Thoughts on Why President Clinton Should Resign

A Message to the People of Bethlehem Baptist Church
Minneapolis, MN
by John Piper
26 August 1998

First Priority: Know The Truth About Leadership – Some Biblical Principles

Proverbs 16:12
It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, For a throne is established on righteousness. (The abandonment of righteousness will weaken the seat of government and the stability and security of the nation.)
Proverbs 31:4-5
It is not for kings, O Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, Or for rulers to desire strong drink, 5 For they will drink and forget what is decreed, And pervert the rights of all the afflicted. (Private acts of rulers can and do pervert public justice and good order.)
Proverbs 20:28
Loyalty and truth preserve the king, And he upholds his throne by righteousness. (The abandonment of truth and loyalty to covenants undermines the leadership of a ruler.)
Proverbs 29:4
The king gives stability to the land by justice, But a man who takes bribes overthrows it. (The issue of bribery is at root the issue of private truthfulness and acting on principle rather than expediency. Thus when this is forsaken justice is overthrown.)
Proverbs 29:12
If a ruler pays attention to falsehood, All his ministers become wicked. (The minimizing of truthfulness corrupts others so that the entire government becomes less reliable.)

The Next Priority Based On This Knowledge Is Prayer

1 Timothy 2:1-2
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
NOTE: In view of the Biblical principles seen above, the "tranquil and quiet life" is not a mere matter of a good economy while immorality and dishonesty prevail in the leader’s private life. That private morality has vast public implications (as we will see again in a moment). So we pray for all matters pertaining to his life.

The Next Priority Is To Be Submissive To The Governing Authorities.

Mark 12:17
And Jesus said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (Be absolutely submissive to God and you will discern from God’s ways how to be secondarily submissive to human institutions and authorities.)
Romans 13:1-2
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
1 Peter 2:13-15
Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.


  1. The Bible does not deal directly with the responsibilities of a democracy in which officials are elected and laws are drafted by elected officials and have authority over officials. Thus we must make applications to our democratic context carefully. Submission is primarily to laws and constitutional processes not persons.
  2. Biblical submission is a readiness to obey law and uphold the legal order, not an approval or endorsement of all lawmakers or even all laws absolutely. Christ’s absolute supremacy over our lives qualifies the absoluteness of human law. There can be a submissive spirit and readiness to obey even where for conscience sake some laws and lawmakers may have to be resisted.
  3. The Christian recognizes Christ and his law as the final authority.

John the Baptist’s preaching is an example of a proper indictment of present government authority. Jesus said of John the Baptist, "Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!" Nevertheless he was beheaded for indicting publicly the ruling authority. "For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had been saying to him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her’" (Matthew 14:3-4).

NOTE: Therefore, opposition to a leader’s behavior and public criticism of it and the declaration of moral unfitness for office is not necessarily inconsistent with a submissive spirit to governing authorities.

My concern with President Clinton at this point is


  1. politically partisan: I hope that I would say the same thing to any man whatever the party and whatever his position on controversial issues that I may care about.
  2. primarily legal: I am not addressing the issue of legal crimes or of the advisability of impeachment.

But Rather:

My concern is whether the President is morally fit to hold public office and whether there would be moral, social and international benefit in his voluntary resignation. I make my judgments from a position rooted in the Word of God, and therefore I believe they have widespread application even to those who have not taken their stand on this position of allegiance to God’s word revealed in the Bible, since he has written his law in great degree on all human hearts (Romans 2:15).

Here are some of the reasons why I believe the President is unfit to hold our highest elected office and why I think it would be good for the country and the world if he were to resign.

  1.   The President has broken the sacred and essential covenant of marriage. It is sacred because, as his own Christian profession maintains, it is ordained by God as inviolable and reflects the covenant-keeping faithfulness of God. It is essential because a society where infidelity is treated as minor will not hold together. Keeping commitments is at the heart of our social fabric. It will rend and unravel where failure to keep covenants (or contracts) is not despised. Yet the President has done all that language can do to distract from how despicable his covenant breaking has been.
  2. The President has show callous disregard for the public humiliation of his wife, child and trusting associates, as he not only deceived them but also used them to join him in defending his deception. This kind of self-serving indifference to the pain and shame of others is so base that any attempt to create respect for the office of President while such a person is holding the office will have a deleterious effect on the nation by inevitably lowering the standards of respect to the point where it is indistinguishable from disrespect.
  3. The President defiled a woman young enough to be his daughter. The youth of Monica Lewinsky does not constitute the evil, but exacerbates it. The evil is in the fact that to express his own immoral desires he needed to involve another person in the same immoral indulgence. Thus the evil is compounded as the President of the United States welcomes a young woman into the complicity of secret immoral behavior and abuses his power in the process.
  4. The length of the sexual involvement with Lewinsky, as well as other sexual immoralities which the President has confessed to, show that his bad judgment and lack of self-control and willingness to take reckless risks for nothing more than personal gratification are not the lapse of a one night stand in a life of stability and virtue, but are evidence of a long and deep pattern of failed judgment, immoral inclinations, and disregard for numerous sacred commitments both public and private.
  5. The message the President has sent to all young men is this: "If you can get away with it, it’s okay to do it, and if the potential harmful consequences for tens of millions of people don’t matter in my case, how much less do the little consequences matter in your case." The President has not taken any of the remarkable opportunities offered to him to speak to the young people of our nation about the evil and folly of such behavior and to call on them as their leader to be chaste and to honor women by treating them as persons rather than sexual stimulators.
  6. In his behavior and public response to being caught he has portrayed immorality and deception as irrelevant to worthy leadership. He communicates that we should let him go about his business as if there is no serious damage to a nation by doing so. This is a message that our youth, especially, and our nation as a whole, will be hurt by. Every level of leadership is corrupted by this example and the standards of character and fitness are lowered. Leadership of the visibility and power and influence of the presidency calls for a kind of statesmanship and honor and trustworthiness and discipline and loyalty that a nation is inspired by.
  7. The President has lied and deceived and distorted truth repeatedly over the years and in these recent months has blatantly looked us in the eye and said that he was not involved sexually with Ms. Lewinsky and under oath has said that he could not remember being alone with her. These lies, and this manifest manipulation of language to evade truth is so unworthy of public trust, that it is scarcely imaginable that any man could serve in an office of trust after such blatant public dishonesty and corruption of language.
  8. Almost everything the President said in his "confession" was calculated to present himself as a strong and noble person. He did not express contrition, brokenness or shame at his actions. Rather, he stoically defended the legal accuracy of his prevarications and affirmed (as if it were a noble thing) that he was responsible for his actions. There is a great difference between saying with tears, "I have acted for long periods of time recklessly, selfishly, crudely, immorally and irresponsibly," and saying with force and fixed jaw, "I take responsibility for my actions."
  9. Mainly in his confession the President expressed anger at the intrusion of legal agents into his private life. Thus he attempted to shift our sense of indignation off himself and onto the prosecutor. This is a tried and worn strategy of people trapped in an immorality that they are forced to acknowledge, but for which they do not feel deep contrition. It is the mark of a character that is not just deceiving, but is built of deceit.
  10. The President has treated the precious gift of words in such a way as to deflate its currency to the point where language itself has become the object of distrust and scorn. This is incredibly damaging to a culture. If leaders communicate that words exist to be manipulated for the sake of evasion and personal gratification, the effect on the discourse of the land will be devastating as more and more people scoff at even the possibility of noble uses of language for truth-telling.
  11. The President has brought reproach upon the honor of the office of President of the United States and seriously damaged the esteem of our land in the eyes of the world. And he has done this at a time when the moral high ground in world affairs is of extraordinary importance for world peace. It is outrageous that in a time when millions of Muslim people around the world regard America’s role among the nations as the purveyor of moral filth, our President should be spending his evenings cheating on his wife and having some sort of sex in the White House with a woman young enough to be his daughter. This gross and reckless and faithless behavior unfits a man to be a world leader in this moral context.
  12. The President, for his own fleeting personal gratification, has heightened the stakes of violence and war in an atmosphere of international hatred of America by giving other nations, not imaginary, but real reason to regard us as a debauched people whose highest leaders are philanderers whom we as a people do not have the moral fiber to remove. This image of America will in the minds of many adversaries add moral warrant to any violent intentions they may have against us. The President should have known that the stakes of his moral life are this high, and added that to his disincentive to gratify himself at the expense of the nation.

What should we do?

  1. Search your life to see whether you are guilty of similar sexual misconduct or similar evasions of the truth. Repent of all known sin.
  2. Pray for the President’s repentance and renewal in faith and honesty and purity of heart and body. And pray for the exaltation of God in our land whose ways and word have been ignored and despised.
  3. Speak the truth to the President concerning his behavior and his present duty ( And speak this to those in governing positions that have significant influence in this matter (email addresses may be found on the web at or
  4. Call for candidates of profound personal integrity.
  5. Spread the gospel of the free gift of God’s righteousness through faith as the only hope for any of us, including the President to stand before God in the judgment.

© Copyright John Piper. Used by permission of Desiring God Ministries, 720 13th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55415. (612) 338-7653.