“If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly” (Titus 1:6, KJV).
The King James Version translation of “faithful children” reflects the thought of commentators before the 18th century. About that time, various Bible commentators leaned to the idea that the one seeking the office of bishop had to have children who were Christians. Thus, the change of wording from “faithful” to the modern idea of “believers” is reflected in the following modern translations:
“his children are believers” (ESV).
“a man whose children believe” (NIV).
“having children that believe” (ASV).
“his children are believers” (RSV).
Study leads to the conclusion that the KJV is more accurate than the newer translations. Here are three things that lead to the conclusion that Paul was saying a child must be faithful to the father.
The first thing we must understand is that the word faithful, in itself, does not mean “believer.” Note that its primary or first meaning is trustful. Its primary meaning does not mean Christian, nor does it mean child of God or believer.
A second concept that leads students to conclude that faithful is describing the child as trustworthy to his father is the way that the word is used in other contexts. For instance,
The Bible speaks of “the faithful word.” The Bible faithfully makes believers, but The Book itself is not a Christian.
When the Bible declares that “God is faithful,” it does not mean He is a Christian (1 Cor. 10:13). God or Christ is acknowledged as faithful in a number of N.T. verses.
A number of passages speak of servants who are faithful. Some of these include servants who were certainly not Christians (Luke 16:11-12).
It is not a stretch to conclude that the passage in Titus is describing the child’s relationship to the father.
A third concept that leads to the understanding that faithful is describing the child as faithful to the father is the parallel concept in First Timothy chapter three. This verse speaks of the child’s relationship to his own father. He is in subjection. Similarly, in the Titus passage, Paul is using slightly different language than he did to Timothy to describe the same relationship of the child’s submission and stability. Paul’s wording lends itself more to the interpretation that the faithfulness has reference to the dependability of the child to his own father.
If the phrase, “faithful children” meant that the children had to be Christians, Paul would not need to add the additional conditions “not accused of riot or unruly.” For, if a child of God is accused of such misconduct, as Paul suggests, he is no Christian or believer (1 Tim. 5:8). So, we believe that the passage addresses a different aspect other than whether a man’s children, sometime in the past, were baptized into Christ.