Does The Bible Say It’s A Sin For The Clergy To Be Married?

Here’s today’s Scripture of the Day.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

1 Timothy 4:1-3

Paul wrote that around A.D. 62-64.

Fast forward to A.D. 305 and the catholic Council of Elvira, a meeting of nineteen bishops and twenty-six presbyters (never mind that the New Testament refers to bishops and presbyters as the same thing – Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-2; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9) in which around eighty-one canons were recorded (never mind the fact that the New Testament specifically condemns adding to it in any way – Gal. 1:6-10; 1 Cor. 4:6; Rev. 22:18-19).  Among them was Canon 33, which read:

It is decided that marriage be altogether prohibited to bishops, priests, and deacons, or to all clerics placed in the ministry, and that they keep away from their wives and not beget children; whoever does this, shall be deprived of the honor of the clerical office.

Fast forward eighty-five years to A.D. 390 and the catholic Council of Carthage, who also added to God’s Word by decreeing Canon 3:

It is fitting that the holy bishops and priests of God as well as the Levites, i.e. those who are in the service of the divine sacraments, observe perfect continence, so that they may obtain in all simplicity what they are asking from God; what the Apostles taught and what antiquity itself observed, let us also endeavour to keep… It pleases us all that bishop, priest and deacon, guardians of purity, abstain from conjugal intercourse with their wives, so that those who serve at the altar may keep a perfect chastity.

Around this time Pope Siricius “asserted that clerical sexual abstinence was an apostolic practice that must be followed by ministers of the church.”  Never mind the fact that the apostle Peter and other apostles were married (1 Cor. 9:5; cf. Matt. 8:14-15).

Peter was a presbyter, a bishop, by the way (1 Pet. 5:1-4).  According to the New Testament, bishops/presbyters MUST be married and have children (1 Tim. 3:1-4; Tit. 1:6).  So must deacons (diakonos, ministers), according to the New Testament (1 Tim. 3:11-12).

But who cares what God said, right?  Not the people who want to get their itching ears scratched.  Check this out:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

2 Timothy 4:3-4

Amazing how God knew this would happen and inspired Paul to prophesy about it ahead of time isn’t it?

God wanted church leaders to be married.  Self-centered man wanted something else.  In the end, who will be proven right?  To ask is to answer, but let’s see what Jesus himself said.

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?”  And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

Matthew 7:21-23

3 thoughts on “Does The Bible Say It’s A Sin For The Clergy To Be Married?

  1. Everyone ought to be married, I believe the New Testament almost says. Look these up in Strong’s Concordance. “Every man should have a wife,” and “Every woman should have a husband.” Yes, there is a silly conversation elsewhere in the N.T., but there’s also a ruling that the leaders of congregations ought to be “husbands of one wife.”

    1. In 1 Corinthians 7:2, “every” (or “each,” as some translations have it) comes from hekastos, which Strong defines as “each or every: — any, both each (one), every (man, one, woman), particularly.”

      If you take how hekastos is used in verse 2 by itself, I can see why you would conclude that everyone ought to be married. However, just a few verses later Paul uses the same term in correlation with his divinely inspired wish that all men were single like him. Even though making that wish, Paul says that “each man” (hekastos) has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that” (v. 7). Immediately afterwards in verse 8, Paul tells those who are unmarried that “it is good for them if they remain even as I” (single, not married), before telling them to get married if they do not have self-control over their sexual urges (v. 9). This divinely inspired advice about remaining unmarried has to do with “the present distress” (v. 26), likely persecution. If it were God’s will that everyone should be married, then He would not have inspired Paul to give this advice, nor would He have been pleased with Paul being unmarried himself.

      It is true that leaders of congregations must be husbands of one wife (1 Tim. 3:2), but that verses does not say every man in the congregation must be husbands of one wife. There is a difference.

      Finally, since all Scripture is inspired by God, I’m not sure it is prudent to refer to any of it as “a silly conversation.”

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