My review of Ray Ortlund’s Short Biblical Theology of Marriage.
Several years ago when I would hear biblical teaching saying marriage is actually about the gospel, I thought God was overreaching. “God, that’s too much. I know you’re amazing in every way, but don’t retrofit marriage with an artificial purpose.”
Now, I shudder at such thinking. Since then my understanding of the gospel and marriage have deepened. What helped me overcome my unbelief was a fuller biblical theology of marriage—that is, understanding how the Bible’s grand narrative of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration share God’s glorious purposes in marriage and what it means for us today.
One of the new titles in Crossway’s Short Studies in Biblical Theology series is Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel by Ray Ortlund. In it, Ortlund develops a biblical theology of marriage in four chapters:
1. Marriage in Genesis
2. Marriage in the Law, Wisdom, and Prophets
3. Marriage in the New Testament
4. Marriage in the World Today
Ortlund wrote with two yearnings in his heart:
First, I yearn for a recovery of joyful confidence in marriage as God originally gave it to us. This requires a humble, thoughtful return to biblical teachings. We will never see human sexuality restored without a rediscovery of Scripture as the consensus of our culture.
Second, I yearn for more men and women to experience enduring marital romance. We will never live in the human richness we all desire without our hearts strengthened by divine grace. So I am sending this book into the world as one more effort in my lifelong desire for reformation and revival in our generation.
Ray Ortlund has the mind of a scholar and the heart of a pastor. In this book, he has both firing on all cylinders with his academic precision clearly explaining rich biblical truths and his pastoral heart pointing us to the glory of Christ and guiding us t0 live faithfully in light of it.
As I read, I worshiped, repented, and asked God for help as a husband. The chapter on Genesis particularly led me to worship by seeing the perfect design of God in the universe, which has been a theme in my life the past year.
One squabble with the book is not what it does contain, but what it does not. While I realize the series is Short Studies in Biblical Theology, I finished the book wanting more teaching and application. Specifically, I wish the final chapter went deeper into marriage today since a biblical view of marriage is seen as subversive to secular trends and the “right side of history” today. But perhaps this critique isn’t fair because the book would then stray from its focus of presenting Scriptural teaching by moving to a cultural application of it. I also found myself longing for more on marriage’s connection to the gospel. I soon realized that my longing will be satisfied not with more teaching, but rather with a deeper faith in the truths of Scripture I already know.
All in all, Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel provides a compelling and accessible treatment of a critical topic. If you’re looking for a practical guide to marriage rather than a biblical theology, consider Paul Tripp’s What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage or Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage.
Ray Ortlund talks Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel