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Does My Sexual Past Disqualify Me from Pastoring?

Audio Transcript

Welcome again this Monday. Thanks for listening. Nicely, there are various elements that will disqualify a person from holding the workplace of elder, or pastor, in an area church. And that raises an essential dialogue a couple of man’s historical past. To what extent does a person’s sinful previous come into play in his qualification (or lack of qualification) immediately, particularly when that sin is sexual sin? That’s the query we’ve got from a younger man.

“Pricey Pastor John, hey! Ever since I used to be transformed about 4 years in the past, I’ve felt a powerful need to pursue full-time pastoring. My coronary heart’s need is to serve the Lord and the flock for the remainder of my life. And that need has solely grown extra intense as time goes on. Not solely this, however, on this previous yr, the Lord has set earlier than me the whole lot wanted to pursue this, like seminary coaching and assist from my elders. There’s only one main query I need to reply. Does my pre-conversion lifetime of fornication disqualify me for pastoral ministry now? I’ve repented, however that life was crammed to the brim with sin. In accordance with 1 Corinthians 6:16, I grew to become one flesh with the lady I dedicated this sin with. I’m single now. However contemplating 1 Timothy 3:2, does my sinful previous disqualify me from eldership immediately?”

No, I don’t suppose your previous fornication disqualifies you for ministry, not in and of itself. And the explanation I say it like that’s as a result of it could be a part of what disqualifies you if it had been a part of an ongoing character flaw of bondage to sensuality, or pornography, or lack of self-control. Previous fornication needn’t disqualify from ministry until it’s a part of an ongoing, sinful, unsanctified blemish within the current.

“Previous fornication needn’t disqualify from ministry until it’s a part of a sinful, unsanctified blemish within the current.”

So let me step again then and provides three (I feel it’s simply three) causes from Scripture why I feel that’s true — specifically, why a person who’s rebellious in a season of life, commits fornication, however has been free from that sin and repentant of its ethical and non secular Christ-dishonoring ugliness for lengthy sufficient to show his real newness, why it could be proper to contemplate that man for Christian ministry in Christ’s church.

Paul, the Foremost of Sinners

So right here’s the primary argument. Paul’s instance in his previous life and current ministry with Christ’s blessing is actually fairly astonishing due to the precise use he himself makes of that instance. Paul was complicit in Stephen’s homicide in Acts 7 (see Acts 7:58; 8:1). Then as he grew to become a ringleader within the efforts to stamp out Christianity with imprisonments and murders, it acquired even worse and extra intentional. Acts 9:1–2: “Saul, nonetheless respiration threats and homicide towards the disciples of the Lord, went to . . . Damascus.”

Briefly, Paul was a assassin, and “no assassin has everlasting life abiding in him,” John mentioned (1 John 3:15). Paul’s personal evaluation of his pre-Christian life was that he was the worst, the foremost of sinners. And that God saved him and used him anyway — exactly for instance to others who really feel hopeless about their future potentialities of forgiveness and usefulness — is a treasured actuality in Scripture.

Right here’s the way in which he says it in 1 Timothy 1:15–16: “The saying is reliable and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus got here into the world to avoid wasting sinners, of whom I’m the foremost. However I obtained mercy for that reason” — and that is why it’s so outstanding, as a result of we don’t should make this software; he’s making the appliance — “that in me, because the foremost, Jesus Christ would possibly show his excellent endurance for instance to those that had been to consider in him for everlasting life.”

So Paul offers his personal expertise of mercy for instance that I feel extends to an individual who might not have murdered, however has, in actual fact, dedicated fornication. That’s my first argument.

Husband of One Girl

Second, it’s a bit extra difficult as a result of the younger fellow that we’re coping with right here is sharp. He has studied, and he’s thought by way of the doable blockages to his personal eldership. He’s asking a extra subtle query. He asks on the idea of 1 Corinthian 6:16 whether or not, in actual fact, fornication is a novel type of sin that will exclude from ministry when, in actual fact, homicide might not.

Now that’s a considerate query due to the way in which Paul argues towards fornication in 1 Corinthians 6, and due to 1 Timothy 3:2, to which he refers. In that textual content, Paul says {that a} minister within the church should be “the husband of 1 spouse,” which some translate as “a one-woman man.” That’s fairly frequent paraphrase, a “one-woman man.” In different phrases, our buddy wonders if he can qualify as a one-woman man as a result of he dedicated fornication. That’s the way in which he’s pondering, which is an effective method to suppose — I imply, it’s query to ask. It means he’s not weaseling. He’s not making an attempt to squeak out of the trials of Scripture.

So let me attempt to make clear what I feel Paul means by “husband of 1 girl” (that’s essential in the way in which his argument towards himself is working), and why “one-woman man” could also be a deceptive translation. I’ve plenty of pals that translate it that method, and I’ve misgivings about that translation. Suppose your pastor is single. (Now, I feel that’s authentic: Jesus is single; Paul is single. I feel it’s authentic to have a single man for a pastor.) Suppose your pastor is single, and he commits fornication usually with just one girl. Would he qualify as being a one-woman man? Nicely, good grief. Technically, sure — and everyone knows that’s not what Paul meant.

So translating “a husband of 1 girl” as “one-woman man” can get us into issue if we’re not cautious. Paul actually is coping with marriage, and whether or not a person is trustworthy to his spouse or whether or not he commits adultery.

Is Fornication a Marriage?

Now, the query then turns into, what can we make of Paul’s argument towards fornication in 1 Corinthians 6? Some would possibly say, “Nicely, Paul actually does argue that, in essence, a sexual relationship earlier than marriage is a type of marriage.” Then our younger buddy would possibly draw the conclusion, “Nicely, so I used to be in a way married, and I’m not trustworthy to that lady immediately by not being married to her formally — to not point out that I can’t even get married legitimately if I’m nonetheless married to her due to that outdated relationship.” Is that what Paul meant?

He says in 1 Corinthians 6:13–18, “The physique shouldn’t be meant for sexual immorality [that is, fornication], however for the Lord, and the Lord for the physique. . . . Do you not know that your our bodies are members of Christ?” And right here he’s getting very particular; he means our sexual organs. So our physique components are Christ’s physique components. “Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?” And he cries out, “By no means!” After which right here’s the difficult half. He argues like this: “Or do you not know that he who’s joined to a prostitute turns into one physique together with her?” And he quotes Genesis 2:24, which is about marriage: “For, as it’s written, ‘The 2 will develop into one flesh.’ However he who’s joined to the Lord turns into one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality.” Now that’s the tip of 1 Corinthians 6:13–18.

“What makes fornication so horrible is that it takes the one-flesh design of marriage and prostitutes it.”

So Paul portrays the horror of fornication for the Christian as taking the physique components of Christ, as a result of ours are his, and making them physique components of a prostitute. That’s how intimate and profound sexual activity is in Paul’s apostolic, impressed thoughts: you develop into one physique together with her. What makes the textual content look ominous for our younger buddy is that Paul quotes Genesis 2:24, which is a textual content about marriage: “The 2 will develop into one flesh.” So does Paul imply that, in essence, then, the one who fornicates with a prostitute is married to her? That’s what he wonders. That will exclude him due to 1 Timothy 3:2.

Prostituting Intercourse

My reply is not any, that’s not what Paul means. He may have mentioned that. He doesn’t draw that inference, or that conclusion. That will have been highly effective if he had mentioned that, however he didn’t go there. So what’s he doing?

I feel what he’s doing is that this. He says, “What makes fornication so horrible is that it takes the one-flesh design of marriage and prostitutes it.” He prostitutes that a part of marriage by stripping it out of the covenant relationship of marriage and treating it as if it had been designed for a prostitute. It’s exactly that that is not a wedding that makes the prostitution of Christ’s physique components so horrible. The one-flesh union designed for marriage — which represents Christ and the church, which is why it’s not idolatry to have intercourse in marriage — to take it out of that sacred covenant with a spouse and with Christ and to prostitute it in fornication is what makes this fornication so horrible.

So I conclude that Paul was not treating fornication as a type of marriage. There isn’t any covenant fashioned in any respect with this prostitute, and that’s exactly what makes the sexual similarity to marriage so morally and spiritually ugly. Subsequently, I don’t suppose Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 6 implies that our younger repentant, remodeled buddy ought to use this textual content to argue that he’s excluded from eldership merely due to 1 Timothy 3:2, which says he should be “the husband of 1 [woman].”

Washed, Sanctified, Justified

One final commentary, which can also be treasured. On this identical chapter, Paul particularly refers to fornication as one thing within the church that has been cleansed and forgiven.

Don’t be deceived: . . . the sexually immoral [and he’s referring to fornication there, because later he refers to adulterers] will [not] inherit the dominion of God. And such had been a few of you. However you had been washed, you had been sanctified, you had been justified within the title of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9–11)

To which I say, “Reward God that any of us may be saved from our sin.”

So my conclusion is that the elders of this younger man’s church ought to (and in the event that they’re listening to me, greetings within the title of Jesus) fastidiously and biblically assess his {qualifications} for ministry and never let that previous sin of fornication be decisive in excluding him.


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