A Voice in the
"An overseer then must be blameless, the husband of one wife... one who rules his own house well, having his children in subjection with all respect (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)" (~1Tim3:2-5)
"If a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of loose behavior or disobedience. For an overseer must be blameless, as a steward of God... holding fast the faithful Word according to the teaching, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict." (~Tit1:6-9)
Recently a subscriber sent me a URL to a web-file, written by an Independent Baptist, essentially refuting a particular stance that some other conservatives hold to... like this other Independent Baptist, whose mailing list I am on (if I were to say his name, many of you know him), who has remailed a couple of times his views: saying essentially that if a man has been divorced, he cannot (Scripturally) be a 'pastor' of a church; but it is OK for him to engage in other ministries as the Lord might lead. The URL file basically took the other side, asking which is worse? divorce? or any one of a number of other sins a person may commit? Pastors can get caught up in various things, but then repent, and be accepted as a minister. But for divorce, there seems to be no mercy. And was suggesting that divorce is nothing different from any other matter, and that if it is confessed, with a period of time to prove the man's -present- state of holiness, that God's grace and forgiveness extend to any and all sins. After all, did not Paul, before he met the Lord, engage and participate in kidnap, imprisonment and murder of Christians?
As he says of himself, "For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than every one of them, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believe." (1Co15:9-11)
Now... I've just mentioned two "Independent Baptist" (IB) perspectives, -because- they are both IB... so that we might not be accused of pitting an IB against one of the liberal denominations. These days I would guess that IB is likely the most conservative of any? They also tend to usually be KJ-only; and some of them tend to be pharisaical... perhaps of the church of "Ephesus". (Rev2) Of course, we won't even consider the liberal folk in this discussion, because they let anybody and everybody stand behind their pulpits: from scantily clad women, to child molesters, and so on. Most of them cannot even be considered to be saved; so, naturally, they will have the standards of the world. But today, if we wanted to name a denomination that is MOST LIKELY (not guaranteed) to have True Believers in the congregation, and behind the pulpit, it is going to be the IB.
One IB man says that NO WAY should a divorced man be a pastor. Another IB man says, with 'time' and 'proof' of the man's 'present' standing, YES.
So, which is it? They can't -both- be right. What does the Scripture say?
And as we get into this; another word. The subscriber also noted that I am divorced, but also noted that I am not pastoring a church. Perhaps this fits the one view? Not pastoring, but doing 'other' ministry...?
Not to speak of PB; but since this is a very important subject, it is only right that I say a little something, before we get into it; because you-all read the stuff I send out, and I write like one whom God has called to proclaim, "Thus says the Lord Jehovah...You shall speak My Words to them, whether they will hear or whether they will forbear, for they are most rebellious"" (Ezk2:4,7) You need to know of what sort PB is; where his life is, and how he got there. Perhaps some are thinking he is not qualified to be in this position?
This topic, for obvious reasons, is very 'personal' to me. I have wrestled with it. And let me suggest at the outset: there are many self-righteous Ephesians who have been married for 30+ years, who don't have a clue about divorce. And many of you know what I say, when I scoff at those who try to counsel a person: When are you going to "get -on- with your life"? There are other things they say, but that's the main one. A person who says such a thing, either doesn't know what they are saying; or if they have been there themselves, they are of "seared" consciences, and are of the swinging "swap partners" mentality of the world. Like when a woman announces on Oprah that she is going to "leave the bum", everybody rowdily applauds her... "you go girl!" But how many address the 'tramps' many men are stuck with...whom they love in spite of their weaknesses, and try to stick by them?
My experience was similar to what some other men have e-mailed; similar situations with their marriages and wives. (Note: If I hadn't gone through it, I would not have been able to meaningfully counsel them. Rom8:28) A Christian man married to what turns out to be an "unequal yoke". And in today's climate of feminism, satan is after women's emotions, getting them to -yearn- after something 'else'. To not be satisfied until they have released the shackles of the "maaaan!" To be their own -selves-. To reach out for, and embrace a different spirituality; to become self-made goddesses. And if that means leaving their husbands to find it, so be it. They've gotta "find" -themselves-. To-a-man, everybody who has shared their own wives' experiences along these lines, express how their wives seemed inexplicably "DRIVEN" to search out for something 'else' as they leave; and they are also very self-absorbed in the process. The case was so-pronounced that (I was told) even a couple of my sisters-in-law, who themselves are very self-absorbed and worldly, noticed how self-centered she had become when she was around them, after leaving me. It's the goddess of this world!
In my case, I met my wife at church; where I had been directing the choir a couple years. She was the daughter of one of the church's elders. Presumably one of the church's 'finest'. You know what I'm saying! It is only in recent years, looking back at that church in my memory, knowing what I now know about things...there might have been a mere 'handful' of True Believers in the whole place...but her family was definitely not one of them. Neither was she. And after 15 years of marriage, pretending to be a Christian (even helping with the sound equipment when I would go from church-to-church singing), one evening she announced to me, "Your God and mine are different" And two weeks later, without warning, she up-and-disappeared; leaving with a male friend; and among other things, in pursuing her 'other' gods, she did so to hula in Hawaii. She filed for and obtained the divorce. My only 'participation' in the proceedings was to sign a couple of things, once it was done with. I did not "participate" in the divorce, because I believe in Mal2:16... God "hates divorce". And since Washington is a "no fault" state, she was able to do as she pleased, whether I were to have contested it or not. So, I felt strongly, from the Lord, that my faithfulness to God required that I NOT 'participate'. It was 'her' divorce... not mine. I did everything I knew to do, which were also 'possible' to do, to try to get her to come back. I was very 'forgiving' (gullible/naive) in those days! I truly loved her then; and there is that within me now which still does; but now it is a different 'kind' of love. (Some of you will understand that last comment)
So...shall we tackle this subject with "PB" as the guinea pig. The "e.g." of "exempli gratia"? The "for instance"? Is PB Scripturally 'qualified' to be doing this ministry? If a door were to open, could he pastor a church? (a group of people who physically meet at a 'place' where he stands/sits in front of them to teach/preach?)
First of all, where/when did PB 'sin' in this matter? In marrying her in the first place. Why did I do so? I was compromised. You know, I've mentioned in other contexts how that fellow music student had taken me aside, exhorting me to "lighten up" and be more "tolerant" of other views. Around that same time I had started using a perversion of the Bible. I was giving credence to the apostasy that surrounded me (No, it was not like I heard John MacArthur say on a radio interview once, that it was the "greatest time of revival the earth has known"...it was rebellion and apostasy, pure and simple!). My spiritual eyes had become clouded. Had I been seeing clearly, I would have known, the first time we went out on a date, that she was not a Believer. Even in my compromised place I -sensed- that 'something' was not right with her; just like I had this 'nagging' in my spirit about the NASB that I had started to read. But I didn't pay enough attention to that "sense". I liked what I saw, she was fun to be with, and she -said- she was a "Christian" (was I supposed to doubt her word or call her a "liar"?); and we had similar intelligence and crazy whacky senses of humor... we got along great. We became "best buds". It was "you and me together". Why shouldn't we get married? That was 30 years ago.
PB's 'sin' started when he listened to the exhortation to "loosen up" away from God's "Thus says the Lord". Then, when he was not reading God's Word. How does one pinpoint 'what' the sin was? The whole life, even though in my heart I truly -did- love the Lord, and wanted to serve Him with my whole life...the whole life was OFF KILTER. In such a state, the wrong marriage was almost "inevitable".
So then, was the divorce a sin? PB did not "send his wife away" (1Co7:11) The "unbeliever [left]" And Paul says, "a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases" (vs15)
This word "bondage" is of the same intent as the word "law" in Rom7:1-3. In other words, if an unequal yoke 'leaves' the Believer, it is the same as if they had 'died'. And so, if a person is "free" when the spouse dies, so are they when the unbeliever leaves.
The example is cited (in the various arguments from both sides of the debate) from the O.T. priesthood, that priests were to only marry virgins; not divorced, widows, defiled or harlots. (Le21:14) But for the future millennial temple that standard seems to be relaxed a bit, as the option also extends to "widows of priests" (Ezk44:22) That sounds like something approaching the Romans 7 "law" concept.
So, if an unbeliever leaving the Believer is like "widowhood" (tying 1Co7 & Rom7 together), does that not make the Believer "free".
The argument might be raised that 1Co7 is talking about couples who married as unbelievers, and then one of them gets saved; and so 'then' the unbeliever leaves. (The passage doesn't address that, but some might argue it...just because they like to find points of argument, for whatever reasons)
Well... there is another incident in the O.T., where the returning priests from the Babylonian captivity were inter-marrying with the surrounding pagans. (Ezra ch10) And if you read that chapter, it tells how they purposely, systematically, 'divorced' their pagan wives and families, in order to purify themselves for the priesthood. It doesn't say they were subsequently barred from the priesthood...but they were 'cleansed', offering the required "ram of the flock for their sin". (vs19)
I sometimes say of my situation, I was "Ezra-10ed". For whatever the reason, due to my apostasy at the time, I married a "pagan" (is that not what an unsaved person is); and then she was taken out of my life, just like those priests did under Ezra's direction. They continued in service, after becoming purified. And that is what PB has done.
If those Ezra priests remained in the priesthood, a person in a similar situation today can also be a "pastor".
Now, let's get away from PB, and touch on some other points; some of the
arguments that are made, and what does Scripture actually -say-.
What happened when David, the "sweet psalmist of Israel" (2Sa23:1), committed adultery and murder? David was the king; but he was also Israel's spiritual leader. Was it not David who established the temple worship, which Solomon implemented. David started new traditions for the post-Mosaic (tent) worship. (Do we need references?) As we have noted in the past about Moses: Is not the one who 'establishes' and gives directions, of greater prominence and authority than those he directs? Thus, was not David higher than the Levitical priests? If the priests were like "pastors", was not David like a bishop, or whatever? If the priests had certain standards of holiness, was not the standard for David even higher?
So, what happened when David sinned? "And David said to Nathan, I have sinned against Jehovah. And Nathan said to David, Jehovah also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because of this matter in which you have caused contempt, for Jehovah to be spurned by His enemies, the child also who is born to you shall die the death." (2Sa12:13-14)
As we read through the historical record, David -continued- to be king. But his child died. And he had other problems from Absalom, and that whole incident. He continued to rule, but also needed to suffer some chastening. But then, after the period of grief, it says, "David comforted Bathsheba his wife" And they had a child, Solomon. And it says, "Now Jehovah loved him" (2Sa12:24) David had other wives, some possibly more 'worthy' than Bathsheba. But God punished David, as David was of a humble heart; and then blessed David, leaving him in the position of rulership. God did not remove David as He did Saul, or many other evil kings, because David was one "after God's heart" (Ac13:22)
David knew that we are "dust" and knew God's "compassion" for His children. (Ps103:13-14)
So, if David stayed on the throne, others who do similar sins, if they
humble themselves and confess, can also be pastors, after receiving
God's chastening. (Heb12:5--)
Hosea was commanded by God to marry a prostitute. (Hos1:2) At some
point, then, she leaves him to continue in her whoredom. Did God tell
Hosea to 'stop' preaching? No. In fact, God tells Hosea to go find her
and retrieve her to himself; which he does. (ch3) But he -continues-
being a prophet.
What does it mean to be "blameless"? Does it mean that the one who is pastor has -never- sinned? Those who would keep a less-than-perfect man out of the pastorate...well...how many of -them- are guilty of moodiness, anger, slovenliness, quick temper, inhospitableness, pride, etc. Those qualities from these passages that didn't get quoted at the top; which most who argue this subject seem to ignore, by comparison. If one of -them- loses his temper, does he get barred from the pastorate? Sometimes these fellows are -continually- cranky and moody; and boy, oh boy! They can boast at having been married to the same woman for over 30 years. And yet, if a poor soul had a divorce at some time in the past, but is presently living with "one wife", having completed his time of Godly discipline, after having confessed and forsaken his sin, he is banned from the pastorate? What's wrong with this picture?
Please notice that these two passages say -nothing- about having had some past sin, which is now forgiven. They don't even mention the "D" word. They -SAY- the "husband of one wife". Should it not be clear, considering everything else we are addressing here, that this is in a similar context as God's requirements for Israel's kings, "Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, that his heart not be turned aside..." (De17:17) In many of the cultures around there, as is still the case in Arab cultures, men could have many wives. And though He worked with Israel within that context, originally it was not God's intention. He made them "male and female" (singular) (Mt19:4)
Now, if we understand that to be divorced, and then remarry, is the same as adultery (Mt5:32, 19:9); if the man finds himself divorced, is it not better if he then remains single. (1Co7:11) He finds himself without a wife? "Do not seek a wife" (vs27)
What does the word "blameless" mean? If we know that "there is no one who does not sin", it cannot mean, "he never sinned in the past". That would be an impossible requirement to fulfill. But what is a person 'characterized' by? Does the person live a good, exemplary life? If a person got a traffic ticket, they are "guilty"; but once they pay the fine, their record is again "clean". They are not 'owing' the court, because the court does not impute evil to them.
"Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom Jehovah does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." (Ps32:1-2)
This doesn't say that "the man" -never- sinned. But his sin is "forgiven" and it is "covered". If God has forgiven the sin, and does "not impute" to the person's account; is that person not then "blameless" in God's sight?
Another thing the church of Ephesus reads 'into' the passage... Paul asks the question: If a man can't take care of things at home, how can he presume to manage the church? And they equate this with the marriage. But is that what it -says-?
Remember above I asked about the "tramps" that many men are stuck with? Please notice that the passage does not mention the "wife" in this context. The "ruling" of the house is stated in the context of the "children". Titus speaks of the "faithful children", but does not mention the qualities of -his- wife. These passages go on to mention "women", as an entity by themselves; but those are not in the context as being the 'wives' of the pastors or deacons.
Children are yet, well... "children". They are still under their parents. It is the father's -job- to raise his children in the "discipline and admonition of the Lord" (Eph6:4) So, if that is his God-given job, he had better be doing it. If he can't do that, then he's also not qualified to raise up God's spiritual children.
But whereas Eph5:25 speaks of husbands "loving" their wives, I don't know of any Scripture that exhorts husbands to rule and discipline their wives, except perhaps Gen3:16. There are plenty of Scriptures that speak of the husband/man being the "head" over the woman. e.g.1Co11:3, Num ch30, etc But the woman is -commanded- (by God) to be in 'submission' to the man. (Eph5:22, Col3:18, etc) The woman being in submission is not the same thing as the husband cracking the (proverbial) whip. The husband is to love his wife, of his own 'will'; and the wife is to submit 'willingly'.
So, what happens when the woman -decides- NOT to be submitted to her husband? She is not a child, under her husband's discipline. She is an adult. She has a mind of her own. And as we witness regularly, they get it into their minds to do something, and they do it...husband be damned. (Don't anybody get upset. I'm not cursing here. It's an expression people use...and for many women, this is how they feel about their husbands.)
Sapphira was struck down dead for HER -OWN- lying to the Holy Spirit; not her husband's. (Ac5:9) She was in "agreement" with her husband, in their little scheme.
Also, please remember how we have observed on other occasions: God's call of His prophets in Scripture was -never- to a married couple. It was always to -a- 'man'. Yes, there were women scattered here and there, whom God used. But the -prophets-, and any records of their relationship with God, was between -the- man, and God. You don't see Isaiah, with his wife at his side, trembling "Woe is us!" (Is6) You don't see Ezekiel's wife lying on her side, next to her husband, as he is laying siege to the "Jerusalem" tablet. (Ezk4) Jeremiah...well, he was told to NOT get married. (Jer16:2) Peter might have been married (Mt8:14, 1Co9:5), but we never read about her, nor do we know what her name was.
It's the same with God's pastors. God calls the -pastor-. Not his wife. Many churches, when they call a pastor, also expect the wife to be the "assistant pastor"; so they look her over, too. But... she is his wife. It is -their- marriage and relationship.
The pastor's -job- is to: "holding fast the faithful Word according to the teaching...sound doctrine.." (Tit1:9) From past observation years ago, typically the most faithful Bible teachers I would notice, were men whose wives you would never notice in the congregation. One particular man, as he was under consideration, told the committees and board, up front, that his wife would not be -doing- all sorts of things in the church, running this, and chairing that committee: "She's my wife"
But also, if the wife gets head-strong, and runs off; is that accountable to the pastor? Not necessarily. God loved Solomon, but in all his multitude of wives, considering trustworthy people, he laments: "One man among a thousand I have found, but a woman among all those I have not found." (Ec7:28) Adam was not judged for not keeping Eve in check, but for "heeding the voice of" his wife. (Gen3:17)
Many stubborn wives try to 'run' their husbands' ministries. I've seen it. God did not call them. He called the pastor. In matters of ministry the pastor is not to heed his wife, but God's voice.
A man who has been divorced in the past, either his own fault or not, a word not even listed in the context; but has all the other good qualities listed? Or a man who boasts having been married to the same wife for 30 years, she is contentious, and he is prideful, quick-tempered and all those other things, and never humbles himself before God, nor admits or confesses his faults; but rather sets himself up on the ecclesiastical throne as mini-'pope'.
Hmmm...I wonder which one is more 'qualified' for the position? Which one is the more "blameless"?
On a somewhat related topic Paul speaks of being "contentious"
(1Co11:16); and on this direct topic, if one's spouse is leaving, he
says, "But God has called us in peace" (1Co7:15b)
The pastor's job is to hold "fast the faithful Word" (Tit1:9); and as Paul says, who had sinned in his past, but was forgiven: "by the grace of God...so we preach, and so you believe" (~1Co15:10-11)