Note: Much of this is in my own words, however there are parts that are copied and pasted from research.
Can a divorced man become a deacon or a pastor? Out of many hours of study, in depth research, speaking with various pastors from different congregations, this is what I have found.
The answer becomes very simple when you look back to when we were saved. The question becomes, “How many sins did Christ forgive when we trusted Him as our Savior? In Isaiah 38:17 the word of God tells us, “…but thou (God) hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou (God) hast cast ALL my sins behind thy back.” In other words, in God’s eyes, my sins no longer exist, so why does man hold to them? In Matthew 26:28 we are told, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” The Greek word for “remission” is “aphesis” and means “a dismissal, release, completely canceled” and is used for the forgiveness of sin and translated “remission” in this verse. Also notice the word “sins”, it is in the plural, not one but again ALL. Therefore, at salvation, ALL sins are forgiven, canceled, and dismissed, including divorce!
Luke, stated by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Acts 13:38,39 that, “…through this man (Jesus Christ) is preached unto you the forgiveness of SINS: and by him (Christ), all that believe are justified from ALL THINGS, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” Notice again, that the word “SINS” is plural, again meaning all sins, every sin committed prior to salvation is forgiven. The word “justified” is a legal term meaning, “declared 100% righteous with a full acquittal of my sins.” At salvation, ALL of my sins are forgiven and forgotten in God’s eyes.
Now, let’s look at one more verse found in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ,( i.e. salvation),he is a new creation: old things (sins prior to salvation) are passed away; behold ALL things are become new.” This is a positional truth; that is, this is the way God looks upon the new Christian. The prior life of the person now saved is viewed, in God’s eyes as, “old things that have passed away.” The Greek for “pass” is “parerchomai” followed by “away” and means “to perish.” God views the sins of a person, committed prior to salvation, as having perished from His sight and never again brought into remembrance. Upon receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior, God looks upon his new child (John 1:12) as a brand new creation, having all of his sins forgiven, justified, being declared righteous with a full acquittal of ALL past sins.
With that in mind, let us return to our original question. “Can a man who has been divorced and remarried prior to being saved, occupy the office of pastor or deacon?” The Scripture clearly states in 1 Timothy 3:2,12, that both must “be the husband of one wife.” The qualifications given for the office of pastor and deacon apply to only the life of a Christian, since they have become a Christian. The qualifications do not apply to a man’s life prior to being saved. There are reasons for this:
1. All sins he committed prior to salvation, as the Scriptures above plainly state, are forgiven, forgotten, passed away, or perished in God’s sight—including divorced.
2. If one is going to hold that divorce prior to being saved disqualifies a man from these two offices, then, we have a real problem! Being honest with the qualifications in Timothy, one would have to apply
3. Those who endorse the view that divorce and remarriage prior to salvation disqualified a man from the office of pastor or deacon seem to overlook the Scriptures that apply to his wife also.
4. Now, let us look at ALL the qualifications required to be a pastor as found in I Timothy 3:2-4.
(a.) Verse 2 – “A bishop (pastor) must then be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;”
(b.) Verse 3 – “Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of fulthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous.”
(c.) Verse 4 – “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;”
So, for a person to pick out just one of the 14 qualifications for a pastor from a man’s life, prior to salvation, would be mutilating and totally dishonest with these Scriptures. One cannot just pick out a piece of Scripture and apply it to fit one’s own preconceived ideas with disregard of the text and context in which it appears. Since all sins are passed away into nothingness at salvation (2 Corinthians 5:17), the qualifications can only apply to a man after he is saved, thus a Christian. You have to look at it this way, what deacon or pastor at one time failed at one of the qualifications before being saved if not afterwards, how can one pull out one qualification and hold too it but not the others?
Consequently, the “husband of one wife” could be applied to two situations disqualifying a man from the position of pastor or deacon.
(a.) A man practicing polygamy, having many of wives.
(b.) A Christian who divorces and remarries after he is saved.
The love, grace, and forgiveness of God can surely be seen in His use of the Apostle Paul. Here, God took a man who was a murderer before he was saved and made him a missionary. One who was a blasphemer and made him a blessing; using an ex-persecutor as a preacher. I Timothy 2:7, speaking about the Apostle Paul, tells us that “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not; a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.” So a man who has murdered can be saved and become a preacher or deacon, but not a man who is divorced?
At Paul’s salvation, all his previous sins, including his murdering of Christians, were forgiven as he was now a new creation in Christ Jesus. I believe, if Christ’s payment on the cross took care of the sin of murder, it without any doubt should take care of the sin of divorce and remarriage prior to being saved?
Since God forgave Paul as a murderer and used him greatly, including writing 14 of the 27 Epistles of the New Testament, then divorce and remarriage should be no problem. God has used many of these men as pastors, deacons, and missionaries, etc.
This is not even discussing the actual wording from “husband of one wife” to the actual written text of “one woman man” arguement.