Ray Ortlund, Jr. – How the Bible Is One Big, Divine, Holy Story of Marriage


Eternity in the New City

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:1–5a

One of the amazing things about the Bible is the grand scope of its vision. It begins with the creation of the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1), and it ends here with the re-creation of it all as a new heavens and a new earth. The Bible is nothing less than a history of the entire cosmos. And at each horizon of this grandeur is marriage: first the marriage of Adam and Eve, and now the wedding of the Lamb with his bride (Rev. 21:9).

Now the conflict is finally past, the victory is won, and peace descends. The sea disappears from view, for “the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt” (Isa. 57:20). It was from this seething mass of restless mankind that the beast arose (Rev. 13:1). And the angel said to John, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages” (Rev. 17:15). But now the people of God need no longer brace themselves against the buffeting waves of this sea of human hostility, for the danger simply is not there anymore. A settled order of human shalom finally reigns.

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Ray Ortlund – That Part of Gospel-Centeredness We Avoid


The resurgence of a gospel-centered paradigm of life and ministry in our time has the makings of historic revival. Clearly, God is doing great things, and we are glad (Psalm 126).

But one aspect of gospel-centrality remains under-emphasized among us: interpersonal reconciliation. The Bible says, “God . . . gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). It doesn’t say, “God gives us the option of reconciliation now and then, when it suits us.” No, God has given us the ministry of reconciliation as a matter of sacred stewardship. There is nothing more gospel-centered.

Do we pursue reconciliation with that urgency? Jesus said, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). Maybe we need to reach out to an offended brother or sister before next Sunday. Our approach might be rejected. We are grateful for this realism: “If possible, so far as it depends on you . . .” (Romans 12:18). But have we tried? If not, what are we waiting for? It isn’t the gospel that needs to change.

One reason we might hold back is how hard reconciliation can be. It is hard to dig up the injuries of the past. It is hard to talk it through with the offender. It is hard to become vulnerable again. Reconciliation is beautiful, powerful and prophetic, but not easy. And it doesn’t matter how much time has elapsed since the friendship broke down. The passage of time does not make anything better. Francis Schaeffer, in his wonderful essay, “The Mark of the Christian,” understands the dark power of long-standing brokenness:

“I have observed one thing among true Christians in their differences in many countries: What divides and severs true Christian groups and Christians – what leaves a bitterness that can last for 20, 30 or 40 years (or for 50 or 60 years in a son’s memory) – is not the issue of doctrine or belief which caused the differences in the first place. Invariably it is lack of love and the bitter things that are said by true Christians in the midst of differences. These stick in the mind like glue. And after time passes and the differences between the Christians or the groups appear less than they did, there are still those bitter, bitter things we said in the midst of what we thought was a good and sufficient objective discussion. It is these things, the unloving attitudes and words, that cause the stench that the world can smell in the church of Jesus Christ among those who are really true Christians. . . . The world looks, shrugs its shoulders and turns away. It has not seen even the beginning of a living church in the midst of a dying culture.”

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Book Review – God’s Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery

God's Unfaithful Wife

An important element of sound Bible study is recognizing the patterns and principles and flow from Genesis to Revelation as consistent messages to the reader. One such pattern is that of God’s relationship with His people, namely what is described as a marriage relationship. Subsumed in that covenant relationship are guidelines that define what it looks like for this marriage to be healthy, vibrant, and as God intended. Things looked quite promising in the formative chapters of Genesis – at least until sin entered into the picture with its raging desire for self rather than loving God within the bond of covenant relationship. What we find throughout Scripture is God reaching out to His bride as the bridegroom to restore and redeem the called out bride. Unfortunately, more often than not, the bride was and is not always willing to abide by the terms of the marriage/betrothal agreement.

While it may not seem at first glance a subject matter worth tracking through Scripture, in reality, looking closely at the topic of spiritual adultery is quite essential as it provides us an understanding of what God expects from us as well as being a teaching tool for grasping where spiritual adultery leads and how God responds. Ray Ortlund, Jr. in his excellent book God’s Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery, walks the reader through what the Old and New Testament has to say on this issue, digging into the text along the way to extract sound theological nuggets on what exactly this has to do with us today.

As alluded to earlier, any successful biblical theological endeavor must inherently begin in Genesis, especially when it comes to this subject matter. Ortlund aptly roots his discussion in those beginning chapters of Scripture, noting the significance of God’s creation of man and woman, in particular the relational elements that can be found in those chapters. Human marriage between the man and woman was to be an earthly reflection of God’s relationship with humanity. That foundational truth is something Ortlund returns to in the concluding chapters of this book when he examines how the New Testament reveals the relationship between the bridegroom (Jesus) and his bride (the people of God).

After discussing the foundation, Ortlund then proceeds to examine key Old Testament texts that demonstrate the tendency of God’s people to play the harlot and to chase after other husbands (i.e. false gods). This is where this book shines brightest, specifically in Ortlund’s salient analysis of these key passages and how they speak to the on again, off again (mostly off again) relationship God’s people had with their Creator despite a history replete with God doing the miraculous on their part. While most are likely familiar with the reality of this unfaithfulness and how it led to removal from the Promised Land, I submit the importance, most notably of the relational truths found in Scripture are often lost on us today. We have a hard time viewing ourselves as chasing after other gods like the Israelites, especially given there are not an Asherah pole in our homes, not do we set up an altar on a high hill or mountain. With that said, we have our own gods that we commit spiritual adultery with today and thus understand what Ortlund presents in this book is extremely important and relevant for the people of God in a day and age when spiritual adultery is on the rise.

The marriage motif and the ensuing spiritual adultery committed by the people of God from the time of Adam and Eve to this present day is an important subject matter for us to ponder and understand. Ray Ortlund does a fantastic job of unpacking this topic from a biblical theological perspective, providing the reader with sound exegesis and practical application. God has called us to be His – a call to marriage. This involves faithfulness to the marriage contract provided to us in the pages of Scripture. Learning from the mistakes of our forefathers in the faith and identifying that even in the midst of our unfaithfulness, God remains faithful is a definite key to understanding what it means to grow in maturity in our relationship with our Creator. Ortlund’s book is a treasure trove of information on this subject matter and I highly recommend taking the time to read this helpful and important book.

This book is available for purchase from IVP Academic by clicking here.

I received this book for free from IVP Academic and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Ray Ortlund – Going Soft Against Wrath

A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.

What is the wise response to an angry person who says something cruel, false or demanding? Proverbs 15:1 helps us in those awkward moments at home, at work, in our churches.

The key is “a soft answer.”

So, you’re standing there, stunned by those words that have just exploded in your face. In that instant of decision, as your mind is forming a response, “a soft answer” is the category you need. What is that?

Maybe, for Sure

The word “soft” means tender, delicate, gentle, even weak. We don’t like being weak, especially when we find ourselves in the crosshairs of anger. We would rather justify ourselves. It is hard to be wronged. It is doubly hard to be wronged and not fight back but respond softly.

Of course, if the angry person is a heretic, bent on wrecking your church, he or she must be confronted strongly. But if that person is not a danger but only immature, then a tender, delicate, soft, weak answer might help that person see things in a new way. Maybe not. Maybe nothing will help. When God himself answered Jonah’s anger softly, Jonah wasn’t satisfied (Jonah 4:1–11). But with the wisdom of Proverbs 15:1, the tension in the air might not escalate. The awkward moment might even be turned into something positive.

But dishing out anger in response to anger will surely go badly. Here is what we can always expect: “. . .a harsh word stirs up [more] anger.” A harsh – literally, “painful” – response can include words with sharp edges, a tone of sarcasm, implied threats of retaliation. There are many ways for the encounter to escalate quickly.

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