Husband of One Wife

by Carl A. Allen

Sometime in 1974 or 1975, while living in Colorado, I was invited to attend a gathering of brethren who believe in the "no Bible Class" arrangement. We met at a prominent restaurant for a noon meal. When I arrived, I noticed the table was filled with two seats empty, one in the center of the table on one side and another in the center on the other side. It was obvious that they wanted me to sit in one of those chairs and the other brother to sit in the other. We were faced off — this preacher on one side and I on the other.

We small talked for a while and in the conversation he made the statement that he believed I Timothy 3:2, "the husband of one wife," was opposing polygamy! When he made that statement, I responded by saying, "Brother, you believe a bachelor can be an elder don't you?" His response was, "Yes I do, but how did you know what I believed about that?" My response was, "The position you took on the `husband of one wife' demanded it!"

At this point the brethren, which were affiliated with him looked at him and said, "Brother you do not believe that do you?" His answer was in the affirmative and from that point there was a lively discussion about elders and their qualifications. I sat back and listened to them discuss this issue with their preacher.

This is what those who believe a bachelor can be an elder have argued. If this passage is opposing polygamy, then it has nothing to do with whether a man is or is not married; so, a bachelor can be an elder. The New Testament does not oppose such, if it is combating polygamy. The thought of a widow is stated in I Timothy 5:9. One of the qualifications is, "the wife of one husband." Now, if "the husband of one wife," is combating polygamy, why would not "the wife of one husband" be combating polyandry? The two stand or fall together. Polyandry (many husbands) was never known in the land of Canaan; so, it could not be forbidding polyandry. That same statement concerning an elder, "husband of one wife," is not combating polygamy! If I wanted to show polygamy wrong I would use other texts to do so — I Corinthians 7:2.

I learned a long time ago that the position you take on a certain passage can lead to a false position. I have tried through the years to become mindful of these positions and avoid them.

I believe the passage in I Timothy 3:2 is talking about a man being married, with a family. When one teaches it is opposing polygamy, he is open to a conclusion he may not want to accept. Be careful of the position you take and make sure it is what the Lord is teaching.