Bible Question:

I divorced my first wife because of unfaithfulness in the marriage. I married again and fathered two children, began attending church, was convicted of my sins and was saved by the grace of God. I am being called to the ministry but being told I am not qualified because I am not a husband of one wife. Where in God's Word does it say He didn't forgive ALL my sins and that I am still married to my first wife? Am I not a new creature? Have old things truly passed away? I must not be reading Timothy correctly on qualifications. Please advise if maybe I should seek a different ministry other than what God has called me to or should I just continue praying?

Bible Answer:

The passage that directly applies to your situation is 1 Timothy 3:2.

An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach . . . (NASB) 1 Tim. 3:2

This verse is the first of a series of verses that presents us with a list of qualifications that a man must satisfy in order to be an elder. These qualifications are actually marks of spiritual maturity. That is, they are a measure of his spiritual maturity. However, the one mark that you are asking about is that he must be “the husband of one wife.” The Greek wording is actually “one woman man.” There are various opinions about the meaning of this phrase.

One of the more common views of this mark is that the phrase means that an elder can only have had one wife, and no other. This is the view that apparently is being communicated to you. We would encourage you to read the response to a previous question, “Can we elect divorced men to serve as deacons?” This previous response explains that the meaning of this phrase is that a man must be completely devoted to his wife both physically and mentally. This qualification does not prevent a divorced man from serving as an elder. However, the fact that a man has been divorced does raise serious concerns about his character, since it is possible that he did not remain committed to his wife. In your case, it was apparently your wife who was not faithful.

If the husband initiated the divorce, a period of time must elapse so that his character can be evaluated and a determination can be made as to whether he is or is not wholly and completely devoted to his new wife. My rule of thumb is that this takes about seven years. But this depends upon the situation. It may take longer than seven years. Seven years is a minimum period of time. Most people can fake a character trait for a short period of time.

Yes, God has forgiven. Yes, you are a new creature. Yes, old things are passed away. But an elder must be a godly example of holiness and spiritual maturity for the flock. Being an elder is more than just being a leader in the church or capable of preaching/teaching; he is supposed to be an example of godliness. This is the major problem with many church leaders. They are not great examples of holiness (Heb. 13:7; 1 Pet. 5:3). They are often just good organizational men with some wonderful skills.

Conclusion:

In your situation, without knowing more specifics it appears that the qualification “one woman man” does not disqualify you from the ministry. However, I would want to know about the circumstances leading up to her unfaithfulness. Did you in some way motivate her to be unfaithful? May the Lord bless you as you seek God’s will for your life.

Reference Links:

Can we elect divorced men to serve as deacons?
Marks of Spiritual Maturity
Recovering the Pattern of Biblical Leadership
Seeking God's Will