Does the death of an Elder’s wife disqualify him?

Q. Hi Mike, recently one of our elders lost his wife to cancer. Does her death disqualify him from continuing to serve? If he should remarry would he still be qualified, or would that violate the “husband of one wife” qualification.”

Let’s look at the qualifications listed in 1 Tim. 3

1 Tim. 3:1-7
1* ¶ It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.
2* An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
3* not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.
4* He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity
5* (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),
6* and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.
7* And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

The totality of the Bible teaching on this subject is found here in verse two, read it again, “An overseer, then, must be…..the husband of one wife…” This passage of Scripture does not answer the specific question asked.

The question then becomes, “What does the husband of one wife mean?” There is not a single passage in Scripture which answers this question. (See: “What Does ‘Husband of One Wife’ mean when applied to an Elder or a Deacon?”)

There are some obvious limitations to the phrase “husband of one wife.” Neither a polygamist or a bachelor is the “husband of one wife,” although I have heard some try to stretch the meaning for deacons to include bachelors by saying that a bachelor may be in heart a “one-woman-man” and thereby be qualified to serve as a deacon, but I doubt that this is close to the original meaning.

The real question then becomes “what about the elder whose wife has died? Is he no longer the husband of one wife? If not, would an elder whose children died have to cease to serve because he no longer has believing children. It is difficult for me to believe that a man who is qualified and who is faithfully serving suddenly becomes unqualified because his wife dies.

Jack Lewis, a great Bible professor, says in one of his books:

“In general when men have asked the Bible a question the writer was not answering, they merely confirmed themselves in a position they had already consciously or unconsciously taken on other bases”

I think he is right on target. Questions like these must be decided by the local congregation on the basis of the individuals qualifications and his effectiveness in serving. What kind of man is the individual under consideration? What is his influence. What does the congregation and the rest of the eldership think of his serving? Elders do not become elders because they are placed before the congregation with the announcement, “Here are your elders.” Elders become elders because the congregation recognizes the men as Pastors.

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