John Piper on divorce and remarriage

On July 1, 2007, John Piper preached a sermon with this title:

“What God Has Joined Together, Let Not Man Separate, Part 2”).

In this sermon Piper presented and addressed issues concerning marriage.  Piper:

“As you know, when a person takes such a stand on the inviolability and sacredness of marriage, and the illegitimacy of divorce and remarriage while the spouses are alive, there are many questions, both biblical and practical, that have to be answered. So what I want to do in this message is to try to answer some of the more pressing ones.

1. First, does death end a marriage in such a way that it is legitimate for a spouse to remarry?

The answer is yes, and no one has seriously questioned it. One key text is Romans 7:1-3:

Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. (See below on 1 Corinthians 7:39)

In other words, Paul says that to divorce and remarry while your spouse is living is adulterous, but to remarry after the death of a spouse is not. I think the reason for this is that Jesus made plain that in the resurrection there is no marriage (Matthew 22:30). So if a person said it was wrong to remarry after the death of a spouse, it would seem to imply that marriage is meant to be valid beyond death and in the resurrection. But it’s not. Death is the decisive and eternal end of marriage. The spouse who has died has moved out of the earthly sphere where marriage happens, and is no longer married. And therefore the spouse on earth is no longer married. Therefore remarriage after the death of a spouse is not only legitimate, but speaks a clear biblical truth—after death there is no marriage.

2. Second, if a divorced person has already married again, should he or she leave the later marriage?

The reason this question comes with such force is that Jesus speaks of the second marriage as committing adultery. Luke 16:18, ‘Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.’

My answer is that remarriage, while a divorced spouse is still living, is an act of unfaithfulness to the marriage covenant. In that sense, to remarry is adultery. We promised, ’till death do us part’ because that is what God says marriage is, and even if our spouse breaks his or her covenant vows, we will not break ours” (John Piper; underlining mine–CD).

The person in question #2 has remarried while the other spouse is still living — this is adultery, of course (as Jesus clearly says).  Piper actually concedes that it is adultery by quoting Luke 16:18.  Piper said that “to remarry is adultery.”

“But I do not think that a person who remarries against God’s will, and thus commits adultery in this way, should later break the second marriage. The marriage should not have been done, but now that it is done, it should not be undone by man. It is a real marriage. Real vows have been made and sexual union has happened. And that real covenant of marriage may be purified by the blood of Jesus and set apart for God. In other words, I don’t think that a couple who repents and seeks God’s forgiveness, and receives his cleansing, should think of their lives as ongoing adultery, even though, in the eyes of Jesus, that’s how the relationship started” (Piper).

Piper concedes that this IS an adulterous marriage. But he reasons as those whom Jude spoke of who turn the grace of God into licentiousness, and thus concludes that this adulterous real marriage is “purified by the blood of Jesus.”  Piper endorses and encourages living in adultery since he wickedly believes that Christ’s blood “sanctifies” this adulterous marriage.  Piper does mention “repenting” and seeking God’s forgiveness, but this so-called “repenting” of which Piper speaks does not mean that these adulterers should ACTUALLY REPENT.  Piper then gives his reasons for believing (in cases like this) that adultery is no longer adultery.

“There are several reasons for why I believe this:

1) First, back in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, where the permission for divorce was given in the law of Moses, it speaks of the divorced woman being ‘defiled’ in the second marriage so that it would be an abomination for her to return to her first husband, even if her second husband died. This language of defilement is similar to Jesus’ language of adultery. And yet the second marriage stood. It was defiling in some sense, yet it was valid” (Piper).

It was the defilement of adultery Piper, which you previously acknowledged.  But you think that the precious blood of Jesus Christ “sanctifies” such wickedness.  Of course this adulterous and defiling marriage is a real marriage. It certainly is a “real” marriage in that “two shall become one flesh,” sense. And this real marriage is vile, wicked, evil, and adulterous — and it must be repented of.

The King James version mistranslates and mangles the passage as:

“she may go and be another man’s” (Deuteronomy 24:2).

But the Hebrew word there does NOT indicate anything about what this woman MAY do. And not only that, if she “may marry” another while the first husband is still living, then a “MAY” would CONTRADICT what Jesus clearly teaches elsewhere in Scripture (other translations say that she “goes and becomes another man’s”).

Scripture states what she did do, not what she may do. And what she did do, was commit adultery.  Piper assumes that just because it “stood,” it was therefore, “valid.”  If “valid” is understood as “real,” then YES, it is real (see 1 Corinthians 6:16). But if “valid” is understood as “lawful” and therefore pleasing to God, then NO, it is unlawful and adulterous and God hates it (Hebrews 13:4; cf. Romans 7:2-3).

Contrary to the tradition of Piper, the Word of God states that as long as the first husband remains alive, the real marriage necessarily remains adultery.  It is a REAL MARRIAGE,  but it is not a LAWFUL MARRIAGE — nor is this continuous, ongoing, unrepentant adulterous relationship somehow set apart (or “sanctified”) by the blood of Christ.  Piper PROFANES and DESECRATES the precious blood of Jesus Christ by saying that His blood sanctifies adulterous wickedness, making it “holy.”

Piper:

“2) Another reason I think remarried couples should stay together is that when Jesus met the woman of Samaria, he said to her, ‘You have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband’ (John 4:18). When Jesus says, “The one you have now is not your husband,’ he seems to imply that the other five were. Not that it’s right to divorce and marry five times. But the way Jesus speaks of it, it sounds as though he saw them as real marriages. Illicit. Adulterous to enter into, but real. Valid” (Piper).

Piper’s own words condemn him when he said that a marriage relationship, while the former spouse is still living, was

“adulterous to enter into.”

If a real marriage is adulterous to enter into, then HOW does this initially adulterous union become no longer adulterous apart from the death of the former spouse (see Romans 7:2-3)?  Instead of repenting and turning away from an adulterous relationship, Piper’s “pastoral sensitivity” encourages people to CONTINUE IN THIS ADULTEROUS SIN that grace may abound.

Jude prophesied concerning men exactly like, or analogous to Piper — ones who

“[pervert] the grace of our God into unbridled lust” (Jude 4).

What Piper does here is so blatant — it is such a brazenly open profaning of, and perverting of the efficacious purpose of Christ’s blood (John 17:15-26; Ephesians 5:25-27; Hebrews 13:12). What contributes to this blood-profaning brazenness is that Piper ACTUALLY CONCEDES that remarriage, while the former spouse is living, is adultery. There are many who, while “sympathetically-strengthening” people in the sin of adultery, would NOT concede as Piper has.

“3) And the third reason I think remarried couples should stay together is that even vows that should not be made, once they are made, should generally be kept. I don’t want to make that absolute, but there are passages in the Bible that speak of vows being made that should not have been made, but were right to keep (like Joshua’s vow to the Gibeonites in Joshua 9). God puts a very high value on keeping our word, even where it gets us in trouble (‘[The godly man] swears to his own hurt and does not change,’ Psalm 15:4). In other words, it would have been more in keeping with God’s revealed will not to remarry, but adding the sin of another covenant breaking does not please God more” (Piper; underlining mine–CD).

It IS NOT “covenant breaking,” Piper.  It is called repenting of the sin of entering into an unlawful relationship of adultery. 1 Corinthians 6:16 teaches that a real marriage to a harlot necessarily and inevitably involved a marriage vow.  He that is joined to a harlot — necessarily, inevitably — becomes “one-flesh.” Paul’s clear implication is that the two becoming one-flesh is the marriage union. Sexual intercourse is the marriage vow (1 Corinthians 6:16-18). All such one-flesh unions are real marriages, but all such marriages are not lawful — hence Paul’s command to “flee fornication.”

To Piper, it’s “more in keeping with God’s revealed will” not to commit adultery, BUT apparently it is LESS in keeping with God’s revealed will to REPENT of the adulterous relationship that was entered into.

“There are marriages in this church that are second marriages for one or both partners which, in my view should not have happened, and are today godly marriages—marriages which are clean and holy, and in which forgiven, justified husbands and wives please God by the way they relate to each other. As forgiven, cleansed, Spirit-led followers of Jesus, they are not committing adultery in their marriage. It began as it should not have, and has become holy” (Piper).

These second marriages that are formed while previous spouses are still living “should not have happened” because God says, thou shalt NOT commit adultery.  These people ARE continuing in adultery. This is sobering and sad. Piper thinks he is being loving and compassionate towards these adulterers or something. This is HATRED.

In 1 John we read that anyone who “says” they know God and yet continue a practicing course of sin, are liars (1 John 2:4).  1 John says that a regenerate person CANNOT continue in the practice of sin; it is impossible that a regenerate person’s life be characterized by a desecrating disregard for God’s holy law (1 John 5:18).  And yet Piper calls rebellious, blatant, in-your-face unrepentant people, as those who are Spirit-led followers of Jesus.  Where is the putting to death the deeds of the body in Romans 8:13?  These people are living according to the flesh.  They remain filthy, unrepentant adulterers — and yet Piper says that they are cleansed.

Related and Recommended

Every Christian’s State and Walk: A Study on Romans 8:1-9 

Law of Marriage

What Constitutes Marriage?

Gospel Atonement