August 17, 2022

Duties of a Pastor’s Wife II

Smiling Bride
It’s interesting how our culture has affected the roles of men and women, and what more fitting a case to look at today than how our culture has affected the Pastor and Pastor’s Wife. It is this couple that many look up to for their standard, their friend, and their confidant.

Let’s start by looking at the Pastor’s Wife. I don’t know that we can find an example of the Pastor’s Wife doing anything in the New Testament. I think that you could make the argument that perhaps Priscilla of Acts 18 is the closest we get, and yet we see her functioning as someone that aided her husband Aquila in training up Apollos and ministering to Paul. She could be the closest we find to the modern day Pastor’s wife, but there seem to be no spiritual qualifications laid out for the Pastor’s wife. There are some for the deacon’s wives:

  • Be Grave – Reverent
  • Not Slanderers – Not speak Maliciously of others
  • Sober – In conduct
  • Faithful in all things

This is a tall order for any woman, and one would think that a pastor’s wife should have these qualities as well– but they are not listed. I know what you’re thinking: Perhaps Paul thought that pastors would not be married. I guess that’s possible that he figured that they would all be devoted to the Word exclusively. And at the same time I can’t help but think that he also believed so much in the Lord’s return in his lifetime that along with his comments about how it was better not to marry this was just something he assumed would be temporary. I’m sure that he could not foresee what is going on now!

The Pastor’s wife’s duties are really defined by their family, and yet the church easily falls into the trap of believing that they are the recipients of a two-for-one deal. They pay for one person to minister and they get two people. In fact, some women are wired this way, and you will find them teaching Sunday School, organizing the nursery, leading Bible Studies, singing, etc. And then you’ll find some that are fine with blending into the background. Are either of these wrong? I don’t think so.

For first and foremost the woman’s place is at his husband’s side, steadying him. She is his helpmeet– not an employee of the church. She must stand on God’s side if her husband is in the wrong, but if it’s a question between a matter at the church and her husband, she should side with him and seek his best interest.

It is her family that comes first. How often have we seen a Pastor’s family ruining his ministry because of their behavior, their sin? I believe that Satan has specific plans to tear pastors down through their family so that they can cease to be effective ministers of the Gospel. The prayer for her family and the raising of her children cannot take a back seat to church ministries (and I would argue the same for deacons and other church leaders).

Pastor’s wives are sinners too, and sometimes face as much of the scrutiny and more of the stress than any other lady in the church in regards to who she has to be friendly to, how she has to dress, and what expectations that can come along with a job you are married to. It’s not that surprising to see rash things when that kind of pressure is on a person.

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23 thoughts on “Duties of a Pastor’s Wife II

  1. I think that the main reason Paul does not speak about the pastor’s wife (and indeed, the pastor) is because the early church did not have that structure. Timothy is the only model we have for the pastor, and earlier churches (e.g. the church at Corinth) clearly allowed a number of different people to speak in the services.

    It may be that the elders of the church assumed the pastoral role in the early church. To this end, we can equate the qualifications for elders in the epistle to Timothy with the qualifications for a pastor. The expectation there is that they would be married (or, perhaps more likely from the mouth of Paul, that if they are married at all, that they are not divorced and remarried).


  2. I agree with Stephen Kingston…

    Also, a note for you MInTheGap, you keep using the word effect, when you mean affect… but anyway, there is a scripture that says that a Deacon’s family life must be in order. He ought to be the leader of their home and he ought to have well behaved children. It is a condition to be considered for deaconship… wish i could remember where that scripture is.

    Mrs. Meg Logan

  3. Thanks for the heads up, Mrs. Logan. I changed the first two “effected” to “affected” but I believe the last one is correct.

    I believe the passage you’re thinking of is 1 Timothy 3:12. That passage was talks about the qualifications of a Deacon and Deacon’s wife.

  4. Stephen has beaten me to the punch about why there seem to be no qualifications for a “pastor”. Good eye! In my own instruction classes a few years ago, we were taught that in the NIV, the word “overseer” could be taken to mean a modern pastor.

    These instructions are also why many churches feel it is fine to have female pastors. I am still praying and struggling with “culture versus scripture” in that regard! While I do not personally feel called to be a pastor, I do feel quite strongly that many churches forbidding even female deaconesses and elders are flat-out wrong because it mentions deaconesses in the Bible.

    As for the duties of a pastor’s wife, I agree with you that she is number one her husband’s helpmeet and wife, and whatever she is called to give to the church beyond that is her own personal/spiritual choice.

  5. As far as deaconesses, I do not have a good explanation except that Paul’s instruction to Timothy was that the Deacons were to have sober wives– hard to have a sober wife if you are a female. Did that change during the New Testament time period, I don’t know. I do know that a lot of the Pastor being a man is that we don’t have any record of anything but a man doing it, and that the Pastor is also charged to have a wife.

  6. In 1 Timothy 3:11, it says, “Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.”

    The problem is the word “wives”. In ancient Greek, and even in contemporary Greek, there is no word for “wife”, that is to say, the word for “woman” is used interchangeably to mean either a woman or a wife. There are other applications, such as female relatives, but as I can’t remember the exact ones, I’ll leave it for now.

    Depending on which early manuscript you are working from, the possessive “their” is sometimes used, sometimes not used. In the New Revised Standard Version, the word “women” is used instead of wives. From what I know of Greek, and from what I believe personally, I am given to think this is the more correct interpretation, with the extrapolation that as men must only have one wife, women would also need to married to only one man. Since women so rarely engaged in polyandry, the writer (Paul) would likely not have thought to mention it.

    But then again, I am an educated, and therefore probably fallen woman, so take my ideas with a grain of salt. 😉

  7. MIn, i think that there is a scripture that names a woman as a deacon. I therefore am of the opinion that it is OK to be a female deacon. I dont know about Elder, and i am pret sure a pastor cannot be a woman, primarily because a woman is commanded to not hold authority over a man and not to teach a man, but it would take me a while to find all that info again….

    Mrs. Meg Logan

  8. I too have heard about women being a deaconness. I have also been taught via Baptistic circles, that Elder, Bishop and Pastor are all same office, just different name/functions. If that’s the case, then I could not see where an Elder could be a woman.

    I have yet, however, to find a Baptist church in the circles I travel to have a Deaconness.

  9. Shari,

    Paul wrote:

    Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

    In the same way, their wives [or women/deaconesses] are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

    You are right that one can make the case for deaconesses from this passage. However, let us not confuse the two ministries. Paul speaks of an overseer or elder first, without any possible reading that the elders would be female. Then he speaks of deacons, and we can certainly admit the possibility from this passage that women could be deaconesses.

    Next there is some difficulty in understanding what the role of a deacon is. In Acts we first come across deacons as people who will wait upon the widows of the Church so that the apostles could be focussed on the ministry of the word. Stephen, the first martyr, was one of these deacons. However, Paul calls himself a deacon of God, because the word simply means “servant”. What was the ministry of service implied by Paul in 1 Timothy? Perhaps not just service to the widows – but not a ministry of oversight – that would be the overseer’s role.

    Remember that this passage about elders and deacons follows directly on from 1 Timothy 2, which has:

    “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”

    So it is not the teaching and oversight ministry that Paul is speaking of if he is allowing women to be deacons. That would be the job of the elders of the Church.

    Timothy took the role of pastor to the Church, but that was a new arrangement not seen elsewhere.

    Now there is an issue of culture in all this. The reading of 1 Timothy is quite clear. The teaching and oversight ministries of Paul’s churches were exclusively male. But in a culture where all such ministries were male, and where temple prostitution was easily confused with female priestesses, one might argue that anything else could be detrimental to the gospel. The question is why Paul had these strictures, and how we interpret them today. To what extent was the prohibition intended to be eternal, and to what extent was it cultural? I shall not comment on that point. Read the passages and honestly come to your own determination.

    Last point: I don’t think Paul was speaking of Polyandry when he says the overseer or deacon must be husband of one wife. This interpretation is problematic, as that would already be the norm for all Christians, and polyandry would be frowned on in Roman culture too. I personally think Paui has in mind the issue of divorce. I think that Paul’s view was that if one divorced and remarried, then in the eyes of God, you are still married to the first spouse too – thus husband to more than one wife.

    I cannot prove that point of view (although it was clearly Paul’s teaching – along with Christ’s – that marriage is a sacred covenant until death parts us), but I find the polyandry reading to be problematic.

  10. Thanks for that insight, Stephen. I think you make a really good case for the difference between the deacon in Acts and the deacon in Timothy, which is fascinating. Being a deacon, one of the things our pastor had us do was attend a deacon training seminar and the first thing on that agenda was a research into the uses of deacon.

    Nearly every passage that we saw had the deacons ministering physically or spiritually (though I believe one could make an argument that one passage actually talked about an office– and it might have been this one in Timothy). In any case, that’s where we put the emphasis, but one wonders (after reading your comment) whether there’s a difference now since we do not have apostles and need to have more oversight.

    Again, thanks for the great comment.

  11. MIn, Are you implying that there are no longer Apostles today? Or just that your church does not have an office of Apostle? Do they have Bishops? or Elders? (obviously you have Deacons).

    Stephen, I agree with your point about polyandry, and Paul really talking about divorce. I believe some versions may actually read, “not having been divorced”. It could mean both things, most likely. Since a man who divorces and remarries is living in sin, (oh i could go look up this verse, but I’m trying to hurry). And it would also be wrong to have more than one wife… (I think). Though for the life of me I don’t know why David and Solomon had so many and weren’t frowned upon by God. You would think that if God were upset with David about it (as He was about the adultery and murder surrounding Bathsheba) that David would have found out one way or another and repented, and we would know about it. So, I don’t know maybe it IS ok to have more than one??

    Very intersting topics and posts ladies and gents.

    Mrs. Meg Logan

  12. According to my understanding there were two requirements for a person to hold the office of Apostle. 1) They had to be a witness to Jesus’ earthly ministry or to Jesus personally and 2) They had to have been called as such. I do not believe there are Apostles among us now.

    My church does not have that office. We have Pastors and Deacons as far as church offices.

    As far as multiple wives– it’s a weird area in my studies of the Bible. Certainly God created one woman for one man. And we don’t have a recorded difference until Lamech, whose claim to fame is his wives and the fact that he’s the second recorded murderer in the Bible– not something that makes polygamy attractive!

    I find nothing but trouble is associated with husbands with multiple wives in the scriptures. You have wives competing for attention with Jacob (and the stuff going on with the siblings selling another into slavery because he was the favorite, etc.), David with Absolom taking his wives (again, trouble also among the siblings), and of course Solomon being lead astray by his wives. I have yet to find a family in Scripture that does not have trouble directly because there were multiple wives.

    However, I also cannot find any exact punishment for the activity, and no direct verse that says “you should only have one wife”– which is kind of amusing to me since it’s such a “given” nowadays. I mean, even “the two shall become one” begs the question– what happens when that “one” marries another?

  13. However, I also cannot find any exact punishment for the activity, and no direct verse that says “you should only have one wife”

    You want Deuteronomy 17:14-17:

    When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” be sure to appoint over you the king the LORD your God chooses. He must be from among your own brothers. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite. The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.

    And I think the evidence of history is that God was right when David and Solomon (and indeed, Saul) did not listen to this. In particular, the troubles between David’s sons were largely precipitated by David’s multiplying wives and concubines to himself.

  14. Thanks Stephen– you’re right, God did command the king to not take many wives. In the same hand, someone arguing their polygamous POV would say “however, I’m not a king, and what’s the difference between a couple and many?” Just like many other times, I believe it’s a principle, I live by it and would say that those that don’t are wrong, but it would be a whole lot easier if God had just said “Only marry one wife.”

  15. MIn,

    Could you show me scripture that says you had to be a personal witness to Jesus to be an apostle?

    I have always understood this position to be active today, and have yet to be convinced otherwise…

    Mrs. Meg Logan

  16. The usual passage that is used in the defence of witnessing Jesus is Acts 1:22. The Disciples listed as one of the qualifications of the ministry and apostleship “must … be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.”

    The other passage that is used is 1 Corintians 9:1 where Paul links having seen Christ and being an apostle.

    Could you define what you believe the office is for and why you believe that it is still in use? I believe that this is one of the gifts that was given at the time for the unique situation they were in– that they had no scriptural teaching at the time for the new covenant (the New Testament was being written), etc.

  17. MIN I really could not support my understanding well… but I think DLOGAN may be able to. This is an area where I am still compeltely teachable. I am of the persuasion that they are still in use, but could be shown otherwise quite easily.

    MRs. Meg Logan

  18. Under my understanding, I believe that the Apostolic office was directly chosen by Christ and had criteria and that they were used for writing the New Testament. Since the New Testament is considered complete and no one alive has seen Christ I don’t believe the office is around anymore. I’m also not believing that the gift of tongues is in wide use like it was in the New Testament as well– but that would be another discussion for another time. 🙂

  19. Pingback: Y Safle » Elders, Overseers and Deacons
  20. could u show me scripture that says pay ur tithe and who are tithe made for ihave always undershood his position to be active today and have yet to be convinced otherwise.

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