How Many Wives Does a Remarried Man Have? Questions when appointing leaders

It’s time to appoint elders or deacons. We read the instructions of Paul to Timothy and Titus in the Bible: 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1.

All say this person must be “the husband of one wife.”

But what if his first wife died and he remarried? Does he have one wife or two wives?

What if another man divorced his wife? He was faithful in his first marriage. His wife wasn’t. He married a faithful Christian woman. Is he “the husband of one wife” or does he have two wives?

I’ve been in churches where people thought men in these situations had two wives. Some threatened to leave the congregation if they were appointed.

This was their only objection. “I can’t worship here if he is appointed because he has two wives.”

How Can We Calculate Correctly?

The easiest way I’ve found to understand it is to let Jesus do the math.

In His discussion with the woman at the well in John 4:7-26, He said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here” (verse 16, NKJV).

Notice the continued conversation:

The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.”

Is the woman adding correctly? Will Jesus give her an “A” or an “F” in math?

Look at her report card. Jesus gave her an A+ in math and said twice she had added accurately:

Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly” (verses 17, 18).

Notice Jesus’ Math

She previously had five husbands.

Something(s) happened: death? divorce?.

Those no longer count. How do I know? Jesus in the Bible tells me so.

He said living together didn’t count as marriage, having a husband.

He affirmed her calculations, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’…in that you spoke truly” (verse 18).

Look at Jesus math:

Let’s look at a previously married man being considered for leadership.

He had a wife. She is dead or divorced by Bible teaching on the topic.

He married again, following God’s instructions.

How many wives does he have (using Jesus’ math)?

He is “the husband of one wife.”

You may not like him. He may be disqualified for other reasons.

But don’t say he has two wives.

Dead and divorced wives don’t count in the total according to a woman in Samaria, Jesus, and the IRS. Don’t try to take deductions on dead and divorced wives on your 1040.

For more practical ideas on:

  • Preacher search.
  • Questions to ask preachers.
  • Questions to ask elders.
  • Working agreements — written or unwritten?
  • What are your rules?
  • Church checking preacher references.
  • Preacher checking church references.

Get Jerrie’s book: Between Preachers

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Jerrie Barber
Servant of Jesus, husband to Gail, father to Jerrie Wayne Barber, II and Christi Parsons, grandfather, great-grandfather, Interim Preacher, Shepherd coach, Ventriloquist, barefoot runner, ride a cruiser bicycle

6 Responses to “How Many Wives Does a Remarried Man Have? Questions when appointing leaders

    1 year ago

    Jerry, Good Morning To You, I just wanted to thank you for continuing to work / teach the practical truths found in scripture. Keep on keeping on. You are a much needed encourager. Thank You!

  • Ronny cornelius
    1 year ago

    Great job of explaining the One wife issue

  • The math works! Also, consider this: The phrase “husband of one wife” is commonly used to refer to the number of wives a man has. But the phrase, translated literally (which isn’t always the right way to translate — but hang with me), is “one woman man.” The phrase refers not to number, but faithfulness and reputation. Polygamy was not widely practiced in the 1st century world. Which is why the text doesn’t speak to number. So . . . if a man is known as a widower, was he faithful to his wife? If his first wife has died, and he has remarried, is he faithful to the wife he now has? If a prospective Elder is married, and has been married to the same woman for 30 years, does he meet the qualification? No. Is his reputation one of faithfulness to his wife? That is the matter under consideration.

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