Posted by: watchman | July 25, 2009

First Timothy 3: Faithful Spouse

“Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife” – Timothy 3:2 (TNIV)

The whole “husband of one wife” thing has been plaguing churches for years. Usually the debate is focused on what should be done with men who are called to ministry yet have been divorced or widowed. Which seems rather ridiculous to me. God has called all sorts of weird people to the ministry including polygamists, adulterers, and homosexuals. I don’t know why we should limit ministry to white, middle class, bald golfers.

Anyway, I highly doubt Paul ever considered making a woman an overseer. He was a product of his context (first century Jew) and that just did not happen. With that said, it is very clear that women played a huge leadership role in the church (apostles, prophets, deacons, missionaries, teachers, etc). i just don’t think Paul would have ever considered them for the top job. However, I do not think that is a reliable constraint to place on today’s church operating within today’s culture. For more on this topic see this book.

It is unfortunate that so many have been excluded from the ministry because of this phrase. Qualified people (not just women) have been excluded from a poor communication of this verse. My denomination will not even consider a person for ministry who has suffered through a divorce. They do not care about circumstances or details. To them, this verse make is clear – no minister will have ever been divorced.

In all actuality, that is taking the phrase too far. According to Robertson’s Word Pictures, Paul is “clearly” saying “one at a time.” To me, this is a specific reference to a monogamy requirement.

A monogamy requirement makes sense. In a church that is trying to combine many different cultures, there needs to be some set requirement for avoiding a turbulent, distracting family life.

What do you think? Should divorced people be excluded from ministry?

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Responses

  1. In short: NO. BUT…..I think the INCLUSION should be of men who are habitually faithful to there wives. A man recently divorced, or who has repeatedly had failed marriages is probably not what Paul had in mind as being ideally qualified for pastoral responsibility.

  2. Paul, the guy who was formerly Saul, the persecutor of Christians, lays out what it takes to be a minister. Wouldn’t he bigger point here be Paul’s own biography, which demonstrates that anyone (even fanatical persecutors of Christians) can be called by God? After being called, you’d expect and require behavior consistent with having been called, but shouldn’t the issue be how people have lived for the last few (several? how many?) years and not whether they were ever divorced?

  3. Brinkmanship, I certainly agree with your reasoning. It seems to me that, in context, Paul is saying that a (new?) life lived portraying the value of “one spouse at a time” is a valuable character trait for leadership.


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