According to Piper, he had a religious conversion at his mother's knee while on vacation in Florida. He remarked that it "blows him away" that he was saved at six years old, not because he remembers the event, but because the Bible tells him what happened to him.
He married Noël Henry in December 1968, and together they have four sons, a daughter, and 12 grandchildren.
Piper attended Wheaton College (1964–1968) majoring in literature and minoring in philosophy. Studying romantic literature with Clyde Kilby stimulated his poetic side, and today he regularly composes poetry to celebrate special family occasions as well as annually composing story-poems (based on the life of biblical characters) for his congregation during the four weeks of Advent.
His mother died on December 16, 1974, in a bus wreck in Israel. Piper's 1990 booklet What's the Difference? included a tribute to her.
On January 11, 2006, Piper announced that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. According to a letter sent to his church, he and his doctors believed that the cancer was fully treatable. Piper responded to his diagnosis with the following:
This news has, of course, been good for me. The most dangerous thing in the world is the sin of self-reliance and the stupor of worldliness. The news of cancer has a wonderfully blasting effect on both. I thank God for that. The times with Christ in these days have been unusually sweet.
Piper underwent successful surgery on February 14, 2006.
In 1980, Piper became pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he ministered until March 31, 2013. Piper hit the evangelical scene after the publication of his book Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (1986) and has continued to publish dozens of books further articulating this theological perspective. In 1994, he founded Desiring God Ministries, with the aim of "spread[ing] a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ." Desiring God Ministries offers all of Piper's sermons and articles from the past three decades—and most of his books—online free of charge, while also offering Piper-related media for sale, and regularly hosting conferences.
Piper took an eight-month leave of absence from his ministry from May 1, 2010, to January 9, 2011.
He announced in June 2011 that he would soon step down from his role of pastor. A candidate to succeed him was announced in March 2012, and on May 20, 2012, Jason Meyer was voted in (784 yes to 8 no) to be the next Pastor for Preaching & Vision, replacing John Piper.
On March 31, 2013 (Easter Sunday), Piper preached his final sermon as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist and announced in an open letter to the congregation that he and his family would be moving to Tennessee for at least a year so that the new leadership can develop a strategic vision for the church without distractions.
Piper advocates Christian hedonism and teaches that "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him" and that God's highest pursuit ("his glory") and man's deepest and most durable happiness come together in one pursuit—namely, the pursuit of joy in God.
Piper holds to a complementarian view of gender roles. This view says that the Bible teaches that a husband is called to lovingly lead, protect and provide for his wife and family, and that the wife should joyfully and intelligently affirm and submit to her husband's leadership. He also says that the Bible teaches that men are to bear the primary responsibility to lead the church and that therefore only men should be elders. Piper, along with Wayne Grudem, was co-editor of one of the books in this area, called Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. One of the chapters has been reprinted several times as an independent short book called What's the Difference?
Piper espouses a brand of creationism known as "historical creationism", and credits John Sailhamer's book Genesis Unbound to explaining the view. "Historical creationism" states that God created the universe, planet Earth, and many creatures and things within Earth itself over the course of an indefinite time period before the first day of the week of Genesis 1, and that the days of the creation week were God changing a desolate piece of land into the blessed region of Eden, where God would bring Adam and Eve into existence and place them within it on the sixth day. "In verse 1," Piper said, "'In the beginning he made the heavens and the earth,' he makes everything. And then you go day by day and he's preparing the land. He's not bringing new things into existence; he's preparing the land and causing things to grow and separating out water and earth. And then, when it's all set and prepared, he creates and puts man there." Piper acknowledged, however, that although it is his interpretation of the text, he is not dogmatic about the issue and that "every pastor should go ahead and say what he believes ... I'm inclined to not draw that too narrowly."
Regarding spiritual gifts, Piper is a continuationist, however not in the classical Pentecostal sense. That is, he believes that supernatural gifts such as prophecy, miracles, healings, and speaking in tongues have not ceased and should be sought by the church, in particular with regard to missions and evangelism. He does believe, however, that the office of apostle has ceased and that the gift of prophecy in the church is not the same as the inspiration of scripture. While he believes that God's supernatural revelation in the New Testament gift of prophecy is without error, he says that today, outside the biblically recorded Word of God, the prophet's perception, understanding and delivery of that revelation is imperfect and fallible, thus modern prophecies within the church are subject to sifting.
Piper teaches that God has only one covenant people, mostly believing Jews in the Old Testament, and now that people consists of all the followers of Christ, or the Church, whether Jew or Gentile. Piper asserts that Israel has rights from God to dwell in that land, but not because they are merely Jewish, and Jews who reject Jesus as Messiah have no divine right of claim on those promises. Piper also believes that all Christians, Jew or Gentile, will inherit the earth, including the land of Israel, when Christ sets up the millennial kingdom in the Second Coming.
Love Your Enemies: Jesus' Love Command in the Synoptic Gospels and the Early Christian Paraenesis (Cambridge University Press, 1980; Baker, 1991).
The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1–23 (Baker, 1983; 2nd ed, 1993).
^Piper, John (2003). Don't Waste Your Life. Crossway. p. 21.
^"Biography of John Piper". About. Desiring God. Retrieved November 2, 2012. Following college he completed a Master of Divinity degree at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California (1968–71).
^Piper, John, Were Apostles Unique and Unrepeatable Messengers of Christ?, Desiring God, Jesus chose Twelve Apostles for a unique, unrepeatable role in the history of redemption ... there seem to be also another group (or groups) of men called and authorized by Jesus in the New Testament, some of whom are on a par with the Twelve in their teaching authority. Paul certainly believed that his call and commission by the risen Christ put him on a par with the Twelve in his teaching role ....
^Piper, John, The Authority and Nature of the Gift of Prophecy (sermon), Desiring God, God reveals something to the mind of the prophet (in some way beyond ordinary sense perception), and since God never makes a mistake, we know that his revelation is true. It has no error in it. But the gift of prophecy does not guarantee the infallible transmission of that revelation. The prophet may perceive the revelation imperfectly, he may understand it imperfectly, and he may deliver it imperfectly..
^Piper, John, The Authority and Nature of the Gift of Prophecy (sermon), Desiring God, We need a third category for the 'spiritual gift of prophecy'—Spirit-prompted, Spirit-sustained, revelation-rooted, but mixed with human imperfection and fallibility and therefore in need of sifting..