The Husband of One Wife

Question: How do you interpret Paul’s qualification of “the husband of one wife” for a local church elder? (1 Timothy 3:2)

Answer: “Well, there’s a lot of controversy about that. A lot of churches won’t allow men who have been divorced to hold the office of elder, saying that they have violated that qualification if they have been divorced and have then re-married. That would also apply to someone who is a widower and remarried, because they have had two wives.

I think it is clear as can be, that what the issue there that Paul is addressing is polygamy. And in the Early Church in its formation, it took a while for the principle of monogamy to be firmly established within the Christian community because there were guys who had two or three or four wives (concubines) and that was opposed to biblical marriage, and if you have two wives, that’s one too many (at the same time, obviously).

– Dr. R. C. Sproul, transcript from a Question and Answer Session at the Ligonier Ministries National Conference, Bought with a Price, Orlando, 2006