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Must a Bishop, an Elder and a Deacon Be Married?
“A bishop (elder) then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2).
“Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well” (1 Timothy 3:12).
“. . . appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination…” (Titus 1:6-7).
In these passages, the apostle Paul teaches that the bishop, elder and deacon should be a married man because he is simply more adequately prepared to understand and deal with the many problems that arise in the families of the church. The apostle taught that a religion that is not reflected in a family setting is not worth much.
What About Single Men and Ministry?
Paul didn’t teach by the above passages that ministers must be married or else they are disqualified from ministry. Clearly, if Paul’s statements mean that, then he himself is going contrary to his own council for he was not married (1 Corinthians 7:8).
In some specific cases where there are persecutions and special calls from God, Paul personally encourages ministers to be single: “But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction” (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).
The apostle teaches that the “unmarried” person is not hampered by family obligations. His time and energy are not spent in providing for the needs of his family, especially in times of persecution. He is free to give his full attention to spreading the gospel. And Paul taught that it is right for a man, if he so desires, to remain unmarried and dedicates himself to the ministry of God.
Also, he explains in view of the “present distress” of trials and persecutions that the early church experienced, a believer should consider avoiding any situation that would increase his perplexity and distress (1 Corinthians 7:26).
Marriage – The Preferred State
Although Paul encourages the unmarried state of ministers, he praises the virtues of marriage and the family (Ephesians 5:21–32; Hebrews 13:4). He made it clear (1 Corinthians 7: 2–9) that for the great majority of ministers, marriage is the preferred state (Matthew 19:10–12). The Bible teaches that Celibacy is not in itself a condition of greater purity than marriage. Paul declared that marriage is one of God’s ordained means for the right spiritual development of the husband and wife (1 Timothy 4:3).
In the qualification passages for ministers in the church, Paul taught that the issue is not that God’s servants should be married or not but the stress should be on his moral and sexual purity. The phrase that Paul uses “husbands of one wife” means that the minister should be fully dedicated to his wife and offer her love, affection and sexual purity. He must talk and behave “above reproach” (Titus 1:6,7). And if he has children, he must raise them in the fear of the Lord. Thus, he must honor God by the way he manages his family affairs.
In His service,