Looking for a Few Godly Men in the Home (Titus 1:6)
Preached by Pastor Phil Layton at Gold Country Baptist Church on May 25, 2008
Last weekend, America recognized Armed Forces Day (5/17/2008). Tomorrow marks Memorial Day here in the US. Formerly known as Decoration Day, this holiday commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country. It began first to honor Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War. After World War I, it was expanded for wars in general and after WWII its name and current place on our calendar became official (last Monday of May).
As I stand here, Greg Ross, one of our deacons and a faithful godly man is travelling across the US as a chaplain for a group of bikers driving across the country supporting veterans and increasing veterans awareness and they are meeting with many thousands of men like them in our nation’s capitol. You can pray for Greg as he has opportunities there and back to minister to fellow veterans and to share the gospel with grace and clarity if and when he can.
This evening, Tim Thompson, a chaplain we support in our community, will be giving the message in our evening service. Tim is himself a veteran of multiple wars and a good man of God who ministers to men in uniform who fight to keep us safe.
We are very blessed here at this church to have so many among us who are veterans in the US Armed Forces, brave soldiers who served our country so sacrificially for these freedoms we enjoy today who are also men of God. We have young people from our church family either in the process of training or already serving our country in similar ways, and to all of you, we express our deepest admiration and appreciation and affection.
Many of the motto’s and slogans of the Armed Forces are familiar to us – one in particular that I want to borrow for the title of our message today “Wanted: Looking for a Few Good Men.” The US Marine Corps are not perfect men, but recruits must be men pursuing all the requirements and doing whatever it would take to make them one of those few good men that are wanted and needed. Marines have to learn self discipline, self-denial, allegiance to the Commander, submission to authority, following orders whether they feel like it or not, commitment, endurance, loyalty, integrity. Each of those are qualities that should be in all, not just Marines, but in the end there are few, not many, that meet the standard.
Have you ever wondered just where and when that familiar phrase, “A Few Good Men,” came into being? Maybe World War I or II, Korea, the Cold War? Was it from Madison Avenue, or a media advertising campaign or modern public relations ploy?
Actually it was very early in US history in the 1700s, according to BGen Edwin H. Simmons’ book, The United States Marines, A History (Naval Institute Press, 1998), p. 17:
“William Jones, captain of Marines in Providence, Rhode Island (the 28-gun frigate) then at Boston, advertised in the 20 March 1779 Providence Gazette the need for ‘a few good Men’ to engage … [this] gave the Marine Corps a recruiting slogan it would be using two hundred [plus] years later. ”
This Sunday before Memorial Day is fitting in God’s Providence that the next verse in our study in Titus – Titus 1:6 – is a passage that begins to discuss the few good men God is looking for in His army. To be more precise, God is “looking for a few godly men.”
And Titus 1 gives us the character of a godly soldier leading others in the Lord’s Army. This text gives us the orders from our heavenly Commander-in-Chief as to what type of men He wants in His army, which has a place for all of us. Some are on the front-lines, some are at home, and while there’s equality in Christ, there are different roles. All of us should be seeking to live up to the standards we will be looking at in God’s Word, but to have a leadership role, these are requirements for the few good men God’s looking for to be leading each local division in the Lord’s Army.
The Apostle Paul is writing this letter to his able delegate, a young corporal or lieutenant, if you will, named Titus. Titus is serving as a soldier, an apostolic ambassador on the island. Titus has been left in Crete, really in the trenches of spiritual warfare, on an island that was famous for its deception and immoral sinful living.
HIS MISSION: Be faithful to the Commander-in-Chief and be finding faithful men who live up to the code of conduct he’s been given here. Each local regiment (church) needs a few godly men
Titus 1:5-9 (NKJV)
5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—*
6 **if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination.**
7 **For a bishop [overseer] must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money,**
8 **but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled,**
9 **holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.*
These are the marching orders for these men. Verse 5 says this is what is commanded – a strong word in the language – these are not suggestions or tips or ideas or man’s opinions. This is the inspired Word from our Living God, our Commander-in-Chief.
VERSE 6 GIVES US 3 QUALITIES OF THE “FEW GODLY MEN” GOD IS LOOKING FOR TO LEAD HIS TROOPS:
1. FAULTLESS CHARACTER
2. FIDELITY IN MARRIAGE
3. FAITHFUL CHILDREN
These principles are not just for elders, in fact elders are to be an example of these qualities because that’s what God wants all of us to be like. Basically every quality listed in these verses is also God’s will for every believer according to other passages that use the same phrases, so you can’t relax here or think this isn’t for you.
These character qualities are not just for men, either, so you ladies can’t relax either. The general principles here of these godly men are for all God’s people – men or woman, young or old, all of us need to be pursuing a faultless character. All of us need to be pursuing faithfulness in marriage and being a faithful parent, if we’re married and blessed with kids. If we’re not married, we still need to be faithful and pure as well, and single men need to be developing this character of a godly man in this passage. Young ladies should be looking for this type of man for a relationship. Not a perfect man, but a man pursuing and evidencing these developing qualities. If I could summarize the message of verse 6 in one sentence: Be Faultless in your character, and be Faithful in your home.
And as we’ll see in Titus 1:6, when God comes looking for a “few good men” to lead in the church, He looks first not at the outward appearance or ability, God looks at the heart, the character.
Verse 6 says “if any man is blameless” or “above reproach”
Or some have “unquestionable integrity.” I like “unimpeachable”
1. FAULTLESS CHARACTER
The term emphasizes a character without observable obvious faults that would disgrace the Lord and disqualify from public ministry.
This word literally means “nothing to take hold upon” and has the idea of an accusation that can indict him of grevious sin.
“Any man” speaks of the gender requirement for elders; this next phrase is the general requirement: “above reproach” / “blameless”
This is the over-arching requirement. In fact, the rest of the phrases in this passage explain what this means in specific areas of life.
v. 7 says it again and more emphatically “he MUST”
v. 6 verb “is” occurs in the Greek present tense
The grammar indicates current and continual character, not distant past blamelessness, especially not before Christ. But as a Christian and church servant he has demonstrated a pattern of godly character, there is no glaring blame that could lead to impeachment (contrast US presidents whose character did not match this verse)
The word’s definition signifies that which cannot be called to account. It means having no blot on one’s life for which one could be accused, arraigned, and disqualified. It means there is nothing laid to one’s charge (as the result of public investigation). It is not simply an acquittal but the absence of even a valid accusation.
Martin Luther wrote on this phrase: ‘According to the list Paul makes, [the elder] should not have public guilt which causes people to stumble. Paul is referring to public vices which can be made the subject of an accusation. But this does not mean, does it, that they should be without any guilt at all, without any flesh and blood?’ [i.e., Elders must still be human beings]
John Calvin wrote: ‘When he says … must be blameless, he does not mean one who is exempt from every vice, (for no such person could at any time be found,) but one who is marked by no disgrace that would lessen his authority. He means, therefore, that he shall be a man of unblemished reputation.’ This is a leader you cannot impeach.
In the words of another modern writer: “As such, a man would not be open to attack or criticism in terms of Christian life in general or in terms of the characteristics that Paul goes on to name.
This does not mean that an elder must be perfect, but it may be fairly said that each named characteristic marks his life.”
All men have faults, but this means no fatal fault in his character or integrity, no blame or reproach that disqualifies him from effective leadership. It does not mean he’s sinless, which no man is, but a godly man should sin less in these areas listed in these verses.
And where and when he does fail and fall short, his reputation and character is such that he repents and is known for turning from evil rather than having evil mark his life. Thus he avoids reproach.
The patriarch Job was known as a godly elder in his society, and the opening verse of the book of Job makes this clear.
Job 1:1 (NASB95) “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.”
Can God say the same of you or me?
GOD IS LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD MEN, A FEW BLAMELESS GODLY MEN. WHERE DOES HE LOOK FIRST?
The message of Titus 1:6 tells us it starts in the HOME …
2. FIDELITY IN MARRIAGE
“blameless, the husband of one wife”
I believe fidelity as a husband is what this phrase emphasizes, but there has been much controversy through the centuries about what exactly this phrase means (forbidding polygamy, singleness as bachelor / widower, 2nd wife in life, divorce, remarriage, adultery, infidelity?)
TURN TO 1 TIMOTHY 3 TO SEE WHERE ELSE IT OCCURS
1 Timothy 3:2 “A bishop, then [word for overseer / elder], must be blameless, the husband of one wife …
He must be blameless or pure in his marriage first and foremost.
It’s no coincidence that this order is consistent in both Timothy and Titus, because:
- if a man’s character and integrity can’t sustain a faithful commitment to his bride he loves no matter what, he’s the type of man who will also do the same with a commitment to the church
- if a Christian man does not keep his marital vows before God, how can we be confident this man will keep ministerial vows before men?
- if a man cannot be faithful to his bride, why would Christ entrust His beloved bride the church to such a man’s care?
*Notice in both passages dealing with elder qualifications, it begins with “above reproach” (general overall summary statement) and then the first specific requirement or example or elaboration in both lists has to do with his marital life, his relation to women
1 Timothy 3:10-12 (NKJV)
10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless.
[v. 11 discusses “women” or “wives” – that’s another discussion for another time, but note the next requirement listed for these men called deacons is …]
12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
*Notice verse 12 is essentially parallel to Titus 1:6, which goes from the husband image to the father image.
Verse 15 says that the church is God’s household, using the analogy of the human household being the visible starting point.
Verse 5 says that’s why an elder must rule or govern his own household well – the physical family must come before the spiritual family. Ministry begins at home before it extends beyond. And where a man’s house is out of order because of missplaced priorities, that’s where it’s important for a plurality of godly men to come alongside to help him through the process, and if the family’s in serious trouble, any elder is subject to the other elders counsel as to when it’s time to step down from eldership.
SO WHAT DOES “HUSBAND OF ONE WIFE” MEAN?
View #1 – Forbids singleness (whether by choice or widower)
Interestingly, in the many dozens of commentaries and articles I read, none of the authors believe single men are automatically barred from ever serving as elder or deacon. I do know of one well-respected pastor who took a very strict view of this phrase, and when his wife died, he believed he had to step down from being a pastor and so he did. I greatly appreciate his commitment to his conviction and respect him very much, but I’m not convinced the text dogmatically demands that only men presently and continually married can serve as a deacon or elder.
If you argue that the mention of “wife” demands he must be married, then to be consistent, you would also have to say the mention of “faithful children” means he cannot be an elder unless he has 2 or more children of the age where they have demonstrated faithfulness as well. There are a few men who don’t think they can serve as an elder because they only have 1 kid, or their kids are too young to demonstrate faithfulness to the things of God, but I don’t think the text should be taken in a wooden literal requirement.
Most men were married then just as today, and most men have kids, and so verse 6 addresses that most common situation. If the man doesn’t have children or a wife due to no fault of his own (like Paul), his leadership and character have be evident in other ways.
This is clear because the same wording is used of those unmarried as widows in 1 Timothy 5:9 (we’ll look at that more later)
The phrase actually has to do with character more than marital status or history. The emphasis is faithfulness, monogamy, fidelity morally and mentally, and even single men should have this character like Paul did. You can be single and faithful and pure, and be qualified, and on the other hand, you can technically be married to one woman, and be disqualified (more on that later).
Did Paul consider himself and Jesus unfit for leadership? No.
Does Paul say elders “must be married” (Greek gamos)? No.
Did Paul ever teach that singleness prevents you from serving in any official or visible role? No. And actually, if you read 1 Corinthians 7:32ff, he argues of the great advantages of service when single, and disadvantages for full-time service when married because you have split priorities and responsibilities. Marriage is not bad, but he encourages singleness and doesn’t give any disclaimer that it would hinder ministry; he suggests the opposite!
Now, if a man’s single because he’s a jerk, and no one will marry him, that’s a problem, but not because of the phrase “husband of one wife” – there are other phrases in Titus 1 that relate there.
If a man is serving as an elder or deacon and divorces his wife or his wife leaves, that’s a problem, too, but not because the phrase demands marriage. There was a phrase for “never been divorced” that Paul didn’t use. Divorce may have to be examined under the first phrase “above reproach” or “keeping his household in order” (1 Tim 3:4-5).
I read a news article last year of a husband and wife who were both pastors of separate churches (that itself is a problem, not just a wife attending another church than her husband, but she the pastor – that’s not a household in order!)
Both of them went through a divorce and their pulpit ministry didn’t miss a beat and I believe they’re both still pastoring away. Don’t let a little divorce get in the way of ministry, I guess. That’s a problem, not that they’re single now, but why they’re single, and a Christian pastor divorcing a spouse is not “above reproach.”
View #2 – Forbids polygamy (only one wife at a time)
Verse 12 in the NASB has “only one wife” – and of course that’s God’s plan since Genesis 2 “one man, one woman, one flesh”
This would be easy if that’s all this verse means, since none of us are a part of that polygamy cult in Texas we’ve seen on the news recently. Make sure whoever you nominate for elder doesn’t have a bunch of wives – ok that’s first on the checklist, what’s next?
The problem with that view is pointed out well by Homer Kent:
- Polygamy at this time was not common or even legal in the Empire [of Rome, like US … some pagans maybe did secretly?]
- There is certainly no evidence from these days that polygamists ever entered the church or that this was a problem among leaders
- You don’t need a special prohibition to exclude nominees from eldership when polygamists couldn’t even be members of a church
- More help is found by the phrase in1 Timothy 5:9 for widows
1 Timothy 5:3 (NASB95) “Honor widows who are widows indeed …
1 Timothy 5:9 … A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man”
That’s the exact same 3 words and construction in the Greek – the word “one” first for emphasis – literally “a one-man woman” or “wife” – same words as in the elder qualifications but in reverse
So whatever it means here, by same author, in same book, and same context, it means the same for elders and deacons, too.
No scholar I can find thinks this verse is addressing the problem of a woman who had multiple husbands at the same time – polyandry was not known to have been practiced at all in the Empire, it was unheard of even among pagan cultures, and certainly not a problem in the church.
If the phrase means multiple spouses, would Paul really have to warn the church against supporting women who had multiple husbands at once and they’re now all dead? No one argues that.
So we need to go further than just forbidding multiple spouses …
View #3 – Only one spouse in life (all remarriage forbidden)
Here again we need to be consistent in looking at how the phrase is used by the same author in the same context in regards to both men and women. “No remarriage” was the view of many church fathers, and one prominent one in particular. But be careful in reading their views, because that church father castrated himself thinking it was more holy (that affects your interpretation). Most early church theologians were against any remarriage and many were against marriage altogether (which later paved the way to RCC celibacy, which teaches the exact opposite of 3:2 or 4:1-3!)
1 Timothy 5:14 Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach;
A second marriage is not necessarily sinful and doesn’t mean you’re not above reproach, in fact for young widows, Paul wants them to get remarried so there won’t be occasion for reproach! To study remarriage further, see Romans 7, 1 Corinthians 7, Matthew 19, etc.
So we need to be consistent when Paul uses the same Greek words and phraseology to say older widows must be “wives of one husband / man”
Those who are consistent to the one-spouse-per-life view would have to say this phrase disqualifies any for widow support as well as elder support or service (v. 17) if ever remarried (regardless of the circumstance, before or after salvation, current godly character)
So in verse 9, is Paul saying to Timothy that if a bride in her 20’s loses her husband (he abandons her or leaves her for another woman or he dies, etc.), and the woman remarries, and has been a Christian woman for decades, now at the age of 60-70 she loses her 2nd husband … does verse 9 mean such women are not eligible for support? Is a man ineligible to serve under a similar scenario?
I don’t believe that’s what Paul is saying, in fact the text of verse 9 literally can read “having become (perfect participle – in past but with results continuing to the present) a one-man kind of woman”
In other words, her character and reputation over time was demonstrated to be faithful to her late husband. She was and is a one-man type of woman, and she was and is above reproach in her interactions with the opposite sex. That’s the emphasis of the phrase – character & faithfulness (esp. since conversion), fidelity.
I believe the correct view is Fidelity in Marriage
TURN BACK TO TITUS 1:6
A lot of the confusion with the other views is cleared up with this understanding that the text literally indicates “one woman man”
3 Greek words in this order – ONE -> word meaning WOMAN or sometimes WIFE -> word for MAN that sometimes is HUSBAND
Gune is a word that means “1 a woman of any age, whether a virgin, or married, or a widow. 2 a wife.”
In general Greek from the time of Homer, as also in the LXX and the NT, it denotes “female” as distinct from male (TDNT, 1:776)
I looked up 15 different dictionaries and lexicons of the Greek language and all of them listed “woman” as the primary meaning, #1 definition of this word, and they also all agree that a secondary and less common meaning is “wife” but it can mean either
NASB translates “woman / women” 130x and “wife” 83x
This is different than the word Paul uses in the next chapter of Titus 2:4 (NASB95) “so that they may encourage the young women [neos] to love their husbands, to love their children”
The word for “man” or “husband” is andros, from aner, which similarly has the dominant primary meaning of “man” and all the sources agree. It depends on the context and structure.
Here are how some other English Bibles have rendered Titus 1:6:
Wuest’s NT translation: “a one-wife kind of a man”
Weymouth NT translation: “true to his one wife”
NLT “He must be faithful to his wife”
ISV footnote: “Or devoted to his wife ; lit. a man of one woman”
ESV footnote: “or ‘a man of one woman’”
Many scholars think the best phrase is “A one-woman man”
The book God, Marriage, and Family documents:
- This type of translation is further supported by inscriptional evidence regarding the Roman concept of a univira, that is, a “one-husband”-type of wife [i.e. character of faithfulness]
- This was a term in the culture for marital fidelity attested by numerous literary references and tombstones, poems and inscriptions of being content with one spouse alone.
Just being married does not automatically qualify you. I can think of a couple professional basketball stars on the LA Lakers who are still a husband to one wife, but I don’t think they fulfill the intent of this verse because both have publicly confessed to their infidelity because of news that came out in the media. Being a husband of one wife does not fulfill the biblical call for a faithful “one-woman man,” and that type of sin may not disqualify you from your job in the world, but it does from being an elder or deacon in God’s church. God can forgive any who truly repent, but God’s Word also says there are consequences that are not erased.
Proverbs 6 says you can’t put fire in your lap without being burned or walk on coals without scars and adultery’s reproach is not blotted out (not “above reproach”, Prov. 6:27, 33)
Numerous politicians have failed similarly in recent years. Our former President is still married to one wife, but by the meaning of this phrase “one-woman-man” he would be disqualified from spiritual leadership. He does not have unimpeachable integrity, an above reproach character. Tragically, many Christians fall here.
*It’s noteworthy that the qualifications of a faithful man begin where so many ministries are ended and disqualified, any violations of God’s pattern for marriage.
Abandoning one’s wife, divorcing her despite your vows, extramarital immorality, adultery, any improprieties with the opposite gender, homosexuality, even emotional affairs or internet affairs can violate this verse, even if he technically on paper or by law is still “a husband of one wife” – any such unfaithfulness or infidelity for a man serving as pastor is not a “one woman man”
What about moral or marital failures before he was a Christian?
I’m speaking for myself here, but I’m not sure the elder requirements have to do with distant past or pre-Christian days.
When you consider the reputation of Crete that we read in verse 12, and when you consider how young the church was in Crete as most scholars believe, I’m not convinced it’s very likely that there were many (if any) men who were faithful and flawless in their moral and marital history their whole lives, especially pre-Christ.
The actual text says “if any man is [present tense] blameless, the husband of one wife” or “a one-woman kind of man” …
Can we consistently apply standards to the distant past or before salvation? Look at verse 7: “… not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money”
Alexander Strauch reminds us that if we stick to the actual text, it
‘is meant to be a positive statement that expresses faithful, monogamous marriage [by this Christian man, and ] … prohibits all deviation from faithful, monogamous marriage … and/or any questionable sexual relationship … Such a man is above reproach in his sexual and marital life. What does [the passage] say about sexual and marital sins before a person’s conversion to Christ? … What about the forgiveness and restoration of a fallen spiritual leader? These and other painful and controversial questions are not directly answered here. They must be answered from the whole of Scripture’s teaching on divorce and remarriage, forgiveness, grace, and restoration, as well as its teaching on leadership example and the full spectrum of elder qualifications. All deviations from God’s standard of marital behavior confuse and perplex us. Sin always confuses, distorts, and divides, so there will always be diverse opinions on questions such as these. This in now way, however, diminishes the local church’s obligation to face these issues and make wise, scripturally sound decisions. In all these heartbreaking situations, the honor of Jesus’ name, faithfulness to His Word, and prayer are the supreme guides.’
3. FAITHFUL CHILDREN
“… having faithful [or “believing”] children, not accused of dissipation or insubordination”
This phrase is also controversial. I’m not aware of any who insist an elder must have multiple children, but if he does have children the question is what they must be and what they must not be like.
First, let’s start with what they must not be accused of. The text says dissipation – that’s a word not all of us are familiar with.
Word only occurs 3x in NT, which helps us see its connotations:
Ephesians 5:18 (NASB95)
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation [or debauchery]
1 Peter 4:3-4 (NASB95)
3 For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. 4 In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you;
An elder’s children cannot be justly accused of such things according to Titus 1:6. The word for “dissipation” also occurs twice in the Greek version of the OT (Septuagint):
Prov 7:11 (NASB95) “She is boisterous and rebellious [NIV “defiant” or KJV “stubborn” or ESV “wayward”], Her feet do not remain at home
Prov 28:7 (NASB95) “He who keeps the law is a discerning son, But he who is a companion of gluttons [KJV “riotous men” ]/ /humiliates his father.”
This type of son or daughter not only humiliates any believing father, but it is especially disgraceful for an elder. It’s a reproach.
A related word is used of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:13 where it says he “squandered with loose living” or “reckless living” (ESV)
Titus 1:6 says an elder’s child cannot be that type of person.
NASB “not accused of dissipation” (also NKJV with footnote “debauchery, lit. incorrigibility”). Others have words like “riot” (KJV) or “riotous living” (YLT) or “wildness” (HCSB) or “wild lifestyles” (ISV) or “a reputation for being wild” (NLT)
There is sometimes sensual or sexual connotation with the word. It originally meant hopeless or incurably sick, disorderly or destroying of self, by wasteful expenditure and a wasted life, even the way we use the word “wasted” for drunkenness, as this word was commonly used for drunken revelry at pagan festivals. These things cannot be the reputation or lifestyle of an elder’s children.
The next term at the end of verse 6 is “insubordination” or “rebellion” or “unruly” – this is the child who is out of control, or disorderly, or disregarding authority, or disobedient to his father, or disrespectful. The reproach is on the father who does not discipline or control his children, he’s not a good leader at home
These kids are not subdued, not submissive, not subject, not subordinate, and not merely sinful or immature. This is a pattern of behavior and character that reflects on the character of the father and his lack of godly parenting, and if it continues, the elder needs to be willing to step down, if needed, to get his family in line.
The secular Roman society used this word to describe horses and oxen that would not tolerate their yoke or soldiers who would not keep their ranks! Such rebellion reflects reproach on young people’s leadership (or lack). Eli’s sons in the OT are a the prime negative example of “dissipation” and “rebellion” being described
1 Samuel 3:13 records how Eli lost his role as spiritual leader of the people and there were permanent consequences to him and his family for his failure to restrain or rebuke his son’s flagrant sins that the community knew about.
This is a very sobering text to me as I think of our soon-to-be 4 children ages 5 and under, and realize that as these kids grow up in my home and under my care, God can take away my shepherding role in the church if I don’t faithfully shepherd my children. It shouldn’t be that PKs and MKs are always the worst kids, but that’s too often the reputation out there.
This has application for all of you parents – how you are at home as a parent has some bearing on how useful you can be as a servant in God’s church.
I sense this more acutely as I feel I’m more in the spotlight and I’m convicted of my weaknesses here in public role, but this is for all us, especially men as leaders at home, shepherding our children’s hearts (cf. Ted Tripp’s excellent book Shepherding a Child’s Heart)
In my own family growing up, my brother in his high school years was in danger of developing a pattern of these sins in verse 6. Praise the Lord that his time of rebellion was temporary and my brother loves the Lord and is a great man of God and good father himself today. But I greatly respect my dad at that time because he was willing at any moment to step down from his role as missionary pastor and take a sabbatical and come back to the States, if necessary. I respect how seriously he took the Scriptures, and my father’s example of fulfilling this verse I believe honored God and is a great example for me to look up to and emulate.
Does this verse require all his children to be born-again and saved for him to be an elder?
Some commentators say yes and some of the Bible translations say “having believing children” or “children who believe” (NAS/NIV)
Alternate translation: “faithful / trustworthy children” (NKJV)
Is Titus 1:6 talking about their belief or their behavior (or both)?
The word pistos can be translated either way, but “faithful” is by far the more dominant and prominent usage
I have spent dozens of hours studying this, and I would lean toward “faithful” (in other words behavior) for number of reasons:
1. The word is translated as “faithful” or “trustworthy” about 90% of the time in the NT. In the most immediate context, Titus 1:9 in same paragraph is “faithful”, see also Titus 3:8 (only other occurrence in Titus)
2. OTHER USES BY PAUL IN PARALLEL PASSAGE:
1 Tim 3:1 “It is a trustworthy / faithful saying, if any man desires the office of overseer”
1 Tim 3:11 women / wives “must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.”
3. The parallel passage in 1 Timothy 3 which is longer and more detailed does not include this requirement. Why would Paul leave out such an important requirement? An answer that makes sense is that 1 Timothy 3:4-5 and Titus 1:6 are saying essentially the same thing in different words (“children under control with all dignity”)
4. The rest of Titus 1:6 grammatically seems to modify what it means for the children to be faithful, that they are not accused of dissipation or rebellion. Whether they profess Christ or not, their behavior before the world is what’s in view, not their inner heart (it’s difficult to judge their heart, but their lifestyle is visible)
5. Textual evidence suggests the church in Crete was young and immature -> “not a new convert” not mentioned in Titus perhaps because majority of Cretan Christians at that time were new converts based on accepted chronology. Was there enough time since Paul left Timothy to find multiple men in every city whose large families had all saved children?
6. If Paul wanted to make clear they must be saved Christians, why would he use a Greek word that rarely means “believing” when there were much clearer words to indicate Christian children so that there would be no confusion?
7. If his children must be saved, what is the age requirement? As soon as they are able to understand the gospel? When they turn 12? Teen years? What if 3 of the 4 children are saved but one is not? Does that mean he’s not a godly father?
8. Can even the godliest father cause his children to be saved? The doctrine of salvation and God’s sovereignty needs to be adequately taken into account, and it does not necessarily reflect on a man’s character if one of his kids isn’t saved yet. In fact, if they’re not regenerate but still respect their father and submit to him, I think that speaks volumes about his respectable character that even an unbeliever recognizes and follows.
God frequently uses godly parents in his plan of salvation and requires our faithfulness in walking the talk, but His timing and sovereignty take the ultimate responsibility of salvation into God’s hands, not man’s.
9. The context of the phrase here seems more naturally to refer to the children’s faithfulness to their earthly father. Having a Christian kid who believes in their heavenly father is not a virtue if you’re a bad dad, it seems the relationship of the human family is in view rather than relationship to God. The emphasis in context is on the human father’s character at home, and the verb echown seems to emphasize while at home under the father’s care.
Ezekiel 18:10-13 describes a righteous man who has a son who has chosen to follow the path of evil. The Lord makes it clear that the sin of the son will not be held against the righteous father in any way.
So I cannot dogmatically insist that Titus 1:6 means all his kids must be saved at a certain age, and lifelong followers of Jesus. If an elder has the character of a godly family man, every evidence of faithfulness in the home and has made every effort, but one of his well-behaved and obedient kids is not yet saved I am not convinced this phrase demands he step down. It’s difficult to know for sure when young kids are truly regenerated, but the non-negotiable that’s clear from scripture is that children in their behavior must be under control by their father with dignity, not marked by a lifestyle of dissipation or insubordination.
The idea of faithful behavior best matches the parallel in 1 Timothy 3:4-5 “He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)”
Applying this requires much prayer and care on a case-by-case basis to see how family situations affect one’s blamelessness. This is why a plurality of godly eldership is so important, men who can look at your family objectively and biblically and men to whom you can submit to their judgment and concerns.
I talked with one of my professors about this matter, and he recommended if there are issues with a child under an elder’s care that he step down at least temporarily until the has left the home so that he pour as much time and effort into them while he can.
I intentionally spent more time on the godly man’s character and home life then I will on the rest of his traits in v. 7 and 8. Perhaps the greatest potential harm not just to our family but to the family of God is failure in these initial areas.
- Do whatever it takes to keep your family life strong
- Be faithful to one spouse (if married) in every way
- Be faithful in your family and in the home
Here’s an example of how one godly pastor interacted with his fellow elders:
He was one of the brightest and godliest men I’ve ever known, thoroughly saturated in the Word of God. Yet, he did not even have a vote on the elder board [by his choice]. The elders frequently asked his opinion. But he also respected their leadership. He told me once that having the [other] elders run the show gave him a greater measure of freedom, for it allowed him more time to work on his messages. He didn’t have to wear several hats and therefore did not get burned out in the ministry. Further, he noted that the elders had maturity of years over him and collective wisdom that he wanted to learn from. The man had a Th.M. degree and a Th.D. degree from a leading seminary, yet he eagerly bowed to the leadership and wisdom of the elder board! That was humility! In fact, every year he submitted to a rigorous personal evaluation of his life by the elders. They asked him the tough questions, such as faithfulness to his wife, what he read, saw, participated in, and what he did with his money and his spare time. This … was something this pastor volunteered for. The church grew quickly and profoundly because of such accountability at the top levels
That’s what I want to mark our ministry here. If you want to be a godly man (or a godly woman) you will surround yourself with godly people for the purpose of accountability or discipleship. And at least one or a few close godly prayer partners who you humble yourself before and are transparent before. All of us should be doing that, not just elders, but I think it’s important to emphasize that dynamic as we will continue next week to look at the characteristics of the godly soldier God wants to use.
May it be said of you like Job: There was a man / woman in the land of ___________ whose name was _______; who was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.”
God is looking for a few good soldiers, but there are no recruits that are truly good on our own (Romans 3 – THAT’S WHY WE NEED THE GOSPEL). By God’s grace, although none of us have been perfect or are perfect, He can make us to be godly soldiers, not all leaders, but godly soldiers. There’s a war out there – will you enlist? Soldiers of Christ arise, put your armor on!
For further study:
The Meaning of “Husband of One Wife” in 1 Timothy 3:2” by Andy Woods, 2004
Andreas Kostenberger, God, Marriage, and Family (Crossway, 2004), chapter 12: “Faithful Husbands: Qualifications for Church Leadership,” p. 259-270.
“The Husband of One Wife” Requirement in 1 Timothy 3:2 — Ed Glasscock
Bibliotheca Sacra Journal 140:559 (Jul 83) p. 244-59.
Justin Taylor, “Unbelief in an Elder’s Children – Exegesis” (9 Marks Ministries website)
“Family Requirements for Eldership,” by Kevin Smith, Conspectus Journal 1:1 (March 2006) p. 26
**“The Truth about Elders and Their Children: Believing or Behaving in Titus 1:6?” by Norris C. Grubbs, Faith and Mission Journal Volume 22:2 (Spring 2005), p. 3FF
See also Patrick Fairbairn, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, Appendix B.
/Luther’s Works, Vol. 29 : Lectures on Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews/, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1968), 29:17.
John Calvin, Commentary on Timothy, Titus, Philemon, 172.
George Knight, New International Greek Testament Commentary, Pastoral Epistles, p. 289.
Homer Kent, The Pastoral Epistles, Revised Ed. BMH Books, p. 122-23.
 Andreas Kostenberger, God, Marriage, and Family, Crossway, p. 262.
 Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership, p. 192-93.
 Daniel B. Wallace, “Who Should Run the Church? A Case for the Plurality of Elders,” http:~/~/www.bible.org~/page.php?page_id=414