Summary: Paul sets before us a worthy goal-which most of us will work on for a lifetime.
Churches suffer when this category is ignored or downplayed. Paul listed three very specific requirements concerning a leader’s family life. We
ignore them at our own peril.
1. Husband of one wife 1 Timothy 3:2
Unfortunately this qualification has been so wrapped up in controversy that we have missed its essential teaching. In Greek the phrase literally reads "a one-woman man." What does that mean? There are several
1. Only one wife at a time
2. Never divorced or remarried
3. Never remarried even after the death of the wife
4. Marital faithfulness
Everyone agrees that # 1 is included. This standard clearly excludes polygamy, bigamy and digamy. There are good arguments for and against # 2. I would say that I doubt that # 3 is intended since it seems to
contradict what Paul says in I Corinthians 7 about the advisability of remarriage.
The fourth option suggests that Paul has in mind marital faithfulness as a character quality of a godly leader. Why is that important? Because if a
man is not faithful to his wife, how can he be trusted to be faithful to his obligations elsewhere? If a man cheats on his wife, where else will he cheat?
Here are some questions we ought to ask about potential leaders:
1. Is he a flirt? Does he have roving eyes?
2. Are his affections centered on his wife?
3. Does he demonstrate that affection and loyalty in ways others can see?
4. Is his marriage a model for others to follow?
5. Is he above reproach in his dealings with the opposite sex?
6. Is his life free from pornography in every form?
Many Christian men who have never been divorced would have trouble answering those questions. That’s why I regard this as a higher standard
than simply asking, "Has he ever been divorced?" The real question is, "What kind of marriage does this man have?"
For that matter, many divorced men couldn’t meet this standard either. If a man has been married more than once, and if he has children from his previous marriage, it will be quite difficult for him to truly be a "one-woman man" as regards his present wife. He may have alimony to think about, child support payments to make, relational difficulties to solve,
old wounds that need to heal, and so on. In every divorce there is sin on every side, and that sin leaves lasting scars that remain for many years.
To say that is not to say that a divorced man should never be an elder. Each case needs to be considered indivi-dually. But divorced men will have a harder time meeting this standard. That’s the inevitable fallout from a world where divorce has become all too common.
Back to the main point. I understand the phrase "husband of one wife" to be teaching that an elder must have "an exclusive relationship with one
woman and one woman only." It’s a positive statement about loyalty and faithfulness. Seen in this light, to be the "husband of one wife" is a moral qualification, not simply a marital qualification. The issue is the quality of the marriage, not simply the legal state of the marriage.
(Two quick side questions:
1. Does this mean that an elder must be
married? No, the phrase is not "husband of a wife" but "husband of one wife." The contrast is not between having a wife or not having a wife,
but between having one wife and having many wives. I think it is fair to say that Paul assumes that most elders will be married, but he does not
require marriage. The meaning is, "If he is married, he must be a one-woman man."
2. Does this mean that an elder must be a man? Yes, I
think that’s the clear assumption behind the text. However, I think the question is answered definitely in 1 Timothy 2:8-15. This list of qualifications merely assumes in chapter 3 what Paul makes explicit in
chapter 2. After all, a single man could get married and thus become a "one-woman man" but a woman could never literally meet that requirement no
matter how it is understood.)
2. Manages own household well 1 Timothy 3:4-5
The word "manage" means "to stand before and lead." The word "well" means "in an orderly fashion." Paul says that when we need leaders we should begin by looking for those men who handle their families in an orderly fashion.
But why does he bring up the family? Because the home is the best training ground for local church leadership. Spiritual leadership begins at home! The family is like a church in miniature where the father is the pastor of his own family. And the church is like a large family where the elders are the spiritual fathers who care for God’s children.