An Overseer is Above Reproach in His Moral Character

May 26, 2019 | Speaker: Pastor Jurem Ramos

1Timothy 3:2b

2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife

   
Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary
  When you encounter a passage of Scripture dealing with church leadership, are you tempted to skip ahead to something more exciting or relevant? If so, you’re probably not alone. I would guess many Christians come to 1 Timothy 3 and think, “What does this have to do with my life?”   At this point we need to be reminded that church leadership affects every follower of Christ. Some believers have been encouraged greatly by church leadership, while others have been hurt in their spiritual journey. In some cases the damage done by a church leader has been so deep that those who once professed Christ have even been pushed away from Christianity altogether. This is why looking at church leadership in Scripture, particularly in our own day, is extremely crucial.   This is the reason why we are spending more time looking at the list of qualifications for overseers in 1 Timothy chapter 3.   Do not forget that the church at Ephesus was in deep trouble. The men were having wrong ideas regarding salvation and the Christian life. They were preoccupied with doctrines that were causing controversies and division in the church. Most probably they had this idea that God doesn’t really want all people to be saved and so they did not include certain groups of people in their prayers, especially the evil pagan rulers. The women were also beginning to have wrong ideas about is most important in being Christian woman. Their distorted values could be seen in their attire and in their attitude towards authority. Some of them were neglecting their households, gossiping and becoming busybodies. These are just a few problems that we see in the church of Ephesus and the main reason this was happening was because of the influence of bad leadership. Some of the elders of the church were teaching false doctrines and setting bad examples that members were following. The problem was getting out of hand. Just look at what was happening to their faith: some were no longer holding faith and a good conscience and so were making a shipwreck of their faith (1:19); others were departing from the faith (4:1); others have denied the faith (5:8); some have abandoned their former faith (5:12) while others have swerved from the faith (6:21). And so this was giving the enemies of Christianity occasion for slander (5:14) and the name of God and the teaching were being reviled (6:1).   And this was why Paul had to urge Timothy to remain in Ephesus. It was so that he may charge certain persons not to teach false doctrine and stop with their foolish and ungodly deeds. No wonder Bible teachers have observed that “1 Timothy contains more direct, detailed, and systematic teaching on eldership than any other New Testament letter.” Listen to these portions in the letter that contain instructions regarding Elders/Overseers.  
  • 1Ti 2:9-15 speaks of the theological basis for male overseers in the church.
  • 1Ti 3:1-7 discusses the calling and qualifications of church overseers.
  • 1Ti 4:14 talks about the public commissioning of church overseers.
  • 1Ti 5:17-19 contains the duty of the congregation to honor church elders and to protect them from malicious and false accusations.
  • 1Ti 5:20-21 tells us how sinning elders should be disciplined
  • 1Ti 5:22 cautions us regarding the hasty installation of prospective Elders
  The instruction found in 1 Timothy is essential to forming a complete picture of biblical eldership.   Now we are here in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 where the apostle Paul describes the call and characteristics of elders in the church. We have seen that an elder must be called by God. God works in the heart of the man He calls to the ministry so that this person begins to aspire to the office of the overseer (v. 1). This desire to be an elder is subjective. But there are objective characteristics that will prove whether a man’s subjective desire is really from God or not.   Last week we learned that the first characteristic is that the overseer or elder must be above reproach. This comes first on the list of qualifications in 1Ti 3:1-7. Being “above reproach” is the key qualification or the overarching characteristic of an elder. This character summarizes all the following qualifications found in vv. 2-7.   A few things I want you to observe about these qualifications:  
  1. Almost everything in the list in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 is expected of every follower of Christ. Other than being able to teach, these qualifications are intended by Christ for every member of the church. But these qualification are required for the overseers and elders because the spiritual leaders in the church are to be models. This is why Hebrews 13:7 says to “imitate their faith.”
 
  1. A second thing we will observe about this list of qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 is that it is not exhaustive. We can tell by comparing this list with the one in Titus 1:5-9. We notice that these lists are not the same. Titus mentions “a lover of good,” “upright,” and “holy” but 1 Timothy does not mention these in particular. On the other hand, 1 Timothy mentions that the overseer must be “respectable,” “not a recent convert,” and “well thought of by others” which Titus does not mention specifically.
  Neither mentions specifically prayer. Neither forbids the elders explicitly from being robbers or liars or gossips, etc. The point is that the lists are not exhaustive. … We should follow the ones listed and let them be the guide for what others we assume.  
  1. All of these qualifications are under the phrase “must be.” This indicates that all these characteristics are necessary or compulsory. So the overseer “must be” of a certain moral and spiritual character to qualify as an overseer. Paul emphasizes this point because it is probably where the church failed, as many churches do today. God wants us to know that a properly qualified elder is a non-negotiable requirement for the government of God’s household. (Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership, Revised and expanded, p. 188)
 
  1. In 1 Timothy 3:2b-7, Paul delineates four areas of life in which an elder must be above reproach:
  • his moral character (vv. 2-3),
  • his home life (vv. 4-5),
  • his spiritual maturity (v.6),
  • his public reputation (v.7).
 

his moral character

Today, we will begin to look at the fist area where a pastor/elder should be above reproach and that is in his moral character. But I will be focusing only on the first moral character which is “the husband of one wife.”   I have decided to do this so that I will have the opportunity to address some issues most pastors don’t want to talk about openly—issues connected with being the husband of one wife such as divorce and remarriage. Whether we like it or not, this issue can no longer remain hidden in the shadows. We need to address this because people are talking about and believers need to know what does the Bible has to say regarding this issue. After this study we will have a better view of this issue. We will know whether men who have gone through this experience will ever be qualified to be elders or not. But this will not only deal directly with issues pertaining to the moral character of an elder, our study will also indirectly address the question which may have been lingering in the minds of some members who have been hindered in their Christian walk or ministry because their marriages have failed and they are separated from their spouses and they are living as single moms  or dads or they are now married to a new wife or a new husband and they feel guilty and they don’t know whether God will accept their service to Him. Some pastors don't want to dedicate the children who have one of their parents go through separation or divorce and remarriage.   So let’s now turn to the moral character of the overseer/elder and look at this first characteristic.  

1.   THE HUSBAND OF ONE WIFE

  Let’s read 1Ti 3:2:   2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,   Here you will observe that Paul places the qualification “the husband of one wife” immediately after “above reproach. When you compare this with his qualification list in Titus 1 you will also find the phrase “the husband of one wife” immediately after above reproach. Paul even gives more emphasis to this by adding v. 7. Let me read Titus 1:6-7:   6 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. 7 For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach.   Alexander Strauch: “… The first and foremost area in which an elder must be above reproach is in his marital and sexual life. Marriage is the most probing test of a man’s character and beliefs. Therefore, a Christian marriage is one of the most powerful testimonies to the gospel’s life-changing power. Conversely, ruined marriages among Christians have the greatest potential for bringing disgrace upon the Christian message and community.”   This phrase, “husband of one wife,” is literally, “one-woman man”, with the word one in the emphatic position.  Now what does this mean? Does it mean that a man to be qualified for eldership should have had only one wife in his lifetime? Does it mean that an elder should be married and the single men cannot be elders? It is important that we interpret this phrase correctly because a wrong interpretation could restrict qualified men from the eldership.   Let me just summarize what this does not teach and what it does:   What this phrase does not teach:  
  1. This does not teach that pastors/elders must be married.
If this phrase to be married is a requirement to be an elder, then all bachelors or celibate men are disqualified. If Paul requires elders to be married, then he also contradicts himself:
  • Paul, by being an apostle, may be considered to be an elder just as Peter was. (In 1Pet 5:1, the apostle Peter calls himself “a fellow elder.”). Now in 1Co 7:7 Paul states: “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each one has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.”
  • In 1Co 7:26-28 Paul outlines the distinct advantages of singleness in serving the Lord: 26 I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. 27 … Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned... Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.
  • In 1Co 7:32-34 he writes, … The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. Here, Paul makes the case for an unmarried life, for the purpose of undivided devotion to the Lord.
 
  1. This does not teach that pastors/elders must marry only once.
This view says that Paul prohibits remarriage for any reason, even remarriage following the death of a spouse. This view then disqualifies remarried widowers to become pastors or overseers. Now this could not be the right interpretation of this phrase because this would be contrary to the overall biblical teaching regarding marriage. For example, Paul says in Romans 7:3 that if the husband of a woman dies, she is free to marry another man and she is not committing adultery. Also, in 1Co 7:39 he says, “a wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”   Now imagine this scenario. A newly-wed Christian couple were on their way to their honeymoon and they meet a terrible accident where the wife dies. After two years of grief the guy remarries. As the years go by, he grows spiritually and meets all of the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy and Titus. Do you think it is proper to disqualify him because he remarried? No. That would be absurd. If a man remarries after his wife’s death and is loyal to his second wife (as he was with the first), he would be characterized as a one-woman man.   What this phrase “the husband of one wife” teaches:  
  1. The phrase “the husband of one wife” is primarily teaching character trait and not marital status of the prospective elder.
 
  1. To be “the husband of one wife” means marital faithfulness. If the man is married, he is faithful and true to his wife only.
  David Guzik: It is not that a leader must be married (if so, then both Jesus and Paul could not be spiritual leaders in our churches). Nor is the idea that leader could never remarry if his wife had passed away or was Biblically divorced. The idea is that his love and affection and heart is given to one woman, and that being his lawful and wedded wife. This means that the Biblical leader is not a playboy, an adulterer, a flirt, and does not show romantic or sexual interest in other women, including the depictions or images of women in pornography.  
  1. Alexander Strauch: The phrase also implies that the overseer cannot have several wives (polygamy). When God instituted marriage, He authorized only monogamous marriage (Gen 2:20-25). Polygamy, as the Bible abundantly demonstrates causes endless problems, gross unfairness, and terrible suffering.
  QUESTIONS:  
  1. Can a man who has gone through a divorce, whether prior to his conversion or during conversion ever be qualified as an elder?
  This question is a loaded question and I am treading on a controversial issue because there is no divorce in the Philippines and this is because of the influence of Roman Catholicism in our country. The RCC does not allow for divorce. Sadly, even pastors in our country do not want to touch this issue in their churches. However, I think in light of so many families today where we have single dads and moms, we have nullification of marriage and legal separation, the church needs to address this question regarding divorce and remarriage. What does the Bible teach about the issue of divorce and remarriage?   Before I answer that question let me first share with you a few things about the situation in our country:   Besides Vatican City, an independent state headed by the Pope, the Philippines is the only nation in the world that does not have divorce laws. But here are some developments:  
  1. Based on the Social Weather Station surveys of March 25-28, 2017 and December 8-16, 2017, 53% of adult Filipinos nationwide agreed to legalize divorce in the Philippines. When legislators were asked if the results of the survey would sway their opinion on divorce, one senator explained: “I cannot favor a divorce law. My wife might use that against me.” Our president also declared that he will not support the divorce bill because his daughter Sara is not happy with it. (We must remember that our president had his marriage to his first wife Zimmerman, annulled in 2000 because she caught him cheating. Zimmerman is the mother of Sara, Paolo and Baste.)
 
  1. On March 19, 2018, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading House Bill No. 7303, which seeks to legalize absolute divorce in the Philippines. The bill is called “An Act Providing for Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage in the Philippines.” “Should the bill be passed into law, couples who are irreconcilably separated will have access to a cheaper and faster alternative to annulment, which can take years and cost at least P250,000 to finalize. The bill says it seeks to “save the children from pain, stress and agony consequent to their parents’ constant marital clashes” and “grant the divorced spouses the right to marry again for another chance at marital bliss.”
  Only Filipino Muslims who are married under the Muslim laws in the Philippines are allowed to divorce and remarry. If you are not Muslim in the Philippines, you cannot get a divorce. But under the Family Code of the Philippines there are other options available for Filipinos who want to get out of marriage. They can file for a petition for any of these three legal alternatives: (1) Legal Separation, or (2) Annulment, or (3) Declaration of Nullity of Marriage.   Legal separation allows the husband and wife to separate their possessions and live apart, but they are still married by law and they are not permitted to remarry. Annulment applies to a legitimate marriage that now has a valid ground to undo it. The third option is declaration of nullity of marriage which applies to marriage that is considered invalid from the beginning. Couples whose marriage is annulled or voided can remarry.   Grounds:  

I.      Legal Separation

Legal separation is merely the separation of spouses from bed and board. (Article 63 of the Family Code) While it permits the partial suspension of marital relations, the marriage bond still exists as the marital bonds are not severed as in the case of annulment or petition for nullity. The grounds for legal separation are:
  • if the husband physically abuses his wife or a child in the household repeatedly;
  • if one spouse forces the other to change religions or adopt political views;
  • if one spouse forces the other spouse or their child to engage in prostitution;
  • if a spouse is sentenced with imprisonment of more than 6 years;
  • if a spouse has a drug or alcohol problem, is lesbian or homosexual, or committed adultery, sexual infidelity or perversion;
  • if one spouse makes an attempt against the life of the other spouse; and
  • if one spouse leaves the other spouse without justifiable cause for more than a year.
  If the petition is granted, the couple may live separately from each other. The conjugal partnership is also dissolved, but the marriage bond is still in effect.  

II.    Annulment of marriage

The grounds for annulment are:
  • If either spouse was over 18, but not yet 21, and got married without parental consent, unless after attaining the age of 21, such party freely cohabited with the other and both lived together as husband and wife;
  • that either party was of unsound mind, unless such party after coming to reason, freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife;
  • that the consent of either party was obtained by fraud unless such party afterward, with full knowledge of the facts constituting the fraud, freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife;
  • that the consent of either party was obtained by force, intimidation or undue influence, unless the same having disappeared or ceased, such party thereafter freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife;
  • that either party was physically incapable of consummating the marriage with the other, and such incapacity continues and appears to be incurable; or
  • that either party was afflicted with a sexually-transmissible disease found to be serious and appears to be incurable.
 

III. Declaration of Nullity of Marriage

The grounds rendering a marriage NEVER existed at all are:
  • Marriages between persons under 18 even with the consent of parents or guardians are automatically voided by law.
  • Those solemnized by an unlicensed official, unless if at least one of spouses believed the official had authority.
  • those solemnized without a marriage license except those expressly exempted by law to secure a marriage license;
  • those bigamous or polygamous marriages; [Bigamy - either party was already married to another person at the time of the marriage.]
  • those contracted through mistaken identity of one of the contracting parties
  • incestuous marriages as defined in Article 37 of the Family Code and
  • void marriages by reason of public policy (i.e. between step-parents and step-children, between adopting parent and adopted child).
  Now, let me go back to the question, “what the does the Bible say about divorce and remarriage?”   In the second edition of his book Biblical Eldership, Alexander Strauch has these wise words:   There is honest disagreement over divorce among godly Christians. Different opinions lead to diverse conclusions. Those who believe Scripture prohibits divorce and remarriage (Mk 10:2-12; Rom 7:1-3) are inclined to disqualify all divorced and remarried men from church eldership. On the other hand, Christians who believe that Scripture permits divorce and remarriage in certain cases (Mt 19:9; 1Co 7:15) might allow certain divorced or divorced and remarried men to serve as elders. From their perspective, a biblical divorce—like death—dissolves the marriage bond and frees the individuals to remarry.   My personal view is this:  I believe that God allows divorce in some instances which would allow a person to remarry and yet not sin. Therefore, in some cases, men who have previously been divorced and even remarried may be appointed as Elders or Pastors. But I need to explain this.   Three cases where I believe the Bible allows divorce and remarriage.  
  1. A case where a believer divorces his spouse on the ground of unrepentant sexual immorality.
  In Mt 5:31-32 we read our Lord Jesus saying, “It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.   Evidently, the practice of that time through the teaching of the Pharisees was that a man just needed a reason that would allow him to fill out a certificate in order to divorce his wife. But Jesus rejects this by sharply stating,But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Therefore, if a man divorces his wife for any reason (e.g., impotence, verbal abuse, can’t get along together for several reasons, getting married before 18, etc. These were not valid reasons). A man who divorces his wife for these reasons is in direct violation of Scripture and is subsequently disqualified.   But there is an exception. Christ himself gives this exception: “except on the ground of sexual immorality.” Some Bible teachers explain that to mean, “unrepentant sexual immorality” – adultery, homosexuality, lesbianism, prostitution, perversion, and the like.   Here is another relevant passage:   Mt 19:3-9 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”  
  1. A case where an unbeliever abandons a Christian with no intention to return.
  1 Corinthians 7:12-16:   12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?   Case scenario: both of them were both Moslems. Then one of the spouses becomes a Christian and because of the unbeliever abandons the believer with no intention to return unless the Christian abandons his faith and return to the Islam faith.  
  1. The case of the unbeliever who was an adulterer and becomes a Christian.
Scenario: Imagine the case of the husband who has had several adulterous relationships. His first wife eventually got happily married and had children. So did his second and third and fourth wives. They all got happily married and had their own children too with their new husbands. Now this guy got married to a fifth wife and they also have their own children. They got married and by God’s mercy, they both become born-again. What happens to them? They experience forgiveness for their sin of adultery and they are covered by 2Co 5:17.   17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.   The guy who has had 5 wives one after another could no longer go back to his original wife or the the 2nd the 3rd or the 4th. If he does, he will destroy not just his own marriage but also the marriages of his former wives. I believe that the Lord has covered the sin of this person. There is no need to go back to his original and maintain their marriage.   In our church, we do not marry these divorcees and remarry them because there is no remarriage yet in our country. I would however ask them to confess their sin publicly and receive the covering of the church by blessing their relationship.   Can this person be an elder of the church? Yes. I believe that those men who have experienced these three cases of divorce and remarriage may become elders as long as they have lived in faithful union with their Christian wife since their conversion.   But here is a caution from Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership (2nd ed), pp. 194-195:   It must be stated, however, that unlike other pre-conversion sins, a divorced and remarried man might be in a vulnerable condition which could lead to embarrassing circumstances or subtle reproach. Each local assembly, with its elders, will have to judge for itself whether a prospective elder or deacon is actually under reproach because of divorce and/or remarriage in his unconverted days. Yet the issue of reproach can be unjustly used by sinister (or even well-meaning) people That is why it is equally important that the saints judge such situation in the full light the New Testament’s glorious doctrines of forgiveness, grace, and new life in Christ.   So that is my answer to the first question, “Can a man who has gone through a divorce, whether prior to his conversion or during conversion ever be qualified as an elder?” Yes. I believe that those men who have experienced biblical divorce and remarriage may become elders as long as they have lived in faithful union with their Christian wife since their conversion.  
  1. Second question: Can an elder who has fallen into adultery or divorce be restored to be an elder?
  Strauch:   Regardless of one’s view on divorce and remarriage, an acting elder who divorces while in office is under reproach and must be disqualified. The issue is not whether God forgives divorced people (of course He does) or whether a divorced person can serve God (of course he can). The real issue in this instance is the leader’s public reproach on God’s glory and the testimony of the assembly of saints.   Allow me close with this illustration to emphasize my point.   Art Azurdia is a high profile pastor. He is well known for his preaching and teaching and also as an author. His book “Spirit Empowered Preaching” is widely used in the training of pastors.  He has been a keynote speaker at many national and international conferences. He is married and has two children. Many thousands have been blessed by his preaching especially in circles that are considered to be more theologically sound. Along with his role of pastor at the church he planted, Trinity Church, Azurdia also served as a professor of theology at Western Seminary. On June 24, 2018, Art Azurdia has been released from his position as pastor.   The reason is stated in a statement that was made on the Trinity Church website on June 28, 2018:   On Sunday, June 24, the elders of Trinity Church of Portland received an accusation that Art Azurdia has been in a sexually immoral relationship with a woman from outside of Trinity Church. The elders of Trinity Church, after an initial investigation, confronted Art with the accusation. Art admitted to the immorality. He also admitted to a previous sexually immoral relationship. Based on these facts and the biblical qualifications required of an elder (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1), the elders have removed Art Azurdia as Senior Minister of Word and Worship at Trinity Church, as an elder, and from all pastoral ministry at Trinity Church. We grieve the shame this brings to the Gospel and the sorrow it brings to God’s people.   Here is Azurdia’s response. It is an open Letter of Confession from himself, a month later.   July 27, 2018   To my wife and family members, the elders and congregation of Trinity Church, the faculty of Western Seminary, and friends and colleagues both near and abroad . . .   Someone very wise once said: “Pastors must be the chief repenters in a congregation of repenters.” It is important that this proves to be the case now—not because I haven’t yet repented, but because my sin is of such a nature that I need to express my repentance to you.   Several years ago, prior to the inception of Trinity Church, I strayed from my wedding vows, breaking the covenantal bond I made to my dear wife thirty-six years ago. More recently, I again violated my marriage commitment. In both instances I engaged in adulterous relationships that were nothing less than acts of defiance to the will of my God and Father, as well as expressions of profound ingratitude for the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ that I prize so dearly.   I confess this sin and take full responsibility for it. There are no justifications, excuses, or rationalizations for my behavior. I, in acts of idolatry, chose sin over God. I am profoundly ashamed at the enormity of my rebellion, as well as the hypocrisy of exercising ministry while cloaking my sin in the shadows.   I am broken by the magnitude of my offenses to God, the devastation I have inflicted upon my wife, the grief brought to bear upon my children, and the disappointment I have produced among the people with whom I have been privileged to share ministry. Though it is entirely undeserved, I humbly ask you to forgive me for my betrayal of your trust and friendship. With each passing day the fresh awareness of this betrayal breaks my heart in greater and deeper ways, leaving me with nothing but a hope in the accomplishments of the cross to which I desperately cling. …. Because of my sin I have disqualified myself from the office of elder. Furthermore, I have no desire to pursue ministry of any kind. My focus is entirely directed at making right the very thing I have ignored for too long: the well-being of our marriage. This long-term process has already commenced in meetings with experienced counselors and, under their supervision, will be extended to include a team of qualified people who will also contribute to the reestablishment and strengthening of our relationship.   … I am certain that my sin has brought about waves of divergent emotions in many of you: hurt, confusion, sorrow, anger. All of these are appropriate responses to my failures that your Heavenly Father understands. Moment by moment I feel the heavy weight of inflicting them upon you. If, however, I may appeal to your mercy in Jesus Christ, dear friends, allow me to ask four things of you:   1) Please direct your anger and frustration at me, while extending love and support to my children (who have responded to my repentance and confession with kindness and compassion), and especially to my wife, who has revealed the depth of the gospel’s influence in her life by extending undeserved grace and forgiveness to me. … 2) Please pray for the elders of Trinity Church. ... 3) Please pray for the congregation of Trinity Church. ... 4) Never doubt the gospel and our great Savior, Jesus Christ. I have failed you profoundly, my dear friends, and I do plead for your forgiveness. I love you—albeit with a love that has been marred by great failure. But the gospel of Jesus Christ will never fail you. The fact is, its greatest glory proves most obvious in the context of sin and failure—in this case, my own great sin and failure.   We, in our brokenness and humiliation, now need your prayers.   God bless you,   Art Azurdia