Do pre-conversion sins (sins committed before you’re saved) matter in this life? Do our sins follow into eternity or have any implications for this life today, or is the slate wiped clean once we’re saved?
What does the Bible say about pre-conversion sins?
I’m all for God’s amazing grace and—positionally—Christians are forever set free from the yoke and burden of our sins, but the question remains: What significance do our past actions have after we’re saved (pre-conversion sins)?
What if you were divorced once or twice, or a murderer, or a rapist, or a child molester, or cheated on your taxes, or…
Get the picture?
How would you answer the following:
There are a growing number of respected Bible-believing church members and church officers who believe that qualifications for pastor and deacon do not apply to a candidate for the period in his life before he received salvation; qualification criteria apply only after salvation. What do you think?
My Thoughts On The Matter
I personally believe that pre-conversion criteria are to be taken into consideration and certainly apply when determining whether or not a man would qualify to hold the position of a pastor or deacon. Many may disagree with me, and that’s okay.
I endorse the plain, Scriptural teaching that God is in absolute sovereign control over every detail in this universe. If God were not in total control over all things, He could not be God. Therefore, I support the belief and understanding that God (can, does, and has) specifically intervenes and/or providential directs people and events in order to secure any outcome that He desires.
Because this is the case, it is my belief that since God chose (elected/called/foreordained) those whom He would save before the foundation of the world (c.f. Ephesians 1:4), and that He would appoint some of them to lead the church as pastors or deacons, that He could sovereignly (and providentially) control the events in those few people’s lives to ensure that sins such as child molestation, adultery and divorce would never transpire, thus disqualifying such persons from future church leadership. Therefore, I believe that certain unalterable pre-conversion actions may (and sometimes do) automatically disqualify a man from serving as a pastor or deacon in a local church.
Character Qualifications For Church Leadership
The spiritual and character qualifications for a man who aspires to the office of pastor are detailed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. Although Scripture is clear concerning these character qualifications, many today are advocating that we abandon all efforts to examine the nature of a candidate’s pre-conversion life, particularly their social life, marital history, and/or sexual infidelity. They insist we appoint men to leadership positions in the church based upon selective, present-tense circumstances only. Proponents of this view often do so on the basis of the apostle Paul’s (Saul’s) pre-conversion persecution of Christians, and his language found in 1 Timothy 3:2 which says that the man must be “the husband of one wife.”
Regarding the “husband of one wife” issue first, it is my opinion that such people not only misinterpret this qualification, but that they also fail to take the other qualifications into consideration, particularly:
- “A bishop must be blameless” (vs.2)
- that he be “one who rules his own house well…(for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)” (vs.5)
- “he must have a good testimony among those who are outside” (vs.7).
I believe that when these qualifications are taken into consideration, individually or as a whole, it is unbiblical to allow a man to serve as pastor who is not blameless, can’t rule his own house well, or has a poor testimony with those outside the church. After all, the pastor is to be a spiritual leader in the church, living a blameless lifestyle that church members should strive to imitate—not be ashamed of.
The “Husband Of One Wife”
Discussion concerning the “husband of one wife” qualification has lead to four general interpretations:
- pastors must be married
- pastors must not be polygamists
- pastors must have married only once in their life
- pastors must be sexually pure and therefore totally committed to their wife (biblical monogamy)
Pastors Must Be Married
Proponents of the first interpretation (pastors must be married) believe that a man must, in fact, be married in order to pastor. They insist that, for example, a single man (never married) would be unqualified to pastor, and also that a man who became a widower while serving as a pastor would immediately become disqualified to remain a pastor.
If this were true, then Jesus Christ Himself would not qualify to be a pastor!
The apostle Paul was, himself, a single man at the time he wrote 1 Corinthians, for while explaining that being single has its advantage, he wrote, “For I wish that all men were even as myself” (1 Corinthians 7:7). Moreover, in verse eight he wrote, “But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them to remain even as I am.” Paul was not only an apostle but also a pastor, for he served in that pastoral office at Ephesus for three years (c.f. Acts 20:31). Therefore, Paul would certainly not be commanding Timothy to examine and appoint potential pastors on the basis of what he himself was not qualified to undertake.
Pastors Must Not Be Polygamists
Proponents of the second interpretation (pastors must not be polygamists) fail to realize that such a person could not even be a church member, let alone a pastor. Polygamists (adulterers) are not eligible for church membership, let alone church leadership.
Pastors Must Have Married Only Once In Their Life
Proponents of the third interpretation interpret the phrase to mean that a man could marry only once in their lifetime and that remarriage is not an option for a widower. Scripture does not teach that remarriage for a widower renders a man no longer above reproach. Furthermore, Paul even warned Timothy a chapter later that some false teachers were actually “forbidding to marry” (1 Timothy 4:3), and that such men have departed “from the faith” (vs.1).
A Pastor Must Be Sexually Pure And Therefore Totally Committed To His Wife
Proponents of these first three interpretations fail to understand that the requirement of “husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2) is a moral character qualification and not an issue of marital status. I believe the proper interpretation of this qualification means that the potential pastor is to be a “one-woman man” and refers to his sexual purity, not marital status. It means he is to be solely devoted to one woman if (and while) married.
Question: What do you think about pre-conversion sins? Do they matter for church leadership?
* Image credit: Marian Trinidad (Creation Swap)