“The Husband of One Wife” Requirement in 1 Timothy 3:2 -- By: Ed Glasscock

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 140:559 (Jul 1983)
Article: “The Husband of One Wife” Requirement in 1 Timothy 3:2
Author: Ed Glasscock

“The Husband of One Wife” Requirement in 1 Timothy 3:2

Ed Glasscock

[Ed Glasscock, Pastor, Bethel Bible Church, Argyle, Iowa]

With the divorce rate in America approaching nearly 50 percent of all marriages, the church is being forced to deal more frequently with converts who have divorced and remarried. Can these Christians serve in the body of Christ? To what degree does their divorce and remarriage affect their spiritual activity? The issue of this study questions whether the phrase “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3:2; cf. v. 12) eliminates from Christian service a man who has been divorced and remarried, or a man who has married a woman who was divorced.

Since 1 Timothy 3 provides a list of requirements for those who desire to serve in the offices of elder (vv. 1–7) or deacon (vv. 8–10), it should be noted that whatever one concludes about the meaning of the phrase under discussion, it does not follow that these restrictions automatically apply to all areas of Christian service but only to these two high offices which Paul named specifically.

Four Common Interpretations of 1 Timothy 3:2

Among the variety of explanations of Paul’s phrase μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα (1 Tim 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6) four common views will be discussed.

Marriage as a Requisite

Some commentators hold that the phrase “husband of one wife” implies that a man who wishes to serve as an elder or deacon must be married. If one accepts the translation “husband of one wife” then this could possibly be a legitimate view. One who desires the office of elder “must be…the husband of one wife,” δεῖεἶναι μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα. Δεῖ is an impersonal verb meaning “it is necessary, one must, or has to.”1 According to this view only married men are eligible to serve as elders. Some would also insist that elders also must have children (1 Tim 3:4). The reasoning is simple: a man cannot manage God’s household if he cannot manage his own. By observing the way a man manages his own family, one can determine whether or not he is ca...

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