“Having Faithful Children” in Titus 1:6
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.