What About David?
When a leader falls into immorality, it seems that many today are convinced that they can apologize and then continue in the position of godly leadership. One of the things that is often mentioned is the fact that King David sinned and was used of God. This is indeed true. David, a man after God’s own heart, sinned against God and continued as king of Israel. We can rejoice in the wonderful example of the forgiving grace of God; but does this present us with godly reason to believe that a person cannot disqualify himself from the ministry? Does this present us with Biblical proof that a confession of immorality and forgiveness thereof allows one to continue in the ministry simply because one has been forgiven? My response, based upon the Scriptures, is “No: emphatically, NO!”
First of all, let us remember that Scripture has a context. One or two passages can be taken out of context and used to teach and present a sort of proof for almost anything. This is why context is important.
John Wycliffe 1324-1384 – “It shall greatly help you to understand scripture, if you mark not only what is spoken or written, but of whom, and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goes before and what follows after.”
We find then, that we should read about David in the context both of the book in which it is written, and the Bible which is a library of books which are all in agreement one with another.
The first thing that we must notice is the biblical context of First Samuel and Second Samuel, remembering the history and the events that led up to David becoming king. Saul, if you recall was disqualified and rejected as king of Israel. While some say that only God can judge a person, that is not necessarily true. Jesus commanded us to judge righteously (John 7:24). We must be able to discern right from wrong. Furthermore, it was God who judged Saul as being disqualified as king. “And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.” (1 Samuel 13:13–14) “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:22–23) “And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.” (1 Samuel 15:35) Here we see that, on two different occasions, Saul was informed by Samuel that God had rejected him as king. Not only so, but later Saul needed counsel to go into battle, so he sought a witch to call up Samuel to give him counsel. Here is what we read: “And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David: Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day. Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 28:15–19) Not only was Saul disqualified from the kingship, but God removed from him His guidance: Saul no longer heard from God because he had ignored the Word of God.
Next we must consider the context of David’s sin. David sinned by committing adultery, trying to cover it up, and having the husband of Bathsheba killed. David continued without repenting for about a year. Then Nathan the prophet came and rebuked him. David confessed his sins and received forgiveness. But let us hear the Word of the Lord: “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.” (2 Samuel 12:10–14) Notice that David was forgiven, yet still was going to reap some sad results from his sin. His own family would be divided. His newborn son would die. David would have cause to regret his sin for the rest of his life. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) David may have continued as king, but David reaped sorrowful consequences for his one night of pleasure with Bathsheba. Brothers, we cannot use David as an example that says one cannot disqualify himself from the ministry, or that one’s forgiveness immediately makes him qualified to be a pastor. David is rather an example that should serve to warn us that sin has consequences that will be with us even though God has forgiven us.
Another thing that we need to realize about the context of Scripture is that David was not a pastor. He is not the greatest of examples to use regarding the lives, morals, and qualifications of pastors. If we desire to speak of David and qualifications, we may need to even recognize that David did not consider himself worthy of being king: “Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain. Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.” (2 Samuel 23:1–5) God was gracious to David though David did not claim that his family was a righteous family. It is truly foolish to try to use such a man as David to speak to the morals and qualifications of a pastor. Furthermore, let us remember that the qualifications for a pastor are found in First Timothy chapter three, and that David was not a pastor; thus the qualifications for a pastor are not relevant to David’s kingship. It is imperative that we read Scripture in context.
Finally, we must recognize a very important issue that is before us, and that is the fact that using David to show that forgiveness can immediately make a fallen man qualified for the pastorate does violence to the Scriptures. The qualifications of pastors remain the same, whether the fallen and disqualified man is forgiven or whether he never repents and receives forgiveness. To try to use David to show that either cannot disqualify himself, or that he can be immediately qualified after receiving forgiveness is to deny the truthfulness of First Timothy chapter three. It is to present a view that there are texts of Scripture that disagree with other texts, which is very wrong. All Scripture is the Word of God and is correct. We do not pit one text against another as though they are enemies: all Scripture is true, and Scripture does not conflict with itself. It is a sad day when those who say that they are ministers and preachers of the Word of God will refuse to acknowledge the truthfulness of all of the Word of God. To such we can only say, “Repent. God has no pleasure in those who twist and distort His Word.” (See Proverbs 30:6;2 Peter 3:15-16;Revelation 22:18-19).
In conclusion, we must indeed rejoice in the forgiving grace of God to each of us. We must hold out the forgiving grace of God to those who have fallen. This is the gospel, and we must preach it. We are also duty bound to call upon those who profess Christ to live a life that is in harmony with the gospel (Philippians 1:27-29). We must also demand that those who say that they are called to the ministry be qualified according to First Timothy chapter three.