Third, if pistos means “believing” in Titus 1:6, it is difficult to explain the absence of this qualification (“having children who believe”) from Paul’s list in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. Was this a requirement in Crete but not in Ephesus? As Andreas Kostenberger writes, “In the larger context of the teaching of the Pastoral Epistles, it would be unusual if the author had two separate standards, a more lenient one in 1 Tim. 3:4 (obedient) and a more stringent one in Titus 1:6 (believing)” (Kostenberger, “Children of Elders: What are the Requirements?”). At least one commentator has responded to this by stating that Christianity was established more firmly in Ephesus at the time than in Crete, and therefore Paul did not think it necessary to include this requirement in 1 Timothy 3 (White, “The Epistle to Titus,” 187).
Fourth, the translation “faithful” seems to be more consistent with the context, for every other qualification in Titus 1:5-9 involves an issue of the elder’s personal responsibility before God. According to this passage, an elder has a responsibility to be a one-woman man, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, and self controlled. But is he responsible before God to make sure his children are regenerate? Put another way, it makes good sense that an elder is to be “above reproach” in these other areas of life, but how exactly is he to be above reproach in the area of making sure his children possess saving faith? As Justin Taylor writes, “Requiring that his children have genuine saving faith is to require personal responsibility for the salvation of another, something I don’t see taught in Scripture” (Taylor, “Unbelief in an Elder’s Children”).
First Timothy 3:4-5 indicates that the father’s faithfulness in the home is a testing ground for how faithful he will be in managing the flock at large. Two fathers could be equally faithful in their parenting, and yet one might have a son who is elect and the other a son who is not. In this case, the second father would be disqualified even though he was no less faithful and capable than the first father. According to Bill Barrick,
parents do not have the ability to save their children or to guarantee their salvation. There is, it is true, a certain amount of accountability in how a child is raised (cf. Prov 22:6). However, nowhere does Scripture indicate that a father can determine the faith of his child. Each person is individually and personally responsible for his or her acceptance or rejection of the Gospel. Parents are not the Holy Spirit. Godly, obedient, consistently faithful pastors leading their homes with the highest spiritual wisdom, character, and deeds can experience a child who does no believe in the Gospel. Sometimes a child will not believe until much later in life. Is that man to be excluded from pastoring because of that? (Barrick, “Titus 1:6”)
At the same time, it has been argued in response that God will be sure to save the children of those men He desires to serve as elders in the church. If so, it seems that this would be the lone requirement in the lists of Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 which reflects God’s sovereign choice of a given man rather than that man’s character and ministry qualifications. This only serves to strengthen the argument that the meaning “faithful” is more consistent with the context.
Look for part 3 on Thursday.