Many people have their own answer to this sensitive question, but have largely based their answer on experience and tradition rather than Scripture (Acts 6:1-7 and 1 Timothy 3:8-13). In light of the possibility of divorced or remarried deacons, the verse to consider is 1 Timothy 3:12,Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children & their own households well.”

“Husband of One Wife” or “One Woman Man”?  The phrase “husband of one wife” in the Greek is better translated as “one-woman man” (i.e. a faithful husband):

  • The Greek word for “husband” (aner) is actually translated as “husband/husbands” 52 times and “man/men” 143 times in the New Testament (biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/aner.html)
  • The Greek word for “wife” (gune) is actually translated as “wife/wives” 82 times and as “woman/women” 130 times in the New Testament (biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/gune.html)

Note the similar phrase in 1 Timothy 5:9-10 which considers which widows are worthy of being supported by the church. “Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.” (1 Timothy 5:9-10 ESV)

  • Note that this is also a listing of characteristics that point towards her current faithfulness.
  • Would a twice-widowed (i.e. widowed-remarried-widowed, a.k.a. wife of two husbands) woman not be considered for the care of the church? 
  • The “wife of one-husband” phrase is best understood as a “one-man woman” (i.e. a faithful wife).

5 Important Points About Which Men Can Serve As Deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13)

  1. These biblical characteristics are all present-tense (verbs = Present-Active-Participles and Present-Active-Imperative)…i.e. “Who are they now?”  NOT past-tense…i.e. “Who were they?”  Christians are all considered by who they are now in Christ, not who they were (past-tense) in their sins.  That stated, their past sin must not be so recent that they might not be considered “of good repute” (Acts 6:3).
  2. Would you ever select a former murderer as a deacon?  If not, you eliminate the Apostle Paul.
  3. Would you ever select a former thief as a deacon?  If not, you eliminate the Apostle Matthew, a tax collector who would’ve taken more than he legally needed to collect for taxes.
  4. Would you ever select a single man (unmarried, i.e. not a “husband”) as a deacon? If not, you eliminate Jesus and the Apostle Paul.
  5. Would you ever select a widower or a remarried widower as a deacon (i.e. not a “husband” or a “husband of one wife”)?

IN SUMMARY… The act of selecting a man to serve as deacon, who has been in any past sin (to include remarriage after divorce…see Matthew 5:32, 19:3-12, Mark 10:1-12, Luke 16:18, 1 Corinthians 7:10,39, Romans 7:2-3), does not condone the sin, but recognizes God’s grace and faithfulness in the life of a believer over time.  Christians are now considered dead to sin and alive in Christ (Romans 6:11) but yet we continue to struggle with sin (Romans 6:12-14, 7:15-20).  Christians are consistently referred to as saints (Ephesians 1:1; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1 and many more) while non-believers are identified by their sins (Romans 1:28-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).  As servants in the church, deacons are called meet or display specific characteristics that evidence the fruit of God’s Spirit within them (Acts 6:1-7; 1 Timothy 3:8-13).  So in summary, a man’s past divorce does not automatically disqualify him from the possibility of serving as a deacon.

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