The Southern Seminary Magazine
John Piper had his eyes on a career as a theology professor.
God had other ideas.
While writing a book on Romans 9 during a sabbatical while professor at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minn., Piper heard a clear word from the Lord.
"The God of Romans 9 seemed to be saying to me, 'I will be heralded and not just analyzed. I will be proclaimed and not just explained,'" Piper said.
The rest, as they say, is history. Piper left the academic field and became pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn., where he's been for almost 20 years. It's in that position Piper has become one of the most popular and respected preachers and authors around. Books to his credit include such titles as Desiring God, God's Passion for His Glory, The Supremacy of God in Preaching and many others. World magazine recently listed his The Pleasures of God as one of the century's top 100 books.
Just from reading the titles of his books, it's easy to see how God-centered Piper's ministry is. But where does that emphasis come from?
"Theologically it comes from the insight that God is God-centered," Piper said in an interview with The Tie during his recent visit to Southern Seminary. "God exists in order to display God, in order to make God known for the enjoyment of His people. So, the ultimate purpose of my existence and your existence and this seminary's existence is to know God and delight in God and thus display God.
"God has chosen to go public with His glory in the creation of the universe. So, it seems to me that fundamental to our motives should be God's motives, and that's the display of God. Ultimately it comes right back to God's purpose for life in his universe"
Part of that purpose involves marriage, said Piper, who is actively involved in the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
"Marriage is the first institution that God ordained," Piper said. "The point of it is to display for the world to see, by drama, Christ and the church. Divorce lies about Christ and the church.
"If it is to display Christ and the church, there must be a complementary way of behaving that represents Christ and the church where the husband takes his cues from Christ and the wife takes her cues from the church."
This complementarian position is one thing that Piper appreciates about Southern Seminary and its president, R. Albert Mohler Jr. As one viewing the situation from outside the Southern Baptist Convention, Piper said he sees the changes in the direction of the seminary over the past several years "very positively."
There aren't many Baptist seminaries that are Reformed and complementarian, Piper said. Thus, he sends several of his ministerial students to Southern Seminary for their education.
"I think (Southern Seminary) is making right choices about where to draw the lines," Piper said. "Al Mohler has chosen a path that I think is where I would choose to go. We need a witness like this."
Piper's spiritual journey that led him to such convictions started in the home of godly parents. His father was an evangelist.
"Both of them brought me up reading the Word daily and praying daily," Piper said. "My father trusted God implicitly for all of our needs. They teamed up to make a tremendous impact."
After graduating from high school in Greenville, S.C., Piper attended Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., where God called him into the ministry while he was listening to John Harold Ockenga on the radio.
"As he proclaimed the Scriptures, my heart burned with 'I'd love to do that,'" Piper said.
Piper attended Fuller Theological Seminary, where he was greatly influenced by Daniel Fuller, a man whose teaching opened new insights into Scripture for Piper.
After completing his doctorate in Germany, Piper started his career as a professor at Bethel College.
He soon became disenchanted with that role, however, after "discovering that academic life is not as romantic and rosy as it looks from the outside." It was about this time when God called Piper to preach.
He's done a lot of preaching over the years and has become a hero to many seminarians. His advice to young ministers? It's simple enough.
"They should read their Bible every day and pray every day," Piper said. "They should make it a priority every morning to get with God, seek his face in his word and cry out to him that their hearts would be inclined to his word.
"If you're going to preach with passion, preach with zeal and preach with truth, you have to be a person with passion and zeal and truth."
Used with permission from The Southern Seminary Magazine (The Tie), December 1999 (Volume 67, Number 4), published by The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention.