Husband of One Wife
Please help me out here. We are studying the qualifications for a Pastor. If he is divorced can he still be ordained? Does it matter who is at fault? What about the passage in 1Corinthians 7 "not bound". Someone in our church is divorced and wants to become a pastor, it is causing a lot of strife in church and families.
I am sorry that I was not able to send this answer earlier. Between computer problems and the holidays, I have gotten behind. I hope this is not too late to help. I always feel unqualified to answer this question. It involves so many lives and true Bible believers honestly disagree on this issue. They also tend to get very angry about this issue. I am going to give you some notes I have on the subject. However, I have said and continue to say that the decision as to whether or not a man is qualified to pastor a church is ultimately between that man and the church. The 1 Corinthians 7 passage teaches that a saved spouse is not bound to remain married to an unsaved spouse who leaves him or her. Very likely this does open the door for remarriage (though the context is not as clear as I would like it). Yet, that still does not entirely clear a pastor. Is it not possible that God has qualifications for a pastor that are more exacting that those He has for the believer in the pew? He has special qualifications for the widow indeed (1 Timothy 5) but many think it is too much to ask more of a pastor than of the church as a whole. Of course, there are many other considerations as well. Here are the notes:
The Husband of One Wife
- The second qualification in both lists; also required of deacons (1 Timothy 3:12)
- The most controversial of all the qualifications
- The phrase is open to various interpretations
- The interpretation deeply effects people’s lives
- It has become a text of orthodoxy in many circles
- Arguments for the phrase disqualifying those who have been divorced and remarried
- The most common alternative to this interpretation is that the phrase refers to bigamy; that is, a man being married to two wives instead of just one.
- Admittedly, the language of the phrase would allow for this interpretation.
- However, there are serious problems:
- The problem referred to in 1Timothy and Titus had to be a common one because of the prominence given to it in the lists of qualifications
- Yet, no other verses in the entire New Testament say anything about the sin of bigamy
- Also, historical records show that neither the Romans nor the Jews of New Testament times commonly practiced bigamy. Both groups preferred to divorce and remarry. The Romans would sometimes have a mistress in addition to their wife, but she was not considered a wife.
- The connection with blamelessness points to a connection with divorce and remarriage. In both lists, the first qualification is to be blameless and the second is to be the husband of one wife. Very likely, being the husband of one wife is one of the ways to be blameless. Consider:
- God speaks of divorce and remarriage (except in certain cases) as a commission of the sin of adultery (Mark 10:9-12). This would certainly bring blame on the guilty parties.
- However, after the divorce and remarriage has been committed, there is no way to go back and fully make up for the blame. Other sins do not leave a mark as visible to all as a divorce and remarriage. Other sins can and will be forgotten, but men will always remember this one and blame the parties for it.
- A pastor and his family are to be “ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3).
- A pastor is to live such a life before his people that it can be used as a pattern for the lives of the church members.
- This includes him being an example in the discipline of his children (1 Timothy 3:4-5).
- One of the most common problem areas in ministry is that of marriage problems. A man who has been divorced and remarried, for whatever reason, will have little credibility when he tells his members that they must remain together in their marriage in order to be right with God.
- We know that God holds the testimony of those who have married only once as more worthy of honor.
- The “widow indeed” in 1 Timothy 5 is a widow who was worthy of support by the church. She must have a strong spiritual testimony and be truly destitute. One of her qualifications was that of “having been the wife of one man” (1 Timothy 5:9). No doubt, this referred to having been married only once.
- This poses a problem for the bigamist interpretation of “the husband of one wife” phrase. If the restriction given to bishops does not refer to serial marriage, then the widow supported by the church in her old age was required to have higher standards than the pastor of the church. Surely, this is not so.
- Considerations concerning this matter
- Good men have and will continue to disagree over this matter
- Honest differences of interpretation are possible from the text
- Others are not responsible to me, but to God, for what they do (Romans 14:4-5). The choice of a pastor is between the man of God and the church that calls him.
- Therefore, grace should be shown to those who disagree with you on this.