March 26, 2013

Three views on elder’s “faithful” children

by Jesse Johnson

I will be goodOf all the elder qualifications Paul gives in Titus 1, none causes more hand-wringing and knee-bending than this: An elder must have “faithful children.” What exactly does that mean?

In this post, I am not going to give you my view of that verse. Instead, I want to lay out the three most common views, and briefly give you their strengths and weaknesses. This is one of those issues where we too easily write off opposing views to ours, and it’s my goal here to get you to really think through all three views on their own merits. I call the three views the Evangelical View, the Baptistic View, and the Reformed View. I grant that these are broad categories and over generalizations. Feel free to quibble with my labels, and rebuke me for separating evangelical from baptistic (or whatever), and also feel free to suggest better titles. The point here is just to give this discussion some categories.

First, here is the text:

“[An elder must be] someone who is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of wildness or rebellion” (Titus 1:6).


“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” (Titus 1:6).

The KJV, Holman and RSV  go with “faithful children.” The ESV, NIV, NASB, and probably even The Message (no way I’m checking) all use “children are believers.” The Greek word is pista, which can mean trustworthyfaithful, or believing. Now for the three views:

Evangelical View: Children who are under control

I call this the evangelical view because if the issue was decided by democracy, this view would carry the day. The essence of this view is that children in the home are to be under control, but the requirement does not apply to children outside of the home. Moreover, in this passage Paul is not concerned with the children’s salvation, as much as he is simply mandating that an elder’s children stay out of trouble (as defined by the rest of the verse—no debauchery or insubordination). Any trouble the child gets in while living at home could harm the church’s reputation, and that explains the existence of this qualification.

kid in cuffsIn other words, this view says that for a person to be an elder, his kids need to stay out of jail, take the trash out when they are told, and generally behave in such a way that the church is not going to be shamed. Also noteworthy, this is the only of the three views that is concerned only with children living in the home, and those who hold this view would not see Paul’s requirement applying to an elder whose kids have moved out. This view is held by Knight in the NIGNTC, Hendrickson (who translates it “well behaved”), the NET Bible notes, and John Piper.  Here are the arguments in favor of this view:

  • Paul’s concern is how the elder manages those under his control. Once a child has moved out of the house, his relationship to his parents is no longer indicative of the father’s ability to lead.
  • The parallel passage in 1 Tim 3 says that children need to be “under control.” That Greek word (hupotage) is a military term, and fits well with external order/ability to follow commands.
  • In Titus 1:6, the verb “having” (“having children who believe”) indicates possession, thus that the children are under the father’s roof.
  • The concern here is the children’s obedience to their parents, not the ultimate spiritual condition of the children. This is evidenced by Paul’s use of “not accused of wildness.”

While at home, are the children obedient? Does the father discipline? Are their accusations of rebellion? Those are the questions that indicate fitness to lead.

Here are the arguments against this view:

  • It focuses too much on the worldly components of parenting, and fails to account for the spiritual dynamics that Paul would have been concerned about.
  • If the concern is simply a child’s ability to follow commands, why doesn’t the father command his child to believe the gospel? Who cares if he can take the trash out when asked, if he refuses to believe what the father says about eternity?
  • This view has such narrow application that it borders on meaningless. According to this view, if a child is at home, it doesn’t matter what his spiritual life is like, and if he rebels and falls away, then the father simply kicks him out, and he remains qualified.
  • What about a father who takes in a rebellious son who has returned home? Is that the right parenting approach? It is difficult to imagine a scenario where this view is any kind of meaningful qualification–and that probably explains why it is the majority view. If you hold to this view, you almost never have to have remove an elder over this qualification.


Traditional Reformed View: Children who are in the church

This view takes the Evangelical View and builds on it. Those who hold this view say that in addition to being well behaved and faithful at home, Paul is also saying that children at any age must be faithful to the church.  Their salvation is not what is in mind, as much as their faithfulness to remain part of the covenant community and the regular gatherings of the visible church.

rolling eyes in churchI think many people often misunderstand what those who hold this view are arguing for, and I hasten to say that this view really only fits well inside of a pedobaptistic environment. This view is NOT saying that an elder’s children need to be regenerate, but it is saying that they need to be part of the church. Obviously if their life brought shame on the family, it would bring shame on the church, and that is what this qualification is all about. But unlike the previous view, the Reformed View would apply this criteria even to children who have moved out of the house. The idea is how a person’s family views the church says a lot about the leadership of the father in the church. It is held by Guthrie in the TNTC, Matthew Henry, Calvin, Sproul, and (as near as I can tell) Douglas Wilson.

In favor of this view:

  • The word “faithful” is not necessarily indicative of salvation. Rather, it refers to a habit of life, or a custom that relates to the things of God.
  • The main concern of this entire passage is how an elder will lead the church, and the best way to see this is in how he leads his family. Are they part of the church, are they faithful in the church, and does their faithfulness match what you would expect of others in the church? If so, then the father is qualified. If not, then the father is unqualified.
  • Salvation is too difficult to measure externally, and regardless, the doctrine of election means that the child’s salvation does not reflect on the leadership of the elder, as much the electing purposes of God. But the child’s faithfulness at church is a direct reflection of the leadership of the father.
  • Because of the youth of the church in Crete, this is the only view that makes sense (the gospel had not been there long enough to see children come to faith, but had been there long enough to see fathers bring their children to church).

Against this view:

  • Is this view too focused on the externals? Does it fail to address inward heart issues?
  • It’s unclear to me how this view relates to children who were part of the church when young, but have since moved away from their parents and moved on from church years later. Would that really reflect negatively on the person’s ability to lead the church?

While historically this may have been the majority view, it is certainly in the minority now.

Baptistic View: Children who love the Lord

This is certainly the most controversial of the views, as it also builds upon the other two. Those who hold this view see Paul saying that as children grow older, they must have given their life to the Lord—as seen by them following the Lord—in order for the father to be considered as a candidate for an elder. This view is simply concerned with an elder’s children having a salvation testimony, baptism, and conversion experience, coupled with a lifestyle that validates the elder’s love of the gospel.

This view is not so much concerned about young ones at home, nor (unlike the Reformed view) is it concerned necessarily about church faithfulness. Instead, those who hold this view would say that to be qualified to be an elder, your children need to be following the Lord if you are to be an elder.  Those who hold this view often point to Aaron, Gideon, Samuel, David, Solomon, etc. They had the credibility of their ministry destroyed because their children were not following the Lord. This should be different in the church, and this qualification is designed to protect the reputation of the church from accusations stemming from the unredeemed lives of children of church leaders.

Whereas the other two views see the command for children to be “under control” (1 Tim 3) and the command here for them to be “faithful” as parallel, this view sees them as complimentary. According to this view, “under control” applies to young children at home, and “believing” applies to older children and adult children of potential elders.

If you view the three views through the lens of strictness, this would arguably set the highest bar for an elder. While I know of only a few churches that support it, it does seem backed by most of the major commentaries (eg., Griffen in the NAC, Heibert in the EBC, White in the EGT, the UBS translator’s notes, and Walvord/Zuck in the BKC, and MacArthur). In favor of this view:

  • The word for “faithful/believing” is pista, and that almost universally is used to denote saving faith.
  • Election and salvation are supernatural, but so is the call to ministry. It makes sense that the call to ministry would be verified by the salvation of those under the influence of this leader. If God is not blessing his ministry in the home, why would we think God would bless his ministry in the church?
  • The main point here is not fairness to the potential elder, but fairness to the church.
  • The main concern is that a child’s failure to believe the gospel robs the elder of ministry credibility.
  • Contra the other two views, the New Covenant is never is concerned with outward faithfulness/conformity, but only with an internal reconciliation to God.

Against this view are the following arguments:

  • Is this view realistic? Is Paul really saying that a man with young children may be qualified to be an elder, but if his children leave the faith when they are older, that he is no longer qualified?
  • This view wrongly makes Paul’s concern in Titus 1 the leadership capabilities of the elder, while in truth Paul is more concerned about protecting the church from accusations.
  • This view fails to appreciate continuity between 1 Tim and Titus.
  • If Paul was concerned about their salvation as opposed to their order, why would he clarify the command with “not accused of wildness or rebellion”?
  • In this view, is Paul then mostly concerned with adult children? [Response: 1 Tim 3 refers to managing younger children, Titus 1 refers to their faith when older].

I’d love to hear from you: Does your church have a position on this issue? What is it? [Note: I will delete any comments that disparage any elder by name or speak negatively of his family].

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • I like what Dr Montoya said about this. When his kids were old enough to drive, he sat them down and said, “Here are the keys to the car and more independence than you’ve ever had. Now, if you don’t act responsibly I will be disqualified from ministry and can retire early. Then YOU will have to support me and the family. So, if you like getting an allowance and food for free, drive carefully and be good.”

  • Dave

    Perhaps with the reformed view, men are not supposed to be elders if they have young children. This would then do away with the idea that someone with young children can be qualified and then disqualified as those children grow up and do not accept the faith. It may seem like it would rule out so many good godly men but maybe the office of elder is one which few are called to and requires exceptional qualifications.

  • Nate

    Thanks for this Jesse.
    I think Doug Wilson might be a hybrid of the Reformed and Baptist view (as you have laid them out), from comments I have heard from him and his son Nate.

  • James

    I’m not sure where I land on this. However, it is very personal. My wife and I only have one son. He was a model son. We were close. He professed Christ. He sang in Church, played the piano on occasions in church and even ‘preached’ in chapel services in our Christian School. He went away to college and proceeded down different and wrong roads. We were and remain, (many years later), heart broken. We love him. He loves us. Recently, he indicated that he regularily prays and reads the Bible. Many have and are praying. During his college years, I went to our elders and deacons and we read the Timothy passage. I told them that I was not sure how to apply it to my situation; but that I would abide by their decision. Right or wrong– they affirmed my continuing. That was 26 years ago and we are nearing our 38 anniversary of ministry here. God has been so gracious. Right or wrong, I have taken some direction from the reality that the prophet Samuel’s children did not all turn out so well… yet I do not believe there is one criticism of Samuel in Scripture. We serve an AWESOME GOD!

  • Charles

    Perhaps if elder means older man, then the capability of actually seeing the effects of his life and training become evident and thereby a qualifying factor

  • Thanks for the descriptions. I was familiar with the first and third view, but not the Reformed view. At the church I attend they probably hold to the first one, though in practice they pretty much ignore it, at least with the deacons, because once a deacon (from years past) they never step down no matter how bad their children later behave. Personally I agree with the first view (Evangelical), as S. Lewis Johnson has described it, both the textual Greek issue (recognizing his great understanding of the original languages) and overall context within NT teaching:

    “The elder should have his children in control, and they should be reliable children, but the belief of the children is, of course, the work of the Holy Spirit finally. One should expect that an elder’s children ordinarily, would come to faith in Christ. But that is not a requirement for the eldership.”

  • Kevin Subra

    This is an important issue that is often overlooked. Each view could use much more development, of course. However, I find the Evangelical view the only view that I can fully authenticate in Scripture.

    Parallel concepts in 1 Timothy relate the purpose of this to the ongoing governing or leading of the church. If one cannot lead his own home (indicating that which is directly in his influence) how can he care for the assembly of God (which would also be under his direct care).

    The third view (which I must confess I held to early in ministry until I really began to study this more) is in some way untenable as any man’s ministry would be suspect until not only he died but also his children died.

    It is interesting that even in the garden of Eden God’s direct creation rebelled against Him. It did not disqualify God. It only brought judgment upon Adam & Eve.

    I in no way justify men who should not be in ministry. I do think that this does require a man to first effectively lead his home, which is a microcosm of the church. Our wives and children need us to first shepherd them before we dare to take on more responsibility.

    Thank you for the article.

  • pearl

    Not to wax too simplistic, but how can one fully believe in the doctrine of election, which has God alone making the sovereign choice regarding anyone’s salvation, then make a decision on whether a man is worthy of his spiritual calling based on whether or not his children are saved?

    • Great question: because you would see the call to ministry as also under God’s sovereign choice. in other words, God chooses the means as well as the end.

      • Caleb N. Diffell

        Indeed; note that his also means that a pastor is not qualified if he is childless. Nor indeed if his wife dies (whether or not he remarries, which is his right). God can ensure men he wants to be qualified, are qualified. If God takes away elements of that qualification, a man ought to receive it as from the Lord, and pursue another vocation.

        • I would disagree with your first point (that elders need to have children and a wife) but I do agree with your last point (if an elder is unqualified, he should pursue another vocation.

          Obviously, Paul himself was unmarried. And, any time you create a qualification for an elder that would eliminate Jesus, its a good time to take a time out. That’s also why I don’t buy that elders need to be at least 40. A better way to understand the passage is that children (if the elder has them) need to be faithful/believing. eliminate

          • Caleb N. Diffell

            Well, you can say the text means something different from what it says, but that doesn’t change what it says. Neither Paul nor Jesus ever referred to themselves as elders, nor were they referred to as elders by anyone else. Peter refers to himself as an elder, and we know he was married.

            A man must demonstrate the ability to rule well his own house. If he has no ‘house’ but himself he has not demonstrated that ability. I repeat, God is able to make a man qualified if the man desires the office of a bishop and that is in God’s plan for him. Waiting on the Lord is hard. But it demonstrates faith. Another useful qualification for a leader of God’s people!

      • pearlbaker

        Jesse, I am very grateful for your answer, which helped me to better comprehend the scope of God’s sovereignty, something so great that it may remain somewhat incomprehensible to me, even in Glory. Yes, of course, the plans that God has for a man He will see through to completion and He will choose and provide all the means necessary to ensure His will is accomplished. As I survey my life, some of the pastors and elders who have influenced me the most, including John MacArthur and my own dear pastor (a TMS alumnus) have several children each, all of whom profess, and whose lives demonstrate the fruit of, a deep belief in Christ. This has been a requirement of the churches I have attended, and I have seen elders step down when a child (even a grown child) is rebellious in this regard. I used to wonder why that was necessary, especially if the pastor or elder had been serving for many years and their own walk was above reproach. But, now I respect the humility and discernment, not to save face as it were, but to realize that, even though he may have been gifted to serve the Lord, ministry as a pastor and/or elder was not being sustained by God through the obedience of his child(ren). I will try to consider God’s sovereignty in terms of means and end in the future. Thank you, again.

        • That’s a really humble reply Pearl. Thanks for your kindness and your faithfulness.

      • Actually, Jerry answered this question in his last paragraph above, and he did it in a more articulate way than me. Read his answer 🙂

        • pearlbaker

          I did go back and read the last paragraph of Jerry’s comment, and it was confirming and helpful. Chances are I would not have asked the question in the first place, had I paid more attention. Nevertheless, something about the succinct way you addressed my question was personal and effectual for me, causing me to think more deeply about this issue. I am now better equipped, thanks to you both.

  • Charlie Frederico

    I would understand Paul to say that the children must be believers in Christ. Reasons for:

    1. The grammar, as you noted, favors this.

    2. It would easily carry over into the care of the church-are we to suggest that a pastor is only to make people in the church behave? The goal is redemption, not behavior control.

    3. “Children having faith” is the reading and naturally indicates children who possess belief in Jesus Christ commensurate with whatever it means to believe in Jesus Christ. It would be strange, in my thinking, to think that “faith” would mean “external appearance.”

    4. The point is that men who lead the church should demonstrate their leadership in the home. They should be co-laborers with the Holy Spirit in that endeavor. That leadership culminates in the conviction of sins, explanation of God’s economy of salvation, and admonition to follow Jesus Christ in day-in/day-out life.

    It also seems to me that many are simply in the dark as to how children are brought to Christ, lead to repentance. This is a sad thing and it actually proves the point. If we do not know how to raise our own children so that they repent and follow Christ, how do we think that it is any different for adults?

    Most object to this for these reasons:

    1. “It is unrealistic to make this an expectation.” Why? Is it unrealistic to expect people to repent of their sins and follow Christ?

    2. “We can’t presume upon God’s election.” Whoever said that is the case? In the same way that any of the other skills and righteousness requirements are from God, God Himself also grants this one. Notice the “household” conversions in the Acts, for example. If God can grant repentance to Nineveh, why not your children?

    3. “My children did well at home. When they grew up, they live a different life than the way I raised them.” When I was told that by another pastor, my response was, “No, he is living exactly as you raised him.” Although there are exceptions (Ezekiel 18), generally children when on their own live exactly as we have raised them. That is why the issue of younger children/older children is really built upon a false distinction. The principle “you reap what you sow” (Galatians 6:7-8) is very clear. If parents spend the younger years with their children preoccupying them instead of convicting them of sin, righteousness, and judgment, by means of a godly home filled with the teaching of the Word of God, then please don’t expect them to consider that when they are older.

    4. “I can’t expect this out of my children?” Why not? Do you expect repentance and faith from anyone else? If not, maybe you are not in the ministry for the right reasons.

    I just think before we impugn a normal reading of the text and judge it by our experience, we need to judge our experience by it and rise up to what it calls for us. Personally speaking, I always evaluate a pastor by the condition of his children (and marriage, for that matter). To me, that demonstrates his qualifications. If his children do not honor Christ, especially when older, no matter the size or influence, that man needs to face the reality that he has not shown appropriate leadership where necessary and whatever leadership he is rendering to the church at that time is not what God wants. I realize there would be many empty pulpits if every pastor whose children were dishonoring to the Lord would step down. However, in many cases, that may not be a bad thing.

    • Kevin Subra


      I would have to disagree with your first 3 points:

      “1. The grammar, as you noted, favors this.”

      Jesse doesn’t mention grammar. He does indicate that that one argument for the 3rd view is that pista is most often understood to be saving faith (a definition). This is an argument, but not an accurate one. The AV translates this word as “faithful” 53 times out of 69 occurrences. It is often not used in a salvation context.

      “2. It would easily carry over into the care of the church-are we to
      suggest that a pastor is only to make people in the church behave? The
      goal is redemption, not behavior control.”

      How do you evaluation redemption as having occurred, apart from behavior? “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” (Matt 28:20) There is no hard and fast way to ascertain true faith. One can only observe actions (which can be from conformity rather than conversion)

      3. “Children having faith” is the reading and naturally indicates
      children who possess belief in Jesus Christ commensurate with whatever
      it means to believe in Jesus Christ. It would be strange, in my
      thinking, to think that “faith” would mean “external appearance.”

      The reading literally is “having faithful children,” using an adjective, rather than a noun. That is part of the difficulty of the passage, and since it has with it behavioral descriptors after it.

      I do think that this is a big issue. The differing views do not all result from impugning a normal reading of the text.

      • Charlie Frederico

        Thank you, Kevin. Your points were helpful to me. I wanted to clarify a few things.

        1. I was referring to Jesse’s point in the third view, first point, as you mentioned also. It would most naturally refer to “faith/belief.” I was not meaning that Jesse’s point makes this the right one.

        2. I was hasty with my remark about the natural reading. Thank you for reminding me to slow down and look more carefully at the text. The participle there is singular, agreeing with the relative pronoun earlier in Titus 1:6. Thus, the correct reading sees the man “having children….” Not to refer to being single, simply saying the participle refers to the man not the children.

        3. “pista” is used somewhat adjectivally. However, I do think that “children who believe” is the better rendering. This is because it is Accusative (neuter), which would most naturally retain its position as a noun, a substantive. To describe something adjectivally, as in behavior or condition, the Genitive is usually used. However, the Accusative can be adjectival, but, I believe, most often is substantival.

        4. I appreciate your second point very much. I mostly look for a kind of heart, or attitude towards the Scripture, others, etc.. which, of course, means including behavior. So, thank you.

        Thank you, again, Kevin.

        • Matt Waymeyer

          Quick point regarding #3: The reason the adjective pista (“faithful/believing”) is accusative is simply because it modifies the accusative noun tekna (“children”) (which is accusative because it functions as the direct object of the participle “having”). This doesn’t affect the translation of pista one way or the other.

          • I understand. Thank you, Matt. I have other questions, but will examine this later.

          • Woo hoo. It helps to have an actual Greek professor on emergency stand by blog comment patrol.

          • I was also wondering if there is a more definite sense here, in pista, than simply an adjectival description of conduct. That is why I was thinking the best rendering would be “children who believe” as opposed to “faithful children.” I do understand the noun governs the adjective in gender, number, and case. I was just trying to interpret all of that. I’m (obviously) no scholar. But, I think Paul is stating something about the condition of the children and not simply behavior. Such a believing condition will lead to appropriate behavior (I find it interesting also that character is also described in the lists for elders in the same way, in a smaller scale, that character is listed for the children of elders. That does not make it that Paul is simply limiting qualifications to behavior. The fruit of what a man/child believes will determine behavior). But, as in Josiah’s post yesterday, the issue is not the pass/fail grade of the children. They are only indicators of the skill a man has in managing his home.
            Also, where is the article in this phrase?

      • Just one additional comment. I tend to still leave the adjective as an adjective, with the idea that if God wanted a noun He would have given a noun. I don’t argue with the linguistic possibilities. I simply trust in what God chose to say, and take that as the most plain. “Faithful” doesn’t need to imply a noun, since it modifies one, so I would still consider it the most “normal rendering” of the text.

        Good discussion, Charlie. Thanks for your help in sorting through this passage.

        • Thank you, Kevin. I am currently working through some of these things for my own purposes (I am pastoring a small church currently and I have a trajectory for eldership over the course of this next year) and have not jumped into this issue completely. It just kind of hit a chord because I am very concerned about these things, as are you all.

    • MikeWorrell

      You state “3. “My children did well at home. When they grew up, they live a different life than the way I raised them.” When I was told that by another pastor, my response was, “No, he is living exactly as you raised him.” Although there are exceptions (Ezekiel 18), generally children when on their own live exactly as we have raised them. That is why the issue of younger children/older children is really built upon a false distinction. The principle “you reap what you sow” (Galatians 6:7-8) is very clear. If parents spend the younger years with their children preoccupying them instead of convicting them of sin, righteousness, and judgment, by means of a godly home filled with the teaching of the Word of God, then please don’t expect them to consider that when they are older.”

      So – if you were able to perfectly parent your children they would turn out right? If that’s the case, how do we explain Adam and Eve, who had the perfect Father?

      • But, the fact is, I am not a perfect parent. Further, my children are not perfect either. That is the issue. Parenting is redemptive in focus. That is why Paul says that a man needs to be able to manage his home as demonstration of caring for the church. The church is a redemptive reality, and so should be the home. I know the Scripture to teach me how to train my children, depraved as they are from conception, by the instructions and example of God the Father in bringing His sons to redemption. So, with God as our instructor, we do all we can, diligently, to “win” our children. Adam and Eve certainly sinned and that was disobedience. But look how God convicted them and brought them back to Himself, then do likewise in your own home. The key is understanding how to handle the depravity in your children. God will honor that, according to His own will. However, I will not presume upon God one way or the other.

  • Melissa Collins

    My son and his wife are raising their 5 children ranging now in age from 14 down to 6 months. He was asked to be an elder in his church and declined due to the fact that he believes until his children are raised, he cannot be proven to be qualified as a father who has successfully raised children who follow in the ways of the Lord – therefore he would not feel qualified to be able to be an elder and lead the church. I do believe this is a deeply personal subject as well. Thanks for the insight!

    • Michael Coughlin

      Melissa – I found this thought provoking. What this means is that he goes to a church where the elder selection is possibly contrary to what your son believes (based on the fact he considered himself unqualified, but the church considered him qualified). I’m not trying to argue, I actually sorta agree with your son’s position.

      So now, here to me is the dilemma posed, in my opinion. IF that is true that he does not think he is qualified, so he turns down the position, then they will fill the role with someone else. So does he end up submitting to a leader who he also thinks is unqualified for the same reason, and is potentially more unqualified because that leader doesn’t understand the scripture or, even worse, if that brother believed the same way as your son but accepted the position anyway?

      • Melissa Collins

        Execellent question Michael – and I will follow up with my son regarding your question!

  • Very interesting and helpful, thanks. I’ve struggled from a lay perspective in understanding this as well, as I’ve known teaching elders with rebellious, non-believing children, and that’s given me pause if I should be submitting myself, wife and children to the teaching authority of a man who can’t keep his own home in order.

    Along a similar line is the elder who is on his second marriage (husband of one wife?) etc…

  • Jerry W

    Another difficulty not often addressed is the reverse implication from Paul’s analogy between leading at home and leading at church. Clearly, he associates a man’s leadership credibility in the church with his proven credibility to lead at home. If, as the Baptistic view claims, children must be saved as a “test” of the pastor’s leadership, doesn’t Paul’s analogy also imply, then, that all who’ve been under his leadership in the church should be true believers as well? Is a man’s credibility to be seriously questioned when a long-time family in his church defects? Was Paul’s provenness to be questioned when Demas “went out from” him? Should we equate Paul’s pastoral credibility with the Corinthian’s carnal conduct?

    Said another way, since not all professors in the church are true believers, can this bring a legitimate reproach on a man’s leadership? Why do we evaluate a pastor’s ministry leadership, not by the level of rebellion or number of true converts in his church, but by what he teaches and how he conducts his life, yet we evaluate his leadership at home by his conduct, his teaching PLUS his children’s response to the gospel? Of course, if a congregation’s carnality and hypocrisy can be directly linked to unbiblical teaching and ungodly living by the leadership, a legitimate reproach is proven. I believe this is more likely what Paul is addressing by the analogy of leadership credibility at home and at church. When a direct link can be traced from parental neglect and hypocrisy to the conduct and heart attitudes of the children, a reproach is legitimate.

    Also, since Paul grounds a pastor’s leadership credibility in the conduct of those directly under his spiritual care, and if pistis means “believing,” which is a sovereign act of God, then this particular qualification is not about the pastor’s faithfulness in leading at all, but about whether God has sovereignly affirmed the man’s call by saving his children.

  • Paul

    In the OT, we have the example of Eli and his sons (1 Sam 2:12-17; 22-25; 27-36; 3:13), whom the Lord removed from the priesthood because “his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them.” We also have the example of Samuel and his sons (1 Sam 8:1-3) who installed his sons as judges over Israel, but they turned out to be dishonest judges. In I Sam 8:3, the people clearly stated that “your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king…”

    In the case of Eli and his sons, he and his family were completely removed from the priesthood. In the case of Samuel and his sons, Samuel died and I doubt his sons remained judges after Saul became king. They were removed. So how do these cases bear upon the issue in 1 Timothy 3 of an elder’s faithful children?

    • The point being that their sons failures brought reproach on their ministry. It should not be that way in the church.

  • Steve Thomas

    This is an important topic, however the labels chosen seem curious and unhelpful. I am not aware of anything found in the historic Baptist distictives that would produce a preference for the third view. If you chose the label based on opinions of some Baptists you know, they are probably representative of a regional view. Of the many Baptist pastors I know, I can’t think of one who holds that position.

    • Thanks Steve. I chose that view because most of those who hold it are baptisitc, even if not most baptists hold it. Basically, its a distinction I see between the Reformed view and the baptistic view. It is different because it is not so much concerned with younger children, and it stresses that people are not born into a right relationship with God, but they have to actually have a conversion experience. But I’m quick to grant that the labels are less than perfect.

      • Paul Stewart

        Maybe the views could be: the behaved, the sprinkled, and the saved.

  • Andy B.

    Could another weakness for the Baptistic View be that the implications are not interchangeable? I know you mentioned that this view does not see complete continuity between the two passages. But if there is any continuity, would we be able to infer that if a pastor is both managing his household and caring for the church well, that we should see results in the salvation of souls? In other words, managing your household well seems to imply that there will be salvation of children (by God’s ordaining both the pastor’s call and the children’s salvation). Does caring for the church imply that there will necessarily be salvation of others? Obviously the weakness here would be that the salvation of souls would perhaps depend on the faithfulness of the elder, rather than sovereignty of God.

    • Great observation. I think a key to the Baptist view is that its not passing judgmenet on the father. It is NOT saying “he must have failed, otherwise his children would be saved.” This is obvious in the case of adult children. The Baptistic view would see the 1 Tim 3 passage as speaking to his ability to lead, as seen in his children at home. But then the Titus 1 passage would be protection of the church. The father may have been a perfect leader, but then when his kids are in their 20’s they leave the faith. This view would say the man is not qualified–not to punish him, but to protect the reputation of the church.

      • Nicely said, Jesse. This is a passage close to my heart. I stepped down from the position of pastor a few years ago because my son, as an older teen, was professing not to be a believer and was giving ample demonstration of that spiritual condition. I understood this verse to be a great mercy. As a pastor, one feels an enormous conflict because you perceive the church, all these sheep and lambs, are depending on you to shepherd, yet your own family, your boy needs a season of undistracted time. This verse makes it clear. Excercise that shepherd instinct toward your family in a more focused way; you are not putting your hand to the plow and looking back, or being disloyal. Rather, you are being loyal to the church by protecting the reputation of the church from the onslaught of criticism that will come (and briefly did come, in my case) to a pastor who has an unredeemed child.

        As a post-script, in an undeserved outpouring of mercy upon a dad that was spending more time with other people’s kids than his own, God did graciously elect all four of our children. They have left the nest and are walking with the Lord. (Our youngest two, twin boys, are twenty) To any who may be facing this heart wrenching dilema, but have not had this ending, may I offer these encouragements:

        1. In the moment, I had no certain guarentee that my kids would number among the elect, but I could see what the verse meant and who (the church) it would protect. Take the event to be an invitation to renewed fatherhood focus. God will feed his flock without you, perhaps for a season.
        2. (Quoting John MacArthur, The Master’s Plan For The Church, pg. 229) He may have children who are not favoured with the sovereign electing grace of Christ. In that case he does not qualify to be an elder, (I resigned within a week of reading this line) but God has other plans for him. He is in no way relegated to an inferior ministry. Church leadership is of high priority, but every ministry is important (1 Cor. 12: 12 – 25) He needs faithfully to pursue the ministry opportunities God brings his way and not feel that his task is in any sense inferior to another’s.
        3. You may be given a chance to saddle up and ride again.
        God is abundant in mercy, gracious and compassionate.

  • carleer

    There is a horrendous new Television show called “Preacher’s Daughters.” Apparently, the teen girls in these “Pastors'” homes are out of control. My husband (a pastor) and I discussed the fact that the entire premise is wrong: if the teen girls are out of control then the fathers are disqualified from being pastors. End of show :o)

  • KB

    The job of a pastor or elder is very time consuming and can be challenging, taking the father away from the family. Is it possible that Paul wants to make sure that “the kids are ok first” before adding extra commitments or responsibilities onto the father? Then, if your kids do “backslide” or start to get wild and rebel–wouldn’t that show that they need a bit more of their father’s time and maybe he should step down to better attend to their needs? Why do we always assume it’s only about appearances?

  • Michael

    Jesse, do you think this verse applies?

    Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth;
    for the Lord has spoken:
    “Children have I reared and brought up,
    but they have rebelled against me. (Isaiah 1:2, ESV)

    • As in God’s own children rebelled, so why should we be surprised if an elder’s children rebel? Is that what you are asking?

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  • R. C. Lopez

    Quote “the doctrine of election means that the child’s salvation does not reflect on the leadership of the elder, as much the electing purposes of God. But the child’s faithfulness at church is a direct reflection of the leadership of the father.”

    At some point in the upbringing and indoctrination of the child the subject of election will be taught.

    If the child comes to believe in any way he/she isn’t elect then good luck with getting them to have any “faithfulness at church”

    • If he/she is not being drawn by the Father in election, you will not have any luck at getting them to believe and exhortations to be faithful to a church and a gospel they do not believe…wrong focus, wrong order. (John 6: 43, 44) If he/she is elected and therefore drawn to the Father, you will not need luck (John 6: 37, 39 ) God may sovereignly utilize our faithfulness in the gospel as parents as a means to that end and He may sovereignly elect in spite of our failures, but in any case, we are responsible to be parents who teach, and some children are not elect (Joh 5: 64, 65). May I respectfully advise: teach your kids, and pray that God would graciously elect.

      • Hey Howard. Thanks for your comments.

        I know this is going to sound nit-picky. I don’t mean to be annoying, just hopefully helpful and edifying. But here you seem to refer to God’s election as if it’s something that happens in time. Also, in a comment on another thread you mentioned God “graciously electing [an elder’s] children when they reach an age appropriate to believing.” Here again, it seems you’re referring to election as an act of God that happens in time, such that one can be not elect at one point in his life, and then elect at another point.

        Yet Scripture speaks of God’s choosing His own before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). This is a sovereign act of God in eternity past, such that those who are His and thus will be saved are of a fixed number. Of course, no one but Him knows who make up that fixed number, but it’s fixed nonetheless. Aside from that explicit statement in Eph 1:4, this also accords with the notion of the Father giving a certain number of people to Jesus, of whom He will lose none (John 6:39; cf. 17:6).

        None of that really changes the thrust of your comment, though. It would just mean that rather than saying, “pray that God would graciously elect,” we would say, “graciously save.”

        Like I said, I know it seems nit-picky and curmudgeon-like. I just saw it come up a couple times and thought I might be of service to you as we all think through these things together. Thanks again for reading and commenting!

        • well said. Not nit-picky but a necesary distinction! It would be much better to have said “having elected, to now save” and “having graciously electedbefore the foundation of the world then save and enable to repent and believe when they reach an age appropriate to believing.” Thank-you for sharpening the terminology. That is a necessary correction.