(Photo from our wedding day July 18, 2009)
Marriage is a lifelong commitment and I fully believe it should be, but sometimes mistakes and the flaws of mankind make marriage not look like the original design. God’s original design is for man and women to marry and become one flesh, but the fallen nature of man has caused confusion on how marriage should look.
To venture past what marriage should look like in the eyes of God and the flawed nature of mankind and God granting Moses to issue a certificate of divorce in the Old Testament I’ll look at the passages in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and the requirements of an overseer, or in common terms, a pastor. First of all, 1 Timothy 3:1-7 states (from the English Standard Version):
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:1-7, ESV).
I’ll break the qualifications down a little further.
Those who aspire to the office of overseer desire a noble task. This is the list:
- Must be above reproach.
- The husband of one wife
- Able to Teach
- Not a Drunkard
- Not Violent but Gentle
- Not Quarrelsome
- Not a Lover of Money
- Must Manage His own Household Well
- With all dignity keeping his children submissive
- He must not be a recent convert
- He must be well thought of by outsiders
This list looking over it seems to be looking from this point forward and is not a continued struggle. I could go over each one, but I will concentrate on the second one, which is the issue of controversy in continuing ministry within the walls of a church building teaching students and adults from the pulpit. I’ve found a greater understanding to explain the questions brought about by the phrase “the husband of one wife” through Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology textbook. It is understandable the approach used to describe the questions asked.
e. What Is the Meaning of “Husband of One Wife”? The qualification “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6) has been understood in different ways. Some people have thought that it excludes from the office of elder men who have been divorced and have then married someone else, since they have then been the husband of two wives. But this does not seem to be a correct understanding of these verses. A better interpretation is that Paul was prohibiting a polygamist (a man who presently has more than one wife) from being an elder. Several reasons support this view: (1) All the other qualifications listed by Paul refer to a man’s present status not his entire past life. For example, 1 Timothy 3:1–7 does not mean “one who has never been violent,” but “one who is not now violent, but gentle.” It does not mean “one who has never been a lover of money,” but “one who is not now a lover of money.” It does not mean “one who has been above reproach for his whole life,” but “one who is now above reproach.” If we made these qualifications apply to one’s entire past life, then we would exclude from office almost everyone who became a Christian as an adult, for it is doubtful that any non-Christian could meet these qualifications.
(2) Paul could have said “having been married only once” if he had wanted to, but he did not. (3) We should not prevent remarried widowers from being elders, but that would be necessary if we take the phrase to mean “having been married only once.” The qualifications for elders are all based on a man’s moral and spiritual character, and there is nothing in Scripture to suggest that a man who remarried after his wife had died has lower moral or spiritual qualifications.21 (4) Polygamy was possible in the first century. Although it was not common, polygamy was practiced, especially among the Jews. The Jewish historian Josephus says, “For it is an ancestral custom of ours to have several wives at the same time.” Rabbinic legislation also regulated inheritance customs and other aspects of polygamy.23
Therefore it is best to understand “the husband of one wife” to prohibit a polygamist from holding the office of elder. The verses say nothing about divorce and remarriage with respect to qualifications for church office (Grudem, 2004, pp. 916-917).
This is a breath of fresh air for me since I have faced many oppositions in regards to being able to jump back into ministry from a Pastoral or Student Ministry position. I pray one day God will lead me to the church in which I can serve and lead His people into a loving relationship with Him. It is my commitment and desire to honor and glorify God through the reading of His Words and to understand the mysteries of God as I read it daily. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this post. I am looking forward to jumping into the next several weeks about what I believe and why. This is focused around the Baptist Faith and Message, a great resource to help bring a deeper understanding to the messages of God’s Words.
Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (pp. 916–917). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Ti 3:1–7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.