“What does the “husband of one wife” phrase in 1 Timothy 3:2 mean? Can a divorced man serve as a pastor, elder, or deacon?”
[It is important to note as we begin that this section of scripture is dealing specifically with the offices of church leadership, and is not dealing with membership to the body of Christ or spiritual giftedness]. There are at least three possible interpretations of the phrase “husband of one wife” in 1 Timothy 3:2. 1) It could simply be saying that a polygamist is not qualified to be an elder, a deacon or a pastor. This is the most literal interpretation of the phrase, but seems somewhat unlikely considering that polygamy was quite rare in the time that Paul was writing. 2) The phrase could also be translated “one-woman man.” This would indicate that a bishop must be absolutely loyal to the woman he is married to. This interpretation focuses more on moral purity than marital status. 3) The phrase could also be understood to declare that in order to be an elder/deacon/pastor, a man can only have been married once, other than in the case of a remarried widower.
Interpretations 2) and 3) are the most prevalent today. Interpretation 2) seems to be the strongest, primarily because Scripture seems to allow for divorce in exceptional circumstances (Matthew 19:9; 1 Corinthians 7:12-16). [While divorce does not disqualify someone from Christ, it may very well disqualify someone from pastoral leadership.] It would also be important to differentiate between a man who was divorced and