Faithlife Sermons

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*The Husband of One Wife (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6)*
There are four interpretations:
#. *The Church*
The "one wife" in this interpretation is the church.
This is a clumsy attempt on the part of Roman Catholic theologians to protect the unbiblical doctrine of the celibacy of priests.
There is not the slightest hint in the contexts that the wife of the elders is to be understood as the church.
Rather there is frequent reference to the elder's family.
Thus he must have a literal wife (1 Timothy 3:4-5; Titus 1:6).
Furthermore, the marriage figure is that /Christ/ is the husband and the universal church is His bride (Ephesians 5:23; Revelation 19:7b).
The figurative husband of the church is not an elder.
#. *Marriage Requirement*
The argument that an elder should be married is not without merit, see paragraph "Y," below.
However, the emphasis in this phrase is not the lack of a wife (if it were it would read "the husband of /a/ wife") but the plurality of wives ("the husband of /one/ wife").
#. *Prohibition of Widowers Remarrying*
In this interpretation, if a married elder looses his wife through death, this qualification would prohibit him from remarrying.
However, there is a parallel passage that deals with widows.
It demonstrates the inadequacy of this interpretation.
A widow is to be "the wife of one man (1 Timothy 5:9)."
Young widows are encouraged to get remarried (1 Timothy 5:14).
Paul would not have advised a widow to do something that could be a threat to her future livelihood if her second husband also died.
Thus "the wife of one man" cannot mean that a widow must remain unmarried.
Since "the husband of one wife" is the same as "the wife of one husband" except the genders have been reversed, it is reasonable to conclude that prohibition of remarriage is not the correct interpretation in the elder context.
#. *Fornication*
*The qualification would prevent one who had a multitude of wives from being an elder.
*During New Testament times, polygamy was practiced among the rich and the rabbis allowed the king to have 48 wives (Jeremias, /Jerusalem at the Time of Jesus/, pages 90, 93).
The qualification would also prohibit a man from being an elder who is in a present state of fornication (including adultery).
* "The general consensus of evangelical scholars on the phrase 'husband of one wife' in both 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 is that it means the husband of one living woman (Ray Bohlin, /Can Deacons be Divorced?/,
Probe Ministries at http:~/~/www.probe.org~/docs~/e-deacons2.html)."
*Husband of but one wife, *literally, a “one-woman man.”
This ambiguous but important phrase is subject to several interpretations.
The question is, how stringent a standard was Paul erecting for overseers?
Virtually all commentators agree that this phrase prohibits both polygamy and promiscuity, which are unthinkable for spiritual leaders in the church.
Many Bible students say the words a “one-woman man” are saying that the affections of an elder must be centered exclusively on his wife.
Many others hold, however, that the phrase further prohibits any who have been divorced and remarried from becoming overseers.
The reasoning behind this view is usually that divorce represents a failure in the home, so that even though a man may be forgiven for any sin involved, he remains permanently disqualified for leadership in the congregation (cf.
vv.
4-5; 1 Cor.
9:24-27).
The most strict interpretation and the one common among the earliest commentators (second and third centuries) includes each of the above but extends the prohibition to /any /second marriage, even by widowers.
Their argument is that in the first century second marriages were generally viewed as evidence of self-indulgence.
Though Paul honored marriage, he also valued the spiritual benefits of celibacy (1 Cor.
7:37-38) even for those who had lost a mate (1 Tim.
5:3-14).
Thus he considered celibacy a worthy goal for those who possessed the self-control to remain unmarried.
According to this strict view Paul considered a widower’s second marriage, though by no means improper, to be evidence of a lack of the kind of self-control required of an overseer, in much the same way that a similar lack disqualified a widow from eligibility for the list of widows (5:9).[1]
“Husband of one wife” refers to one’s current marital status and behavior; validly divorced people who remarried were considered married to one spouse, the second one, not to two spouses.[2]
It means that a pastor must not be divorced and remarried.
Paul was certainly not referring to polygamy, since no church member, let alone a pastor, would be accepted if he had more than one wife.
Nor is he referring to remarriage after the death of the wife; for why would a pastor be prohibited from marrying again, in the light of Genesis 2:18 and 1 Timothy 4:3? Certainly the members of the church who had lost mates could marry again; so why penalize the pastor?
It’s clear that a man’s ability to manage his own marriage and home indicate ability to oversee a local church (1 Tim.
3:4–5).
A pastor who has been divorced opens himself and the church to criticism from outsiders, and it is not likely that people with marital difficulties would consult a man who could not keep his own marriage together.
I see no reason why /dedicated/ Christians who have been divorced and remarried cannot serve in other offices in the church, but they are disqualified from being elders or deacons.
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*The husband of one wife (3:2).*
The phrase has been interpreted to rule out the possibility of a divorced person holding this office but, interestingly, not to rule out a widower who has been remarried.
Most commentators agree, however, that it simply means monogamous: a one-woman kind of man who is totally faithful to his wife.[4]
He must be *the husband of one wife.*
The Greek text literally reads “a one-woman man.”
Paul is not referring to a leader’s marital status, as the absence of the definite article in the original indicates.
Rather, the issue is his moral, sexual behavior.
Many men married only once are not one-woman men.
Many with one wife are unfaithful to that wife.
While remaining married to one woman is commendable, it is no indication or guarantee of moral purity.
Some may wonder why Paul begins his list with this quality.
He does so because it is in this area, above all others, where leaders seem most prone to fall.
The failure to be a one-woman man has put more men out of the ministry than any other sin.
It is thus a matter of grave concern.
Various interpretations have been offered that evade the meaning of this standard.
Some have argued that its intent is to forbid polygamy.
A man could not, however, even be a member of the church if he was a polygamist, let alone a leader.
If that were all Paul meant, it would be an unnecessary prohibition.
Further, polygamy was not an issue in Ephesus.
It was uncommon in Roman society, in part because sexual encounters outside of marriage as well as divorces were easily obtainable.
Nor was polygamy a feature of first-century Jewish society.
Others maintain that Paul here forbids remarriage after the death of a spouse.
As already noted, however, this standard, like all the rest, refers to moral character, not marital status.
Further, the Scriptures permit and honor second marriages under the proper circumstances.
Paul expected younger widows to remarry and raise a family (1 Tim.
5:14), and widows could be described as one-man women (5:9).
In 1 Corinthians 7:39 he wrote, “A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”
Still others hold that this qualification excludes divorced men from spiritual leadership.
That again ignores the fact that Paul is not here referring to marital status.
Nor does the Bible forbid all remarriage after a divorce.
In Matthew 5:31–32 and 19:9, our Lord permitted remarriage when a divorce was caused by adultery.
Paul gave a second occasion when remarriage is permitted, when the unbelieving spouse initiates the divorce (1 Cor.
7:15).
While God hates all divorce (Mal.
2:16), He is gracious to the innocent party in those two situations.
(For a complete exposition of the relevant passages on divorce, see /Matthew 1//–7,/ MacArthur New Testament Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 1985], and /1 Corinthians,/ MacArthur New Testament Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 1984.)
Since remarriage in and of itself is not a sin, it is not necessarily a blight on a man’s character.
If divorce resulted from a man’s inability to lead his family (v.
5), however, then it is a disqualification.
Nor does Paul intend to exclude single men from the ministry.
If that was his point here, he would have disqualified himself, since he was single (1 Cor.
7:8).
A one-woman man is a man devoted in his heart and mind to the woman who is his wife.
He loves, desires, and thinks only of her.
He maintains sexual purity in both his thought life and his conduct.
That qualification was especially important in Ephesus, where sexual evil was rampant.
Many, if not most, of the congregation had at one time or another fallen prey to sexual evil.
If that was before a man came to Christ, it wasn’t a problem (cf..
2 Cor.
5:17).
If it happened after his conversion, even before he assumed a leadership role, it was a problem.
If it happened after he assumed a leadership role, it was a definite disqualification.
Those same standards apply to men in positions of spiritual leadership today.
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