Biblically speaking, can a man who is divorced and remarried be a pastor?
We know from Scripture that divorce, in most cases, is a sin (Matthew 19:1–9). We also know that God forgives sin (Colossians 1:13–14). Of course, if sin disqualifies someone from pastoring a church, then there would be no pastors.
However, we also know that pastors are held to a higher standard. First Timothy 3 and Titus provide qualifications for elders and deacons. First Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6 include the qualification that a pastor or elder is "the husband of one wife." The correct interpretation of these verses has been a matter of some discussion. Some believe that the qualified man should not have been married to more than one woman, ever. Some believe that a qualified man whose wife dies should not marry another woman. Some believe a qualified man should not be married to more than one woman at a time. Some believe that a man must be married to be a pastor. Upon further study, it seems that none of these interpretations was precisely Paul's intent.
The original Greek phrase used literally means "a one-woman man." Paul was focused on the integrity and morality of the pastor and could have also meant that a pastor only has eyes for his wife, to use a modern phrase.
A man who marries another woman after a divorce may or may not qualify to be a pastor. Some would say he has not been above reproach nor able to manage his own family well, as 1 Timothy 3:2–4 requires. Some delineate whether such a man was divorced for a biblical reason, or whether he experienced a conversion to Christianity after a divorce.
Here, we believe the forgiveness and mercy of God allows for a man who has been divorced in the past to qualify for the pastorate. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Elders and those who make a determination about a candidate for a pastorate should ask for wisdom from God (James 1:5) and investigate the more recent history of the ability of a candidate to manage his household well, be faithful to his current wife, and exhibit moral fiber. He must meet the requirements of 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:6–9, including not being a recent convert. But in our view, a man who was divorced before he was saved is not disqualified for the pastorate.
When weighing the candidacy of a person to be hired as a pastor, we can be thankful that God forgives our sin, and we can live a new life (Romans 6:4). "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6).
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