Understanding the One Woman Man

"One Flesh," Contemporary Universal and Judaic Art by Michael Bogdanow.
"One Flesh," Contemporary Universal and Judaic Art by Michael Bogdanow.

Examining The Moral Qualifications Of A Bishop Or Deacon

Can a divorced or remarried individual serve as an appointed church leader? Does such a person meet the qualifications set forth for bishops and deacons in 1 Timothy 3:1-13? How should we view one’s marital status and the office he seeks to serve in light of his needing to be “above reproach” before the congregation and in the eyes of the general public? The crux of the divorce debate centers on the fact that the candidate must be either “only married once” or “married to one person at a time.” This is a delicate and controversial subject that has visited and divided many congregations and church boards.


THE GRAMMAR CONSTRUCTION - The One-Woman Man

When examining the moral qualifications of a bishop or deacon, it is important to look at the overall idea of the passage as well as the specific grammar and construction. These qualities were meant to show that a leader in the church must be a godly man. The elders of the church were to act as examples of Christ-like living to the church and the community at large. This is seen in Paul’s first qualification, which most believe to be the key to all of the other specifications, “Now a bishop must be above reproach” (1 Tim 3:2). This condition sets the tone for the remaining qualifications, including the question of the candidate’s marital status.

The meaning of the phrase, “married only once” (NRSV) or "husband of one wife" (NASB), if you like, comes at the heels of the first qualification clearing up the controversy of whether a pastor can be divorced or not. There is nothing mysterious about the Greek phrase mias gunaikos andra, which simply and literally means "one woman man." Kenneth Wuest expresses this view in his translation of this passage, “He must be a one-wife kind of man in that he isolates and centralizes his love upon one woman and that forever.” Living in a culture where the temptation toward unfaithfulness was rampant, Paul made it clear that an elder in the church was to be a “one woman man”—loyal to his wife and to her alone.

In 1 Timothy 5:9 the same phrase is used in reference to a widow who has only been married once "Let a widow be put on the list if she is not less than sixty years old and has been married only once." There is no controversy with the interpretation of the phrase in this passage, meaning that the widow should have only one man. The word translated "husband" in 1 Timothy 3:2 is the Greek word aner, which means, “man.” There is no reason to give it a different meaning in 1 Timothy 3:2. Therefore the normal use of the language and the phrase “married only once” means that a bishop must be a man (husband) of only one woman. This verse sets forth a moral qualification that anyone who aspires to a position of a bishop or deacon should not be divorced or remarried.


THE PROPER INTERPRETATION - The One Flesh

There are several New Testament principles that help us to understand that this is the correct interpretation. 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 (1 Tim 3:4-5; 1 Cor. 9:24-27). 1 Timothy 3:4-5 sets forth a fifteenth qualification for a prospective bishops, "He must manage his household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way—for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?" A man whose marriage failed certainly would be suspect of not ruling his house well.

We must understand that God is giving us the highest of standards for a man who would be Christ's "under shepherd" and pastor His congregation. Paul instructed in 1 Timothy 4:12, “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” A man whose marriage fails regardless of who was at fault cannot present a proper example to other believers. He may be a godly man after his divorce, but unfortunately the stigma of divorce will forever mark him and make his familial leadership abilities suspect and thereby disqualifying him for this responsibility.

We must understand that no one man is so important to God that He would set aside truth and righteous principles simply to use that man. The word of God applies equally to all and it is our acceptance of it and obedience to His truth that validates a person as qualified to serve the Lord. In principle, “Surely, to obey (God’s word) is better than sacrifice,” (1 Sam 15:22). God's very nature makes it impossible for Him to bless human error and put His approval on anything that has the best of godly intentions but is sadly tainted or impure. And when it comes to the issue of divorce, the Bible always casts a negative light upon the subject presenting it as a relational failure of the most intimate kind. When some Pharisees cornered Jesus with a test question concerning divorce, he put their lawful reasoning on the spot (Mk 10:1-12). Divorce was a hardhearted human problem treated with a certificate of dismissal. Yet Jesus overrides Moses’ command by returning to the beginning of creation and reminding them of God’s sacred matrimonial covenant of “one flesh.” “For I hate divorce, says the LORD, the God of Israel” (Mal 2:14-16).


THE PREMIER POSITION - The Noble Task

Others reason that if it can be established that God will allow divorce and remarriage then a divorced man would technically and legally be entitled to become a bishop. However, this is not sound reasoning and misses the point of God giving the qualifications of a pastor. We need to keep our focus on the subject being addressed by the passage, and contextually, the passage is addressing the minimum qualification of the highest position in a congregation that being the one who would “Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son” (Acts 20:28). God's pastor must be of the highest character as presented in 1 Timothy 3:1-9. The last stated qualification sums up the whole of fifteen previous stating he must be of good report of those both inside the church and outside in the community.

Although some argue that this interpretation is unnecessarily harsh and unfair, supporters of this view contend that the very existence of a set of qualifications for a bishop or deacon indicate that not all people are to be eligible for these leadership roles, but that this in no way should eliminate them from other sorts of ministry. Yet when it comes to serving God in a highly visible role inside and outside the church, Paul's warning stands clear; a godly church needs godly leaders whose lives meet the godly criteria. We must be very careful whom we entrust with this office of responsibility—this noble task.


In his book entitled Strike the Original Match, Chuck Swindoll recounts the television talk show he saw sometime ago. The guest actor being interviewed happened to be well known for his romantic roles on film. Predictably, he was asked, “What makes a great lover?” Everyone watching the show seemed confident that he would give the standard macho-playboy response. To the surprise of the host and the audience, his answer must have raised eyebrows all across America. The guest actor answered, “A great lover is someone who can satisfy one woman all her life long, and who can be satisfied by one woman all his life long. A great lover is not someone who goes from woman to woman to woman. Any dog can do that.”

© 2009, Gicky Soriano. All rights reserved.

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The Marriage Builder
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Comments 15 comments

Judah's Daughter profile image

Judah's Daughter 7 years ago from Roseville, CA

Jesus states that just as a woman is not bound to her husband when he dies, likewise, through the death of Jesus Christ, the bride is now joined to Him and no longer the Law. I feel grieved in my Spirit to think there is no fulness of forgiveness for someone who may have a sinful past, yet desires to be used in the ministry of the church. What kind of message does that send to the world? We are all priests with Him, forgiven by His blood and He remembers our sin no more. However, only those who've kept this ordinance are holy enough to lead the church?

I've been divorced twice; I think I shouldn't be sharing the gospel? I realize you're speaking of the office of pastor, bishop or deacon, but if the church be in us, what is the difference of the organized church...I'm struggling with this one.


Judah's Daughter profile image

Judah's Daughter 7 years ago from Roseville, CA

A little more on my thoughts ~ back then, polygamy was in force due to the death of many in war, illness, etc., so a pastor or bishop could not focus on managing the church if he had several wives. Secondly, considering the divorce rate in America, let alone other countries, this would put very few in the pulpit. There are scriptural allowances for divorce in the Word, and I would think that as long as that is the case, it should be forgiven as though it never happened.

So if a man keeps this Law, he is considered less sinful than others to carry such an office?


no body profile image

no body 7 years ago from Rochester, New York

I believe the construction of the Greek is saying one wife at a time. A called pastor will have to deal with the consequences of his past sin as we all do. We're forgiven but we still deal with results. (Like a man who kills and then gets saved. He's still in prison for the rest of his life though changed.) A pastor will deal with people bringing up his past. He will deal with other things and it could be distractions but if God has called He has a way for that man to do his ministry. The Lord knows our hearts and he knows that sometimes we make wrong choices and it leads to consequences. JD, you just keep obeying the call of God. You will have consequences, as will I for my past, but we will be obedient to the Lord and we will have fruit.


Judah's Daughter profile image

Judah's Daughter 7 years ago from Roseville, CA

Amen. I humble myself to the order of God's word, and I struggle sometimes. I thought of the Catholic priests who were to remain single, yet we find out later...altar boys? All men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That one priest recently lost his position in the Catholic church to get married, but God is using him in another church, praise God. I guess, I just feel that when we confess we are sinners and are changed from the inside out, our testimony is powerful and because we don't deserve to preach His holy Word, it is truly He who gets the glory!

However, if one continues to sin willfully and regard iniquity in his heart, he should not be practicing hypocricy by not walking the talk. I know Gicky has written about the congregations that are not so forgiving toward pastors that confess their sin and yet are still removed from the ministry God called them to. Satan is good at coming against the shepherds, and if we hold to the letter, I don't think many would be preaching in a church pulpit today!! I will be humbled before the Lord and pray for our ministers!!


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 7 years ago from California Author

First JD, my heart grieves for you. A divorce is a heartrending experience. And two divorces go beyond what one can humanly bear. The painful lessons of loss one learns through these broken relationships can be used of the Lord to comfort those who undergo the same human tragedy. The God of all consolation not only consoles us in our affliction, but he does so in order that we may also be enabled to console others that enter into the pain of the same affliction with the divine consolation we received ourselves (2 Cor 1:3-4). For those of us on the receiving end of God’s gracious comfort, this is what it means for us to be his priests. We are called to “mediate” his truth as we communicate his love and forgiveness in order to prayerfully bind the broken hearted and mend the lost relationships with the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Yet we must be mindful that God does not condone our past fallen action, but consoled us in our affliction. At other times, he disciplines and corrects the wrongs of those he loves (Prov 3:12; Heb 12:6,10). Your life, resurrected from the ashes of two broken relationships, is a powerful testimony—a message of hope for a wayward world that sin ends at the foot of the cross and washed by the blood of Christ. So by all means, continue to share the gospel!

Second, the qualifications set forth in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 is for a specific office of service and not a general measure of holiness deeming some fit or unfit to serve in other church ministry capacities. Why did the Apostle Paul even bother to write young Timothy a specific list of qualifications in the first place? The nature of this “noble task” sets apart a special servant for a shepherd-sensitive role with the first qualification that he “must be above reproach” before those inside and outside the church of God. That is the divine list, that’s the discipline. Moses’ act of disobedience for “striking the rock” cost him his entry into the Promised land. The bloodied hands of King David disqualified him from building a temple unto the Lord. God in his wisdom set aside this grand task and appointed his son Solomon to undertake this honorable (yet enviable) project. “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use?” (Rom 9:21) Though we are forgiven much, much is required of us. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ sets us free to please God.

Third, you mentioned, “considering the divorce rate in America, let alone other countries, this would put very few in the pulpit.” God is sound in that he does not allow leniency or sentimentality to skew his judgment. We cannot presume to say that scripture allowances for divorce in the word is necessary. The issue of divorce, as it pertains to the worldwide leadership of the church, simply cannot and will not hold our pulpits hostage. Remember Jesus’ warning to the religious establishment in his day, “I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Mt 3:9). And indeed he has raised up the Gentiles, circumcised their stone-cold hardened hearts, and made them the spiritual children of Abraham (Rom 2:29; Gal 3:6-9). Likewise, God is able, apart from the fallen debris of divorce, to raise up qualified church leaders, “living stones” for this noble task. God’s ways are unstoppable in that even if his disciples kept their silence in praising and glorifying his name in public, “the stones would shout out” (Lk 19:39-40).

Lastly JD, I’d like to respond to what you said, “I realize you're speaking of the office of pastor, bishop or deacon, but if the church be in us, what is the difference of the organized church.” While it is true that we are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in each of us (1 Cor 3:16), we are not individual spiritual free-agents so to speak, but citizens together with the saints and also members of one body, “the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God” (Eph 2:19-22; cf. 1Pet 2:4-5). 1 The qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 grounds and or roots the household of God upon the aforementioned foundation. “For God,” according to the Apostle Paul, “is a God not of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33). Organization within the church ushers us into a temporal state of shalom until Jesus Christ, the Prince of peace, returns with an everlasting peace.

Note that you’ll need to anchor the basis of your initial comment, “Jesus states that just as a woman is not bound to her husband when he dies, likewise, through the death of Jesus Christ, the bride is now joined to Him and no longer the Law” from the scriptures before I even venture to respond to it.

Just the same, thank you for your concerns and interaction with my hub.


Judah's Daughter profile image

Judah's Daughter 7 years ago from Roseville, CA

First of all, I thank you for your compassion toward the pain that caused ME to walk in a spirit of condemnation for 14 years (the period of the two divorces and beyond). He faithfully brought me back, praise God!

I was the "godly" woman who left her unbelieving spouse and fell into condemnation. My second husband claimed Christ, but was a domestic abuser. I have a child and have remained single for 10 years now.

The anchoring of my statment, as you've requested is found in Romans 7:1-6. I think it would be wonderful to have pastors and deacons that are "above reproach" ~ and as you said, God will raise them up. I will serve the Lord in the capacity as He's given grace to do. I am just so burdened for those who may be bound from ministering in such a way because of the "law" that Paul outlines in the Word.

Personally, I think we can crush Satan's head if we walk in the forgiveness, the newness and the liberty of Christ's law; but, because He called Paul to write these ordinances, we follow them.


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 7 years ago from California Author

There is a vast difference between the “letter of the law,” as defined by the Apostle Paul in Romans, and the “qualifications of an overseer,” as outlined by him in 1 Timothy 3:1-13. These qualifications, simply put, is the list of “godly qualities” that should be inherent in bishops and deacons as well as seen by those inside and outside the church. Illuminated and inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote down these godly qualities stating that the church leader “must be above reproach.” The remainder of these spiritual guidelines is essential to effective spiritual leadership.

Although these godly qualities are distinct spiritual traits in church leaders, the church members should in no way be exempt from such a list. All the forgiven people of God are saved to serve His purposes—that’s a nonnegotiable commission of Christ (Mt 28:19-20). Therefore, in principle, as servants of the Lord, it should be our heart’s desire to aspire toward embodying these same godly qualities. After all, every member is a minister—starting with our own homes and spilling over into the household of God. Whether we are called to serve in a highly visible or strategically low profile ministry, we all serve the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, in the frontlines by His mercy and grace.

With that being said, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Walking in the forgiveness, newness, and liberty of the law of the Spirit of life (Rom 8:2), we can ultimately crush Satan’s head through the effective spiritual/servant leadership as modeled by Jesus Christ and set forth in the Scriptures.

JD, again thank you for interacting with me on this most delicate and controversial subject. May God continue to bless and multiply your ministry.


Judah's Daughter profile image

Judah's Daughter 7 years ago from Roseville, CA

Amen, Gicky. Our Lord continue to bless His ministry through His faithful servants, in whatever capacity they are called.


Abrushing1968 profile image

Abrushing1968 6 years ago from USA- Florida

Gickey- I would like to say that this Hub is dead on in every way. But more moving then your hub was your exchange with Judah's Daughter. Praise God that he used you and her to bring out some of the more delicate issues.

I would ask you to clarify one point. Do you distinguish between pre salvation and post salvation?

As you have already stated, Some beleive Paul may have been speaking in Titus Chapter 1, to the cultural practice of polygamy. Thay subscribe to the view that he was not specifically attempting to address divorce and remarriage. However, I would suggest that to God the practice of polygamy and divorce and remarriage, is one in the same. According to Jesus in Mark 10:10-12 a man or a woman who divorces their spouse and then remarries are committing adultery. This would indicate that to God they are still married. Their vows are still binding. It follows then, that from God's perspective, a man who divorces and then remarries, has more then one wife. Making him disqualified as a pastor per Titus Chapter 1.

One wife, is one wife. According to Mathew 13 and Mark 10, marriage is intended to be a life long covenant. The "One at a time" idea does not wash since God never intended us to have more then one wife. If you have been divorced and remarried you have had more then one wife plain and simple.

You have done an excelent job of presenting the doctinaly sound position of the scriptural church. I know I am rambling on but I have one more thing to add.

The family is a visible representation of the Kingdom of God. It also mirrors the church. Just as the Church is to love one God. So too our wives are to love one husband. It is in the role of the wife that we see the role of the church. The idea that God would devorce His Church is unthinkable. Even in the face of spirituel adultry God remains faithful. This is the example He has laid out for us. In turn, it is the example our pastors and husbands must example to the Church Family.

Devorce is inconsistant with the character of God. So how can we allow those who are appointed to be our earthly examples of Godliness exhibit anything less?

Where a Pastor stands on divorced Christians becoming Pastors and Pastors who get divorced remaining in their positions, is irrelivent as far as I am concerned. The question is where does God's stand. The answer is? With His Word.

We must remind people these days that we are to conform to scripture. Not scripture to us.

God Bless Gickey! Keep going Bro. I love your work. It is from God's heart to mine.

In Christ

ABR


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 6 years ago from California Author

ABR, Thank you taking the time to interact with this hub as well as clearly expressing where you stand on this subject. Even today, as in the past, human reasoning will always attempt to champion the cause and cases of Christian brothers and sisters whose unions have been torn asunder by divorce. Granted they may even be highly gifted individuals found in the service of God, this standing in the Christian community does not allow the word of God to be watered down that they may stay afloat above it in election and leadership.

As I stated in my article, "We must understand that no one man is so important to God that He would set aside truth and righteous principles simply to use that man. The word of God applies equally to all and it is our acceptance of it and obedience to His truth that validates a person as qualified to serve the Lord."

The office of bishop or elder does not conform to human reason, but to God's qualification. It is not set against the forgiveness of a divorced or remarried individual who is free to minister within the community of believers, but has everything to do with the faithfulness of the servant appointed to lead the inseparable body of Christ, the Church.

Please clarify your question "Do you distinguish between pre salvation and post salvation?" Are you asking what my position with regards to the context of one's marital status before coming to Christ (pre salvation) and walking in Christ (post salvation)?

All blessings Brother.


Abrushing1968 profile image

Abrushing1968 6 years ago from USA- Florida

Gickey: I do most heartily agree.

I am asking if a man can hold the office of Pastor if his devorce took place before he came to Christ... before he was a Christian?


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 6 years ago from California Author

ABR, My position on this matter is such that in the New Testament the question about remarriage after divorce is: (1) Not determined by the guilt or innocence of either spouse; (2) nor by whether either spouse is a believer or not; and (3) nor by whether the divorce happened before or after either spouse's conversion.

Marriage is an ordinance of creation binding on all of God's human creatures, irrespective of their faith or lack of faith (pre or post salvation). The union of one flesh is a relationship that God holds sacred. Likewise, the office of pastor is held sacred in that Paul even went to the extent of writing down the specific qualifications required of those God-gifted candidates who desire to serve God in this capacity.

In light of the New Testament's view on this matter, a divorced man's marital status disqualifies him from serving the church in this capacity. As gifted as he may be, God requires the church to remain obedient to his word rather than sacrifice it in favor of the cultural permissiveness of the surrounding society. Yet by the grace of God extended to those who suffered broken marriages, forgiven men and women can and should utilize their God-given gifts to serve the church. But the pastoral role is reserved for those who are first and foremost "above reproach" before the eyes of the members and outsiders alike.

Unfortunately, this is not so among many churches in America as well as other western countries. No doubt I have stepped on a lot of theological toes. But this is where I stand.

Again, all blessings to you ABR.


Abrushing1968 profile image

Abrushing1968 6 years ago from USA- Florida

I personally think you are a breath of fresh air. My toes are safe.... so far (: LOL

Gickey thanks for taking the time to write that out for me. I have never heard this view before. By no means am I rejecting it. I am going to chew on this for a bit. I have some thoughts on the matter that would seem, at least on the face of it, to disagree with you. In light of what I have just read I am a bit cautious to come out with it just yet as you have caused me to take a second look. Thank you for this. I need to have my apple kart tuned upside down once in a while. It is then I see the rotten apple that had settled to the bottom.

Your brother in Christ

ABR


Gicky Soriano profile image

Gicky Soriano 6 years ago from California Author

ABR, I am currently working on a hub entitled "Understanding Divorce and Remarriage." I know that it will address many questions and concerns regarding this sensitive issue. This past year, I had to put to paper my theological position on the basic tenets of the faith. When the subject of divorce and remarriage surfaced, it caused me to dig deep both prayerful research and study. I hope you will interact with the material when it's released.

Thus far, thank you for your valuable input and your engaging questions. I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with you. Stay well and keep you nose in the Book.


esp 4 years ago

In the last eigthteen years of serviceof the LORD I have expienced a lot of grivef from church leaders and others over the issue of divorce. I will say the second unpar. sin. It all depends on what side of the line you are on. So just do what JESUS last commandments on earth was. Preach the gospel and baptize. We cannot change peoples minds or how they read and understand the Bible. It looks like half and half on the subject. If you are saved,the Holy Spirit will guide your walk.

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