When Sinners Say “I Do” – Book Review


That is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the book, When Sinners Say “I Do.”

Written by Dave Harvey, I first heard of this book about a year ago when my aunt recommended it. Since then, I had seen it several times while browsing books online, but there are so many marriage books out there, I never ordered it. However, I was recently able to go through the catalog from Shepherd Press and pick out complementary books in order for reviewing purposes. Imagine my excitement when I saw this in their catalog!

When Sinners Say “I Do” takes a realistic and hard look at sin. Fact: Every single person who has ever married or ever wanted to marry is a sinner. Now, ONE sinner can cause a lot of problems. But when sinners get married, your problems don’t just double; they multiply.

Harvey gives an honest picture of sin and then combines that with a fresh look at God’s grace. Although you may suppose a book that spends roughly half of the chapters discussing sin would be depressing, When Sinners Say “I Do” is truly refreshing. That is because it is only when I see my sin as it truly is that I can realize the full grace of God. “When sin becomes bitter, marriage becomes sweet.” (page 16) Harvey discusses ways to see God’s grace more fully in your own life and also how to point your spouse back to the grace of God.

Below is a list of the chapter titles along with some of my favorite quotations from each:

1. What Really Matters in Marriage

  • “It’s a wonderful, freeing thing to realize that the durability and quality of your marriage is not ultimately based on the strength of your commitment to your marriage. Rather, it’s based on something completely apart from your marriage: God’s truth; truth we find plain and clear on the pages of Scripture.” (23)
  • “Marriage was not just invented by God, it belongs to God. […] It actually exists for him more than it exists for you and me and our spouses.” (25)
2. Waking Up With the Worst of Sinners
  • “Anything we do that isn’t sin is simply the grace of God at work.” (43)
3. The Fog of War and the Law of Sin
  • “This stunning discovery of the true nature of indwelling sin is not the end of our marriage battles, but it is an important beginning. […] Even our conflicts have redemptive possibilities because the war with sin is won in Christ, by the grace and power of our Sovereign God.” (58)
4. Taking it Out for a Spin
  • “It’s not wrong to desire appropriate things like respect or affection from our spouses. But it is very tempting to justify our demands by thinking of them as needs and then to punish one another if those needs are not satisfied. A needs-based marriage does not testify to God’s glory; it is focused on personal demands competing for supremacy.” (74)
5. Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment
  • “It’s not the presence of differences but the absence of mercy that makes them irreconcilable.” (81)
  • “Mercy doesn’t change the need to speak truth. It transforms our motivation from a desire to win battles to a desire to represent Christ.” (82)
6. Forgiveness, Full and Free
  • “Sin is infinitely wicked because it rejects the one who is infinitely holy and good.” (104)
  • “Forgiven sinners forgive sin.” (108)
  • “Forgiveness is not the stuff of the extraordinary saint. Forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel and therefore is to be a defining characteristic of every believer.” (110)
7. The Surgeon, the Scalpel, and the Spouse in Sin
  • “Sometimes love must risk peace for the sake of truth.” (116)
  • “The final stage of any correction must be encouraging our spouse toward God and entrusting our spouse to God.” (131)
8. Stubborn Grace
  • “We can live completely oblivious to the Father behind us, […] Marriage provides us the opportunity to remind one another of the real power behind our progress and direction.” (149)
9. Concerning Sex
  • “Marriage mean that our bodies are now claimed by God for the pleasure and service of another.” (157)
  • “This is part of what makes marriage delightful – the joy of living for someone beyond ourselves.” (159)
  • “The adventure of dependence is a daily opportunity to love your spouse in the creative thoughtfulness that says, “You matter to me more than any other person alive.”” (166)
10. When Sinners Say Goodbye
  • “Today matter because tomorrow can’t be assumed.” (170)
  • “Our marriages here are an imperfect picture of what we are looking forward to enjoying in eternal relationship with our Savior.” (183)
These quotations are by no means the “most important” quotations in the book – or even in each chapter. They are only the ones I underlined and from which I received a blessing. There are so many more I could have included, but I didn’t think Harvey would be impressed if I typed the whole book out on my blog.

If you’re looking for a new book to read on marriage, or you need to buy a wedding present for someone, I highly recommend When Sinners Say “I Do.” You could even order it today and make a goal to read it before 2013! Your marriage will benefit as you take the Biblical principles and apply them to your life.


  1. Sarah says:

    Great review! Very much looking forward to reading this. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. anna belle says:

    I am not married, I am not anywhere near getting married right now either…but I absolutely want to read this. Just from the chapter titles, each one more necessary and true than the last (yet all equally true and necessary). Beautiful. thank you for sharing!

  3. Christa says:

    Anna Belle, this is a great book to read – married or non-married! It definitely applies to all relationships and I found myself applying it to many different relationships in my life.

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