Ministers must marry a virgin

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This article is one in a series of studies on William Branham and legalism - you are currently on the page that is in bold:

What is a requirement of someone that is a pastor or minister in a church?

What William Branham taught

William Branham believed (see quotes below), and it is commonly taught in the message, that a man cannot minister, preach or teach in a church (for example, as the pastor) if his wife was not a virgin at the time that he married her.

This is based on taking references to the Levitical priesthood out of the Old Testament and applying them to the New Testament church. However, this is not Biblical teaching.

What the Bible teaches

The law, that is the Old Testament mosaic law, is not required to be followed in the New Testament church. In fact, Paul refers to the law as the "ministry of death":

 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.[1]

Paul says that if you are under the law, you are under a curse:

 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”  But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.[2]

The writer of Hebrews tells us:

When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.[3]

Furthermore, the Apostle Paul laid down the requirements for deacons and overseers (which applies to pastors) in the church and did not include the strange marriage requirement that was adopted by William Branham. These requirement can be found in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9.

The requirement which William Branham laid on ministers of the Gospel was simply another example of his old covenant, legalistic approach to the Gospel.

Restrictions on the marriage of priests in the Old Testament

There were regulations forbidding priests to marry a harlot or a divorced woman, or, in the case of the high priest, any but an Israelitish virgin[4]. Leviticus 21:7–14 states:

They shall not take a woman who is profaned by harlotry, nor shall they take a woman divorced from her husband; for he is holy to his God. 8 You shall consecrate him, therefore, for he offers the food of your God; he shall be holy to you; for I the LORD, who sanctifies you, am holy. 9 Also the daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by harlotry, she profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire.
‘The priest who is the highest among his brothers, on whose head the anointing oil has been poured and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes; 11 nor shall he approach any dead person, nor defile himself even for his father or his mother; 12 nor shall he go out of the sanctuary nor profane the sanctuary of his God, for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is on him; I am the LORD. 13 He shall take a wife in her virginity. 14 A widow, or a divorced woman, or one who is profaned by harlotry, these he may not take; but rather he is to marry a virgin of his own people, 15 so that he will not profane his offspring among his people; for I am the LORD who sanctifies him.’ ”[5]

Do Levitical priests in the Old Testament equate to New Testament pastors?

There is nothing in the New Testament that would make priests under the old covenant equal to pastors or teachers in the new. There are three clear reasons for reaching this conclusion.

First, the Levitical priesthood has been done away with:

Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life.[6]

Second, the priests, a group within the Levites, served as mediators between God and people, yet the New Testament teaches that there is only one mediator “between God and people, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). For this reason it is deeply problematic when pastors are said to replace priests in the New Testament church.

Third, such a teaching compromises the New Testament teaching on the priesthood of all believers (cf. Rom 12:1; Heb 10:22; 1 Pet 2:5, 9; Rev 5:10; 20:6).[7]:

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him — you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.[8]
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”[9]
The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.[10]

Quotes of William Branham

There is no minister that can marry a widow. Did you know that? You want to read that? All right, you get in the Leviticals, Leviticus 21:7 and Ezekiel 44:22, and It'll show you that the priesthood was not to marry a woman that's been touched by man. This type is of the virgin Bride of Jesus Christ, because they handled the Fire of God, the priests did, Aaron's sons. We haven't got time to read It all, and get out by noon, we got twenty minutes yet. And them is Aaron's sons that handled the--the--the Fire of God, so they could not marry a woman that had been touched by another man. The unchanging God said so. They could not marry another woman, and a woman been touched by a man, showing in type here, if you want to see it, that the Church of the living God is purely, unadulterated, the Word of God, and not a denomination that's been handled by man.

Solomon could marry any woman that wasn't married, he could marry any woman he wanted to. A priest could marry only a woman that was a virgin. Solomon...

Like David, he married (what was her name?) Abigail. Which, there was a man called a "fool," he had a nice wife, and he died. And Abigail was married to David; he was a king, not a priest, see, so he--he married.

But a priest could not do that, because he had touched or got a woman to be his wife that was already been some man's wife. So that shows the virgincy of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bride will have to be unadulterated, the Word, not one Word missing nowhere. Certainly. Could you imagine a correct bride, one breast off, and, the other one, something another wrong, you know? That's not going to be the Bride of Christ. She is perfect. She is everything the Word, not one Word failing anywhere. No.[11]


Footnotes

  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Co 3:7–9.
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ga 3:10–14.
  3. New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Heb 8:13.
  4. Lewis Spence et al., “Celibacy,” in Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics, ed. James Hastings, John A. Selbie, and Louis H. Gray (Edinburgh; New York: T. & T. Clark; Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1908–1926), 272.
  5. New American Standard Bible, 1995 Edition: Paragraph Version (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Le 21:7–15.
  6. New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Heb 7:11–16.
  7. Andreas J. Köstenberger and David A. Croteau, “‘Will a Man Rob God?’ (Malachi 3:8): A Study of Tithing in the Old and New Testaments,” ed. Craig A. Evans, Bulletin for Biblical Research, Vol. 16, 2006, 65.
  8. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 1 Pe 2:4–5.
  9. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Re 5:10.
  10. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Re 20:6.
  11. MARRIAGE.AND.DIVORCE_ JEFF.IN V-3 N-13 SUNDAY_ 65-0221M


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