Christian Pilgrim


78. Husband of One Wife

To be the "husband of one wife" is one of the qualifications needed to become an elder or deacon in a visible church:

1 Timothy 3:2 - "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach."

Titus 1:6 - "If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly."

1 Timothy 3:12 - "Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well."

I have for a long time just thought that this phrase meant "not a polygamist," so single people and people who have married again after death or lawful divorce would be eligible for these offices. However, I see now that this cannot be the case. This is because polygamy is wrong for anyone, not just an elder or deacon. One might as well say "not a sodomite" - no-one should be a sodomite, not just elders and deacons.

The reason for this restriction is given in the passage in 1 Timothy 3:

1 Timothy 3:4,5 - "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)"

To qualify for the eldership or as a deacon, one must either be married or have been married to one wife and one wife only. This therefore INCLUDES widowers, but NOT single people. The reason given is that they must be able to prove that they can rule a household well. This restriction also immediately excludes:
(1.) women;
(2.) men who cannot rule their own household well;
(3.) men who have never had a household to rule over to either prove or disprove that they can run one well (maybe the Lord in His providence has stopped them from having a household because they cannot rule one well). Single people fall into this category.

With regards men who have married again after death or lawful divorce, they should not ordinarily be eligible for office because they would now have been the husband of two (or more) wives in their lives. Whilst this is normally lawful in the general church population, the remarriage of an elder or deacon shows too great an attachment to this world, and an unpreparedness for heaven. If they wish to remarry, they ought normally to have to relinquish their office in the church. However, a blanket ban on all remarriers is not completely  necessary, and each case should be viewed individually. Such examples where someone would not be barred from office if they are remarried would be: e.g. in the case of a first wife dying soon after marriage, in which case the person did not have opportunity to show whether he can rule his house well at that time, or e.g. in cases of the first marriage having been undertaken before conversion, the first wife being an unbeliever.