By Edwin Christiaan
Another area of abuse in the church is the teaching that people are automatically disqualified for being a pastor or serving in the ministry if they have been divorced and/or remarried. This is a false doctrine that has caused much hurt in the Body of Christ. Those, who are teaching this deception, justify it by the following Bible passage:
“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach;”
1 Timothy 3:2 NKVJ
The New Living Translation puts it this way:
“So a church leader must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach.”
1 Timothy 3:2 NLT
Traditionally, several Christian denominations have interpreted this scripture passage to mean that a man cannot be divorced and at the same time be qualified for the position of pastor of a local church. For generations, this traditional interpretation has prevented good men from being pastors in churches.
A close examination of this passage reveals that it does not discuss divorce as a possible disqualification for being a pastor (bishop, elder, and deacon). In fact, the subject of divorce is not even mentioned.
The idea, that the phrase “husband of but one wife,” must be interpreted to mean “husband not divorced,” is one born purely out of religious tradition. Since the Greek definition of the word “one” in this scripture reference translates “first, one, other,” it is clear, that the Bible does not exclude a divorced man from serving as a pastor/elder/deacon in the church, as long as he is only married to one woman - at a time!
In other words, what the Apostle Paul meant to say here is that a bishop or pastor must be the husband to ONE wife, not two or three – one at a time! He cannot be a polygamist. And again, this scripture doesn’t say anything about being disqualified for being in the ministry after you have been divorced and remarried!
Although 1. Timothy 3:2 does not exclude a divorced or remarried man from serving as an elder/pastor/deacon, there are, however, other issues to consider.
The first qualification of an elder/pastor/deacon is to be “above approach,” so if the divorce and/or remarriage results in a poor testimony for the man in the church or the community, it may be the “above reproach” qualification that excludes him rather than the “husband of one wife” requirement.
An elder/pastor/deacon is to be a man that the church and community can look up to as an example of Christlikeness and godly leadership. If his divorce and/or remarriage situation distracts from this purpose, perhaps he should not serve in the position of elder/pastor/deacon, but each case should be evaluated individually.
It is important to remember, though, that just because a man may be considered unqualified by his peers from serving as an elder/pastor/deacon, he is still a valuable member of the Body of Christ.
According to 1. Corinthians 12:4-7, every Christian possesses spiritual gifts and is called to participate in edifying other believers with those gifts.
A man, who is disqualified from the position of elder/pastor/deacon, can still teach, preach, serve, pray, worship, and play an important role in the church.