In a recent audio transcript published on the Desiring God website, Pastor John Piper said Christians who willfully marry nonbelievers have “compromised the believer’s love for Christ” and should be removed from church membership.
During an episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast last week, a listener asked how his church should respond when a Christian knowingly marries an unbeliever. The individual asking also said the believer was “forewarned but went ahead with the union anyway.”
Piper first emphasized the seriousness of such an action, saying there were multiple “layers of sin” when a professing Christian “rejects the counsel of the church elders and marries an unbeliever.”
“First, the professing believer is defying and rebelling against an explicit command of the New Testament of God,” Piper said, referencing 1 Corinthians 7:39, which says believers should pursue a marriage partner who is “in the Lord.”
“So, if this teaching is made clear to the believer, and the believer rejects obedience to this command, she or he is acting in open defiance of the teaching of the apostles and of God,” the pastor continued.
Piper went on to say that a Christian who follows through with marrying someone who does not profess Christ as Savior “shows how deeply compromised the believer’s love for Christ is.” He followed his statement up with a rhetorical, albeit insightful, question.
“How can the heart of a believer embrace Jesus as its supreme treasure and satisfaction, and reject the words of Jesus in order to be in the arms of one who has no faith and no true affection for the believer’s most treasured possession?” Piper questioned.
“It’s inconceivable to me. I’ve always found that incomprehensible. Something is deeply, deeply wrong with the heart’s affection for Christ. That’s the second layer of sinfulness,” he added.
The Biblical theologian also posited that a Christian who spurns the authority of the elders appointed by God “to protect the sheep from sin,” must be removed from church membership. This action is used “to sober the disobedient believer, wake them up, and win them to a repentant and obedient heart and restoration.”
Piper explained that although the Christian may have formally entered into the marriage, it should not be nullified or broken. Instead, the disobedient believer must experience “a heart change” in order for true repentance to take place.
“There should be an authentic remorse and regret for disobedience to 1 Corinthians 7:39. There should be an acknowledgment and repentance that the heart was not right in putting man above Christ in the affections,” Piper emphasized.
“There should be an apology and sorrow for spurning the counsel of God’s leaders in the church. All of these changes are possible while the marriage stays intact.”