WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT DIVORCED MEN SERVING AS DEACONS?

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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