Home Christian News John Piper: Remove the Member Who Knowingly Marries a Non-Believer

John Piper: Remove the Member Who Knowingly Marries a Non-Believer


Theologian, former Bethlehem Baptist Church pastor, and Desiring God author John Piper answered a tricky question many pastors have had to answer while shepherding God’s people. On his popular “Ask Pastor John” podcast, a listener asked how the church should respond when a member knowingly marries a non-believer.

“Hello, Pastor John! I’m a pastor wondering what should be a corrective course of action when a Christian knowingly marries an unbeliever. The believer was forewarned and went ahead with the union anyway. Now the marriage has been formalized. So how should we, the church, now respond?

The short answer one could conclude listening to the episode is to remove the believer from membership in the church.

To get to that conclusion, Piper started by mentioning there are three layers of sinfulness involved when a professing believer willingly rejects the counsel of the church elders and marries someone who doesn’t believe in Christ.

3 Layers of Sin

The three layers of sin Piper mentioned were disobeying God’s Word (1 Corinthians 7:39), choosing another over Christ (Matthew 10:37), and rejecting the elders’ counsel and authority. He said there are more, but those three are enough to deem this a serious situation.

Unpacking 1 Corinthians 7:39, which says “A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord,” Piper said “Only in the Lord” means only to a person who is in the Lord — a believer, a follower of Jesus.” Rejecting the command to marry a man that belongs to the Lord is an act of “open defiance” to the teaching of the apostles and God, he commented.

The second layer of sin Piper sees comes from Matthew 10:37 where Jesus said, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Piper said, “A believer who chooses to marry an unbeliever shows how deeply compromised the believer’s love for Christ is.” Enjoying the presence, friendship, and intimacy of a person that has rejected Christ, more than the presence and fellowship of Christ puts into question that person’s faith and love for Jesus, which the Desiring God author pointed out isn’t just his opinion, this is what Jesus says.

“Something is deeply, deeply wrong with the heart’s affection for Christ.”