Home > Brandenburg, Children, The Church > “Having Faithful Children” in Titus 1:6

“Having Faithful Children” in Titus 1:6

November 24, 2009

While Dave Mallinak approaches the third rail of fundamentalist politics, I will seek my own source of theological voltage, what has been called the “qualifications of the pastor,” as found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.  I’m going to focus on only one little phrase in the Titus 1 listing as found in verse six—“having faithful children.”  If we are going to guard the truth of God’s Word and our churches, then we better have an understanding of what are these characteristics of pastors and whether they are required in order for a man to have, fulfill, and then continue in this office.  I’m afraid that often men approach the traits outlined in the pastoral epistles with too many personal situations or hypotheticals in view.  Instead, we should understand these qualities and then conform our practice to them, rather than adapting them to something that will preserve our own job or someone else’s.   The two chapters are bigger than any one man or group of men.

Qualification or Disqualification or Both?

Before we think about what “having faithful children” means, I want to consider some points about these pastoral character traits in general.  In conversations I have had with others, I have heard this type of statement about these two lists:  “They are qualifications, not disqualifications.”  In other words, we might agree that men should fulfill these traits in order to be appointed to the office of the pastor, but once a man is into the office, he can’t be removed based upon a characteristic violation of one or more of these attributes.  I’ve never seen them that way, but maybe you agree.

1 Timothy 3:2 reads—“A bishop then must be. . . .”—after which are the characteristics listed.  Titus 1:6 begins, “If any be. . . .”  In both cases, we have present tense forms of the being verb, communicating continuous action.  The verbs do not refer to a point in time, but an ongoing activity.  Someone in that office must continue to live according to these descriptions.  Even before “faithful children” in v. 6, we see “having,” which is a present active participle, again expressing continuous action.  These traits must remain the lifestyle of the man in the office.

Someone might argue that both passages are talking about the commencement of a man in the office.  1 Timothy 3 describes him as desiring the office and Titus 1 as being ordained and appointed to the office.  In other words, some might say that these are attributes that need only be fulfilled when a man first starts as a pastor.  The present tense verbs do not lend themselves toward that view, that these are only qualifications, but not disqualifications.  A few more items, I believe, work against this idea to reveal it to be false.

The works of the man of God are produced by the gospel.  Gospel produced works (Eph 2:8-10) will not stop being performed.  Whatever is happening in the life of a believer will persevere, but it is God who conforms the believer into the image of His Son (Rom 8:29).  God will continue to cause the characteristic works of a Christian until his day of redemption (Philip 1:6).

We also know that a pastor can disqualify himself by his actions.  Paul certainly wasn’t speaking about losing his salvation in 1 Corinthians 9:27, when he talked about being a “castaway.”   In the various usages of the Greek word translated “castaway” (adokimos), we see it to say “disqualified.”  He was motivated to keep his body under subjection by the threat of disqualification from some type of Christian ministry.   I believe that 1 Timothy 5:19-20 lays out the procedure that should be followed in bringing disqualifying types of accusations against a pastor.

Besides two Scriptural arguments, I believe some God-given common sense comes in play here.   We understand by reading the qualifications that they were for the purpose of keeping the testimony of God and His church, to set apart the church as a unique institution on earth, unlike merely natural organizations.  “Blameless” as a characteristic relates to reputation.  It isn’t saying, “sinless.”  That’s not possible.  It is “blameless,” because when there is enough violation to ruin the reputation of the pastor, he can’t be one and should be disqualified using the ordained process in 1 Timothy 5.  After he is removed, then no man should lay hands upon him suddenly (1 Tim 5:22).  He could prove himself again to fulfill the qualifications if he has not permanently disqualified himself.  Some of the traits in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 seem to be permanent.

Who Are Faithful Children?

The word “faithful” (pistos) always refers to believers, saved people, in the New Testament.  It is never an unconverted person.   It couldn’t be referring to some kind of well-behaved, disciplined unbelieving child.  Certainly it can be used of someone who is loyal or trustworthy as a saved person, but it is always a believer and always someone who is faithful with the truth.  The word is actually a simple one that in its essence means “believing,” the opposite of which is “unbelieving.”

How “faithful” is used in Titus 1:6 is how it is used in Ephesians 1:1,  “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus,” and Colossians 1:2, “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse.”   The faithful servant of Matthew 24 and Luke 12, the good and faithful servant of Matthew 25 and Luke 19, the faithful person of Luke 16, the faithful mother of Timothy (Acts 16:1), the faithful stewards of 1 Corinthians 4, faithful Timothy (1 Cor 4:17), the faithful ministers of Colossians 1:7 and 4:7, faithful Onesimus (Col 4:9),  faithful Moses (Heb 3:5), faithful Silvanus (1 Pet 5:12), and faithful Antipas (Rev 2) were all believers.  To take “faithful” out of the believing context, isolate it as if it only meant submissive to the father’s leadership without believing what the father taught, would be to distort the word.

The Greek word for “children” (tekna) refers to offspring, not necessarily young.  BDAG says that it is “an offspring of human parents” or “descendants.”  The word doesn’t mean children in the home.  There are words that do mean that, and they could have been used by Paul in Titus, but they weren’t.  If Paul  wanted to talk about little children he could have used teknion.  If he wanted to talk about babies he could have used brephos, that means infants.  It’s not an issue of the age of his children, but that his children believe without dissipation or rebellion, whatever age they are in life.

1 Timothy 3:4 requires that children of a pastor be in submission and that looks like it refers to kids that are still at home. A pastor’s children must operate under the direction of their parents.  They can’t function in rebellion against their pastor parent.  Children of a pastor as a lifestyle must be obedient to him.  Titus 1:6 brings more information to the parenting of the pastor by including that his children must show that they have been obedient by showing their faithfulness to his preaching of the gospel.

The Problems Some Have

Some do not like the idea of having the qualifications of the pastor sort of dependent on other people.  In other words, another person, the pastor’s child, could put him out of his office.  Some of this relates to belief about salvation itself.  Calvinists, for instance, would see a pastor as not having any ability to ensure that his child will receive Christ.  A child’s salvation in many Calvinists’ view is up to the foreordination and predetermination of God regardless of what a pastor does in the way of parenting.  It seems to give trouble to the Calvinist outlook, giving too much to the influence of the leadership of the pastor on his children.  They seem to see a pastor as helpless as to whether his children will be converted or not.  He must wait to see if his children were elect before the foundations of the world.

However, this idea that the conversion of one’s children is so much out of one’s control clashes with so many scriptural texts that relate to human influence on the salvation of sinners.  Matthew 5:16 teaches that you can live a kind of life that results in people glorifying God.  As a consequence of the lifestyle of the first church in Jerusalem, according to Acts 2:41-47, the Lord added to the number that were being saved.  In Romans 11:14, Paul writes that his desire in preaching to the Gentiles was somehow to move to jealousy his fellow countrymen to be saved, so that what he did would have a direct impact on the salvation of others.  In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul said he would become as weak to save the weak, a clear implication that the way he dealt with people would directly relate with whether men would be saved.   Then at the end of chapter 10, he didn’t want to give an offense to a Jew or Grecian, so that his life would lead people to salvation.  In Philippians 2:15 Paul speaks of being above reproach as a light in a wicked world so that in the day of Christ he could find out that he got some salvation impact out of his life.  He says in 1 Timothy 4:12-16 that Timothy’s conduct would ensure salvation to some of those that heard him.  Peter says the same kind of thing in 1 Peter 2:11, when he says that good behavior among unbelieving pagans would result in their glorifying God in the day of judgment.  He instructs women with unsaved husbands in 1 Peter 3:1-2 that their husbands could be won by their own chaste conduct.

We also have texts such as these that apply directly to the parent-child relationship and salvation. In 1 Corinthians 7:12-14, Paul says that one Christian parent could sanctify a home to the degree that the children would become no longer unclean but holy.   Paul intimates that a woman doing proper child training could offset the harmful stigma of the curse on women (1 Tim 2:15).  This is exactly what we see was done by Lois and Eunice with Timothy (2 Tim 1:5) with the holy scriptures they taught him as a child (2 Tim 3:15).

Scripture does not teach a fatalistic approach to child rearing without proper consideration of the impact of a godly life or the responsibility for evangelism.  Salvation comes to people through the faithful witness and godly example of other believers.  All through Scripture we are continually taught that a godly life leads people to salvation.  Election is the issue with God and the issue by which we give Him glory but it is not some explanation to embrace as an explanation for why a pastor’s child didn’t receive Christ.

I don’t apologize for viewing Proverbs 22:6 as a promise to parents:

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

If he departs from it, what is our conclusion?  The parents didn’t train up the child in the way he should go.  I’m not saying that every son will be a pastor or missionary.  The qualification is “faithful.”  A pastor must have children who are saved.  I would expect his children to show the behavior fitting of conversion.  If they don’t, he should not be in that office.

What About When They’re Young?

“Are you saying if your children aren’t old enough to be saved you can’t pastor?”  No.  When they’re young, they’re under control and they are being taught to be faithful to the Word of God.  They are guided by a faithful pastor to be faithful themselves to what he is faithful to.  And some day that blooms into saving faith. The church ought to be able to look at that man’s life and see that process taking place, see those little children affirming, believing as much as their simple hearts can believe, progressing toward a saving faith.  When it comes to the point that they’re old enough to believe, they are to be faithful to the truth they have been taught.

In many ways, this becomes an inane game played by those who want to discredit the qualification.  I believe this is why the word “faithful” is used, however.  The children (primaries, juniors, even young teens) don’t have to be converted.  They must be faithful to the truth until they end where everyone does who is faithful to God’s Word—conversion.

So What If a Pastor’s Child Doesn’t Receive Christ?

If the pastor must have faithful children in order to be a pastor, then his children must receive Christ.  They must give evidence they are headed that direction until they actually do believe in Jesus for salvation.  A pastor who has a child who rebels against that teaching should not continue in the office.  He has been disqualified because he has not ruled his house well.  His children did not submit to what he taught.  If they had, then they would have received Christ.

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  1. John Titus
    November 25, 2009 at 1:08 am

    “I don’t apologize for viewing Proverbs 22:6 as a promise to parents:

    Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

    If he departs from it, what is our conclusion? The parents didn’t train up the child in the way he should go. I’m not saying that every son will be a pastor or missionary.”

    I just came across this and wanted to say how much encouraging it is to see this. I believe firmly the promise that is giving in this passage. Too many parents today are making excuses and trying to interpret this passage in a way that excuses what boils down to laziness on their part. I have five children now and I pray daily that my children will grow up according to God’s word. Parenting is hard work. I believe that I will only feel successful as a parent if my children all grow up into adults who love the Lord and are faithful to His ministry wether it be in full time service or as a faithfull member in a God fearing church. If the Lord tarries and I die, children who are faithful to God is the most important thing that I can leave as an impact in this world. Thanks for the word.

  2. November 25, 2009 at 8:57 am

    John Titus,

    Great to hear from you, and I enjoyed reading your comment as well. Good to hear that you still desire to be faithful, and especially with your children. And, I’m glad that you have 5 children now — I just hope, for their sake, that they look more like their mother than they look like you. By the way, I have 5 kids too. Some of them “gifted.”

    Are you in Indy still? Would love to hear more from you.

  3. November 25, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Kent,

    The thoughts on the present tense of these commands was especially helpful. I did enjoy the post, and was very challenged to be even more diligent in my teaching at home. We teach our children, both the stories and the doctrines of the Word. They are young enough that they don’t show a lot of emotion about these things, and besides that, they are my own children, which means that they probably won’t ever show a lot of emotion about things. Sometimes I wonder how much they are getting. I do find that the burden for their souls is always increasing.

    Every father, I think, has nightmares about his children. Occasionally those nightmares involve some kind of tragic accident that snuffs out their lives. More and more, my nightmares involve them becoming what I see a from lot of “Christian” young people on Facebook. I would rather see them dead than worldly.

  4. November 25, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Kent:

    I agree with you and the Scripture on this. My personal observation of men that have been in the ministry around me corroborates this too. We had a case where a missionary’s kid went bad, and it was clear that a conscious decision was made to allow that child to have his way, when a stricter, more loving path would have won him. He was sent home to the States by the parents hoping the church could ‘straighten him out.’ Of the several other men in ministry from our church all of their kids are faithful. One has 11 kids too! What I am saying is that you hit what you aim at. If you set the standar high, you can be ‘successful’ when it is achieved (when it is scriptural). This should be the rule.

  5. November 26, 2009 at 12:02 am

    Don,

    I like your new picture. What are you looking at?

  6. November 26, 2009 at 12:03 am

    Thanks John Titus, Dave, Don. So far, everyone in the world agrees with our position.

  7. November 26, 2009 at 4:42 am

    Kent:

    Contrary to what some may think, I am not having a vision with blinding light, its just the shine off my balding forehead. That picture must be from a backpacking trip. We were just talking, and I was sitting on the ground, while the other was standing up. The weather is breaking here, so we will head for the hills again within a few weeks. The best times we’ve had is when the guys prepare devotionals and we sit around the campfire in comunion with the Lord. No wonder our Lord retreated with his disciples into the wilderness.

  8. PS Ferguson
    December 2, 2009 at 7:15 am

    An interesting take Kent, but I am unconvinced with the length you take it. You are sounding very like a Federal Vision Covenant Theologian in your tone! Indeed, Douglas Wilson in Mother Kirk adopts the same position!

    Your point about Calvinists is a tad unfair and a misreading of their basic presuppositions. They do not hide behind predestination as a fig leaf to cover the unbelief of their children. It is as much a tragedy to them as their Baptist brethren. If anything, many of them would buy into your take on Proverbs 22:6 as applying to the Covenant Family and claim it by faith. Hence paedobaptism…

    You have not proved exegetically, at least to my satisfaction, that a pastor whose children grow up and leave his home is disqualified for the ministry. I would accept that it refers to children under the parental authority of the father – hence the use of the present tense. However, when they are of age and set up home independently then they bear their own responsibility. Would Samuel be disqualified from being a Pastor because of the failures of his two grown up sons? What about Aaron and Nadab/Abihu? God did not seem to take your position in respect of OT prophets or priests. Demas’ later apostasy as Paul’s son in the faith did not disqualify the great apostle either.

    Despite, ironically, my adherence to Covenant Theology, I am reluctant to accept your argument on Proverbs 22:6 as it can be interpreted a number of ways and you do not have any unambiguous attesting Scriptural warrant for your conclusion. Your interpretation does not explain why so many of the families in the Bible were spiritually divided e.g. Cain/Abel; Esau/Jacob; Absalom/Solomon etc. It also suggests the faith of my children is dependant on me and that is not something I find in Scripture.

    You also seem a little hazy on the definition of “faithful.” Would a Baptist pastor be disqualified if his daughter marries a Presbyterian and therefore does not remain “faithful” to what you believe is the only true NT Church?

  9. December 2, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Hi P.S.

    Welcome back. I am vaguely familiar with Doug Wilson, so I kind of get what you’re talking about in sort of associating me with him, but we have zero relationship, and I don’t enough about what he believes to even give a surface evaluation. My position on this comes from the authority of Scripture, as you can see in my article. I bring in the Calvinist argument, because it is big in this discussion. I read Calvinists being the ones trying to come up with another explanation for “faithful.” If it is not them, then it is men who want to stay in the office despite a wayward child or children. (nice fig leaf metaphor, by the way)

    What you haven’t satisfactorily shown to me, P.S., especially for someone that I imagine believes in the perseverance of the saints, is how that a child could be faithful while in his pastor father’s home and later turn from the faith. You are either faithful or not. Is faithfulness only a human work or is faith a gift of God? If someone is faithful at some point in his childhood, then wouldn’t that faith persevere if it is true faith? Or does faith refer to a dead faith described by James?

    Your examples don’t work for me. We’re talking about the qualifications for the office of the bishop, not for priest. I would say even just the opposite of you that the children of Eli and Aaron damaged their leadership in an irretrievable way. It finished them. There’s a difference between actual offspring, physical descendants, and a spiritual son in the faith like Demas.

    I think we understand why Absalom and Solomon went astray, because God predicted it through His prophet Nathan.

    Regarding your final question, I keep it to only what Scripture says. I’m not sure I would remain in the office if my daughter married a Presbyterian, but I keep it to “salvation,” because I believe that is what “faithful” means in the most technical way. I don’t know that my daughter has been faithful to what our church teaches if she married a Presbyterian. However, she (I have three daughters) is not going to marry anyone that I don’t agree for her to marry (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:36-38), because that is what we believe.

    Thanks for dropping by.

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