Does the Bible indicate that men and women in ministry
should remain unmarried? A careful examination of Scripture
clearly reveals that it does not.
Hebrew priests were eligible to marry. "And the high priest …
shall take a wife in her virginity" (Lev. 21:10,13). Priests had
children by their wives, see Ex. 29:4-9; 1 Sam. 1:3.
In the New Testament era deacons and presbyters (bishops,
pastors) were married. "A bishop then must be blameless,
the husband of one wife…" (1 Tim. 3:2).
The Apostle Peter (whom some erroneously suppose to
have been the first pope) was married. But in the Bible we
read: "When Jesus was come into Peter's house, He saw his
wife's mother laid and sick of a fever. And He touched her
hand, and the fever left her" ( Matt. 8:14,15). See also Mk.
1:30,31; Lk. 4:38,39.
Paul implied that some of the other apostles were married,
and stated that they certainly were free to do so. "Have we
not power to lead about a sister, wife, as well as other
apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas
[Peter]?" (1 Cor. 9:5)
Scripture further makes it clear that "marriage is honorable
in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and
adulterers God will judge" (Heb.13:4). While God does not
exclude any class of society from marriage, He does
denounce s*xual immorality in all, irrespective of occupation
or calling. He offers no exemptions from purity, least of all
for those who represent Him as ministers, see Jas. 3:1, cf.
Marriage is a sacred bond, and Jesus taught that its sanctity
and permanence are to be preserved inviolate. Jesus
affirmed that infidelity to the marriage vow constituted the
only grounds for divorce. See Matt. 19:3-9. Astonished by
this high standard, His disciples said to Him, "If the case of
the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry" (Matt.
This question drew from Jesus a beautiful truth about
celibacy as a special calling for some, "All men cannot
receive this saying, but they to whom it is given. There are
some … which have made themselves eunuchs for the
kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let
him receive it" (Matt. 19:11,12).
The preceding texts show that:
Celibacy is a state that some voluntarily embrace for the
Kingdom of heaven's sake, in order to serve God without the
distractions of attending to the duties and intricacies of
personal family life. Celibacy can never legitimately be
mandated by a church for its clergy or any portion of its
membership.Celibacy, even for those who serve God in full-
time ministry, is the exception rather than the rule. No one
who chooses celibacy is free to have s*xual relations with
anyone at any time. True celibacy implies the practice of
inviolate chastity. God's word is clear, "This is the will of
God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from
fornication: that every one of you should know how to
possess his vessel in sanctification and honor; not in the
lust of concupiscence" [epithymia, i.e., sinful desires] (1
We see then that celibacy is for those who find special grace
with God to transcend s*xual desire and the need for a
marriage partner. This state of singleness is for the relative
few, and is a choice (or calling) that lies between the
individual and God alone; it cannot be prescribed by anyone
else for another. See 1 Cor. 7:7-9.