The Husband of One Wife


By Daniel M. Doriani

Paul’s statement that an overseer must be “the husband of but one wife” seems clear, but there has been considerable debate about Paul’s precise message. Literally, the Greek says an overseer must be “a one-woman man.” This short remark can mean one of four things:

Option 1: Paul believed overseers had to be married men. Of course, most Christian leaders are married, but why would Paul make this an absolute requirement? After all, he was single himself and he was an overseer of the church. Further, Jesus, the supreme leader of the church, was unmarried. Surely we don’t want to say that Jesus lacked the necessary qualifications to lead (it’s not a good idea to present leadership criteria that Jesus doesn’t meet). Finally, Paul commended celibacy for those with the gift, because it increases freedom for service (1 Cor. 7).* So Paul must have meant something else.

Option 2: Paul believed overseers may marry only once in a lifetime. That is, any man who has divorced and remarried cannot be a Christian leader. Certainly, divorce is a great evil and the leadership potential of an adult Christian is damaged by it. But the problem with the once-in-a-lifetime view is that it also forbids widowers from marrying, and that seems like a gratuitous legalism. The Bible grants widows and victims of infidelity the right to remarry elsewhere (Matt. 19; Rom. 7; 1 Cor. 7), and Paul would not contradict that.

Option 3: Paul believed overseers must be monogamous. This is certainly true; polygamy was already illegal in the Roman Empire and very few practiced it at that time. Why would Paul bother to forbid a sin no one committed? Again, he must have had more in mind.

Option 4: Paul believed overseers must be faithful husbands. Leaders must be monogamous (above), but more, they should be exemplary husbands. This makes sense in both Paul’s day and our own. A very similar passage in 1 Timothy 5:9 supports this view. There Paul says a widow who receives financial aid from the church should have been “the wife of one husband” (esv). The Greek reads: “a one-man woman.” In context, this clearly means she was a faithful wife. Here, at last, a familiarity with country music promotes Christian thinking. Paul is describing what country music might call “a one-man woman,” as in the saying, “I was a one-man woman, but he was a twotimin’ man.” When Paul requires a leader to be “the husband of but one wife,” it means he should be a “one-woman man”; that is, a faithful man.

From time to time, a man sidles up to me and complains, “I just don’t understand women,” as if his ignorance of the female of the species accounts for his marital woes. But this is a mistake. Husbands, Paul does not ask you to understand “women” as if they were a field of academic study. You must first know, love, and serve one woman, your wife, working to understand her and use your knowledge to love her in every way. After that, perhaps we can try to understand, love, and serve the other women God places in our lives.

* If someone wants to read 1 Timothy 3:2 hyper-literally and demand that elders have one wife, then they should also require that elders have two or more children, since 3:4 says elders must keep their children in respectful submission.

This excerpt is taken from The New Man: Becoming a Man After God’s Heart by Daniel M. Doriani


The Old in the New: Hosea 2 and Matthew 11


The following is an excerpt from Dennis Johnson’s new book, Walking with Jesus through His Word.

The Holy Spirit has provided several signals to mark the route from ancient individuals, events, institutions, and offices to their fulfillment in Jesus, his work, and his people. Among the most obvious are Old Testament passages that New Testament writers explicitly quote and apply to Christ. Sometimes the Old Testament quotation is introduced with a formula such as “this was to fulfill,” or “so it is written.” In the early chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, for example, “this was to fulfill” introduces not only promises expressed in words (prophecy) but also promises embodied in historical events (type). This formula introduces the predictive words of the prophet Micah, that Israel’s future Ruler would come from Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2, quoted in Matt. 2:6). But it also prefaces the words of Hosea, “Out of Egypt I called my son” (Hos. 11:1, quoted in Matt. 2:15), which look back to a past event, Israel’s exodus from Egypt through Moses. Some scholars accuse Matthew of taking Hosea’s words out of context, forcing them to predict an event that was future to the prophet, when Hosea himself was looking back to the exodus long before his time. What such critics do not see is the deeper matrix that links God’s protection of Israel, his adoptive son, at the exodus to his preservation of Jesus, the Father’s unique Son. Matthew’s point is that Jesus fulfills Israel’s early history because he is the true Israel, delivered from death as an infant, brought out of Egypt, and tested in the wilderness (and successfully passing the test that Israel had failed). By affirming that Hosea’s words are “fulfilled” in the young Jesus’ return from Egypt with his parents, Matthew does not claim that Hosea’s words fit Jesus instead of Israel, but rather that they fit Jesus because he himself is Israel’s fulfillment.

Among the individuals, institutions, and events that are identified in the New Testament as fulfilled in Christ through explicit quotation of and commentary on Old Testament passages are the creation of Adam (1 Cor. 15:45, quoting Gen. 2:7), the union of Adam and Eve in marriage (Eph. 5:31, quoting Gen. 2:24), the Passover lamb (John 19:36, quoting Ex. 12:46), David’s betrayal by a close friend (John 13:18, quoting Ps. 41:9; cf. Acts 1:20), the groundless hatred of David’s enemies (John 15:25, quoting Ps. 35:19), opponents gambling over David’s garments (John 19:24, quoting Ps. 22:18), the transmission of proverbial wisdom by Israel’s sages (Matt. 13:35, quoting Ps. 78:2), Israel’s deafness to the prophets’ words (Matt. 13:14–15, quoting Isa. 6:9–10), and the grief of Judah’s exile (Matt. 2:18, quoting Jer. 31:15). Even this brief sampling gives us a glimpse of the complex texture of interconnections that link Israel’s history to Jesus as the fulfillment of that history.


The Old in the New: The Son of Man and the Serpent


The following is an excerpt from Dennis Johnson’s new book, Walking with Jesus through His Word.

In conversation with Nicodemus, a representative of the council of Judaism’s leaders (John 3:1; 7:50), Jesus suddenly turned the topic from Nicodemus’s need of birth from above, by God’s Spirit, to his own coming death as fitting the pattern of an incident in Israel’s past: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (3:14–15).

The incident, no doubt well known to Nicodemus as “the teacher of Israel,” is recorded in Numbers 21:4–9. When the Israelites complained (yet again!) about the Lord’s provision of food and water, God judged their toxic unbelief and discontent by sending poisonous serpents into their camp. Many Israelites died of snakebite, moving the survivors to repent and beg for rescue from the serpents’ venom. Perhaps surprisingly, the Lord commanded Moses to fashion the image of his holy judgment into a means of his salvation:

And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. (Num. 21:8–9)

In order to be saved from death, the people had to look at the symbol of the curse they deserved; and they had to believe God’s promise that by looking, they would live. In its Old Testament context, to seek life by looking in faith on the emblem of God’s judgment was to confront, honestly and humbly, the poisonous consequence of their rebellious discontent. This is not primitive magic, not primitive superstitious homeopathy in which fixation on venomous snakes cures venomous snakebites. Later in Israel’s history, in fact, when the bronze serpent cast by Moses was misused as an object of worship, the faithful King Hezekiah smashed it into pieces (2 Kings 18:4). So there remains something shocking about the Lord’s instruction to cast an image of the thing that was causing death and to summon sufferers to look at it in order to escape that death. In the frame of reference of the Israelites’ wilderness generation and their children, Moses’ readers, the bronze serpent posed a puzzling question: how could a cursed thing set people free from its curse?

The answer to that dilemma would be seen centuries later, when the Son of Man was lifted up on a Roman cross in a form of execution that, as Jews had learned from the ancient Scriptures, emblemized God’s curse. To Nicodemus, Jesus simply pointed out the pattern that linked the bronze serpent in Moses’ day to his own upcoming “lifting up” on the cross (John 8:28; 12:32–33). The apostle Paul would write that in order to redeem us from the curse that the law pronounces on its violators, “Christ . . . [became] a curse for us,” even as Moses had written in Deuteronomy 21:23, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Gal. 3:10, 13). Between Moses and Paul in God’s unfolding revelation, Isaiah described a Suffering Servant who was so wounded and disfigured that others turned away from him, rejecting him as “stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted,” although his grief was caused by their iniquities and his wounds brought them healing (Isa. 53:2–6).

In that nighttime conversation, Jesus pointed Nicodemus, one of Judaism’s premier biblical scholars, to a road sign planted centuries earlier in the Sinai desert and the fourth book of Moses, in the historical experience of God’s unruly but beloved people. The term type does not appear in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. Yet the substance of typology—patterns woven into the fabric of Israel’s history, drawing hope forward toward God’s great rescue through the promised Rescuer—is expressed in Jesus’ simple analogy: “as Moses lifted up . . . , so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3:14).


Author Interview with Dennis Johnson

This week’s author interview is with Dennis Johnson, author of the newly released, Walking with Jesus through His Word (as well as four other P&R titles: Triumph of the Lamb, Him We Proclaim, The Message of Acts in the History of Redemption, and Philippians in the REC Series).
Walking ImageJohnson_Dennis

  • Question #1 – Tell us a little bit about yourself: where you’re from, family, job, personal interests, unique hobbies, what do you do in your spare time, etc.

I was born and grew up in southern California and attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, where I met my wife, Jane. We married the day after we graduated, were dorm parents that summer as I taught a beginning course in Greek, then drove across the U.S. for me to attend Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. After receiving my M.Div., I pastored Orthodox Presbyterian Churches in New Jersey and then (back home) in East Los Angeles. We have four adult children, all married, and 16 grandchildren. Our most recent is a granddaughter, Claire, adopted by our daughter and son-in-law in China in October 2014 and now getting acquainted with her older brothers and sister, as well as Mom and Dad, in Colorado.

  • Question #2 – Which writers inspire you?

I greatly admire the clarity of expression and simple elegance that I see in the theological and apologetic works of C. S. Lewis, J. Gresham Machen, and J. I. Packer. John Piper’s exultant joy in the majesty of God whets my spiritual appetite to know my Savior better.

  • Question #3 – Did you always enjoy writing?

For me, starting to write almost anything is agony (even when I am passionate about the topic), and then continuing to write it is a blend of drudgery and (now and then) exhilaration (when the words seem to “flow” and to “fit”). But then having finished writing something brings at least a sense of relief, and at best a sense of grateful delight. I have always enjoyed reading well-crafted literature, and was an English literature major in college. I think that exposure to authors who handle the language well has helped me develop a mental “ear” for clarity and vividness. I aim for these qualities, often miss, but occasionally am happily surprised to re-read something I wrote earlier and to find it moving.

  • Question #4 – Do you have a specific spot that you enjoy writing most?

Although I don’t do all my writing there, I have a wonderful, snug study at home with a desk with vast amounts of surface space (when I haven’t cluttered it with piles of papers and books that I intend to read soon). It’s quiet, not far from our kitchen (coffee, snacks, etc.), and I can hear children play on the school playground that our back yard overlooks.

  • Question #5 – What book are you reading now?

I am finishing the fourth and final volume of Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga, The Warden and the Wolf King, so that I can interact by email with some of my grandchildren, who are also reading it in the various distant places where they live. After I finish this, I plan to read Marilynne Robinson’s recent novel, Lila, having enjoyed her earlier books such as Gilead.

  • Question #6 – Do you have a favorite author? Who is it and why?

Among biblical scholars and theologians, I would be hard pressed to name a “favorite.” I learn much from the writings of John Murray, especially the care with which he drew doctrinal insights from the text of God’s Word; and from J. I. Packer’s articulation of biblical truth with precision, balance, and (again) fidelity to the Scriptures. Geerhardus Vos’s style is daunting, but his insights into the redemptive-historical unity and development of the Bible are worth the effort. I also greatly appreciate G. K. Beale’s and R. T. France’s sensitivity to the interrelationship of the Old and New Testaments. David Powlison and Ed Welch make me wise in the depths and complexities of the human heart—my own heart—and show me how God’s grace in the gospel meets our most profound needs for the comfort and cure of our souls.

Among poets, my favorite is George Herbert, the Anglican pastor and metaphysical poet of the 17th century. Not only does Herbert use words strategically, sparingly, and intriguingly, but also his poems display transparency in his relationship to God and wonder over God’s grace in Christ. Behind him would come Robert Frost, who almost makes me see what it’s like to live in New England and among New Englanders, and Gerard Manley Hopkins, whose word-portraits take me by surprise.

I also enjoy murder mysteries. Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey has long been my favorite sleuth, but over the last year I must confess that Lord Peter has come up against stiff competition from Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of Quebec. Gamache recruits for his homicide team losers who have alienated their superiors in other departments. Then he tries to rehabilitate them by teaching them that they will become wise and do well if they can bring themselves to say—and mean—four simple sentences: I don’t know. I need help. I’m sorry. I was wrong.

  • Question #7 – What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Find an astute personal proofreader/editor who will not only catch your grammatical flaws (better than your computer’s spell-check function) but also tell you frankly when your writing is not making sense or uses too many words. I discovered and married such an editor almost 45 years ago, having served as her assistant editor on our college newspaper. So I benefit from her expertise at bargain rates. She gives my efforts that perfect blend of encouragement and critique that makes the product better, even before I dare send it off to a publisher.

  • Question #8 – Do you have a favorite book that you have written?

I have heard most often that Triumph of the Lamb, my commentary on Revelation, and Him We Proclaim, my introduction to Christ-centered preaching (both P&R titles), along with Counsel from the Cross, which Elyse Fitzpatrick and I co-authored, have been helpful to other Christians and to pastors. Whenever a pastor tells me that he is daring to preach through the whole book of Revelation or that he sees better how to connect Old Testament texts to their fulfillment in Jesus, I am grateful. Since others have found these titles useful, they are my favorites.

  • Question #9 – How do you deal with writer’s block?

Writer’s block threatens me at two points. First, when I’ve done a lot of reading on a subject but the ideas and information are swirling around chaotically in my mind, I find that I need to step back and force myself to focus on how to structure what I have been learning in a way that makes sense to me and, I hope, to others. So I have to work on outlining, identifying main themes and then subpoints under those themes, to begin to break down the big, daunting whole task into a series of smaller tasks that are sensibly related to each other. (I may end up rearranging the order that I first came up with, as the structure of what I have to say becomes clearer in the writing.)

When I have sorted out ideas and themes and organized their relationships by outlining, then the second phase of writer’s block sometimes sets in: It’s the challenge of coming up with the first sentence, to start a chapter or a subsection of a chapter. The only way that I’ve found to break through this block is simply to start composing on my computer, realizing that I don’t have to get the opening sentence “perfect” directly out of the gate. If I just get myself into the thought process somehow or other, I’ll have plenty of time to refine or replace that opening sentence later on.

  • Question #10 – If you have a favorite book of the Bible, what is it and why?

Right now, it’s Philippians, because I’ve been “living” with Paul under house arrest in Rome for the last several years as I preached and wrote on his letter. Long term, Hebrews is at the top of my list, since it shows how Jesus is the destination toward whom so much of the Old Testament has always been pointing—not only his reconciling work as our priest, but also his revealing work as the Son who exceeds the prophets, and his kingly task of disarming and destroying our enemy the devil.

  •  Question #11 – Favorite food?

Scallops, either breaded and fried or else grilled. Happily, we have a terrific seafood restaurant only 20 minutes from our home.


Want to learn more about Dennis Johnson?


See more at:

BOOK HIGHLIGHT – Kingdoms Apart edited by Ryan C. McIlhenny

Kingdoms Apart: Engaging the Two Kingdoms Perspective
edited by Ryan C. McIlhenny

336 pages | $24.99 | Paperback | Published: 2012

To read a sam­ple chap­ter of the book, click HERE

To read the table of con­tents, click HERE

Summary: The subject of Christ and culture has occupied the church since its inception. Some emphasize the reality of redemption and the imperative of cultural transformation; others criticize this approach because of the transient nature of this current life and the specific function of “kingdom” activity.

This project focuses on the two competing positions rooted in the Reformed tradition: neo-Calvinism, a nineteenth-century school of thought associated with the Calvinist polymath Abraham Kuyper, and the Two Kingdoms perspective.

How you think on this issue will affect how you interact with the culture around you. It’s an important debate because we want to speak God’s words fairly into that culture.

What Others Say About This Book:
“This is not only an academic debate. The outcome of the debate will have broad implications for Christian schools, colleges, seminaries, and churches and for Christians in the academy, politics, business, the arts, and other realms of cultural activity.”
Gideon Strauss, Senior Fellow, Center for Public Justice, Washington, DC


“I have prayed for wise and courageous scholars to step up—and step into—this fraternal debate within the Reformed Christian community concerning Two Kingdoms. I am praising God, therefore, for . . . Kingdoms Apart.
Michael A. Milton, Chancellor/CEO, James M. Baird, Jr. Professor of Pastoral Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary


“A very fine collection of essays . . . a valuable and constructive advance in the often heated debates surrounding the themes it treats.”
Al Wolters, Professor of Religion and Theology/Classical Languages, Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ontario


“This book engages this conversation, and deserves a careful hearing by all who believe God has made Jesus of Nazareth the rightful and ultimate king of everything.”
Russell D. Moore, Dean, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary


About The Editor:

Ryan C. McIlhenny (Ph.D., University of California, Irvine) is Professor of History and Humanities at Providence Christian College in Pasadena, California.


Our mis­sion is to serve Christ and his church by pro­duc­ing clear, engag­ing, fresh, and insight­ful appli­ca­tions of Reformed theology.