Fowler Baptist Church


Chapter 4

 

What then does it all mean?

 

One thing in the ministry I hate doing while I am preaching or teaching is to say: “In the original Greek…….”. 

Sometimes it can sound so pompous and arrogant, and preachers ought to avoid it as much as they can.

Yet, there are certain cases, and our investigation is one of them, when we must say that in order to understand Paul’s meaning and intention, we really do have to go back to the original language and examine it thoroughly.

 

Here is our phrase from 1 Timothy and Titus:

 

μιας γυναικος ανδρα,

mias, gunaikos, andra,

one, woman, man

I would remind us that in the Greek there is no word for “husband” or “wife”.

The “andra” here comes from the word “aner” meaning a male person.

The “gunaikos” is literally “woman” and when the two are used together as they are here, the understood meaning is in the context of a marriage. However, the meaning that would have jumped out at Paul’s readers is not so much “husband of one wife” but rather, “ a one woman sort of man”.

However, there is an even more important lesson to be drawn from the Greek that most Christians and many scholars fail to recognize or are unaware of. You may remember that earlier I stated that Greek is a very specific language and in this phrase, the form of the original language clarifies for us what Paul is actually talking about. If we read this passage in the original, we will see that there is no “definite” article applied to the nouns.  The article “the” is missing . This is not just a little error. In fact it is crucial to our understanding of the whole message the Holy Spirit is giving us.

When the article is missing as it is here, the writer is talking about character or quality. In spite of what popular interpretation is, the phrase “the husband of one wife” is not talking about the marriage of the couple nor the length of time of marriage nor even the question of divorce or remarriage. The clear message of the Greek is that Paul is talking about the faithfulness quality of the character and nature of the man in relation to his wife.

I have previously mentioned the importance of the verb in Greek and that our current verses are written in the Present Tense. That is not by accident. There are sufficient other tenses that Paul could have used if he had wanted to give the message that we are to investigate a man’s life back to his birth.

Therefore we can state without doubt or question that in a culture and society where men were frequently involved in sexual “wandering”, Paul makes it clear that the pastor and / or deacon is to be a “one woman sort of man” NOW , rather than demanding an investigation of one incident in the candidate’s life.

Today, we could easily equate Paul’s admonitions to mean that the candidate in question is not to be a “dirty old man”.

In all the years I have been involved in ministry, I have constantly upheld what I believe to be a truth that God has given women a type of sixth sense about men, especially in the area of sexuality. 

In the past I have been shocked and horrified by women coming to my wife and sharing with her that a certain man in the church “gives me the creeps” or “makes me want to go and get dressed”. THAT is exactly the type of thing Paul is talking about in our text! If a man is to be a leader in the church, he is to have such a reputation that all women feel safe in his company because it is abundantly clear to everyone that he IS a “one woman sort of man”.

Without Godly leadership, a church cannot hope to be Godly. It is Godly leadership that steers the ship in the right direction; that guides it safely through the storms; that encourages the whole crew to be involved so that The Captain will be honored and glorified.

Once we come to grips with this, we can begin to see that the qualifications of Timothy and Titus were given more as guidelines to examine an overall picture, rather than unbending standards for each requirement.

 It could be asked: Can a man who once was a murderer, rapist and armed bank robber ever be a leader in a church? The answer of course is “yes”, after he had proven the veracity of his salvation by a change of lifestyle and after years of proving his growth in Christ.

 Yet, in the same church, a man who has faithfully served the Lord for years and today has a reputation for Godliness, will be disbarred from leadership because of his sin from twenty or thirty years ago. There is nothing of grace in that scenario.

I do believe that within the church’s framework of selecting leadership we MUST have high and strict standards, even if some of those may seem at times to be unfair.

So if our text clearly demonstrates that divorce permanently disbars a man from office, then so be it and every church should adhere to that principle. But, I believe I have shown enough “reasonable doubt” as to the veracity of this interpretation.

Yes, by all means let us err on the side of righteousness, but I believe that in the grace of Christ, if a man is otherwise fully qualified in all other aspects, we would do well to examine our thinking when it comes to the “husband of one wife”.

The one thing that disturbs me greatly is that too often a man is disqualified by a church solely on the basis of this one requirement and yet, no such stringent investigation is carried out re. a past life of murder, promiscuity, rape, homosexuality, abortion, wife and child abuse, greed, gossip and gluttony.

Think of it ! A man lives the homosexual lifestyle (or a life of murder, or rape, or pedophilia) when he is young. He then is saved through the blood of Christ, grows in His grace and truth and one day is accepted into the leadership ranks of his church. Is this possible? Yes, of course it is.

Yet, a man, who thought he was “in love” gets married, realizes within a short space of time what a silly mistake he has made, gets a divorce, is saved through the same blood of Christ, grows in the same grace and truth, but is permanently banned from any leadership role?

Finally, Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 5:17, that when a person comes to Christ, he is in fact a “new creature” and that the “old things are passed away”.  Again in Phil.3:13, he challenges us with “forgetting those things that are behind…… I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

How can we, as a church, claim to be encouraging our people to follow and obey these scriptures, when we are prepared to drag up the “dirt” of a man’s life in front of his wife and children and friends, based solely on our interpretation of one single phrase in the whole Bible?

If a man is truly character qualified except for the “one wife” issue and we disbar him permanently, then we ought to follow through with the strength of our convictions and re-examine ALL of our pastors and deacons and apply the same stringent tests to ALL aspects of their lives both recent and in the distant past.

If a church is willing to do that, then I will gladly and vehemently defend their right to claim their interpretation of  “one wife”.

However, if excuses start being made and “umming” and “aahhing” begins, and the church refuses to re-examine all aspects of the lives of its leadership, while still rigidly adhering to the “one wife” phrase, then that leadership has placed itself back under the condemnation of being hypocrites and manipulators of the Word.

If our selected phrase truly means “one who has never been divorced”, then the other phrases must mean : “one who has never been violent or a brawler” ; “one who has never been a lover of money”;  “ one who has never been reproached in his life”.

However, after all that we have discussed, let it never be assumed that divorce is inconsequential. All of the Bible is replete with teaching that divorce is sin; that Christians especially should avoid it with all strength that they can find in Christ.

If a man is nominated for leadership and a divorce is in his recent past, the congregation would do well to look at that as a “red flag” warning, since clearly he is having a problem with the “control of the family” issue as well. Even if the divorce is from long past, the candidate would do well to explain its circumstances so that no-one can later accuse him of “hiding his past”.

But let us all remember that no person can fulfill the qualifications of Timothy and Titus 100% at 100% of the time.

I believe the real truth of Paul’s teaching is this:

All of these qualifications and requirements are to be examined as character attributes that the candidate should possess albeit with some imperfections.

No man can be “required” to be just, fair, temperate, prudent, hospitable, honorable, apt to teach, true in his word, 100% of the time with 100% perfectionism.. Indeed, none of the qualifications for pastors and deacons can be seen in any man in perfect form.

It is the overall, recognizable character of the man we should be looking at.

Nit-picking on one aspect of his life, while ignoring  or diminishing other aspects, can only be described as the worst of scholarship if not even a deliberate attempt to make the Bible teach our own personal, favorite  ideology.

Let us not make any mistake. The evil of immorality and divorce must be expounded and taught in the church with the same vehemence that is found in the Scripture. But let us never forget that all sin can be forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Christ and that any sinner can be saved and then changed by His power through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.

The qualifications for pastor and deacon clearly do not require the life-long absence of these specific sins in a candidate’s life.

Rather they demonstrate how a fallen man can be redeemed and “re-grown” to such an extent that the Holy Spirit is willing to place in his care the spiritual lives of church members and the reputation of the church throughout its local community.

The issue at stake here is not a man’s current or previous marital status.

It is something vastly more important than that.

It is his character of godliness and his witness for Christ, lived out in the privacy of his home with his wife and family and then within his church and throughout his neighborhood.

For any church to “cast aside” a good and godly man, based solely on a pet theory constructed on one five letter phrase, is questionable at best, and may in fact be an unwitting attempt to thwart the grace of God in a man’s life and could even possible align that church with the work of Satan, who hates to see Godliness in leadership and who would rather raise up the “weak things” of this world to prevent the church from being everything God has created it to be.

May the Lord bless all of us as we consider this very important aspect of our church life and may each of us at least be challenged to examine our own ideaologies and ensure that what we are practicing and believing stands firmly on God.the truth of the Word of  God.

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