In the August (1995) issue of this bulletin we printed an article titled, "Adultery: It Destroys The Soul." The response from our readers about this article has been overwhelming. Within a month after publication we received over 40 letters and phone calls from brethren commending the article. At the time this issue was sent to the printers we had received only one negative letter about the article.
The section of the article that got the most attention dealt with gospel preachers who had committed the "heinous crime" of adultery. I suggested that these men go back to "making tents" for a living until they, like elders, could "have a good testimony among those who are outside" (1 Timothy 3:7).
There is no question that one guilty of adultery can be forgiven if they genuinely repent of their sin. The church at Corinth had members who formerly were prostitutes, adulterers and homosexuals (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
The brother who took issue with my article had two main objections. First, he thought I overstated my case when I said, "It is a sad fact that many gospel preachers have been guilty of adultery." Second, he had "difficulty finding in the word of God where the restrictions were ever placed upon anyone's serving God faithfully following their sinning (and tearfully correcting the same)."
As for the exact number of preachers who have been guilty of adultery in the last few years I would not even try to guess. Before I wrote the article I sat down and made a list of over 20 preachers who had publicly confessed to this sin in the past few years. I do not know about you, but to me that is a lot! One preacher guilty of adultery would be too many.
Concerning his second point I believe we have a basic, fundamental difference in our understanding of the New Testament. When I read the qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9, I do see "restrictions placed upon anyone's serving God faithfully following their sinning." I do not see how a man guilty of polygamy could ever be qualified to serve as an elder, even after his repentance (see Titus 1:6). Could a drunkard sincerely repent of his drunkenness on Sunday morning and be appointed as an elder on Sunday evening (see Titus 1:7)? If a Christian neglects his own children and gives them to the world by his neglect, would he be qualified to serve as an elder when he repents? What is your understanding of the phrase "having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination" (Titus 1:6). Is this qualification to be cast aside if the man repents of raising children who are "accused of dissipation or insubordination"? Paul said, "For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?" (1 Tim. 3:5). If a man raised reprobate children does he learn how to "take care of the church of God" the moment he repents?
Adultery is different from other sins, at least in its consequences. God has provided only one reason for an individual to divorce their spouse and marry another, that is, sexual immorality (Matt. 19:9). When a man commits adultery his wife no longer has faith, confidence or trust in his fidelity. He has lied to both God and man. Are we to believe that a woman can divorce her husband because he has broken his sacred vows (even if he repents) and yet if he is a preacher the brethren have to support him?
The patriarch Job called adultery a "heinous crime" (Job 31:11). King Solomon said adultery "destroys the soul" (Prov. 6:32). In Proverbs 22:1 he said, "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold." Adultery destroys one's soul and reputation. How long does it take for one to regain his "good name"?