Category Archives: Marriage

“The Mystery of Marriage” from For the Fame of God’s Name

Praise God for marriage! What gift can be compared to this one? Who but God could have come up with something so good?

Crossway has kindly granted permission for me to post my essay from the Piper Festschrift:

James M. Hamilton Jr., “The Mystery of Marriage,” pages 253-71 in For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper, ed. Sam Storms and Justin Taylor. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010.

Taken from For the Fame of God’s Name edited by Sam Storms and Justin Taylor, ©2010.  Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

Here is the opening paragraph of “The Mystery of Marriage”:

Marriage holds a unique place in all the Bible: what else joins two image-bearers together as one, serves as a key concept for understanding the relationship between Yahweh and Israel then Christ and the church, and consequently affords to every married couple the opportunity to live out the gospel? God sets himself on display in marriage, which means that God shows his glory in marriage. Thus, the thesis of this essay is that marriage exists as a unique display of God’s glory.[1] In order to establish and exposit this thesis we will look first at the way that marriage joins two persons in the likeness of God as one. From there the second section explores the way that Yahweh’s relationship to Israel is treated as a marriage, and the third section of this essay will examine the way that marriage exists to portray the relationship between Christ and the church. The final section will look at marriages as mini-dramas of the gospel.[2]


[1] I am humbled to have this opportunity to honor John Piper. The Lord has used him mightily in my life, mainly as I have listened to recorded sermons and addresses across the years. In this preaching, the Lord has used John Piper to herald again and again the infinite glory of God in Christ. I cannot adequately thank him for showing me such glory, but I can join him in praising this glorious God, this worthy Savior, and this powerful Spirit, three persons, ever one God, worthy of all praise. And praise be to God for John Piper! I am also grateful to write on the topic of marriage in honor of Piper, since his chapter on marriage in Desiring God provided a key insight I have pursued in my own marriage and announced at every wedding at which it has been my privilege to speak: love seeks its joy in the joy of the beloved. “The reason there is so much misery in marriage is not that husbands and wives seek their own pleasure, but that they do not seek it in the pleasure of their spouses” (John Piper, Desiring God [Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1996], 175–76). See also John Piper, This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence (Wheaton: Crossway, 2009).

[2] For a wider discussion of marriage in the Old Testament, see Paul R. House, Old Testament Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1998), 466–69. For a broader discussion of marriage that takes up the issues of divorce, qualifications for elders, and children, see Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 776–86.

From there the outline of the essay is as follows:

Adam and Eve: Two Become One

Yahweh and Israel: Covenant Broken and Kept

Hosea 1: Hosea and Gomer
Hosea 2: Israel’s History and Future
Hosea 3: Hosea and Israel’s Future

Jesus and the Church: Marriage and the Gospel

The Fulfillment of Old Testament Expectation
The Deep Waters of the Meaning of Marriage

The Gospel and Marriage

Conclusion

The essay’s end is punctuated by an attempt at poetry:

Marriage

Like land and sea and stars above
And all else he has made,
This too is for the glory of
The one who has displayed

A love not based on beauty’s shades
Nor driven by some debt,
A love before there were yet days
Like none else ever met.

The archetype for man and wife
Is Christ’s love for his bride.
To Christ her Lord the church submits,
And for her life he died.

And for this reason, man should leave
His parents and his kin,
And to his wife then he shall cleave
Never to leave again.

Please do read the whole thing. This essay was written for a volume honoring John Piper, and my prayer is also that it will serve to strengthen the marriages of those who read it.

May your understanding of the gospel be deepened, and may it be displayed in the way you love your spouse and hold marriage in honor (Heb 13:5, even if you aren’t married).

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Filed under Attempts at poetry, Bible and Theology, Biblical Theology, Books, Gospel, Marriage, OT in the NT

About This Time Thirteen Years Ago

It is 11am, September 17, 2010. About this time thirteen years ago, September 17, 1997, I was sitting in the dining hall on the campus of Dallas Theological Seminary, having lunch with my good friend Denny Burk. Up walked a young lady who began to converse with Denny, and my life was changed forever for the better.

I was soon–and remain–head over heels in love with that young lady, Jillian Ashley Harding. Just ten months later, July 25, 1998, her name would change (praise God!) to Jillian Ashley Hamilton. I am more privileged than I can feel or capture in words to have written the preceding sentences, to have them be true. I can only bless God for his mercy.

These Thirteen Years

These thirteen years I’ve known you now,
Have been my best by far.
I wish my words could show you how,
But O how weak words are.

Like roots in soil as days go by,
Our love has deeper grown.
To wake with you here at my side–
More joy I’ve never known.

Your smile, your laugh, your fiery zest,
So splendid in your ways,
That you are mine so swells my chest,
And I can only praise

The one from whom all blessings flow,
Giver of all good gifts,
Whose love our own does seek to show–
Your giving his praise lifts.

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Filed under Attempts at poetry, Current Events, Marriage, Women Ministry and the Gospel

Happy Birthday, Sweet Wife!

God’s best gift to me (excepting salvation) was born on this day. What a gift! Mere words could never communicate my gratitude and joy at being married to this woman. Thanks be to God, and thanks be to Jillian Ashley Hamilton for marrying me.

Hallelujah!

On this day I think of the little book put together by Michael A. G. Haykin withVictoria J. Haykin, The Christian Lover: The Sweetness of Love and Marriage in the Letters of Believers. When Dr. Haykin so kindly gave me a copy of this book, I was surprised by what I found. I expected the kind of romantic expressions one finds in poems like Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty” or in the culture at large–glorifying the beauty of the beloved or professing (idolatrous?) devotion to another human . . . To my surprise, this book is full of Christian lovers praising God and spurring one another on to love and good deeds. In The Christian Lover one sees that human love is most fitly expressed by those devoted to Christ and his kingdom.

I commend this book to you, and in its spirit I attempt a literary tribute to my sweet wife. This effort seeks to turn Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty” from a focus on superficial beauty to that which is true and lasting.

This adaptation of “She Walks in Beauty” is for my sweet Jill on her birthday.

She walks in beauty, like the Christ
Of servant love and laid down life;
And all her own is sacrificed
For those she loves, O noble wife!
With others’ joy she is sufficed
And so with peace and hope is rife.
The children know her love for them,
And deep is their security;
Her husband knows her love for him
How blessed am I, that I am he!
In season she does bear and blossom,
By water streams, a God-planted tree.

Thus wizened by the Lord’s own ways,
The shallows she does all deny,
And I will sing for all my days,
And glory, laud, and honor cry –
To God I give my thanks and praise,
For she is mine and hers am I.

June 16, 2010
Happy Birthday, sweet Jill

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Filed under Attempts at poetry, Current Events, Gospel, Marriage

The Latest Issue of JBMW

The latest issue of JBMW has appeared.

Tom Schreiner has an important review of Philip Barton Payne’s new book, and a sermon that I preached a few years ago at Northwestern College (Minneapolis, MN) in their Chapel has been published. Every item in the table of the contents looks like an interesting read:

Denny Burk Editorial

JBMW Odds & Ends

R. Albert Mohler Jr. Boys Wearing Skirts to School? What’s Going On?

Jason Hall and Peter R. Schemm Jr. Marriage as It Was Meant to Be Seen: Headship, Submission, and the Gospel

Rob Lister “Husbands, Love Your Wives . . .” A Practical Suggestion and Tool for Husbands to Use in Leading their Marriages for the Glory of God

Owen Strachan Whither Men? A Response to a Recent Barna Study on the Increase of Female Pastors in Protestant Churches

Wayne Walden Galatians 3:28: Grammar, Text, Context, and Translation

James M. Hamilton Jr. Godliness and Gender: Relating Appropriately to All (1 Timothy 2:9–12)

Thomas R. Schreiner Philip Payne on Familiar Ground

Ben Reaoch Two Egalitarian Paths toward the Same Destination

Heath Lambert A Lack of Balance

Owen Strachan Insightful but Flawed Look at Gospel Women

Phillip R. Bethancourt Fatherhood Is No Accident


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Filed under Bible and Theology, Marriage, Ministry, Women Ministry and the Gospel

Denny’s Prayer for Us

Today my sweet Jill and I celebrate our tenth anniversary. These have undoubtedly been the best ten years of my life. Folded up in my wallet, I carry around with me the little piece of paper on which my dear friend Denny Burk had written out the prayer he prayed for us during our wedding. I have received favor from the Lord, I have found what is good (Prov 18:22), and I feel so deeply the words that were bouncing around in my brain all through our wedding ceremony:

“The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me” (Psalm 16:6).

Thinking on my sweet wife makes me want to weep with joy, to praise God for his mercy, to go to her and recite every poem I’ve ever known . . . and none of it would be enough.

I don’t deserve my wife, and I don’t deserve to have a friend like Denny. His prayer brought tears to my eyes on July 25, 1998, and it does the same to this day. Here it is, and may God continue to answer all his petitions:

“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, But to Thy name give glory Because of Thy lovingkindness, because of Thy truth” (Psalm 115:1).

Lord, may Jim and Jill, above all else, earnestly desire to see Your name, Your glory, and Your renown made great in all the earth. May they honor You for who You are in all of life. Capture their hearts by Your grace so that they might persevere in faith and love for Your sake. And make their union a picture of Christ’s love for His bride.

Lord Jesus, grant Jim grace that he might follow hard after You for all of his life. Make him a godly man who treasures You above all else. Make him a graceful and worthy head for his wife in this marriage. Stir up in Jim a perpetual love and affection for Jill that he might love her with the same extravagancy with which You love your church. May he love self-sacrificially all of his life. Help him to listen to Jill with great sensitivity and seriousness. And when the euphoria of the honeymoon wears off, and the mundane sets in, make his heart swell all the more with great love for his bride. May he love and honor you by the way that he faithfully loves and honors Jill all of his life.

Lord Jesus, likewise grant Jill the grace that she might follow hard after You all of her life. Make her a godly woman who treasures You above all else. In loving submission, may she faithfully and singlemindedly honor Jim for Your glory. May she show her love and devotion to You by the way that she loves Jim.

Lord, give Jim and Jill hearts that long for Your appearing.

“Whom have we in heaven but You? And besides You, we desire nothing on earth. Our flesh and our hearts may fail, But God is the strength of our hearts and our portion forever” (Psalm 73:25, 26).

God, so bless this union for Your glory. Amen.

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Filed under History, Marriage

Denton Bible Holding the Line

I am glad to see that Denton Bible Church is standing strong on the complementarian point of view by hosting an important series of messages on Women in Ministry.

If you’re in the Dallas area, I would encourage you to attend the events described below in the letter from Tom Nelson of Denton Bible. May the word of the Lord prosper!

———————–

June 4, 2008

Dear Pastor,

I’ve pastored for 31 years in Denton and have never had a reason to contact other pastors with what Denton Bible was doing—until now.

We are doing a 3-week series at DBC on the egalitarian issue, “Can a woman be in authority over a man in the local church?”“Can they serve as pastors, elders or deacons over a man?”

The teaching of the Bible is “no” (I Tim. 2:9-15; 1 Cor. 14:34);

The example of the Bible is that men lead;

The historic position of the church is that men lead;

Because of these, this has been our position at DBC.

In the last 20 years this has been challenged. Even within my own seminary—Dallas Theological Seminary—this has been challenged. But it is not primarily being challenged because of a difference in the interpretation of a particular verse (lower criticism) but rather a difference of hermeneutic (higher criticism); meaning that the Bible was true then for that time, but not for ours. The hole in the theological dike here is obvious: At what point do we say what is now “outdated”? Something is ended only if Scripture says it is ended.

With this in mind, DBC is doing a 3-week Sunday sermon series on the egalitarian issue from June 15 to June 29. In these three weeks, I and two other men who are tops in their field will address this issue.

On June 15 I will bring the message in the 2 morning services (9:00 and 11:00 AM). Our College Pastor will bring the message in the evening service (5:00 PM).

On June 22 we have invited Dr. Bruce Ware to speak at all three Sunday services (9:00 and 11:00 AM and 5:00 PM). Dr. Ware is Professor of Theology at Southern Baptist Seminary having previously taught at several seminaries most recently at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is a highly esteemed theologian, popular speaker and prolific author. He has spoken and written frequently on a wide variety of gender role issues.

On June 29 Dr. Russell Moore will be speaking at all three Sunday services. Dr. Moore is Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President of Academic Administration at Southern Seminary. He is also the Executive Director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement and Senior Editor of Touchstone Magazine: A Journal of Mere Christianity. He too is a frequent speaker and writer on gender issues and matters affecting popular culture.

On June 22 and 29 our 5:00 PM evening service will have the same men preaching to those (the younger crowd) of that service. It is not often that this issue is addressed. If we can be of any service to you men who support this tradition in your churches or to your churches, DBC would simply offer its services.

May God equip you in every good thing to do His will,

Tom Nelson

Senior Pastor

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Filed under Bible and Theology, Ecclesiology, History, Marriage, Ministry

A Wedding Sermon

Yesterday I had the great joy of preaching at a wedding for one of the guys in our church, who is also a student at SWBTS Houston. At the encouragement of a couple friends who were present, I’m posting my remarks here. May the Lord be pleased to bless our marriages that we might be living pictures of the mystery of Christ and the church!

—————

When God gave the woman to the man in the Garden of Eden, the words were pronounced, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). The harmony enjoyed in Eden was soon lost when the couple sinned, and God said to the woman as he pronounced judgment, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen 3:16). That curse is the origin of all marital difficulty. That curse is the origin of feminism. That curse is the origin of males who sinfully “rule over” their wives in inappropriate ways. That curse came because of human sin, and that curse threatens to make marriage hopelessly impossible.

What a depressing thing to say at a wedding!

But we aren’t hopeful about your marriage because we can make a joke and lighten the mood. We are hopeful about your marriage because when Jesus came, he died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin. His resurrection shows that he has triumphed over the curse. He has opened the way to life.

All who trust in Jesus are justified before God and empowered to live in a new way, a way that is not doomed by the dreadful curse on sin.

Continue reading

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