Man of One Wife

Can a man who has been divorced and remarried hold the office of a minister? Here is what the Bible says. First Timothy 3 and Titus 1 list the qualifications for the Overseers, or Elders, and Deacons of the assembly.

Yahshua clearly shows in the 19th chapter of Matthew that at the beginning Yahweh intended one man for one woman, and the two to be one flesh. Polygamy was not an option when Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, although polygamy was still practiced at that time. First Timothy 3:2 is referring to men who have been married more then once with the other spouse still living, but can also refer to men who are committing polygamy because of their disregard for Yahweh’s law. Consider the following references on this passage:

An Elder must be blameless and that includes one wife for life (refer to D&R study). An Elder or Deacon must also be “above reproach.” They are examples to the flock. They set the standard for the entire Assembly or ministry. Only 50 years ago this high standard for the ministry would go unquestioned. Sadly, not in this day of declining morality.“A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach”(1 Timothy 3:2).

“Husband but of one wife. A general principle that applies to any violation of Elohim’s marriage law, whether in the from of polygamy or marital unfaithfulness” (NIV Study Bible, study note on 1 Timothy 3:2).

“Not having given a bill of divorcement to one, and then taken another, or not having many wives, which at that time was common among both the Jews and Gentiles” (Matthew Henry’s Study Bible, note on 1 Timothy 3:2).

“Confuting the celibacy of Rome’s priesthood. Though the Jews practiced polygamy, yet as he is writing as to a Gentile Church, and as polygamy was never allowed among even laymen in the church, the ancient interpretation that the prohibition here is against polygamy in a candidate Bishop is not correct. It must, therefore, mean that, though laymen might lawfully marry again, candidates for the episcopate or presbytery were better to have been married only once. As in Ch. 5:9, “wife of one man,” implies a women married but once; so “Husband of one wife” here must mean the same” (Commentary on the Whole Bible Jamieson Fausset and Brown, 1 Timothy 3:2).

“Wife of one man—in order not to throw a stumbling block in the way of the Jews and heathens, who regarded with disfavor second marriages. This is the force of “blameless,” giving no offence, even in matters indifferent” (Commentary of the Whole Bible James Fausset and Brown, 1 Timothy 5:9).

“The husband of one wife] lit. ‘a man of one woman’ Four meanings have been attached to the words: (a) The presbytery is not to be a Christianised Jew, who, in accordance with the Law of Moses, had previously taken two wives. (b) He is not to take a second wife after the death of the first. (c) He is not to marry again while his divorced wife lives. (d) He is to be faithful to his wife, ‘a man of one woman’ and ‘keep himself only unto her so long as they both should live, ‘whether it were a first wife or second wife. The last is probably the right exposition, as set forth by Theodore of Mopsuestia and Theodoret. In the case of the presbyter or bishop is contemplated as a married man” (The One Volume Bible Commentary, Edited by Rev. J. R. Dummelow, M.A., 1 Timothy 3:2).

“Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, and apt to teach”(New Revised Standard Version, 1Timothy 3:2).

“Therefore a Bishop must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach”(New American Bible, 1Timothy 3:1).

“Well, for the office of a bishop a man must be above reproach; he must be married only once, he must be temperate, master of himself, unruffled, hospitable, a skilled teacher” (The James Moffatt Translation, 1Timothy 3:1).

By the above commentaries and translations we find that this is a very confusing and difficult passage to comprehend, although considering Joseph and Mary’s situation in Matthew 1:18-19, and what Paul mentions in Romans 7:2-3, we can conclude that one is bound to his first mate till death. Once death occurs the living mate is free from the law of marriage. He or she may remarry and he may even be ordained; however, while the first mate is living and if the husband decides to remarry he will be bound to both, and committing adultery (refer to Divorce and Remarriage study online).

Yahshua the Messiah raised the standard of marriage. He said the ONLY legitimate reason for a separation would be if there were unfaithfulness during the betrothal period, as Joseph thought was the case with his betrothed Mary (Miriam). No other example exists in the New Testament of a Biblically sanctioned separation (divorce) between a legitimate husband and wife.

Baptism and Forgiveness of Sin

Yahshua promises that He will forgive all sins at baptism, and that a person will be white as snow. Consider the following passages.

“All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men” (Matthew 12:31).

“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

In the shed blood of Yahshua the Messiah we can all attain that cleansing of sins at baptism, and all sins will be forgiven, with the exception of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit; however, can we say that a past marriage is sin? Some will try to say that a past marriage was sin, therefore it was washed away at baptism! But can we call a marriage “sin”? The marriage is not sin; however, adultery in a marriage is indeed sin. Still, what can we conclude from the above statement?

First, we must consider the difference between a vow and sin. Are the two the same? Is sin the same as a vow? Sin is an offence or transgression of Yahweh’s Word (1John 3:4), and a vow is a covenant or a promise set before Yahweh. The point being, sin is washed away, but vows are not. Yahweh and many of his prophets have said that we MUST perform our vows, and what is the vow of marriage? Is it not, “till death do we part,” and did not Paul say that we are bound to our mate until physical death? Numbers 30tells us: “If a man vow a vow unto Yahweh, or swear an oath to bind his soul [whole responsible person] with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth,” verse 2. At the end of this chapter we read, “These are the statutes, which Yahweh commanded Moses, between a man and his wife…” verse 16.

The Hebrew word for our English word “vow” is #5088, neder, in Strong’s Concordance, and has the following definition: “A promise (to Elohim); also (concr.) a thing promised:–vow ([-ed]).”

The Hebrew word for our English word “sin” is #2403, chattaah, in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, and has the following definition: “An offence (sometimes habitual sinfulness), and its penalty, occasion, sacrifice, or expiation; also (concr.) an offender:–punishment (of sin), purifying (-fication for sin), sin.”

What is washed away at baptism? Can baptism wash away both sin and the vow of  marriage?

In Acts 2:38 Peter tells those that were gathered for the day of Pentecost to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. Peter never mentioned a remission of vows, and we must conclude from the above statement and definitions that sin and a vow have two separate connotations. Sin is transgression of Yahweh’s law, while a vow is a promise.

As we saw earlier, marriage is a vow till death. Remember, a vow is not sin and cannot be washed away at baptism. Yahweh might overlook bad situations done in ignorance before baptism, but that does not mean that He will look past the vow.

Let’s take an example out of everyday life: let’s say you make a loan and purchase an automobile. You make monthly payments.   You later decide the car was not what you wanted or expected. Meanwhile you become baptized. Does your immersion wash that vow or promise away so that you no longer owe for your car? No, you would still be responsible for that promise and commitment you made. How much more important is the vow of marriage, done in the presence of Almighty Yahweh?   Yahweh established the marriage covenant, and therefore when a man and woman marry, they complete a pact not just to one another, but also in His sight. It is sealed by a vow before Yahweh Himself.

Yahweh says that a minister of His must be blameless, and those who have had more then one wife while the first or second wives are still living are not blameless. This is not to say that Yahweh will not look beyond their situation, considering their past, their ignorance in times past, and their present repentance. In the final analysis, however, Yahweh says ministers must be above reproach, they must be blameless. The ministers of Yahweh’s assembly are the example and the ones responsible for the well-being of the ministry. Therefore, they must have been married only one time.

We find no record anywhere in the Bible where a priest or apostle had more than one wife. Neither is there any record in which any of these leaders had been divorced and remarried.

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Larry Andrews
Larry Andrews
3 years ago

According to your article, a Jew would also be accountable to the whole law even if he became a Messianic Jew due to the covenant. I do not agree. 2 Cor 5.17