My Sister, My Bride

Heath Lambert, “Breaking the Marital Impasse: How Authority and Submission Work When Spouses Disagree,” in JBMW 15:2 (Fall 2010):

In Christian marriage, the spousal relationship is not the only one that characterizes the involvement of a man and wife. For Christians, a wife is married to her brother in Christ. All the passages in Scripture about marriage are relevant to a Christian wife, but all the passages about walking with a brother in the Lord are also relevant to her.

This means a wife will not be a good sister in Christ if she engages in behavior that tends to lead her husband into sin (Rom 14:23), or if she avoids rebuking her husband in his sin (Luke 17:3; Gal 6:1-2).

One of God’s greatest gifts to me is a sister in Christ who sees me more closely than anyone else and, so, is equipped to point out sin in my life that nobody else sees. Marital submission does not mean that a wife ceases to be a fellow Christian along with her husband. Likewise, marital authority does not insulate a man from being helped in his sanctification by his wife.

Martin Luther, marriage counselor

As Martin Luther talked his friends and associates wrote. But only a small portion of the recorded table talk conversations have been translated from the German into English, making me slightly jealous of friends who can read German, but slightly less so since Charles Daudert translated and published his 500-page Off the Record with Martin Luther: An Original Translation of the Table Talks (Hansa-Hewlett, 2009).

I’m no translation expert but it’s clear the book was carefully translated because the back cover warns readers to expect “blunt, explosive, often abusive, and many times course” language. Sounds authentic. The new book reveals a number of glimpses into Luther’s life and ministry that we would not get from any other sources, like Luther’s marriage reconciliation strategy (as recorded in the winter of 1532):

Doctor Martin Luther had traveled with Count Johann [Johann von Küstrin] to his sister [Margarehte von Brandenburg] and attempted a reconciliation between her and her husband [Johann II von Anhalt-Zerbst]. When he returned, he said: Oh, Dear God, how much energy and work will it take to bring them back together, and then after that much more effort just to keep them together! Adam’s fall so damaged our nature that we are completely unstable. It flows back and forth like quicksilver. Oh, if we could only get them to sit down at table and go to bed together! [p. 53]

There you have it.

Letter to a Wife

Because of travel John Newton and his beloved wife Mary were often separated for several weeks and even for months at a time. On April 17, 1774 John Newton wrote the following letter to Mary [as it appears in the published collection Letters to a Wife (London, 1793; now long op)]:

Though I miss you continually, I am neither lonely nor dull. I hope the Lord will give me a heart to wait upon Him, and then I shall do well enough till you are restored to me. I need not wish the time away. It flies amazingly fast, and alas too poorly improved. These little separations should engage us to seek his blessing that we may be prepared for the hour (which must come) when one of us must have the trial of living awhile without the other. The Lord, who appoints and times all things wisely and well. He only knows which of us will be reserved for this painful exercise. But I rely on his all-sufficiency and faithfulness to make our strength equal to our day. It will require a power above our own, to support us under either party of the alternative, whether we are called to leave, or to resign. But He who so wonderfully brought us together, and has so mercifully spared us hitherto, can sweeten what would otherwise be most bitter to the flesh. If he is pleased to shine upon us all will be well. His presence can supply the loss of the most endeared creature comforts as a candle may be easily spared when the sun is seen.

John Newton’s beloved wife Mary died on December 15, 1790 after a long battle with cancer. John Newton was by her side when she died. He later wrote: “When I was sure she was gone, I took off her ring, according to her repeated injunction, and put it upon my own finger. I then kneeled down, with the servants who were in the room, and returned the Lord my unfeigned thanks for her deliverance, and her peaceful dismission.”

Upheld by God’s sustaining grace, John Newton lived under the trial of living without his bride for 17 years.

What Did You Expect?

I have yet to be disappointed by any book authored by Paul David Tripp. Some of his best works include:

•    Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands
•    Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy
•    A Shelter in the Time of Storm: Meditations on God and Trouble
•    A Quest for More: Living for Something Bigger Than You

So what did I expect from him? More of the same.

His latest book on marriage—What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage—looks very good. The teaching DVD and CD versions of his message have been available for a while now. The DVD series was very well done (and would work well as a video curriculum in a local church marriage retreat setting).

Don’t let Tripp’s walrus mustache, or the book’s clipart cover, fool you. This book is the fresh and pointed work of a soul surgeon. The book is structured around 6 core marriage commitments–

1: We will give ourselves to a regular lifestyle of confession and forgiveness.
2: We will make growth and change our daily agenda.
3: We will work together to build a sturdy bond of trust.
4: We will commit to building a relationship of love.
5: We will deal with our differences with appreciation and grace.
6: We will work to protect our marriage.

Here’s a short video introduction to What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage

Loving with Constancy [marriage]

“After Lucas, the artist, had taken a wife and the wedding was over, he always desired to be next to his bride. He had a good friend who said to him, ‘Friend, don’t do that. Before a half-year is gone you will have had enough of that. There won’t be a maid in your house whom you won’t prefer to your wife.’ And so it is. We hate the things that are present and we love those that are absent. As Ovid wrote, ‘What we may have [does not please us]; it’s what we may not have that excites our passion.’ This is the weakness of our nature. Then the devil comes and introduces hatred, suspicion, and concupiscence on both sides, and these cause desertion. It’s easy enough to get a wife, but to love her with constancy is difficult. A man who can do this has reason to thank our Lord for it. Accordingly, if a man intends to take a wife, let him be serious about it and pray to God, ‘Dear Lord God, if it be thy divine will that I continue to live without a wife, help me to do so. If not, bestow upon me a good, pious girl with whom I may spend all my life, whom I hold dear, and who loves me.’”

Martin Luther, Table Talk [WA TR V no. 5524] p. 214.

HT: T-Bomb

The ♥-Trust-Worthy Wife

Proverbs 31:11 says of the godly wife, “The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.”

The passage is remarkable, writes Bruce Waltke.

“The statement, his heart trusts in her, which entails that his well-being stands or falls on her reliability, is remarkable. Outside of this text and Judg. 20:36, Scripture condemns trust in anyone or anything apart from God/the LORD (cf. 2 K. 18:21; Ps. 118:8-9; Isa. 36:5; Jer. 5:17; 12:52; 18:10; 48:7; Ezek. 33:13; Mic. 7:5). As E. Gerstenberger observed, ‘One can successfully place confidence only in Yahweh,… no other entity can be an ultimate object of trust.’ The present exception elevates the valiant wife, who herself fears the LORD, to the highest level of spiritual and physical competence. … Verset B presents the cause of his trust: he does not lack anything necessary. The surprising object, spoil, a military metaphor, implies that the woman has to win essentials like food and clothing through strategy, timely strength, and risk in this fallen world.”

Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15-31 (Eerdmans 2005), pp. 521-522.

Quite a remarkable passage indeed.

Husbands, do you trust your wife so much that you can say, with the writer of Proverbs, that you trust your wife with your heart? Yes? Let her know. Today. Right now.

Wives, are you tired from all the coupons and waiting for the right sale because money is tight? Press on with your God-glorifying strategy, strength, and risk.