I Tim. 3:2, 9, "Husband of one wife"

By Leland M. Haines

In First Timothy, Paul writes twice that church leaders had to be the "husband of one wife" (3:2, 12). What did he mean by this term?

First, let us look to see if such wording is elsewhere. In doing this we find he wrote about widow's aid that was "wife of one husband." (5:9). The Greek expression here is the same as used in chapter 3 except husband and wife are switched positions. If you believe chapter 3 allowed men to have more than one wife, then chapter 5 allowed women to have more than one husband. We know neither practice existed in the early church.

Second, we know Paul writes that a person could be married only once (I Cor. 7:2).

Third, we know the Roman law did not allow polygamy.

In light of the above facts, the "husband of one wife" qualification should be taken literally. Church leaders should have been married only once. If his wife died, and he remarried after her death, he can not be ordained to the elder or deacon office. Surely, if an elder or deacon's wife dies, he should not remarry.

 The author of this article realizes the above is not the current practice in most churches, but this does not mean we should not follow these Scriptural teachings. Let us remember we cannot ignore or reject scriptural teachings. To do so is sin.

By Leland M. Haines August 1999


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June 22, 2000