Dialogs and Commentary

An Adulterous Pastor?

An email answer from Dean VanDruff to a deacon concerning confusion about what to do about a pastor taken in adultery.

2Co 13:1 (NIV) ..."Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses."

I will submit to you our discernment, which is a little more crisp and clear in this matter than yours. It is hoped that the Spirit will guide you--and those others who must consider this situation--into His mind in this. I would encourage you to seek to please God in this, not men.

1Co 4:2 (NIV) Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

Before I get to your question, first a more serious matter than whether this man should remain in your pastorate.

Jesus spoke much of those who spurn His stewardship and abuse and turn from His grace... and very seldom is one "restored" in the teachings or parables or examples given by Jesus. Rather, the most severe language and consequences--even the main teachings of hell, are in just this context. For consider that, here, we are not talking about ignorance or mistakes or shortcomings or failures, we are talking about open and deliberate rebellion against the Master's known commands after being given a trust.

Crocodile tears on his part and/or attempting to show partiality to men on yours will not change the Word of God, so the first thing (before the "ministry" question) to consider is whether this man has realized the extent of his sin and has really come to "hate his own life". Has he, like Peter, gone out and "wept bitterly"?

Luke 12:45-46 (NIV) "But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come... and... cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers."

This is just one example scripture of many. Thus, this is more a serious matter than the prospect of "ministry" in the future, as it goes to the very heart of remembering that not one word of our Lord's will ever be averted...

Heb 10:26-31 (NIV) If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. [Calling Him "Lord, Lord", all the while (Lk 6:46).] Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The scripture is filled with direct teaching about this: that those who commit adultery will "in NO WAY enter the Kingdom of God" and other such statements. The pastor who commits adultery must first deal with the severity of such verses, and a light coating-over of remorse and a quick turning to verses of forgiveness is not a good sign. I would encourage you to take this aspect seriously, as this man's soul may be in the balance--a thing more serious than "ministry". "Restoring such a one" (Gal 6:1) must be done with the full sobriety of the extent of the sin. And in this case is it a willful and deliberate and scandalous rejection of God's trust by choosing to sin. (Rom 11:22)

While we are all guilty in heart (who has not lusted after a woman?), and thus are all thrown at the mercy of Christ, we must also realize that the actual doing of certain sins has severe natural and spiritual consequences.

If after we have been told (by the Voice that spoke and created all that we see) "Go, and sin no more" we then deliberately choose to sin, we had better make real peace with God before hankering to get a "position" back.

Again, before we knew better it would be different. But afterwards, what excuse will fly before God? Will He, can He, disregard His word? Better to beat our breast in public display and beg God for mercy, if we ever find ourselves in such a situation.

The fear of the Lord is greatly chided and out of fashion nowadays, but such sins might well be used of God to prod us back into obedience.

But on to your specific question. Paul said...

1Co 9:27 (NIV) No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

This scripture assumes that one can be "disqualified" from preaching or ministry.

Scandalous and toxic (to the community) sins like adultery or child molestation clearly disqualify one for ministry. If the one who sinned so dramatically and hurtfully repents, he should be restored to fellowship as a public testimony and "sermon" of the forgiveness and restoration of our God--and for the salvation of the soul of the one who has sinned, but in NO WAY should such a one EVER be in leadership ministry again. In Scripture, this is not even an option... unless we wish to please men more than God. For--again--this is a serious matter (1 Cor 6:9, Heb 10:26-31) and not one that is the least bit ambiguous.

Titus 1:6 (NIV) An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife... (1Co 6:16)

Titus 1:7 (NIV) Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless...

1Ti 3:5 (NIV) (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?)

Removing--and keeping out of leadership--such a one is not "judgment" on the part of the remaining deacons and elders (let us be clear on this) but simple obedience to Scripture as to who can be in leadership. As to judgement, if the man has truly repented, his punishment will be born by Jesus Himself.

But we must not act as if we have "choices" here or as if God has been "vague" or that we have any latitude concerning those who do not "pass the test". We are constrained by Scripture, which is all too clear about positions even less visible and delicate than being Pastor...

1Ti 3:2 (NIV) Now the overseer must be above reproach...

1Ti 3:7-10 (NIV) He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap. Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect... They must first be tested; and then IF there is nothing against them, let them serve...

Consider, in this, that the greater grace might eventually come to those thus fallen and forgiven. (See our Bible Study on Shame) For "the first will be last"... right? To go from being the loudmouth speaker or the "apparent leader" (Gal 2:2) to being assigned among those who silently clean feet... might make for a better reward in the (real) life to come. This fall, if indeed repented of, might well be the "fertilizer" for a much more important ministry in God's eyes for this man than that of being in the limelight, for which he has clearly disqualified himself.

1 Tim 5:20-21 (NIV) Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning. I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favouritism.

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