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(Note: this review of Rev. D. Engelsma’s book,Marriage: The Mystery of Christ and the Church, is reprinted from The Gospel Witness of June, 1976.)

There is only one book for review this Quarter. We have purposely excluded others because we deemTHIS book so important that we do not want its value overlooked or forgotten by the mention of others. The book is timely. We would wish it could be made “required reading” for EVERY adult New Zealander; that EVERY adult read it—marked it—learnt it—and inwardly digested it. If this were so; if the contents of this book were put into practice, society would become more stable and broken homes would be few and far between. 

The book may be ordered through the OPC Bookshop P.O. Box 2289, Christchurch. There may be some delay in copies arriving from the publishers, but it is a book worth waiting for. (P.S. The book is not held in stock, but orders may be placed with the confidence that supplies will be obtained with the minimum of delay. The American price is $3.50). 

“MARRIAGE,” by D. Engelsma; published by RFPA, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

Ours is a decadent, sex-obsessed society. Pornographic literature is freely available: censorship of books, films and art-forms is being relaxed to the point where it is a farce to say we have censorship: traditional (and Biblical) standards of morality are sneered at and tossed aside: loose and temporary associations of the sexes is rapidly becoming the norm among a great many of our young people: marriage itself is under heavy attack. Books on the subject of sex are flooding off the presses and becoming more and more explicit—and so we could go on, ad nauseum. 

Well, THIS is a book on marriage (every aspect of it) but, it is different. It is written from an entirely different standpoint from the spate of books on the subject that are available. It is a very able exposition of the theology of marriage. But don’t let that mislead you. It is no “dry-as-dust” abstract study which only scholars and theologians can appreciate. On the contrary! It is simple—direct—and practical; and the fact that it is written to teach the meaning of marriage from the only authoritative standard we have (the Word of God) makes it all the more valuable. To quote from the jacket: “The Word of God requires us to view marriage as the mystery of Christ and the Church. This is the light which illumines every aspect of marriage, which makes clear the calling of husbands and wives in marriage, which distinguishes CHRISTIAN marriage from the dark perversions of marriage in the world.” From THIS point of view, the book does not disappoint. 

In 9 chapters the author ably expounds the teaching of Scripture on marriage; and to show the comprehensive nature of the book, we list the chapter headings. “The Mystery of Marriage”; “The Institution of Marriage”; “The Christian Man as Husband”; “The Christian Woman as Wife”; “Sex in Marriage”; “Children in Marriage”; “The Forbidding of Divorce”; “The Marriage of Believer and Unbeliever”; “The Unbreakable Marriage Bond”. 

In each chapter the author takes a relevant passage of Scripture, and in a careful and thorough analysis of the words and syntax, he unfolds the meaning so clearly, and applies it so directly, that no one could possibly be left in doubt as to what marriage is intended to be and what God requires of those who marry. 

Although the student of Scripture will find considerable wealth of exegesis in it, the book is not a mere academic study of selected Biblical passages. Far from it. It is a book that has grown out of a busy pastor’s care for the people of his congregation. All the material in the book was preached as a series of sermons “with the practical purpose that the married and youth alike might know and honor God’s institution of marriage.” 

The sermons proved so helpful to the whole congregation that urgent pressure was brought to bear upon the pastor to publish the series so that a very much wider circle of people might benefit from the teaching so ably given. Every point that arises from the exposition of the Bible texts is applied to life situations: in this way we are shown the practical bearing of the Word of God on every aspect of married life. 

This is one of those books that you wish could be put into the hands of every married couple and those contemplating marriage. It is FULL of practical instruction. For those wise enough to buy it—read it—and apply it, it will prove a most enriching possession as husbands and wives discover the purpose of marriage and what it means to be “heirs together of the grace of life”.