns carefully and pastorally help us think about the really hard and sad situations that many spouses face, and offer hope in Christ and in living in light of the gospel.

This book makes theology practical for every marriage. I found myself confronted again and again with insights I could immediately put into practice. For example, there’s a whole chapter on women in marriage—the theological teaching is biblical, and the practical applications are very helpful! I read this book with some women at church and the discussion questions at the end of the book prompted good conversation.

I found myself confronted again and again with insights I could immediately put into practice.

The Van Dixhoorns make it clear that they are writing a book about marriage—not parenting, and not singleness—and I found this to be one of the strengths of the book. Gospel Shaped Marriage is a fantastic book for those already married and those preparing for marriage.

Despite my sin and folly, they have given me hope that my marriage might be one where the gospel and the glory of God are on display.

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