Husband of One Wife
1 Timothy 3:2
What has gone before...
Paul has written a "job description" for the office of overseer, beginning and ending with two similar descriptors that serve as general heading and summary: Above Reproach and Well Thought Of.
"Above reproach" and "well thought of" are open to various definition, according to who is watching or judging. Paul lists twelve specific attitudes, behaviors or conditions which help define these two character qualities.
"An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil." 1 Timothy 3:2-7 (ESV)
HUSBAND OF ONE WIFE: aner (a man, an individual male) and mia (one or first) and gyne (a woman, specially a wife)
The word translated as "husband" does not always mean "married". It often refers to any man, whether married or not.
"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock." Matthew 7:24 (ESV)
Simon fell down before Jesus, exclaiming, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." Luke 5:8 (ESV)
John the Baptist described Jesus as a man:
"This is he of whom I said, - After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me." John 1:30 (ESV)
In each of these instances, "man" is the same word as "husband".
However, at times it does describe a man married to a woman. Jesus once spoke to a woman living with a man, after being married previously five times.
"The woman answered him, - I have no husband. - Jesus said to her, - You are right in saying, - I have no husband - for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband." John 4:17-18 (ESV)
Each instance of "husband" in this passage is the Greek word "aner". The woman had lived with six "aner", and five of them had been HER "aner", but the sixth and last "aner" was not HER "aner".
A man becomes a husband only when he belongs to a woman, and "belonging" is more than simply living with. Only when a woman can legally say, "I have him", can a man be a woman's husband.
Marriage is a contract between a man and a woman, binding them together in a way that is legally and socially recognized. The marriage contract provides privileges and protection that are not available otherwise. It also specifies duties and responsibilities not required of the unmarried.
"A married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress." Romans 7:2-3 (ESV)
"Each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time." 1 Corinthians 7:2-5 (ESV)
Biblically, marriage is between one man and one woman. If the wife has authority over more than one man at a time, and the husband has authority over his wife, someone, sometime, will be frustrated. Multiple marriage partners at the same time results in confusion and unsatisfied privileges and responsibilities.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? What compelling reasons make it essential that marriage be a matter for a society's legal system? What harm does society suffer if a couple were not to have their partnership legally recognized? How does society suffer if a marriage were homosexual?
Paul used marriage to illustrate the Christian's "marriage" to Christ:
"I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ." 2 Corinthians 11:2 (ESV)
How could a Christian be obedient to more than one God at a time? How could a wife be under the authority of more than one man at a time? How could a man be under the authority of more than one woman at a time?
Paul's reference to marriage here implies that having multiple marriage partners at the same time was common, or at least familiar, to his readers. Just as it was possible for a Christian to go astray, leaving Christ for another god, so it was possible, perhaps frequent, that a woman would leave her man without cause and marry another, or a man leave his woman without cause and marry another.
Paul's first essential element in a person being "above reproach" was faithfulness in marriage. He is not necessarily commanding overseers to be married (see 1 Corinthians 7). But if the man is involved with a woman, it is to be sealed by a marriage contract and to no other woman is he to act as if he were married.
This one-man, one-woman marriage relationship is binding upon them both until death or dissolution (1 Corinthians 7).
Does divorce disqualify a person as "reproachable"? Does "one" mean the "first and only" wife?
"One" can be translated as "first". Mary came to see the sepulchre on the "first" day of the week (Matthew 28:1). This use of "one" as "first" occurs only eight times out of the 79 instances in the New Testament. All but one of the uses of "one" as "first" refer to the first day of the week. The only exception is found in Paul's letter to Titus (ESV):
"As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him." Titus 3:10 (ESV)
"Once" in this verse is the same word translated elsewhere as "first" or "one". The intent here is to focus on how many warnings are given, rather than which warning was first in order of time.
However, there is a much more common Greek word for "first":
"A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, - Come, for everything is now ready. - But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, - I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused. - And another said, - I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused." Luke 14:16-19 (ESV)
FIRST: protos (foremost in time, place, order or importance)
"Protos" occurs 104 times in the New Testament. It refers to one of a group of more than one, with that one being the first one, whether in time, place, order or importance.
Interestingly, this verse includes the words, "all alike" which is translated from the same word that Paul used in his letter to Timothy, the word translated as "one".
When Greek writers wished to imply that something was "first", they most often used "protos".
Looking simply at word meanings, it seems clear that Paul did not mean to say that an overseer must be a person still married to the first woman he had ever married. Translating "mia" as "first" occurs only eight times in the Bible, and then it specifically refers to the day of the week, and only once as a reference to the number of warnings that ought to be given to a troublemaker.
Jesus, however, did see divorce as evidence of a selfish, sinful heart. Unless for the cause of sexual immorality, divorce forces the couple to become adulterers (Matthew 5:32). Jesus regarded any other ground of divorce to be due to hardness of heart (Mark 10:5).
The disciples recognized the ramifications of their Lord's words:
"Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away? - He said to them, - Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery. - The disciples said to him, - If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry." Matthew 19:7-10 (ESV)
DIVORCE: apolyo (to free fully; to relieve, release, dismiss, let die, pardon or divorce); from apo ("off", away) and lyo (to "loosen")
Divorce is the dissolution of a marriage contract. For the man who divorces his wife, except in the case of her sexual immorality, the divorce is evidence of the man's hard heart. The same applies for the woman who divorces her husband.
To divorce your spouse is to sin against them, unless they have been sexually immoral.
Unrepentant sinners, including people with hardened hearts, remain guilty before God. They are not above reproach.
Thank God for His merciful forgiveness and grace.
"And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him." Colossians 1:21-22 (ESV)
Unrighteous divorce is evidence of sin, yet it is not unforgiveable sin. Everyone in Christ is presented holy and blameless and above reproach before God.
Paul requires Christians to consider whether they are "above reproach", which means that they are faithful to Christ as their source of mercy and forgiveness. How many of us were once "reproachable", guilty of hard hearts, selfish superiority and uncontrolled passions? Only in Christ can one become "above reproach", including those of us who have divorced and been divorced.
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)
"I anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 (ESV)
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Have you experienced judgement from others, disqualification or disregard, based upon previous sin that you knew had been dealt with on the Cross of Christ? What should be our response when our worth is devalued by others because of our sinful life before Christ? How much time should elapse between a person's repentance and full restoration to the Christian community and service in ministry?