Study Notes

Titus 1:6b

1:6b Husband Of One Wife

It was required of elders and deacons to have but one wife (1Tim 3:2, Titus 1:6, 1Tim 3:12). There are many interpretations as to the actual meaning of this requirement, and many churches have many rules regarding the marital status of their elders and deacons.

Some insist that church leadership must be married.

Some say that this just means that they can't be polygamists - married to more than one woman at once.

Others insist that they must currently be married to the only woman they've ever been married to.

Some make allowances for widowers that married again.

In the case of divorces, churches have more rules.

Some say if you've ever been divorced, you cannot be in church leadership.

Others say that as long as the divorce happened before you were a Christian, it's okay.

Still others say that if you got divorced and did not remarry, that is okay.

None of these rules sounds grossly unbiblical or beyond the interpretation of this requirement. So you can see why there is great difficulty in coming to an understanding of exactly how to apply this.

Let's examine some of this Biblically.

Must Be Married

It seems to make sense to say that the elder or deacon must be married. But when we look at that in the light of the full counsel of God, the water gets muddy. Remember Paul saying,

1Cor. 7:7-9 ...I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn.

1Cor. 7:32-35 ...I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and {his interests} are divided. And the woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is seemly, and {to secure} undistracted devotion to the Lord.

Paul was unmarried, and even desired that all men were as he was. This seems to say that marriage is not a requirement of serving the Lord in church leadership.

One Wife

Therefore, the focus of the requirements must not be on the fact that a man should be a husband, but rather that if he is a husband, he had better be the husband of one wife.


As for the case of one who is widowed and re-marries, I believe the Scripture is obvious:

Rom. 7:2-3 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then if, while her husband is living, she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress, though she is joined to another man.

You cannot condemn a person for remarrying after their first spouse dies.

No Polygamy

Believe it or not, the law of God does not outwardly forbid polygamy. Only for the king of Israel did the Lord command not to have many wives.

Deut. 17:14-17 "When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, 'I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,' you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, {one} from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, 'You shall never again return that way.' Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself.

But of course this law was not obeyed. King Solomon did multiply wives for himself.

1Kgs. 11:3-4 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. For it came about when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father {had been.}

Later, Solomon wrote,

Prov. 18:22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the LORD.

Notice the singularity of his statement! He learned the hard way that one wife is better than many.

Now Jesus did make it clear that God's ideal for marriage is one husband for one wife.

Matt. 19:5-6 "...'A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND SHALL CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE; AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH'. Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh."

The numbers there are clearly one husband, one wife.

No Divorce

As for divorce, that is a stickier subject. God has made it clear:

Mal. 2:16 "For I hate divorce," says the LORD, the God of Israel...

There are only two allowances made for believers to divorce:

Marital Unfaithfulness

Because of the hardness of people's hearts, Jesus said that there was an allowance for people to divorce:

Matt. 5:32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for {the} cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery...

Matt. 19:9 "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."

A person whose spouse commits adultery may divorce if he cannot work through the unfaithfulness.

An Unbeliever Who Leaves

The second instance where we are not under bondage is in the case of a Christian who has a non-Christian spouse who wants to leave. Paul taught,

1Cor. 7:13-15 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, let her not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such {cases,} but God has called us to peace.

So two instances where divorce is allowed for a believer.

Prior To Conversion

The last question is really, "What about those who divorced before they were born again?" Do we hold them accountable for their lives as unregenerate sinners? To that, I say that my opinion is no.

If God has forgiven a man's former sins, then I cannot in good conscious condemn him for them. As Paul earlier told Timothy,

1Tim. 1:12-14 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service; even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.

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