Click here to go to the Lorain County Free-Net Chapel opening page

Ask a Minister

~ A place to find answers to gnawing spiritual questions ~

Question: Concerning the scriptures in 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6 showing the requirements for a pastor (bishop) and deacons, how do some organizations come up with this speaking of divorce and remarriage when it says "husband of one wife" when you read it in the Greek and there is no mention of the word "divorce"?

By law when you are divorced, that marriage is severed and legally and morally there is no more union, so how could a person have more than one spouse at a time? To me the statement "of good report" would take care of anyone who was cruel and immoral and who would have multiple marriages and even though they were in church, would nullify approval.

But I am speaking about people who made mistakes before salvation, or one who was not at fault in ministry, but the spouse leaves and turns away from God. Why should they live alone because of that? Even Paul said that "it is better to marry than to burn." Of course, God hates divorce and so do I, and forgiveness is needed, but how can they have a blanket rule on this when in the pattern of the New Testament God used "murderers" such as Paul to be a leader in the church and Paul even talked in Corinthians about many serious sins in peoples lives but stated "such were some of you."

The argument is always, you can't go against the Word of God, and God says there can't be divorce and remarriage, and yet the same sentence and rules say that they have to "rule their house well," not be given to "filthy lucre," etc. Yet these are not even considered when applying for credentials in many organizations. I have seen some pretty uncontrolled preachers' families as well as greedy ministers. Also, many deacons are selected who are not "full of the Holy Ghost," apt to teach and minister, but are just nice ole boys. Yet a person who has been born again and restored and full of the Holy Ghost, desiring to come behind in no gift and ministering to the lost and hurting is denied papers because of a past mistake before he was saved.

I believe scripture should interpret scripture and this just doesn't weigh out to me. 2 Cor. 5:19 states "to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation." If this is true, then why does man "impute" passed trespasses on people. They say it has nothing to do with forgiveness, and they will let them minister and even rave about wonderful preachers and teachers who are divorced and remarried ministers, but when you say, why would God call them if they didn't qualify? They would say, who says they are called? If this is true, how can we believe anyone is called?

I have to believe that the anointing on the Word going forth and the fruit produced are proof of the calling. What do you think? Is there an answer? Can you shed light on this for me, as this comes up a lot and only those who are set in loyalty to their organizations speak out and give the answer that just doesn't seem right to me. I have prayed about this, and I know that I am not a scholar, but I do have an understanding, by the Holy Spirit, of His Great Love, Grace and Mercy.


Please allow me to make a "disclaimer" of sorts and state that some of your observations appear to be personal "sore spots" that really must be prayerfully dealt with within your local church. These general statements cannot necessarily be applied to many fundamental, Bible-believing churches. I want to avoid any meddling into the various pet peeves so many have within the various denominational churches, and I want to stay away from pointing out the faults and flaws of other ministries that are out there.

You had a lot to say in the foregoing comments/observations and questions. Please forgive me as I cannot speak for the many denominations in existence being that I am the pastor of an independent full Gospel church. I believe I can narrow down your questions to the following, and as such I will attempt to respond.

  1. How can churches set qualifications for ministers concerning their involvement in a divorce and remarriage situation when:
    • A. The original Greek does not mention the word "divorce"?
    • B. The minister was the "innocent party" in that an unfaithful spouse walked out on him?
    • C. The minister's marital problems were due to mistakes made prior to becoming a believer?

  2. Why should the faithful and innocent party in a divorce situation remain alone? This doesn't seem fair.

  3. What about reconciliation?

You are correct in your observation that the original Greek in no way implies the involvement of "divorce" concerning the requirement that the bishop should be "the husband of one wife." This particular requirement has been the subject of much discussion and commentary literally for centuries. It should be noted that the requirements in many denominations in our day are quite in line with what has been commonly accepted by church leaders down through the years with the exception of more liberal and modernized churches being more loose in their requirements for church leaders.

Some discussion along these lines even went into principles laid down in the Old Testament to include the wife in this requirement. The basis for these specific qualifications are found in God's commandment in the finding of wives for the priests (Leviticus 21:13,14). The minister's wife was required to have never been married before (The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Series 2, Vol. 12). This particular volume, published in the late 1800s, goes on to say that in the Old Testament...

"it is clearly laid down that a priest is to marry a virgin, and that she who is to be the wife of a priest is not to know another husband. For even then in the priests was prefigured the Spiritual marriage of Christ and His Church: so that since 'the man is the head of the woman,' the spouse of the Word may learn to know no other man but Christ, who did rightly choose her only, loves her only, and takes none but her into His alliance. If then even in the Old Testament this kind of marriage among priests is adhered to, how much more ought we who are placed under the grace of the Gospel to conform to the Apostle's precepts: so that though a man be found endowed with good character, and furnished with holy works, he may nevertheless in no wise ascend either to the grade of deacon, or the dignity of the presbytery, or to the highest rank of the bishopric, if it has been spread abroad that he himself is not the husband of one wife, or that his wife is not the wife of one husband."

John Calvin says, "Christ deigns so to honor marriage as to make it an image of his sacred union with the Church. What greater eulogy could be pronounced on the dignity of marriage?" (Institutes of Christian Religion, 4th book, Chapter 12).

It has been the common understanding for centuries that the requirement indicates that the minister should be a "one woman man." The idea of this phrase is simply "one for life at a time. If his first mate dies and he remarries, he would be eligible." The "problem" of divorce and remarriage having escalated in the past few decades, and the fact that it has even invaded the church is the only reason it has more recently been brought up as a real concern. Derickson's Notes on Theology states that the recent addition of such possible requirements as "not a loose type man," or "a one woman at a time man" allows for the divorce and remarriage of elders. He goes on to say that this is a recent addition to the "menu of excuses to skirt Scripture and allow people the freedom to do as they please rather than as the Lord directs." Of course, it would then follow that the interpretation of the foregoing would ultimately depend on how one would view the Lord's teaching on divorce and remarriage.

Since divorce and remarriage is a reality we must deal with in the 20th century, how shall we determine further what God would require of the ministry? Maybe a man had been unfortunately foolish prior to being saved and his marriage was an utter failure, but now he is remarried and living an overcoming life as a born again child of God with a lovely wife and well-behaved children. What then? Is not the blood of Christ sufficient enough to cleanse ALL sin... even the sin of divorce and remarriage?

Let's look into history again to see what early church leaders believed. Ambrose says:

"...I have thought it well not to pass by this point, because many contend that having one wife is said of the time after Baptism; so that the fault whereby any obstacle would ensue would be washed away in baptism. And indeed all faults and sins are washed away; so that if anyone have polluted his body with very many whom he has bound to himself by no law of marriage, all the sins are forgiven him, but if any one have contracted a second marriage it is not done away; for sin not law is loosed by the layer, and as to baptism there is no sin but law. That then which has to do with law is not remitted as though it were sin, but is retained. And the Apostle has established a law, saying: 'If any man be without reproach the husband of one wife.' So then he who is without blame the husband of one wife comes within the rule for undertaking the priestly office; he, however, who has married again has no guilt of pollution, but is disqualified for the priestly prerogative."

To paraphrase to an extent... The sin (of divorce and remarriage) is forgiven, but the first marriage does not automatically somehow disappear. Being born again and justified (just - as - if - I'd never sinned) does not make me just - as - if - I'd never been married. So, the guilt and sin has been pardoned, but the man is still in his second marriage, and the reproach that follows remains because of the breaking of an holy (and legal) oath; the sacred matrimonial vows have been severed thus splitting the union made before God and man. This is no small thing as it has been considered in our generation. Are men and women to suppose that the latest vows of lifetime union will not be broken in like manner?

Again, please be aware that the requirements of churches for elders have not been recently written upon the whims of more recent pharisaical board members who felt it necessary to tighten the reigns to merely keep a good man out of the pulpit. These are principles that have been held for ages.

Consider what Adam Clarke's Commentary has to say along these lines. "He should be a married man, but he should be no polygamist; and have only one wife, i.e. one at a time. It does not mean that, if he has been married, and his wife die, he should never marry another."

"The apostle's meaning appears to be this: that he should not be a man who has divorced his wife and married another; nor one that has two wives at a time."

I want to move on to what I believe is the most important element in this entire discussion, and that is the need for the man of God to be "blameless." There are a few different Greek words translated "blameless" in Scripture. The word "blameless" in 1 Timothy 3:2 is translated from the Greek word "anepileptos" which is translated into the English as both "blameless" and "unrebukeable." It further means: not apprehended, that cannot be laid hold of, that cannot be reprehended, not open to censure, irreproachable.

The Peoples New Testament Commentary says simply, "None must be appointed because they desire the place." None are eligible unless they fill the qualifications, the first being that they must be blameless. "Not under charges; of good repute" (TPNTC).

The word "blameless" in Titus 1:6 comes from the Greek word "anegkletos" which is also translated as "unreproveable." It literally means: that cannot be called into to account, unreproveable, unaccused, blameless. These are quite rigid definitions. Wesley's Notes on the Bible adds that the man in this position must be "without fault or just suspicion."

Adam Clarke's Commentary has some thoughts worthy of consideration: "This Christian bishop must be blameless; a person against whom no evil can be proved; one who is everywhere invulnerable; for the word is a metaphor, taken from the case of an expert and skillful pugilist (fighter or boxer), who so defends every part of his body that it is impossible for his antagonist to give one hit. So this Christian bishop is one that has so conducted himself, as to put it out of the reach of any person to prove that he is either unsound in a single article of the Christian faith, or deficient in the fulfillment of any duty incumbent on a Christian. He must be irreprehensible; for how can he reprove that in others which they can reprove in him?"

In closing, quite often we (churches, whether denominational or independent) place rigid guidelines that go beyond what the Bible specifically dictates. It appears that the Bible is quite clear when it comes to the qualifications which must be met for Bishops, Deacons and even for those who are to be considered widows, etc.

However, let me point out that we often err when we consider the term "ministry" to automatically mean those who hold positions of leadership within the church to the exclusion of all else. I specifically mean Bishops, Pastors and Deacons. Some have placed the same requirements on Sunday School Superintendents, Teachers, Bus workers, Children's Church workers, Ushers and Christian School employees while the Bible remains totally silent concerning positions such as these.

Granted these positions have been created to enable churches to operate the various branches of ministry that have been established since the time of the apostles. It is then up to the church to establish acceptable requirements for the individuals who will fill these positions, and quite often these qualifications are patterned after those given for biblically ordained offices within the church. I feel that this is a safe pattern, however each church is at liberty to set the requirements for these positions in whatever manner they feel is right within their own church body.

Finally, there is no Scripture against the born again man or woman to minister to the lost masses in everyday life on the job, in the marketplace or at school. Though there are those who may have become ineligible to hold a position of a leader (pastor or deacon) in a local church, they are in no way withheld from telling others about Christ and sharing the Word of God faithfully. This is "ministry," and we are all called to be witnesses.

More on this subject.

Additional Resources


Copyright © 2010 - The Lorain County Free-Net Chapel
North Central Ohio, U.S.A.

Home of David Wilkerson's World Challenge Pulpit Series Multilingual Web Site


Our Webmaster
This page was last updated August 13, 2010.

Next page

Why Revival Tarries/ "Help!"/ What's Here/ Bookstore/ Statement of Faith/ Bible Study/ Around the Piano/ Bulletin Board/ Library/ Home