Mr. DaveW got my attention with Matthew 19:6. I actually wrote it on the inside of the cover of my current bible 6 years ago as a testament to my wife. I've read that verse countless times, but you've managed to make me look at it from a wider angle.
When discussing the topic of the actual meaning of "husband of one wife", a couple of times I've been told (and quite passionately) that a man is still married in the eyes of God even after he divorces, therefor giving credence to their side of the discussion that he would have multiple wives if he remarries. That's the first time that particular verse was used to substantiate that view of the topic, at least in a way that got my attention. Appreciate that! It's easier to comprehend when you don't feel like you're being stoned!
But if we believe 'husband of one wife" means he must always, even as an unbeliever, have had no more than one wife in his lifetime, wouldn't we also extend the same understanding to the other qualifications so they include his distant or pre-Christian past?
Randy Alcorn put it to the test by adding the same interpretive phrase to all the other qualifications;
"This would mean that any elder must:"
Have always, even as an unbeliever, been above reproach. Have always, even as an unbeliever, been sober minded. Have always, even as an unbeliever, been self controlled. Have always, even as an unbeliever, been respectable. Have always, even as an unbeliever, been hospitable. Have always, even as an unbeliever, not been a drunkard. Have always, even as an unbeliever, not been violent or quarrelsome. Have always, even as an unbeliever, not been a lover of money. Have always, even as an unbeliever, managed his household well."
"This makes absolutely no sense. It requires the fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit in pre-Christian people who by definition did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. It also presents a pragmatic problem, since virtually no one would be elder qualified, due to past choices and lifestyles stemming from a radically different worldview and heart condition. I don’t think the passage could possibly assume one has always been elder qualified, that he has never in the past violated the character requirements of elders, only that he is presently qualified, as a result of the transforming work of God’s Spirit in the man’s life.
So, do we believe the meaning is never having been divorced, i.e. the “husband of one wife, not just now but even as an unbeliever”? If so, what is there in the text (not just our preferential reasons of not wanting to appear to make a concession to our culture) that would cause us not to extend the same interpretive assumption to those other qualifications? " Randy Alcorn
As one man said, tongue in cheek; "Instead of divorcing her, I could have murdered my wife, got a good lawyer and got off in 5 years, repented and rededicated my life to Christ and then become a deacon."