This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you - if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
I think there was still a lot of mileage to be gotten out of “blameless” because of who we are and how we think in the English-speaking world these days, but I’ll appear to let it lie and move on to the next clause here – “the husband of one wife”.
Those of you reaching for your Greek NT will hastily point out that the ESV does something rather, um, dynamic or functional here rather than literal, for the Greek saith, “μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἀνήρ” – “a one-woman man”. Fair enough, yes? In one sense, I think it’s somewhat unquestionable that Paul is here saying the candidate for Elder is a man with only one wife rather than a practitioner of polygamy.
But I think that Paul is saying something here which, as he is prone, is short-hand for something he spends some time elsewhere saying in a more robust way:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.Yes: fine. A “one-woman man”. But to Paul, the mystery of marriage is a symbol or expression of the church. Therefore, a man who discharges his duties as a husband rightly is therefore uniquely qualified to lead the church.
Most of the time we fly over these three Greek words as if they are about whether or not a guy has been divorced or remarried or not – but I think (especially given what follows here) that Paul means something so much more theologically and practically brilliant: those who are qualified to lead the church are those who can prove they know Christ’s love by being examples of it in marriage.
Can a guy love one woman as Christ loved the church? Because that’s the guy who should be setting things right in a church like Crete, and a church like the one you are in charge of, dear pastor reader.