1 Timothy 3:2 A One Woman Man (Character Counts 2)

"it is necessary therefore for the overseer (watcher of souls) to be above reproach, a one woman kind of man {idiom: faithful to his wife}, sober (self-controlled with alcohol with a broader reference to his serious handling of his life), self-controlled (in general), orderly, hospitable, skillful in teaching, …"

Last week we ended on the overarching note that Character Counts. When it comes to being an overseer (or a pastor if you will) in the church – that man must be above reproach. Moreover there is a broader application because the pastor's task is to bring everyone in the church to the same level of maturity in Christ. Therefore while this segment of scriptures describes what a man ought to be before he becomes a pastor it also describes what every believer ought to grow to be. The order of the day is: "Beyond Reproach." So what does it mean to be beyond reproach?

Through the text the apostle lists about fourteen words and phrases which describe what it means to be beyond reproach. Some of them are specific others a little less so, but all of them get down to describing more than just action – they focus on character because it's character that counts.


The first major character description causes all kinds of discussions. Most translations take the phrase simply as "the husband of one wife." That's not a bad rendering or they wouldn't all use it. Unfortunately it doesn't carry the whole meaning. For instance does this limit the pastorate to married men only?

According to 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 Paul indicates that he was single and he wishes everyone else was too so they would be able to focus 100% on the Lord rather than being divided by the so called distractions of married life. Following that he concedes that God hasn't given everyone that ability to be single.

I would suggest that there is a principle at work here by which Paul isn't limiting the pool of candidates to married men but rather he is using the normal status of men to indicate the deeper character issue.

While this passage is often translated or believed to be describing a man as never being divorced, there are easier ways to say that. This is neither aimed specifically at polygamy nor at divorce though it does address them both. Grammatically this phrase consists of a compound adjective (one woman) in the genitive case which is attributive to "man". In other words this goes beyond a description of marital status this is a character description which literally describes "a one woman kind of man".

The much broader application of the principle is of a man who by virtue of character is faithful to his wife. He doesn't need several women, he knows how to be faithful to one. Let's employ the principle to three general areas of application.


Concerning the narrower concept of polygamy (meaning more than one wife) it is instantly obvious that a polygamist is not a "one woman kind of man". You know just about five or maybe ten years ago we could have made that statement and moved on in most situations. Currently polygamy is illegal in America and it's only "widely" practiced by Mormons. But that is being challenged. More and more often polygamy is making it's way back to the forefront. All of the court cases trying to bring about homosexual marriage are only stretching the envelope. It's just a matter of time after you throw out the Biblical definition of marriage before every other twisted and perverse form of relationship is allowed to be called a marriage.

Of course some people look at polygamy and say, "look at all of the old testament people like King David and Jacob (Israel) who had multiple wives – polygamy was ok with God then!" It can't be denied that many people in the Bible had multiple wives. But that doesn't mean that God was ok with it. God permitted many things because of the hardness of hearts – not because they were by design. There were also men murdering and stealing in the Old Testament. Their behavior in those areas does not justify murder and theft today any more than their polygamy then justifies polygamy today. The principle of scripture from the very beginning of Creation is that marriage consisted of one man and one woman. That principle is present in the creation of one man and one woman, it is present in the marriage formula a man (singular) will …be joined to his wife (singular). Monogamy then – one woman and one man – is God's plan.


Concerning divorce the situation is slightly more difficult, in large part because of it's commonality not only in our day but yes also in Paul and Jesus' day. We do have several principles to apply in this realm as well. But I think it's significant to note by way of caution that Christians are often guilty of attacking certain items as if they were the worst sins in the book. Homosexuality and divorce are two such areas which today make Christians stand up and gasp. But tell me where, if you can find it, is the justification for that; especially in light of the fact that we don't seem to get too upset over little white lies, or cheating on your taxes or speeding on the highway. In the Bible – the worst sin of all is that of unbelief – everything else is just a symptom.

We read in 1 Cor 7:12-15 that if in a marriage relationship, an unbeliever leaves a believer the believer is not truly bound anyway to the marriage because the unbeliever is in fact spiritually dead. On the other hand as long as the unbeliever consents to live with the believer the believer was not to initiate a divorce. We may then consider a few guidelines in the realm of divorce and it's bearing first of course on the pastor and second the goals for everyone.

If a divorce occurred prior to salvation then the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sins and the divorce is not particularly material. We would assume that by the time this man is applying for the office of overseer that he has demonstrated spiritual maturity and has since grown in his character and has now (whatever the past may hold) become a one woman kind of man.

If a divorce occurred after salvation but was not initiated by the man who wants to be elder it does not particularly apply unless the reason his wife initiated divorce is because he is an adulterer that would certainly fail the one woman kind of man test. If a divorce occurs after salvation and it is initiated by the man who wants to be an overseer – it becomes material unless of course the wife had committed adultery. It rather seems to me that grace is the rule rather than the typical judgementalism which all too often seems to be the guiding factor when the overly dogmatic rule of "never divorced" is applied to this passage.

When it comes to divorce, reconciliation is of course always desirable though not always possible depending on the parties involved. And in terms of what we might have done before accepting Christ as Lord and Savior – we would do well to forgive as Christ has forgiven. Or else you may recall Jesus' warning that if we do not forgive neither will He.


There is one more area that should be considered in terms to being a one woman kind of man. You may not have endured the pains of divorce and in our present culture the temptations toward polygamy are still rare; but men, it is getting to the point of near impossibility to avoid adultery. In Matthew 5:28 Jesus clarified for us that adultery consists of more than having a physical relationship with a woman who is not your wife. If you so much as walk through the mall and turn to take an extra look at sexy young thing that just walked by – you are an adulterer. By definition an adulterer is not a one woman kind of man.

Gentlemen I want to challenge you again to live in obedience to Job 31:1, "I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?" Job the righteous man of God made it a practice to avert his eyes apparently from any woman who was not his wife. I know as well as anyone that the opportunities for mental adultery are everywhere from the magazines at the checkout lines to TV commercials, to be frank everywhere you go.

But Gentlemen, I have made a covenant with my eyes – and I have not entertained the second glance at a woman who is not my wife. It is possible.

Whether married or single, the call remains for you to be a one woman kind of man. Ladies there's no reason we can't turn the tables and charge you to be one man kind of women.

The broader issue here looks not only at marital faithfulness but at the character which creates it. Consider Joseph who even though he wasn't married – certainly demonstrated that he had the character to be a one woman man.

So it doesn't matter if you're married, single or somewhere in between. Character counts. Are you now and can you be, faithful to only one?