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Insight #102 — Forbidding to Marry

January 3, 2003.

Evil abounds. God have mercy on us all! What denomination has been spared the scandal of sexual immorality among its pastors, priests, ministers, and evangelists? Nor have undenominational churches of Christ been spared. Disgrace is everywhere, from the White House to the Parish House to the common man’s house.

Nevertheless, it cannot be ignored that much of today’s headlines are centered on a denomination that officially forbids its “clergy” to be married. Whereas Holy Scripture demands, “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2), Rome demands that a bishop have no wife.

Which brings us to prophecy. The apostle Paul (voluntarily unmarried) wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “In the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats” (1 Timothy 4:1-3). It is true that these words found fulfillment in certain Gnostic sects of old. It is also true that kindred doctrines exist to this day. “Forbidding to marry,” far from being a holy doctrine, is, to quote the Holy Spirit, among “doctrines of demons,” linked to “lies,” and involves those who have a “conscience seared with a hot iron.”

In short, prophecy tells us that imposed “clerical” celibacy does not come from the Holy Father in Heaven. Indeed, 1 Timothy 3 says more about bishops (elders, pastors) being family men than it says about any other single requirement. Let it be clear that sexual immorality is by no means confined to the auspices of Rome. Nevertheless, today’s headlines offer the opportunity to stress that forbidding church leaders to marry is the direct opposite of God’s will for His church.