“One woman man” what is necessary for this qualification?

15 May

I ended Friday’s post by stating that the grammar of this passage is very clear (1 Timothy 3:4,5). This passage does not require a man to be older and have children who are grown. He must presently demonstrate he is managing his own household.

I closed by asking “Are there other reasons where prudence or wisdom would say that a young man with young children at home should not be a pastor/elder?”

I believe the answer to this questions is “yes.” However it would be no different for an older man who has grown children.

A man in his 50’s whose children are grown and out of the house may find himself in the situation where he has to take on the care of his elderly parents. In that case the responsibilities of caring for his parents may be such that he cannot adequately give himself to the functions of an elder.

The same may be true for a younger man with younger children. The passage does not prevent him from serving, however there may be reasons why he cannot do to his first responsibilities of husband & father.

The point is, it either case it is not a matter of whether the man is qualified – he is. It is a matter of a qualified man who may even have the desire not be able to serve in the capacity at this time.

Here is another qualification question. This is one many people think there is a simple answer. Here is the question:

…with regard to the issue of being blameless and applying the proper applications to the qualifications, with the “one woman man” being consistently applied with the others.

Am I correct in my understanding the the basic Greek tense indicates a present character quality (as opposed to the idea that this quality has always existed and continues to exist)? If so, if a man was not saved and was a brawler, greedy of filthy lucre, given to wine (etc.), then was saved, transformed and established a credible testimony – would he not then be qualified? If so, why would that be different when it comes to a man who may have been divorced and remarried, but now has a testimony for the Lord.

The first word in 1 Timothy 3:2 is the controlling verb for the entire passage. The same verb is repeated at the beginning of verse 7. Verse 2-6 discuss the overseer’s character as observed from within the church, verse 7 discusses the overseer’s character as observed from without the church.

In both verses the verb (δεῖ) is a present active indicative. There is no question that the focus of the passage is on the man’s current, present character which can be observed by others.

I believe the “above reproach” (ἀνεπίλημπτος) is serving as an umbrella qualification with all the other qualifications further explaining what it means to be “above reproach.”

To answer the question of “is the one-woman-man qualification (and for that matter any of the qualifications) entirely present condition focused or is there some aspects of a man’s past which must be considered?” we need a better understanding of this word ἀνεπίλημπτος.

  1. The primary lexical meaning is irreproachable.
  2. In each of the other two occurrences of this word (1 Tim. 5:7; 6:14) the meaning is clearly without fault, or beyond reproach.
  3. According to Louw-Nida ἀνεπίλημπτος is related to ἀκατάγνωστος which is used in Titus 2:8 to describe preaching that is above reproach.
  4. The etymology of ἀνεπίλημπτος is ἀνα + επιλαμβανω which carries the meaning of “cannot be grasped”. In this context their character does not leave anything from some to grab a hold of and use as a legitimate criticism. They are above reproach.
  5. 3:7 states that his character must be such so that he is well thought of by those outside the church, therefore above reproach.

It is often not a good idea to put a whole lot of weight in etymology, however in light of the other factors we can learn about this word, I think its etymology is helpful. This gives us an understanding of “cannot be grasped” or “there is nothing in his life one can hold on to.”

From the passage, the grammar itself and the outline of the text, I believe it is impossible to claim that this passage requires that a man who was divorced cannot be a pastor/elder.

Notice I said “requires.”

I do think this understanding of ἀνεπίλημπτος is helpful in making application of this text to real life.

With the above understanding I would ask, is there anything presently in this man’s life that someone could grab a hold of and use as a legitimate criticism therefore making him a stumbling block?

With that question, I then have to look not only to his very present life (Of course the question comes up as to what does present mean? If he has demonstrated these qualities for one day, one month, one year, does that mean he meets the requirements?), but also to a certain extent at his past.

By doing this, I am not forced to have some kind of double standard. A guy could have been a drunken brawler in the past, but he is clean now, that is OK. But a guy who is divorced that is not.

No, I believe there would be situations where a man’s past drunken brawlings would prevent him from being a pastor in the present even if his life is cleaned up. Did he commit a crime or crimes back then that still have consequences (legal or otherwise) today. If so, could that provide “something to be grasped” in his life today even if the action took place in the past?

Does this man’s divorce from many years ago still have significant ramifications on his life today? Is he still in a joint custody situation? Is his former wife remarried? Has he confessed his wrongs and sought reconciliation as much as possible at this point?

I also believe that culture plays a part. There are some places where one of these particular sins is socially more disgraceful and therefore even if in one’s past would provide “something for others to grab on to” and would be a stumbling block to many.

I really think that in our culture divorce is that way. I think, that in our society today, it is more difficult for a divorced man to be free of anything past which can affect his present state.

Now, I also think I must be open to specific possibilities where that could not be the case.

This passage does not prevent me from considering a man qualified for the office of overseer simply because he is divorced.

However, my understanding of ἀνεπίλημπτος (above reproach) and my understanding of our culture and society leads me to believe that it will be rare for a divorced man to be ἀνεπίλημπτος.

By looking at the qualifications this way and ἀνεπίλημπτος specifically, I can now see that 1) the standard for the office of pastor/elder is quite high – it should be – but 2) it is not too high and I should be careful not to make it higher than God’s Word mandates.

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Posted by on 15/05/2006 in exegesis, Ministry


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