qualification of deacons - "husband of one wife"

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qualification of deacons - "husband of one wife"

Postby email » Mon Oct 17, 2005 5:08 pm

I have read a few of your articles and have enjoyed them. I have a question about the qualification of deacons and have not been able to find an answer. My question refers to I Timothy 3:12. What does the phrase "the husbands of one wife" refer to. I felt this refered to polygamy, but someone else said it might refer to a previous marriage. If a man had divorced (for spiritual cause 'adultery') and remarried, he would have two wives. Also, if a man had been widowed, then remarried, would he also have had two wives. I couldn't find anything in my search on this topic. From my study of the scripture, I feel that this is a statement about polygamy, not a statement about divorce/remarriage issue that is addressed in Matthew 19:9.
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Postby M130 » Fri Oct 21, 2005 9:38 pm

Well in those days we know that there were problems of Polygamy. We know that it says that the man has to be married to, We know that a single person can't be since they are not any husband to any wife. Now, if a person were to be married and have a scriptural reason or his spouse dies and he remarried I believe that he could then a husband of one wife. Some argue the point that since they had been married before and are now married again for the right reason that they still cannot be a deacon. They can't prove this with scripture. Nor, can I prove that they couldn't but it seems the best fit. I would be careful on the approach and a lot of study.
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what does the text say?

Postby m273p15c » Sun Nov 20, 2005 12:30 am

Paul by inspiration wrote: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; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (I Timoth 3:1-7)

The requirement is that the elder "must be ... the husband of one wife". Now let us test that with a few scenarios:
  1. bachelor - A man has 0 wives. Is he "the husband of one wife"?
  2. A man is married to only one woman. Is he the "husband of one wife"?
  3. A man was married to one woman, but she died, and he remarried. Is he "the husband of one wife"?
  4. A man was married to one woman, but she died, and he never remarried. Is he "the husband of one wife"?
  5. polygamy - A man is married to multiple wives. Is he "the husband of one wife"?
  6. adultery - A man leaves his wife and marries another. Is he "the husband of one wife"?
Clearly case #5 is condemned, because such a person has mutliple wives. However, bachelor elders are also clearly condemned (case #1). Remember, the qualification list starts with the requirement, "must be...". Being married to one wife is no more optional or dismissable than any other requirement, such as being blameless, able to teach, etc.

To submit oneself to human rationalization outside of Scripture and against such clear language places one in the position of lawgiver and judge, questioning both God and His Word (James 4:11-12). Such human reasoning is no more appropriate here than it is on any other point of interpretaion. We must answer the question, "What does the text say?". And, then we must decide if we will indeed "walk by faith"...

One might ponder the last case for a little while, wondering if the first marriage was ended in God's eyes, but that is vain thinking. The requirement of "blamelessness" would eliminate such a person, who is clearly living in sin (Matthew 5:32; 19:1-9). Therefore, case #6 would be disqualified, simply because they would not be blameless, if for no other reason.

I think the only possible cases that would give serious pause for thought are cases #4 and #5. To addresse these cases, we must ask the general question:

What happens to a marriage when one spouse dies? Are people still married? Is the living spouse able to remarry?

Paul by the Holy Spirit wrote:For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. (Romans 7:2-3)

Death severs marriage. When one dies, the marriage is over, freeing the surviving spouse to remarry. Therefore, a widower is unmarried, until he takes another wife.

Consequently, case #4 satisfies the requirement. The widower's first marriage is severed by death. He is no longer married to his first wife. When he remarries, he is now "the husband of one wife". However, until he does remarry, he fails to satisfy all the qualifications of being an elder, because he has no wife. He is the husband of zero wives - not one. Therefore, case #5 is not qualified.

I believe the 2 cardinal rules that will answer most questions on qualifications are this:
  • "must be" - The qualifications are not optional.
  • "walk by faith" - It is a fearful and dangerous thing to presume upon God and reason "beyond what is written".
More on this last point here:

http://www.insearchoftruth.org/articles/pattern.html
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oops

Postby m273p15c » Sun Nov 20, 2005 12:36 am

:oops: I see now that the question was originally directed to "deacons" and I Timothy 3:12, not elders and I Timothy 3:2.

However, the language is identical for both works, at least for this one specific qualification. Therefore, all of the preceding reasoning should still apply to deacons, even though I addressed elders.

My apologies. :roll:
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What does it mean?

Postby Hugh McBryde » Wed Nov 23, 2005 12:44 pm

I am inclined also to believe that it is a restriction of Elders (Overseers) to one wife. The question unresolved is whether it is a restriction on men becoming elders that have had more than one wife and if so is it to men that have only one wife now? That raises two other questions. Does it mean any men who simply have just one wife, whatever the path they took to that state or are divorced men excluded?

My inclination is to see this as "Up to one Living person that is or has been your wife."

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Re: What does it mean?

Postby m273p15c » Fri Nov 25, 2005 1:07 pm

Hugh McBryde wrote:That raises two other questions. Does it mean any men who simply have just one wife, whatever the path they took to that state or are divorced men excluded?

A person that divorces his wife for any cause, other than fornication (Matthew 5:32), cannot be considered blameless and therefore, cannot fulfill the other qualifications.

Consequently, this "path" to "one wife" would be excluded by other prerequisites.
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Divorcing Delilah

Postby Hugh McBryde » Sat Nov 26, 2005 11:39 pm

m273p15c wrote:"A person that divorces his wife for any cause, other than fornication (Matthew 5:32), cannot be considered blameless and therefore, cannot fulfill the other qualifications.

Consequently, this 'path' to 'one wife' would be excluded by other prerequisites."
So, men who have divorced their wives for the cause of their wife's adultery or fornication are Elder/Overseer material in your estimation?

Hugh
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Re: Divorcing Delilah

Postby m273p15c » Sun Nov 27, 2005 12:04 am

Hugh McBryde wrote:So, men who have divorced their wives for the cause of their wife's adultery or fornication are Elder/Overseer material in your estimation?


Although it may "look bad" in some people's estimation, the Lord gave allowance for divorce, only if it was for the cause of fornication (Matthew 5:32; 19:1-9). Unless something else about the divorce or surrounding circumstances violate the other Scriptural qualifications of elder and deacon, I see no reason to bind what the Lord left loosed.
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Postby Doug » Thu Dec 01, 2005 12:38 am

Hello,

My first post, I hope to have many interesting conversations here. I know this comment I am about to make is a whole different cup of tea but I think it is important to mention. Deacons must be "The husband of one wife" which requires all deacons to be males. Now no one jump all over me and call me Sexist but it cleary states a deacon must be male, hence husband.

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Yes, yes it does.

Postby Hugh McBryde » Thu Dec 01, 2005 9:38 am

Doug wrote:"Now no one jump all over me and call me Sexist but it cleary states a deacon must be male, hence husband."
I agree, it does call an official office holder of the office of deacon, a man. I would not call you sexist for pointing that out. I would go so far as to say there is nothing whatsoever wrong with being a woman either. You would be substandard, and thus it is not sexist to observe or require that a deacon be a man.

Thus brings up another point as well. A deacon is to be husband to one wife. This means that men who are husband to more, are not necessarily by this passage condemned either.

Hugh
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Postby m273p15c » Thu Dec 01, 2005 1:58 pm

Doug wrote:Deacons must be "The husband of one wife" which requires all deacons to be males. Now no one jump all over me and call me Sexist but it cleary states a deacon must be male, hence husband.

Agreed. More on this here:

http://www.insearchoftruth.org/articles/female_leadership.html

Hugh McBryde wrote:Thus brings up another point as well. A deacon is to be husband to one wife. This means that men who are husband to more, are not necessarily by this passage condemned either.

How can a husband of 2 wives be the "husband of one wife"? He is the husband of 2, not 1. By stating the exact number of wives, Paul ruled out any number above or below the specified number - one. Please see the top of the thread for more discussion.

Moreover, is polygamy condemned elsewhere in Scripture? If so, then how can a polygamist be considered "blameless"?
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Moderated - Split thread

Postby grand_puba » Tue Dec 06, 2005 6:48 pm

** Moderated - Dec 6, 2005 - Spun off new thread **

Polygyny: Can a man Scripturally have multiple wives?
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qualification of deacons - "husband of one wife"

Postby Hagar2282 » Sat Dec 17, 2005 7:46 am

Wasn't Phoebe in Romans 16:1 a deaconess?

Also let me get this straight. If my wife leaves me for selfish reasons but not adultress reasons, I am totally excluded from being an elder (this hasn't happened but I am just wondering)
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Re: qualification of deacons - "husband of one wife&quo

Postby m273p15c » Sat Dec 17, 2005 11:41 pm

Hagar2282 wrote:Wasn't Phoebe in Romans 16:1 a deaconess?

This is not only a bad English translation, but is an uncommon one too. Please compare a few other versions:

KJV Romans 16:1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:

ASV Romans 16:1 I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church that is at Cenchreae:

NIV Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea.

NIB Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea.

NAS Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea;

NAU Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea;

RSV Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae,

NRS Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae,

NKJ Romans 16:1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea,

YLT Romans 16:1 And I commend you to Phebe our sister -- being a ministrant of the assembly that {is} in Cenchrea --

Translations vary because the Greek word for "deacon" (diakonos) is the same word for "servant". It can be translated either way. Actually, the word "deacon" is a transliteration of the Greek, copying the Greek straight into English, making a new word (diakonos -> deacon).

The word does have a special significance as an office of the church (Philippians 1:1 - notice that overseers and deacons are listed separately from saints; plus, it has qualifications beyond that of being a Christian - I Timothy 3:8-13). However, it also has a more fundamental, primary, and general meaning of "servant". In fact, it is more often translated as "servant" or "minister", instead of "deacon" (24 of 27 - exceptions are Philippians 1:1; I Timothy 3:8, 12).

How do we know when the "special office of deacon" is intended instead of the "generic role of Christian servant or minister"? The same way we interpret any word that can have more than one meaning - in any language - look at the context!

Although I have looked dilligently, I cannot find anything in the context that suggests Phoebe held a special position beyond that of any Christian servant. Moreover, she clearly does not satisfy the qualifications for deacon, primarily "husband of one wife" and "ruling their children and houses well" (I Timothy 3:8-12). Therefore, because the majority of translations suggest otherwise, and in the absence of necessary evidence that Phoebe held the special office of "deacon", and because it would flatly contradict I Timothy 3:8-12, I conclude that Phoebe was a servant of the church, opposed to our English "deacon".

Fundamentally, shenever a passage can be interpreted multiple ways, any interpreation that violates other clear Scriptures, must be dismissed. Otherwise, we challenge God's ability to clearly present truth, by accepting that two passages contradict each other (John 17:17; Titus 1:2). Since Romans 16:1 can be interpreted either way, why would anyone demand one interpretation, considering that such an interpretation would fly in the face of clear Scripture (I Timothy 3:8)?

Hagar2282 wrote:Also let me get this straight. If my wife leaves me for selfish reasons but not adultress reasons, I am totally excluded from being an elder (this hasn't happened but I am just wondering)

If someone is married and but cannot have children, can he be an elder? Why or why not? What will be our standard? The inspired Bible or our own emotionally driven, subjective opinion?

If a man's wife leaves him, is he still the "husband of one wife"? Does he meet the qualifications?

Remember, the qualifications for being an elder or deacon are not an absolute statement of righteousness. There are many righteous females, single men, fatherless husbands, and young Christian children, who are disqualified because of uncontrollable circumstances. This does not imply that they are without function in the Lord's body (I Corinthians 12:14-25). It just means they cannot function as an elder or deacon (I Timothy 3:1-3).

Whether it is accepting the inability to serve as an elder, preacher, deacon, or any other public role, we need to focus on what we can do, not on what we cannot do (II Corinthians 8:12). Such fixiations are ultimately selfish ("I only want to serve if it is how I want to do it.") and unChristian (John 13:3-17). We must let them go...
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deacons - man of one wife

Postby Hagar2282 » Sun Dec 18, 2005 7:10 am

Thanks for the reply. Eventhough this may be a little off track, I have a another question.

Our church is considering one person for eldership currently and I am a little concerned for a different reason.

Our Pastor has acknowledged that this person has had some family reasons for not being a part of the church regularly for the past 12 months, however previous to this I can not remember him actively being there for younger members of the church. He is a very busy man who has alot of great qualities however I am concerned that we are appointing a person that has not proven that he has the time to mentor people and I am concerned that moving forward that he will be appointed and still not have the time to help a young church grow

In your interpretation of what it means to be an elder and the qualities they should have, is there any solid foundation in this concern. Should we be looking for people that have the time to attend things such as men's groups and other occasions where mentoring is being sought or am I being too hard on the guy
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Re: deacons - man of one wife

Postby m273p15c » Mon Dec 19, 2005 11:22 pm

Hagar2282 wrote:In your interpretation of what it means to be an elder and the qualities they should have, is there any solid foundation in this concern.

This is a very good question, one which I cannot fully answer, because I am not present to judge the situation. However, here are a Scriptural requirements that such a person must meet:

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, wrote: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; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

First, the "position of a bishop" is not like being a chairman on a corporation's board. A bishop, pastor, elder, or overseer (they are all used interchangeably in Scripture) can not be separated from the flock. Instead, as one preacher said, "Shepherd smell like sheep!". They are to be "hospitable". Is this person characterized by hospitality? Having people in his home? Taking care of people? Is he "able to teach"? "Like to teach", or "glad to teach" is not enough. He must be "holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict" (Titus 1:5-9). He must demonstrate a very highl level of teaching willingness and aptitude.

Is he "greedy for money"? If he has evidenced greed or covetousness, then he is not fit for being an elder. Maybe this is the reason why he has not had time to devote to helping people in the church through teaching and hospitality. ... Hard for me to say from the other side of the globe. :-D Many churches select elders who are very successful in the business world, equating worldy leadership (wealth, power, and charisma) with spiritual leadership. However, the desire that has frequently driven such people to worldly success is often the same desire that disqualifies them from positions of spiritual leadership, greed and covetousness.

Finally, please notice that this position is one of work ("a good work"). Furthermore, please notice that one of the qualifications for this "good work" is "ruling his own house well". The justification is phrased in the rhetorical question, "For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?". By the same reasoning, we could fairly ask, how can a man take care of the church of God, if he has no time for the work? This is a time intensive task, and if a man has no time for the work, then he is disqualified by the first requirement.

Hagar2282 wrote:Should we be looking for people that have the time to attend things such as men's groups and other occasions where mentoring is being sought or am I being too hard on the guy

One last thought: If your objections are based in Scripture, then you should not feel guilty. If a person does not meet the qualifications set in place by Scripture, then the Holy Spirit is disqualifying him, not you. However, anybody who uses their own opinions and speculations for dismissing a valid candidate is definitely being "too hard on the guy".

Whenever I have voiced objections in the local church of which I am a member, I always go to the person and kindly say that I do not think they meet this qualification in this specific verse based on these specific actions. If he cannot resolve it to my Scripturally based satisfaction, then I go to the elders with my objection. If they will not listen, then I begin to consider alternative congregations. How can someone submit to leadership that he, or she, believes is Scripturally disqualified? This way everything is rooted in Scripture and the divine foundation, which it affords.
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