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Friends and Lovers

Cultivating Companionship and Intimacy in Marriage

“Refreshingly straightforward…the best book of its kind.”
Derek W H Thomas, Reformed Theo. Sem.

“There is no better book to renew the affection of marriage."
Geoffrey Thomas, Alfred Place Baptist, Wales

“Like a personal mentoring session on marriage…full of practical wisdom and grace. A delight.”
Bob Lepine, Co-Host, FamilyLife Today

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Description & Excerpts


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Neither a comprehensive marriage manual, nor a complete exploration of the theological significance of marriage, Friends and Lovers focuses on two key ingredients in a vital marriage: friendship and sexual intimacy. Drawing from the wisdom of the Bible, especially the Book of Proverbs, Joel Beeke shows you how to grow closer to your spouse both emotionally and physically.

About the Author

Dr. Joel R. Beeke serves as President and Professor of Systematic Theology, Church History, and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been in the ministry since 1978 and has served as a pastor of his current church since 1986. He is also editor of the Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth, editorial director of Reformation Heritage Books, president of Inheritance Publishers, and vice-president of the Dutch Reformed Translation Society. He has written, co-authored, or edited fifty books and contributed over fifteen hundred articles to Reformed books, journals, periodicals, and encyclopedias. His Ph.D. (1988) from Westminster Theological Seminary is in Reformation and Post-Reformation Theology. He is frequently called upon to lecture at Reformed seminaries and to speak at conferences around the world. He and his wife, Mary, have three children: Calvin, Esther, and Lydia.

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Table of Contents

Part 1: Friends

1. Remember: The Foundation of Friendship in Marriage
2. Nourish: The Cultivation of Friendship in Marriage
3. Resist: The Temptations of Friendship in Marriage

Avoiding Correction
Imbalance in Other Relationships
Personal Crises

Part 2: Lovers

4. Cherish: Sex Is the Act of Cherishing Each Other as God’s Image-bearers
5. Multiply: Godly Lovers Delight in Multiplication
6. Obey: Sex in Marriage Is Obedience to God’s Commandments
7. Forgive: Sexual Freedom Comes through Forgiveness of Sins
8. Believe: Faith in Christ Empowers Sexual Love
9. Reject: Sex Is More Loving with Self-Denial
10. Appeal: Our Father in Heaven Can Heal Fear and Shame
11. Repent: Sexual Idolatry Requires Repentance
12. Appreciate: Gratitude and Contentment Sweeten Sex
Appendix: Questions to Ponder

Sample of Friends and Lovers: Towards Companionship and Intimacy in Marriage

endorsements   &   reviews


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A book about love, marriage, and sex from Joel Beeke that is surprisingly candid yet without a trace of smuttiness. Putting Puritans in a new light perhaps, Beeke manages, at the same time, to be theologically thorough and pointedly practical. Fresh and refreshingly straightforward, this is the best book of its kind.

Derek W H Thomas, Minister of Preaching and Teaching, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia SC; Distinguished Visiting Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary; Editorial Director, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

Marriage is hard work. And wonderful. And sometimes, it’s both at the same time. Friends and Lovers is like a personal mentoring session on marriage with a man whose heart is devoted to seeing Christ honored in how we love each other as husbands and wives. It’s full of practical wisdom and grace. A delight.

Bob Lepine, Co-Host, FamilyLife Today

By laying the theological, emotional, social, and spiritual foundations of marriage before heading to the bedroom, Joel Beeke provides a healthy corrective to the excessive and obsessive sex-focus of our generation and even of some pastors. But, thankfully, he also goes on to provide wise, practical, down-to-earth direction for couples wanting to discover or recover physical intimacy that will both satisfy themselves and honor God.

Dr. David Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Central to the historical account of the creation of the human race is the marriage of Adam and Eve, their marriage being utterly vital to God’s purposes for humanity. The pure delight our ancient parents had in each other, touching every aspect of their lives together, was sadly lost at the fall. What this book powerfully shows through the teaching of the Scriptures, though, is that this delight is recoverable to a great degree in Christ. Christian marriages should know a depth of intimacy, in all the best senses of that word, which other marriages do not have. It is a matter of sadness that some do not. Here, the biblical wisdom about marriage in these pages can help enormously. A mini-addendum: I appreciated enormously the way in which the divine gift of human sexuality is handled, with biblical honesty but without any pandering to our culture’s prurient ways.

Michael A.G. Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Recently, a number of well known teachers have published books on marriage, some of which have caused quite a stir among Christians. Although these books offer some helpful insights, some are marred by an imbalance and even unbiblical teaching. Dr. Beeke’s book, Friends and Lovers: Cultivating Companionship and Intimacy in Marriage, introduces biblical sanity into the discussion. With characteristic piety, scriptural knowledge, and practical guidelines, Dr. Beeke sets before us these two essential ingredients (friendship and intimacy) for a durable and happy marriage. This book will strengthen the marriage of everyone who reads it. I know it has mine.

Joseph A. Pipa Jr., President, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary

After years of marriage some of us still have to pray, “Father, forgive me for my sins against those who love me the most.” We never stop needing counsel to better nourish and cherish those who are flesh of our flesh, our co-inheritors of the grace of life. There is no better book than this to renew the affection of happy marriage.

Geoffrey Thomas, Pastor, Alfred Place Baptist Church, Aberystwyth, Wales

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“The most balanced conversation about submission in the home I have found.”

Joel Beeke is quickly becoming one of my favorite pastors to read because the books I’ve read are saturated in the gospel, full of quotations from the Puritans, and his tone is pastoral. But most importantly he handles the word of God with the skill of a physician. Listen to the tone from the outset,

May the Spirit of God blow upon your marriage through the Word of Christ so that smoldering coals of love may burst once more into flame, and may the fire of love be refueled to produce marriages that blaze with love to the glory of God! (Kindle Locations 207-209).

I wish all of the books I’ve read approached discipleship and Christian growth with that love and focus.

Recently another book was released that approached marriage from the perspective of friendship and sex but with far less tact in my opinion. Beeke tackles friendship first rooting it in the gospel. The entire first section can be summed up when he says, “true marital friendship is the personal bond of shared life in Christ” (287-288). In developing friendship, he stresses time and time again the importance of finding someone who loves Christ and is committed to growing in Christ with you (see 337 & 428). He also has the most balanced conversation about submission in the home I have found. He recommends for husbands and wives that when the other spouse has stronger feelings about non-spiritual things we should frequently “yield” (513).

Finally, he ends Friends and Lovers with a candid and careful discussion about sex. I recently wrote about how the Scripture is not afraid to talk about sex but it’s also not lurid. Beeke demonstrates this balance well. He starts by putting the ax to the root:

In some ways this [negative view of sex] dysfunction is much like what someone might say about a piece of double chocolate cake: “It tastes so good, it must be sinful.” Do you sense how perverse the statement is—that good things are sinful? (703-705).

He then reminds that sex is not marriage itself but “the fruit of a good marriage” (767). He also reminds us that “women [are not required to] do whatever her husband wants” nor “should [we] engage in every form of sexual practice” (910). He emphasizes service in the bedroom. He ends with one of the most helpful paragraphs on marriage I’ve read.

Your marriage, as all of life, with a God-centered perspective shaped by the five great solas (or “alones”) of the Reformation: Scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, and the glory of God alone. Reject any ambition to use marriage as a means to glorify a mere human, and live for the glory of God alone. Do not rely on your own understanding but follow Scripture alone as the rule of life. Do not be self-righteous or trust in the merit of your own works, but humbly receive and rest in God’s gift of justification by faith alone. After committing to change and grow, do not depend on your own strength, but labor with prayer for sanctification by grace alone. And seek all blessings by looking to Christ alone. He is the mediator of all grace and the friend of sinners. (1326-1334).

Mathew Sims, Grace for Sinners

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