27 May 2009

His Children [2]

by Frank Turk

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you - 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. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

So the last time we left off with the question, "cent: as a Dad, I did all that -- and my son (or daughter) decided to do what was right in his own eyes. I thought he was a Timothy, and he's a Demas -- or worse. It kills me -- I can't express what it is to be a father with a child who has fallen out of the faith. But as I read what you say Paul is saying here, should I step down as an elder? Are you saying my child has disqualified me?"

See: we all get hung up on that phrase in the ESV which says "his children are believers". Let me suggest something which Justin Taylor needs to go back to Crossway about in future editions of the ESV: maybe they need to reconsider how that passage is translated.

Now, before anyone gets all, "cent's a liar! He says he knows Greek when he doesn't know Greek!" on us, I don't know from Greek. But what I do know is that the word here which the ESV translates as "believers", the NET Bible translates as "faithful" -- and to clarify, they give this translators' note:
Or “believing children.” The phrase could be translated “believing children,” but the parallel with 1 Tim 3:4 (“keeping his children in control”) argues for the sense given in the translation.
That is, the sense that the man qualified for eldership is able to keep order in his home, therefore he demonstrates he can keep order in the church.

There's also the matter of how this word is commonly used in the NT. For example, Mt 25:21, Luke 12:42, Acts 16:15 (and about 50 other places) all use this word to indicate reliability or trustworthiness or obedience. So it seems, especially given the NET translators' note, that Paul is here not talking about a man who has somehow procured the election of God for his children (thus my frustration with last week's comments about this passage), but about a man who can train others up to be trustworthy or reliable members of his household.

And in that, an adult child who has run away from the faith is a tragedy, but he is a tragedy the church can then deal with as with all adult tragedies of the same stripe. And if he has abandoned the faith, it is on his head and not his father's.

But consider it, dear pastor reader: does your family qualify you for the role of elder? Have you trained up your children in the way they should go, and seen them follow your leadership in the home? If we abide by the notion that those who are first faithful in little things can then be faithful in much, your family is your first calling and the place where you show that you can lead well.

Think on it.


olan strickland said...

Frank, I really appreciate your handling of God's Word with this text keeping it in its immediate context and overall context to arrive at proper interpretation. Proper interpretation is the only way to arrive at proper application.

Rick Frueh said...

Should a pastor step down if one under his care in the church rebels against the faith, or runs off with another woman in the church, or is arrested for a crime?

Of course not. I believe the qualifications indicate an overall faithfulness to the faith, and that he does not condone blatant sin under his authority.

Should God be blamed for Adam's sin?

Anonymous said...


I don't think you can take qualifications in one area and add them to another.

That is, the home-life qualifications for a pastor don't necessarily extend to the church, unless the Bible says so.

So I don't see how we can take the qualifications for a pastor's kids and apply that to church members.

Also, the whole God and Adam thing is a bit of a red-herring methinks. God gets to do what he wants, he is his own qualification. I am not mine.

The Blainemonster said...

That's good stuff. I think the essence of meaning expressed here is often overlooked when churches consider their choices for elders and leadership.

It also enlivens and invigorates me to focus my "ministerial" energies first and foremost on my family (please pardon the accidental alliteration). They are the ones I'm MORE accountable for n'est-ce pas?

Success doing "church" + failure at home = ZERO

Anonymous said...


As a non-pastor/elder, while I understand the sentiments behind the "Success doing "church" + failure at home = ZERO" equation, I'm not sure it's accurate.

It's probably more accurate to say that success at church + failure at home = failure at home and less success than could have been at church...

I just don't see Samuel for example, being held up as an abject failure (or Aaron or David for that matter) because of their failure at home.

On the other hand, you might say, failure at home = no opportunity to succeed OR fail at church.

David said...

Touching on the second half of this clause:

Debauchery grows in an atmosphere of license and permissiveness. Insubordination grows in an atmosphere of repressive, heavy-handed authority. A home where the gospel is obeyed will not be a place where those seeds are fertilized.

The man of God will live in such a way as to communicate obedience, forgiveness and the power of God's grace through Jesus Christ to His family.

stratagem said...

I just don't see Samuel for example, being held up as an abject failure (or Aaron or David for that matter) because of their failure at home.

Samuel was certainly a failure at handing off effective leadership. Because his sons were corrupt, the people under him sinned and demanded a king. Maybe that's the point?

Frank Turk said...

Daryl --

I think -- that is, I think -- that there's a mile-wide gap between God personally selecting Samuel to be the prophet and priest in Israel, and the question of whether or not a guy with two bratty kids and a wonky check book ought to be considered by the church as a candidate for elder.

The mile-wide gap appears when we can say for certain that God selected Samuel, and we cannot say for certain, "God selected guy with bratty kids and wonky check book".

We live in an interesting age of history, where God has already spoken, and it is sufficient. We should try to do what he has already said before we try to ferret out the exceptions.

Frank Turk said...

BTW, this passage does not say that a man with angellic kids like Dan Phillips will necessarily raise up the church perect with no unbelievers in its midsts.

It says that a man with a faithful household is qualified to lead the church. Or at least he has provided that particular qualification.

Seeking to make it cause/effect that a man with lovely, obedient children will have a lovely, obedient church is, frankly, not worth refuting.

Stan said...

I'm just asking ... not hoping to stir up anything ... but is there a clause, an out, an exception, something that would deal with a father who comes to Christ later? He has already messed up his family life, but repents. He cannot have "faithful children" because he already made a mess of that. Is this person simply not qualified-end-of-story? (Just asking. It's not me, so I have no axe to grind.)

Anonymous said...


I agree. I was addressing the (off topic) idea that a failure at home equals a total failure.

As far as selecting Elders, I'm in pretty much total agreement with what you've posted so far.

Dr Bill said...

When Paul said that the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Ro. 11:29), he obviously hadn't seen that album cover!

Respectabiggle said...

I'd say yes, but with the caveat that a grown man who has just come to Christ is still young in the faith, and probably has a lot of growing to do before he's Elder material.

philness said...


Are you saying that this passage is for pastors only. I am not a pastor but it seems this passage is directed also at even me.

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frank Turk said...

Philness --

Somebody else said this once, but I'm going to nick it: the list of qualifications for an elder here in Titus are remarkable only becuase they are so unremarkable -- except for the qualification to teach what was handed down.

This is why the previous entry in which I noted that the church is a sort of elder farm is such a decent insight: a healthy church grows up men who are themselves sanctified and prepared to lead the church if they are gifted in teaching. The elder is simply an exemplar of the kind of man each man should be striving to be.

Anonymous said...


This topic is of great importance. There are many "moral" men in our churches, who meet the qualifications, and they may even have children with good dispositions. But, I don't believe Paul is getting at the issue of behavior here in this passage.

The issue is the leadership and teaching that has taken place in the home. A candidate for elder should be a man who has obviously taken the Great Commission seriously in the home. He has fulfilled the roles of Prophet (teaching God's Word), Priest (praying for and with his family), and King (providing, protecting, leading) in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. It will be rare (not impossible) for such a man to have openly rebellious children.

So, I believe a man is disqualified who does not teach the Scriptures in the home and who does not pray for and with his family, and who does not provide, protect, and lead (passive male syndrome), even if his children are angels.

stratagem said...

What if they are gifted in teaching, but don't meet the Pauline requirements for Eldership (that is, for teaching within the disciplinary structure of a church)?
Biblically, can they still legitimately function as de facto 'teachers of the church' (bloggers, authors, etc) who are teaching those who do meet the Pauline requiremnents (pastors, elders) - or do the requirements' jurisdiction end when we step outside the church building? That is to say, would everyone be qualified to teach Christians, as long as its done (somehow) outside the domain of 'the church?' (If one can be a Christian, in the presence of other Christians, and be outside the church at the same time)??

Some might take this as a snarky comment, but please don't. I'm serious about this question. And no, it's not aimed at Frank, but it could include him or anyone else (including me).

Solameanie said...

I think Tad nailed it.

Frank Turk said...

Tad-meister --

Joel may like your answer, but I think it's too high-minded -- too Baptist if you will excuse me for saying so.

I think I agree with all of your qualities listed there, but I'm not sure I can agree with your implication that if a guy's kids are not all saved -- or at least confessing to be saved -- then he's out.

What we want as baptists is to raise up the necessity of regenerate mmembership -- because we believe (and we are right to do so) that the Bible says that the church is the place of believers, and that non-believers are at best guests -- tears among the wheat.

But we can't make that some kind of transitive quality of the church, oterhwise we wind up like the Auburn Avenue folks who talk about all people in the church as somehow "in the covenant".

Paul isn't telling Titus here that a guy who has believing children has a special annointing or something: he's comparing the qualified elder to the vulgar Cretans. The elder must be this because the average Cretan is that, and we don't want that leading the church.

Is there some connection between that kind of family and the ideal of spiritual leadership in the home? Sure there is. But it doesn't have to imply saved children: it should imply shepherded children.

Gary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gary said...

"But it doesn't have to imply saved children: it should imply shepherded children."

I think your sentence above nicely sums the inerpretation of the passage. Also, it immediately points to the REASON for this qualification: a man who cannot shepherd his family well will likely not shepherd his church well.

So, I asked this last time and there was no response: What do you do with the young-ish dude who has a gift for teaching, is theologically solid, has the desire to be an elder, but just hasn't put in the years to prove he can shepherd his family? Maybe he's newly married and hasn't raised kids yet -- no obvious marital dysfunction, but not proven. Is this a case of discipleship plus wait-and-see?

donsands said...

"..just hasn't put in the years to prove he can shepherd his family?"

"He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil."

"Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands"

I've seen this happen. Even older men in the church, who are young in the Lord need to wait. Not sure how long though. But a new plant needs to bear some fruit.

Another pure and simple teaching cent. Very good stuff. May the Church be patient and wait and learn to hear and do as the Scripture says, and there will be less embarrassing situations for the Church.

Anonymous said...


I must not have been clear in my post. I am not arguing that his children must be believers. I am arguing that his practice must be as a faithful Prophet, Priest, and King in the home, for this is how one loves his wife (and family by extension) as Christ loves the church. This is also how he has a well ordered home life.

By extension, most of the time, this will translate into faithful children, but not always. So, my friend, we are in much agreement.

olan strickland said...

tears among the wheat.Is that a fulfillment of Psalm 126:5-6? :) Just kidding Frank! I know it was a typo.

Frank Turk said...

Tad --

Oyh. Ok then. Nevermind.


Frank Turk said...

Gary --

We'll see what Paul think about that in a minute. Maybe in two weeks or so.

But soon.

dougvircysehomyg said...

There is disagreement among good expositors on the exact meeting of "faithful" in this passage. I understand the arguments, but remain convinced that it means "saved".

I am so convinced about that that I personally stepped down from leadership in our local church for two years when my daughter was having fairly serious problems. The Lord blessed, and I am convinced that I took the right decision.

I am always concerned when people appeal to David or Samuel to justify the continued ministry of church leaders who have a disaster situation in their home . Look at the long term result and the hurt to God's people caused by David's and Samuel's and Jacob's failure to raise their sons properly.

Referring to God's responsibility for Adam's sin in this context is a really bad use of Scripture.

More than anything, elders are models. Their lives show Christians how to live. Their families need to show Christians how to live as families.

Furthermore, we tend to duplicate in our church ministry the very mistakes that we make in our homes. With similar results.

We need balance on this question. A man who had 8 children, with one is not yet converted, is probably still a model. A man with 8 unconverted children, with bad moral reputations should not be an elder.

DJP said...

Referring to God's responsibility for Adam's sin in this context is a really bad use of Scripture.

An assertion isn't actually an argument.

If you want to say, "Unsaved child = bad father," you've got to explain how the first father doesn't fall under that facile condemnation. Burden of proof is on you.

Sir Aaron said...

So you've dealt with the issue of having believing children, assuming your exegesis of the word in question holds up (And I'll give the benefit of the doubt until I can do some of my own research just to double check). But this still, by necessity, requires that an elder be a married man with children (or had children at one time) who are old enough to prove "faithful" (or must remain so as they age).

Frank Turk said...

Because this is a hot potato -- the question of "bad father" -- I think there's a useful and important distinction here: Paul doesn't call men who have unsaved children (or even unruly children) "bad fathers".

Isn't it more observant of the text to say instead that Paul is placing a high value on household unity and solidarity than it is to say Paul is chastising "bad dads", or holding fathers accountable for the sins of their adult sons and daughters?

Frank Turk said...


Among other things, I think the answer is yes.

dougvir said...

DPJ wrote: If you want to say, "Unsaved child = bad father," you've got to explain how the first father doesn't fall under that facile condemnation. Burden of proof is on you.


What did God do when Adam sinned? He dealt with the situation, confronted Adam, assigned consequences and provided a way for the sin to be dealt with. Adam was redeemed and we will get to know him in heaven.

Compare that with David's handling of the rape of Tamar and Absalom’s subsequent vengeance.

Paul is not telling Timothy that an elder's son will never commit a sin. But as a father he will deal / have dealt with that sin appropriately and effectively. After all, that is a big part of an elder's work in the local church.

Furthermore, Adam's fall will ultimately result in God's greater glory. It is the occasion for him to manifest his grace and love to some of his fallen creatures. The parallel between that and a human son/father is hard to see.

Beyond that, I always shudder when (even indirectly) we reduce God to our own level with that type of argument. Paul anticipated that line of reasoning in Romans a few times. His (Spirit inspired) reaction was "God forbid!"

DJP said...

Apart from the last paragraph (and even mostly there), I think those are perfectly valid points. If David knows of how often people have used his sins to rationalize their own, I'm pretty sure Heaven's bliss would lose some of its shine for him.

However your good answer doesn't support your premise that my eldership depends on God's eternal counsels of sovereign election and reprobation.

I could (theoretically only!!!) be the best father in history, and it would not make my children elect, nor would it effect regeneration.

dougvir said...

DJP wrote: "However your good answer doesn't support your premise that my eldership depends on God's eternal counsels of sovereign election and reprobation.

I could (theoretically only!!!) be the best father in history, and it would not make my children elect, nor would it effect regeneration."


We are both good enough Calvinists to be able to distinguish between God's sovereignty and the means he uses to accomplish that will. And to distinguish between his sovereignty and our responsibility.

If we take that argument to its logical conclusion we would have to admit that parents have no responsibility at all in leading their children to Christ. I am a 5 pointer, but I have a burden and a responsibility for the salvation of my children, and now my grand children. That responsibility is not absolute, but it is real.

We would not allow parents to hide behind God's sovereignty to excuse bad parenting. We should not allow elders to do the same thing.

That being said, no elder is perfect and we have our whole life to work on the different qualifications set out in the Pastoral Epistles. I am in my early 60's and am still working on my temper. (Ask my dear wife!) So let’s accept that when we are looking at a potential alder we need to consider their children. The general testimony of their family is an important criterion. Not perfection – general testimony, just like with the other qualifications.

DJP said...

I think I can put my finger on the exact problem I see in your position.

You are demanding results not under any man's control.

You know you can't "lead" anyone to Christ - and I'm not saying that to be picayune. You can point folks to Christ; but there's a line at which both your responsibility and your ability end.

An unsaved child DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN an unfaithful parent.

That's my point.

Nobody's defending unfaithfulness or irresponsibility as a parent. At least, I'm sure not!

dougvir said...


I understand where you are coming from. If I push my point too far I could pile unecessary guilt on parents who are already carrying a heavy enough burden. Great parents sometimes have a kid who does not follow the Lord.

On the other hand, I regularly see people in positions of spiritual leadership in a local church whose family is a disgrace. Often you do not have to look very hard to see why. Or to see him doing the same things to the poor people in the local church that he has done to his family. This is a major problem in churches throughout the world.

We need balance on this question.

DJP said...

Absolutely, and that's a good pastoral point.

What I resist, and will always strenuously resist, is the AUTOMATIC and damning assumption that if B sins, A must be to blame. I don't care of the relationship, I feel like I've heard it all. If a wife is sinning, IT MUST BE because her husband _____. If a child is sinning, IT MUST BE because her father _____.

On the one hand, we might wish we had that kind of power.

On the other, it's a darned good thing we don't.

Tim Nixon said...

I had the privilege of preaching on this passage recently. One of the things I found interesting is that this is a qualification only in Crete, but not given to Timothy for Ephesus. As I studied, I found that the difference was that Ephesus was a well established church, and therefore Timothy was told that and Elder couldn't be a new believer, whereas Titus is not given this requirement. So, for Paul to expect that Titus would have to appoint "newer" Christians because Crete was a newer church plant, then turn around and require the children to be believers, would be inconsistent.

Another side note though, in that culture, the whole family "adopted" the father's religious beliefs, so it would be expected that the whole family would be a part of the church. So I would agree with Frank that "faithful" is also a good translation. If the child rejected his father's religion that would be a sign of serious rebellion against his dad, and dad would need to focus on that rather than the church.

The only problem I still have with this approach is, how can an unbelieving child ever be faithful? I know unbelievers can be obedient to their parents, but faithful in the New Testament always refers to believers, and an unbeliever can't ever be the NT definition of "faithful". Besides that one issue, I agree with the translation "faithful".

Frank Turk said...

Faithful does not always refer to believers. In the parable of the talent, the stewards who do well with the master's riches are not said to be jews, nor are they said to be believers: they are simply the stewards of the master's house. While those stewards are probably analogically related to believers, their faithfulness is not spiritual faithfulness: it is material faithfulness.

1Cor 4 talks about how a steward must be found "faithful" -- and that's not a reference to spiritual activity.

1Cor 10 talks about how the Lord is "faithful". That's not a reference to saving faith, is it?

I'd be careful with generalizations like that -- especially when lexical reference tells us that "pistos" usually means "faithful" or "trustworthy" in the NT, and not all of those refer to believers.

one busy mom said...

very interesting...I've never seen "believers" in that verse translated that way. Am I correct in surmising you're using it more like the word "obedient"?

One more question - does the word used for "children" imply anything regarding their age? Is this "children of any age - even adults" or would this refer to "minors still under the direct authority of their father" ?

Frank Turk said...

One Busy Mom:

KJV, NKJV and YLT all translate it that way; obviously the NET bible translates it that way; the SBC HCSB translates it that way.

It's not an obscure translation at all.

I'm commenting here that it means something like "trustworthy" or "dutiful".

As to the implication of "children", I think it means the ones in your home who are under your care and guidance -- the ones not yet adults, not yet self-sufficient.

ktviii said...


I am currently considering the opportunity of eldership, so this is timely. How can those outside the family judge the quality of leadership of a dad if not by the moral behavior of the children, whether that be their actions or their profession of faith?

If a dad has children who "turn out bad", I don't care if it is one kid or eight, can you really say it is ok for him to be an elder? What method do you use to determine that this isn't an indication of bad parenting?

And finally, if you say you know he is a good parent in spite of his child/ren, shouldn't his priority be to shepherd his family and step down, or not pursue the office of elder because he has to pay attention to issues in his family instead?

Dave Sherrill said...

Cent and fellow readers,
I have not been a member of many churches, so my base of experience is severely limited. Of the conservative evangelical churches I've been a part of locally (3 in my adult life), all of them have affirmed the qualifications for eldership found in Titus 1:6-9.

Not a single one of those evangelical churches required that an elder must be married.Not a single one of them required that an elder must have multiple children.I'm only picking a couple of the qualifications you are promoting because they stand out above the others on my "raised eyebrow" meter.

Cent, could you please offer some current churches or denominations that define the above as necessary qualifications? I haven't been able to find any.

Since many here affirm the position you're promoting... perhaps they could offer their churches or others they know of as living examples of these specific requirements.

It has been more than surprising to see the position you are promoting as an innovation. I am left wondering if I've missed the boat and have been misled by churches, pastors, elders (and for that matter; commentators, theologians, and denominations) who I believed held the Bible in highest regard as God's inspired and infallible word.

Sir Aaron said...

Frank, I think your 6:39PM post shows that even if the translation is "faithful" versus trustworthy, there are other passages that clearly show that "faithful" does not necessarily mean "believer."

my question is with regards to children, when are they old enough to prove trustworthy? Certainly a 6 month old would not qualify under the criteria?

Sir Aaron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sir Aaron said...

Dave Sherrill,

I also couldn't find a single commentator who agreed with Cent's interpretation of this passage.

(that doesn't mean I'm not open to it, Frank. Just an observation).

P.S. My Pastor and church doesn't hold this position either but it doesn't come up often since most men at my church are married and have kids.

Sir Aaron said...


another point you made initially blew right by me. The passage does say "children" as in more than one child.

Anonymous said...

Hi, first-time commenting here. Am from the UK and have been quietly enjoying this blog for a time now. As a result I feel really bad that the first time I ever post a comment is to (mildly) disagree with something. But after just a quick investigation of the use of the word 'pistos' in the NT I really think there's a fair bit of evidence for taking it to refer to a believer. I put the verses below for everyone to consider (they're taken from the NET translation, to show that this isn't simply an ESV 'quirk'). I was struck by how the word was used on several occasions as a fairly standard word for a Christian.

John 20:27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe.”

Acts 10:45 The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were greatly astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles,

Acts 16:1 He also came to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple named Timothy was there, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but whose father was a Greek.

Acts 16:15 After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me to be a believer in the Lord, come and stay in my house.” And she persuaded us.

2Cor. 6:15 And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever?

Gal. 3:9 So then those who believe are blessed along with Abraham the believer.

Eph. 1:1 From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints [in Ephesus], the faithful in Christ Jesus.

Col. 1:2 to the saints, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, at Colossae. Grace and peace to you from God our Father!

1Tim. 4:3 They will prohibit marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

1Tim. 4:10 In fact this is why we work hard and struggle, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of believers.

1Tim. 5:16 If a believing woman has widows in her family, let her help them. The church should not be burdened, so that it may help the widows who are truly in need.

1Pet. 1:21 Through him you now trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Rev. 2:10 Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. The devil is about to have some of you thrown into prison so you may be tested, and you will experience suffering for ten days. Remain faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown that is life itself.

Rev. 2:13 ‘I know where you live—where Satan’s throne is. Yet you continue to cling to my name and you have not denied your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was killed in your city where Satan lives.

Rev. 17:14 They will make war with the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them, because he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those accompanying the Lamb are the called, chosen, and faithful.”