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When Sinners Say I Do: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage Paperback – June 25, 2007
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This is a wonderful book. It is honest, refreshing, practical, and above all biblical. These carefully written pages spill over with truth and grace. This book is liberating, Christ-centered and hope-filled, pointing the way to God-empowered marriage. --Randy Alcorn
Dave Harvey not only offers a biblical diagnosis of marital strife, but prescribes the cure as well - the gospel. When Sinners Say "I Do" provides clarity in conflict, hope in despair, and points the way to a joy-filled, God glorifying marriage. --C.J. Mahaney
About the Author
Dave Harvey is senior pastor of Covenant Fellowship Church (Glen Mills, PA), part of a family of churches called Sovereign Grace Ministries.
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Practically, this would often mean forbearance (88). Mercy covers sin. “I need to look for how she’s battling it, try to encourage rather than critique. . . What a privilege to represent the love of our Savior in forbearing the sins of my spouse.” (89-90). “Forgiveness is costly, and sometimes it costs more than we think we can give” (106). However, “We all need someone to stand between us and the just wrath of God.” (104). As one whose burdensome debts have been forgiven, it is not within our privilege to exact from our debtors, our spouses. The gospel of grace “encompasses her sin as well as” mine (109). This is the only way forward when sinners say “I do.” (113).
This soteriological wisdom of a God who deals with us by grace cannot be taken casually, for in it exists the means of reconciliation for spouses experiencing marital troubles (63, 120-32). One can hardly do better here than quote Harvey at length: “. . . sanctifying grace teaches us how to replace the passions of this world with godliness. As a result we grow in charitable thoughts, patience with our spouse, self-control instead of angry words, love, joy peace. . . and actions that look increasingly like the character of Christ and combine to” make a beautiful marriage (142). This is gospel pure and simple.
Harvey’s wisdom is also demonstrated by carefully placing the chapter on sex (ch. 9, pp. 151-68) after the chapter on grace (ch. 8, pp. 135-50). Harvey presents 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 and takes on surprisingly difficult topics, including “Sloth,” “Bitterness,” etc., as they all relate to marital sex. Lastly, chapter ten (pp. 169-83), “When Sinners Say Goodbye,” far from being about divorce, is about caring for the aging spouse, even suffering their death. It’s endearing, charming, wise and practical, as much of the book has been.
I see no reason to fault the author for his work. I found the overall portrait, as my survey reveals, extremely compelling. The focus on gospel-like sacrifice, Harvey’s ability to inspire charity in the reader for their spouse, and his pithy, biblical wisdom mixed with occasional wit leave the reader feeling somewhat disheartened upon completion, as though the last page of a marvelous novel was just turned.
Path: Harvey leads the reader through the bad news and the good news of the Gospel and our marriages. He sets a firm foundation in reality when he explains that we are our own worst enemy because of sin. He then shows how that looks in our everyday conflicts at home. The transforming power of the Gospel then is explained as he practically works out what a believer in Christ can choose to do, and is commanded to do, in the marriage relationship.
The pattern of sin - grace - application is how the author moves through the whole book. He walks through arguments, forgiveness, confrontation, sex, and dying.
Sources: The author references teachers such as C. J. Mahaney, John Piper, J. I. Packer, as well as Puritans such as Watson, Owen, and Henry.
Agreement: I appreciated that this book took the time to explain the real problem - sin, rather than merely the symptoms - conflict. The author doesn’t promise “A New Husband by Friday” or that you will know “His needs and her needs.” Rather, he points the reader to Jesus Christ.
His practical illustrations were helpful.
The book is easy to read.
Disagreement: One way I think he could have made the book stronger is to include questions for discussion at the end of each chapter.
Personal App: Am I willing to deal with the biggest problem in my marriage, me?
Favorite Quote: “When sin becomes bitter, marriage becomes sweet” (Kindle Locations 106-107).
It would be worth another read and I would recommend it.