Interesting question. Let’s begin by looking at the scriptural qualifications for a pastor.

1 Timothy 3:2-7 ESV
2 Therefore an overseer must be 1) above reproach, the 2) husband of one wife, 3) sober-minded, 4) self-controlled, 5) respectable, 6) hospitable, 7) able to teach, 3 8.) not a drunkard, 9)not violent but gentle, 10)not quarrelsome, 11)not a lover of money. 4 He must 12)manage his own household well, 13)with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He 14)must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he 15)must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

There is a list of 15 individual qualifications a pastor must meet.

1) Above Reproach – Cannot be involved in unrepentant sin that others can accuse him of and correct him for.
2) Husband of one wife – In the greek this is literally “a one woman man.” He is devoted to his wife, not a cheater or flirtatious, is not infatuated with other women at all.
3) Sober minded – Wise and smart, keeping his wits in every situation.
4) Self Controlled – Does not let his emotions drive his actions.
5) Respectable – A person possessing leadership qualities and qualities that make others esteem him and feel he is trustworthy and reliable.
6) Hospitable – Courteous and welcoming.
7) Able to teach – Knowledgable in the Word of God and able to communicate that knowledge effectively to others.
8.) Not a drunkard – A man who is sober. Not a man who is disposed to alcohol or intoxicating drugs.
9) Not violent but gentle – A man who chooses ministering to the needs of others above violence.
10) Not quarrelsome – Not disposed to arguing for personal reasons.
11) Not a lover of money – Not materialistic at all. Personal wealth doesn’t motivate him.
12) Manage his household well – Not in uncontrollable debt, not relying on others to support his family. Has a family that he has taught the gospel to and that respects his leadership.
13) With all dignity keeping his children submissive – Dignified and respected as leader of his family, his children having great respect for him are submissive to his dignified authority. He doesn’ have to yell and lose composure to control his children.
14) Not a recent convert – He must not be young in the faith, but must have had time to soak in the word and be able to teach and develop real christian qualities lest he succumb to pride and fall like the devil.
15) Well thought of by outsiders – Non christians should see him as a respectable and trustworthy man who they can count on to be a high quality person.

Qualification number 2 isn’t the one that exempts a biblically divorced and remarried man from the pastorate.

The qualifications that could exempt him are the following:

1, 10,12,15 A biblically divorced and remarried man is in danger of violating these qualifications. So, it is possible that a man may not violate any of these but it is more likely that he may if he is divorced and remarried. However, each situation will be different indeed and each situation should be completely investigated by the church before ordination.

So, in my view a man who is divorced and remarried isn’t disqualified from leadership just on those grounds but is more likely to be disqualified because of the situation causing him to violate one of the 4 qualifications in question.

It is a possibility that God could still call a man who has been divorced and remarried. It is just not as likely as it is for a man who has not been through that turmoil in his life. However, the right man in the right situation could indeed offer valuable advice to those who are going through a divorce as he has experienced it firsthand. However, if a man’s divorce wasn’t biblical he is disqualified in the first place as he has certainly violated qualification 2.

So, churches should be diligent and prayerful about who they call. They should investigate thoroughly. Men who seek the pulpit should prayerfully consider all of the qualifications and their own unique situation before they step forward and claim a call to the pastorate. If a church feels a divorced and remarried man is called to pastor their church or a divorced and remarried man feels he is called to the pastorate all parties involved should be aware that he is not outright biblically disqualified just for that reason but is more likely to be disqualified in one of the 15 categories. So prayerful consideration and discernment should be practiced. God’s will should be sought. The qualifications are there for a good Godly reason and if a man misses the mark in just one category he misses the mark completely. So before you make a vital decision be sure you hit the required mark.

–David

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Divorce and Remarriage

March 28, 2011

Here is the Westminster Confession of Faith on Divorce and Remarriage:

V. Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, gives just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract. In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.

VI. Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God has joined together in marriage: yet, nothing but adultery, or such wilful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage: wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills, and discretion, in their own case.

Scripture Proof:

Matthew 5:31-32 ESV
31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Matthew 19:9 ESV
9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

1 Corinthians 7:15 ESV
15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.

Here is R.C. Sproul’s position:

“So I take the position that an innocent party in divorce is free to remarry. Now, when we say innocent or guilty, we recognize that everybody contributes to the breakdown of a marriage. By “guilty party” I mean the one who committed the sin serious enough to dissolve the marriage. But I would also say that even the guilty party can get remarried if there is authentic repentance.”

Link: R.C. Sproul’s Position on Divorce and Remarriage

Here is John Macarthur’s position:

“So God’s utter hatred of divorce is very clear in Scripture.
Nonetheless, there are two extraordinary cases in which Scripture teaches that God does permit divorced people to remarry.
First, note that Jesus Himself included this exception clause: “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery” (Matt. 19:9, King James Version, emphasis added). He allows an exception in this one case, only “because of the hardness of your hearts” (Matt. 19:8). Clearly, Jesus is treating divorce as a last resort, only to be sought in the case of hard-hearted adultery.
The apostle Paul allows one more reason for divorce: if an unbelieving spouse abandons a believer, the believer is under no obligation in such a case (1 Cor. 7:14). This would free the abandoned spouse to remarry.
But we must emphasize that apart from those two specific, exceptional cases, divorce is not sanctioned in Scripture.”

Link: John Macarthur’s Position on Divorce and Remarriage

Here is John Piper’s position:

“Conclusions and Applications

In the New Testament the question about remarriage after divorce is not determined by:
The guilt or innocence of either spouse,
Nor by whether either spouse is a believer or not,
Nor by whether the divorce happened before or after either spouse’s conversion,
Nor by the ease or difficulty of living as a single parent for the rest of life on earth,
Nor by whether there is adultery or desertion involved,
Nor by the on-going reality of the hardness of the human heart,
Nor by the cultural permissiveness of the surrounding society.
Rather it is determined by the fact that:
Marriage is a “one-flesh” relationship of divine establishment and extraordinary significance in the eyes of God (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:8),
Only God, not man, can end this one-flesh relationship (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9—this is why remarriage is called adultery by Jesus: he assumes that the first marriage is still binding, Matthew 5:32; Luke 16:18; Mark 10:11),
God ends the one-flesh relationship of marriage only through the death of one of the spouses (Romans 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39),
The grace and power of God are promised and sufficient to enable a trusting, divorced Christian to be single all this earthly life if necessary (Matthew 19:10-12,26; 1 Corinthians 10:13),
Temporal frustrations and disadvantages are much to be preferred over the disobedience of remarriage, and will yield deep and lasting joy both in this life and the life to come (Matthew 5:29-30).
Those who are already remarried:
Should acknowledge that the choice to remarry and the act of entering a second marriage was sin, and confess it as such and seek forgiveness
Should not attempt to return to the first partner after entering a second union (see 8.2 above)
Should not separate and live as single people thinking that this would result in less sin because all their sexual relations are acts of adultery. The Bible does not give prescriptions for this particular case, but it does treat second marriages as having significant standing in God’s eyes. That is, there were promises made and there has been a union formed. It should not have been formed, but it was. It is not to be taken lightly. Promises are to be kept, and the union is to be sanctified to God. While not the ideal state, staying in a second marriage is God’s will for a couple and their ongoing relations should not be looked on as adulterous.”

Link: John Piper’s position on Divorce and Remarriage

Macarthur and Sproul agree with the Westminster confession. Piper’s position is a little different.

I agree with the Westminster Confession on this because scripture testifies to the same. However, I also agree with Piper that there should be repentance for all failed marriages.

There is always sin involved in causing the first marriage to fail, but once one is divorced and free of the contract is it then sin to remarry? Sproul and Macarthur say it is not sin to remarry and one is free to do so because the scriptures allow divorce (a total freeing of the bond) in those cases so one who is free is indeed as free as if they were never married.

Piper thinks that there is nothing that actually can separate the bond, so he sees scriptural divorce as simply allowed separation and not real divorce as the Sproul, Macarthur and the writers of the Westminster Confession interpreted. Piper’s view is very close to the Roman Catholic view. The real question he brings up is does one need to feel guilty for the “sin” of remarrying and thus repent and ask forgiveness of it even though they were scripturally divorced before it?

I agree with the WCF here and think the bible is clear that we are free after divorce for the reasons of adultery or abandonment, but I also agree with Piper that we should repent of the sins that caused our marriage to fail and then the sin of giving up on reconciliation with our separated spouse.

–David