Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 28, 1952
NUMBER 17, PAGE 6,9b

Husband Of One Wife

Arthur W. Atkinson, Jr., Dayton, Ohio

An article under the above heading appeared in the June 19, 1952 issue of the Gospel Guardian. The writer was brother Cecil B. Douthitt of Brownwood, Texas. It is needless to say that I disagree with brother Douthitt's conclusion, for if I did not I would not be writing this reply.

Brother Douthitt has attempted to draw a parallel between 1 Cor. 7:2 and 1 Tim. 3:2. In doing this he has made a play on the words "own" (1 Cor. 7:2) and "one." (1 Tim. 3:2 and Titus 1:6) Let us notice the context of 1 Cor. 7:2 and see if the statement therein can be parallel to the teaching of Paul in Timothy and Titus. I do not believe that it is. Paul has already said, with regard to the conduct of man, that "it is good for man not to touch a woman." Thus, the single state of man is approved. (1 Cor. 7:1) Not only in this verse do we find divine approbation for the single state of mankind, but also in verse 8, as we learn of the example of Paul, and the teaching of our Lord in Matt. 19:12. Therefore, under no circumstances could Paul be commanding marriage as an absolute necessity, whether the word "own" is in the verse or left out.

But let us next notice this. The same thing the verse requires of a Christian with the word "own," it also requires of him without the word "own." Paul is not in these verses legislating as to whether or not a man has a right to take another man's wife — but rather is showing the way to avoid fornication. He is indicating here, as he does elsewhere, that marriage is an honorable estate and that it is desirable for mankind to enter into this state "to avoid fornication." Let us read the verse without the "own." "Nevertheless to avoid fornication, let every man have his — wife..." Is not this the way to avoid fornication? Yes. But someone may now say the verse does not now forbid a man from taking someone else's wife. It is true that this verse does not, but this has already been severely condemned in 1 Cor. 5:1-9. The word "own" in 1 Cor. 7:2 only adds to what has already been said in 1 Cor. 5:1-9 and was not inserted in the verse to qualify it in any sense.

My conclusion then is that Paul is stating in 1 Cor. 7:1,2 that those who cannot live chastely unmarried should enter into marriage "to avoid fornication." I cannot see how the word "own" adds or subtracts anything from the original principle that is being taught.

Now let us progress to 1 Tim. 3:2, "A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, . . ." Is Paul here giving us a principle to be followed as a way to avoid fornication? No. Has Paul ever stated that it is good for an elder never to have touched a woman, as he did in the previous case? No. Has he ever intimated that an elder should or could be unmarried? I think not. Then what is Paul teaching us here? Perhaps if we had but this one verse there could be some doubt as to whether Paul is just condemning polygamy or whether he is indicating that a bishop MUST be married and to but ONE wife. But as we study further we see other qualifications set forth which would require that the bishop be a married man. They are:

1. "One that ruleth well his own house . . ." (1 Tim. 8:4)

2. "having his children in subjection with all gravity." (1 Tim. 3:4)

How can a man rule well his own house if he has none? How can he have his children in subjection if he has none? The answer, of course, is obvious, he cannot. So in doing away with one qualification, (that of being married) we also have to forget about two more. Brother Douthitt quotes from brother David Lipscomb to disprove the necessity of a man having to have a family to get the training desired by the Lord. How else would he get it? Could he take and rule someone else's children? Could he take another man's wife into a house and call it a home and rule his own house? I believe these questions are in order.

I am not in the habit of quoting fallible men who have lived in the days past, regardless of their scholarship, to prove my points. However, since brother Douthitt has added prestige to his theory through the quotation of David Lipscomb, allow me to present an equally learned man's comment. J. W. McGarvey states: "To Timothy and Titus both, the apostle prescribes that the overseer shall be the husband of one wife. There has been a vast amount of disputation as to whether this requires him to be a married man. It is alleged, in opposition to this idea, that when churches were planted among a people practicing polygamy, men would frequently be immersed who had a plurality of wives and that the apostle intends only to prohibit such from being overseers. Undoubtedly the use of the numeral one in the text has this force, and it would be unlawful to place a polygamist or bigamist in the office. But while the expression has this force, we think that candor requires the admission that it also has the effect of requiring a man to be a married man. That he should be the husband of one wife, forbids having less than one as clearly as it forbids having more than one." THE ELDERSHIP, by J. W. McGarvey, p. 56. McGarvey and Lipscomb rank on an equal plane in at least this one respect — they are both fallible men. One is as likely to err as the other, thus neither can be used to prove a point one way or the other. Let us then dispense with both Lipscomb and McGarvey and listen to the inspired Paul.

Brother Douthitt seems to think that since Paul was not behind Peter in anything, he must have been an elder as was Peter. (2 Cor. 12:11; 1 Peter 5:1) Is that necessarily so? I think not. Paul is not here saying that he was everything that Peter was or that he did everything that Peter did. Peter preached the first gospel sermon ever preached. (Acts 2:) Peter was the first one to preach to the Gentiles. (Acts 10:) Paul could have neither of these honors and yet in some way he was not behind the chiefest of apostles. Brother Douthitt, are you not straining the scripture quite a bit in attempting to make this prove that Paul was an elder. I am sure that you know that Paul has been defending his apostleship and that he is herein (2 Cor. 12:11) showing further proof that he was an apostle. He was not behind any of them (the apostles) with regard to his apostleship, but perhaps was behind them in other affairs. I doubt if Paul knew as much as Peter about the fishing business and yet, according to brother Douthitt's reasoning he would have to or he would be behind him. Paul is proving his apostleship and not that he was an elder.

Peter wrote two epistles. In one of them he tells us that he is an elder. Paul wrote thirteen for sure and perhaps fourteen and yet not once did he mention that he was an elder. I believe that there was a reason for his silence. He undoubtedly was not one. He could not fulfill all the qualifications set forth. (The three in question)

Brother Douthitt thinks that this is an arbitrary command. Undoubtedly his reason for so thinking is because it disagrees with his theory. Many sectarians look upon baptism as being an arbitrary command but then that does not change the force of the command. Simply because such men as Paul, Lipscomb, and Kurfees are left out does not make the command arbitrary. Nor does it change the force of the command. The verb still reads the same, "a bishop must ... be the husband of one wife."

Well, I have written as brother Douthitt desired. I have not by any means covered the subject fully. Perhaps I have not answered brother Douthitt's arguments as fully as he would like. If this is the case I would be glad to go more in detail. I believe that I have covered them well enough to show the fallacy of his reasoning. If brother Douthitt and others are not satisfied I will be glad to go into the subject more fully.