Q: Dr. Lutzer, my question is about the qualifications of a preacher according to 1 Timothy.
The Apostle Paul speaks of a man being a husband of one wife. In your interpretation of this, is he speaking of polygamy, or of divorce? My wife’s uncle is a Southern Baptist minister and he believes this pertains to someone who has been married and divorced.
Do you believe a man can be a minister if he has been married, divorced and re-married before he came to know Jesus as his Savior?
Asked by: Tim
A: Well my friend, first of all let me thank you for asking this question. It shows the interest that you and many others have on the biblical requirements to be a pastor.
Couple of comments, the text that you cited in Timothy literally means that the man should be a “one wife man.” Obviously that means he should not be a polygamist and it also means that it should be a man who is wholly devoted to his wife, a man of proven character.
Now if you ask the question, “is it possible for a man who’s been divorced and remarried to meet this requirement?” I think under certain conditions, yes he can. Because I think when Paul lists the various qualifications that are needed, he does so understanding that these are present qualifications. For example, it says that he should be someone who is self-controlled and respectable and able to teach. Clearly, these requirements would not have been requirements that he would have had prior to his conversion or in his past. So if they are present day requirements, I think a divorced man can, within time, regain the kind of credibility of being a man who has a proven character.
Now I want to emphasize that this doesn’t mean that someone who’s going through a divorce or someone who’s had a divorce recently meets these qualifications. Because when you talk about proven character, we’re talking about a long period of obedience in the right direction. I don’t want to specify the length of time, but people need to be convinced that they have before them a man who loves his wife—who’s proven that he loves his wife. He has lived with her consistently and faithfully for many, many years. If he meets those qualifications, yes, I think he can serve.
- 1 Timothy