Question: Can a Man Who Has Divorced and Remarried Be a Pastor?
Answer: The answer becomes very simple when we go back to when we were saved. The question becomes, “How many sins did Christ forgive when we trusted Him as our Savior? In Isaiah 38:17 the Word of God tells us,
“…but thou (God) hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou (God) hast cast ALL my sins behind thy back.”
In other words, in God’s eyes, my sins no longer exist. In Matthew 26:28 we are told,
“For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
The Greek word for “remission” is “aphesis” and means “a dismissal, release, completely canceled”; and is used for the forgiveness of sin, and translated “remission” in this verse. Also notice the word “sins,” it is in the plural. Therefore, at salvation, ALL sins are forgiven, canceled, and dismissed!
Dr. Luke, stating by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Acts 13:38,39 declares that,
“…through this man (Jesus Christ) is preached unto you the forgiveness of SINS: And by him (Christ), all that believe are justified from ALL THINGS, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”
Notice again, that the word “SINS” is plural, as every sin committed prior to salvation is forgiven. The word “justified” is a legal term meaning, “Declared 100% righteous with a full acquittal of my sins.” At salvation, ALL of my sins are forgiven, and forgotten, in God’s eyes.
Now, therefore, bear with me as we go to one more verse found 2 Corinthians 5:17,
“Therefore if any man be in Christ( i.e. salvation),he is a new creature (creation): old things (sins prior to salvation) are passed away; behold ALL things are become new.”
This is a positional truth; that is, this is the way God looks upon the new Christian. The prior life of the person, now saved, is viewed, in God’s eyes as, “old things that have passed away.” The Greek for “pass” is “parerchomai” followed by “away” and means “to perish.” God views the sins of a person, committed prior to salvation, as having perished from His sight and never again brought into remembrance. Upon receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior, God looks upon his new child (John 1:12) as a brand new creation, having all of his sins forgiven, having been justified and declared righteous with a full acquittal of ALL past sins.
With the foregoing in mind, let us return to our original question. “Can a man who has been divorced and remarried, prior to being saved, occupy the office of pastor or deacon?” The Scriptures clearly state in 1 Timothy 3:2,12, that both must “be the husband of one wife.” The qualifications given for the office of pastor and deacon apply to only the life of a Christian; since they have become a Christian. The qualifications do not apply to a man’s life prior to being saved. There are reasons for this:
- All sins he committed prior to salvation, as the aforementioned Scriptures plainly state, are forgiven, forgotten, passed away, or perished in God’s sight—including divorce.
- If one is going to hold that divorce prior to being saved disqualifies a man from these two offices, then, we have a real problem! Being honest with the qualifications in 1 Timothy, one would have to apply the same restrictions to his wife for Sunday School teaching, etc.
- Those who endorse the view that divorce and remarriage prior to salvation disqualifies a man from the office of pastor or deacon, seem to overlook the Scriptures that apply to his wife also.
- Now, let us look at ALL the qualifications required to be a pastor as found in 1 Timothy 3:2-4.
Verse 2: “A bishop (pastor) must then be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;”
Verse 3: “Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous.”
Verse 4: “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;”
Therefore, for a person to pick out just one of the 14 qualifications for a pastor, from a man’s life prior to salvation, would be mutilating, and totally dishonest with these Scriptures. One cannot just pick out a piece of Scripture and apply it to fit one’s own preconceived ideas, with disregard of the text and context in which it appears. Since all sins are passed away into oblivion at salvation (2 Corinthians 5:17); the qualifications can only apply to a man after he is saved, thus a Christian.
Consequently, the “husband of one wife” could be applied to two situations disqualifying a man from the position of pastor or deacon.
- A man practicing polygamy, having a plurality of wives.
- A Christian who divorces and remarries after he is saved.
The love, grace, and forgiveness of God can surely be seen in His use of the Apostle Paul. Here, God took a man who was a murderer before he was saved, and made him a missionary. One who was a blasphemer, and made him a blessing, using an ex-persecutor as a preacher. 1 Timothy 2:7, speaking about the Apostle Paul, tells us that...
“Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.”
At Paul’s salvation, all his previous sins, including his murdering of Christians, were forgiven as he was now a new creation in Christ Jesus. I believe, if Christ’s payment on the cross took care of the sin of murder, is there any doubt it can take care of the sin of divorce and remarriage prior to being saved? Since God forgave Paul as a murderer and used him greatly, including writing 14 of the 27 Epistles of the New Testament, then divorce and remarriage should be no problem. God has used many of these men as pastors, deacons, and missionaries, etc.