Author: Ron Graham

Elders and Deacons

Having Faithful Children
—Part 2

So far, in our examination of the term "faithful children", we have not really examined what the word faithful means. There are differing views on what the word faithful means in Titus 1:6. On this page, we look at these.

Note: We will consider the arguments for each of three possibilities in the form of a debate. Firstly we will hear the moderator's opening remarks, then the case for the standard view among churches of Christ will be put. Following that, the other two propositions will be debated.

1 What is Meant by “Faithful”?


This debate is about the qualification for elders that requires them to have "faithful children". What does that mean? Some translations render the Greek pistos in Titus 1:6 as "believing" rather than "faithful". From these two words, there arise three distinct possibilities regarding the children in Titus 1:6. They could be...

The debate will be in three parts. First the affirmative will be taken by those who hold that faithful children are batized believers. In the second and third parts, the affirmative will be taken by those who take the second and third views above.

2 Children Who are Baptized Believers?

The proposition: That faithful children are only those who are baptized believers.


In several instances of pistos, it is clear from the context that the people described as "believers" or "believing" are in fact baptized believers, that is to say, Christians and members of the church. Here are some examples...

It is the most accepted view among churches of Christ that the word pistos in Titus 1:6 means faithful Christians, baptized believers, just as it does in the above examples.

A distinction should be observed between the qualifications for a deacon and the qualifications for an elder with regard to their children. An elder must have believing children, that is to say his children must be baptized believers. A deacon's children, on the other hand, need only to be under control because "believing" is not specified in (2Timothy 3:12).




In relation to the term "reverence"...

note Be aware that the teams are now "changing ends". At this point in the debate, those who took the affirmative above are now taking the negative. Those who took the negative now take the affirmative.

3 Little Ones Who Believe in Jesus?

The proposition: That faithful children include little ones who believe in Jesus.


Jesus spoke of "these little ones who believe in me" (Matthew 18:6). These were little children not yet grown up (Matthew 18:1-6). If a man's children are "little ones who believe" surely he has "believing children". If we insist that "faithful children" can refer only to baptized believers, then we are saying that little children who believe in Jesus are unfaithful.

Faith is a process. It starts with a child-like faith. It develops as a growing recognition of sin and a maturing consideration of the gospel. In the fullness of time it culminates in the obedience of faith. To find a man with "believing children" we simply look for children who appear to be developing well along that path of faith. We look for, and a man who is bringing up his children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:1-4).

When a child has an unquestioning belief in Jesus, that belief is a credit to someone, usually the parents. To instil such a belief in a child's mind is a good work unequalled. This has a corollary. If anyone takes away that belief from a child, "it were better for that person if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matthew 18:6).

If we can understand (Matthew 18:6) as covering children not yet old enough for baptism, why can we not do the same with Titus 1:6 and 1Timothy 3:4?


Whilst little children being brought up in a Christian household are invariably believers in Jesus and safe in his arms, there is going to be a time when someone will cause them to stumble, and they enter into sin. What status do they have at that stage? Are they little ones who believe or condemned sinners needing to obey the gospel? Surely they are the latter.

Of course we would not say that "little children who believe" are unfaithful. However it is next to certain they are going to become so. When they do, you can hardly described that as part of the process of developing faith! It is becoming unfaithful. These children have become like the prodigal son.

Now if we appoint an elder on the basis that he has little ones who believe, what happens when, later, they become sinners? Do we stand the elder down from office until his children are baptized? This hiatus is truly a hole in the argument for taking "faithful children" to mean "little children who believe".

4 Children Who are Obedient and Trustworthy?

The proposition: That faithful children are those who respect and obey their father.


A few verses down from the phrase "faithful children" (Titus 1:6), we find the phrase "the faithful word" (Titus 1:9). This is the same Greek word (pistos) and it obviously means trustworthy and reliable in verse 9, why not in verse 6?

Now our opponents may reply that "the faithful word" means the Christian word, therefore "faithful children" must mean Christian children. This sounds all right, but the two things are not parallel. A Christian child is a baptized and believing child. But the Christian word is not a baptized and believing word. Obviously, the word "Christian" has subtly different senses, confounding instead of clarifying the matter.

In the parable of the talents, two of the slaves were called "faithful" (Matthew 25:21) meaning obedient, trustworthy, respectful. Calling the elder's children faithful in this sense makes the qualifications given to Titus and Timothy consistent.