One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) (1 Tim. 3:4-5, Emph. rc).
Titus 1:6. If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly (Titus 1:6, Emph. rc).
Timothy and Titus present to the reader parallel concepts. Both of these passages reflect upon the father’s stewardship in rearing children. They teach that a man’s children must be trustworthy to him as their father. The New Life Version mistranslates the verse, saying, “Their children must be Christians.” Modern versions do not accurately translate the meaning that Paul seeks to convey when they say “his children are believers” (RSV). Conversely, the verses emphasize the ability of the father to rule his children while caring for his household; a qualification that may be determined by their behavior toward the father’s oversight.
Some seem to leave the impression that the Greek word “faithful” always means being a Christian. A studied review of the word demonstrates it does not. 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 about a dozen verses where the word is used.
The word of God is declared faithful more than a half dozen times; it does not mean it is a Christian (1 Tim. 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:11; Titus 1:9; 3:8).
Here are two passages that speak of a person’s faithfulness:
If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? (Luke 16:11-12).
I thank him that enabled me, even Christ Jesus our Lord, for that he counted me faithful, appointing me to his service (1 Tim. 1: 12).
The word faithful cannot mean Christian. No one would classify the person who is “faithful in the unrighteous mammon” as a Christian imitator of Christ, and Paul had been found faithful by the Lord before his conversion. How was Paul faithful when he was disobedient to the Lord Jesus Christ’s commands? He was not. The passage is not speaking of him as a Christian! Instead, it indicates that he faithfully adhered to the Law of Moses.
Additionally, here are 20-plus passages where faithful does not indicate a Christian (Matt. 24:45; Matt. 25:21, 23; Luke 12:42; 19:17; 1 Cor. 1:9; 4:2; 7:25; 2 Cor. 1:18; 1 Thess. 5:24, 2 Thess. 3:3, 1 Tim. 3:11; 2 Tim. 2:13; Titus 1:6, 8; Heb. 10:23; 1 Pet. 4:19; 1 John 1:9, Rev. 1:5; 19:11; 22:5-6).
In summary, more than two-thirds of the 67 verses that occur show that the definition for the Greek word does not mean Christian.
Scripturally, the understanding of faithful may, in some passages, be synonymous with being a believer. However, this is determined because of contextual consideration, not because the word means Christian. Becoming or remaining a Christian requires one to be faithful to God. No one questions that. The primary or first meaning is trustful.
There is nothing in Titus 1:6 that forces, or even indicates, that faithful ought to mean Christian. In addition, it is an unwarranted conclusion to say it means fidelity to God as well. The thought of the text is the man and his family, not God and His family are under consideration. There is no evidence for the more modern interpretation. None! Here is the one argument that is presented: Faithful sometimes indicates that the text is talking about Christians. Some interpret Titus 1:6 to mean faithful “as children of God.” Okay. Why didn’t Paul say it? He does in other verses. Where the reference is to being faithful as children of God, it always contains a stipulation indicating that is what is meant:
1. “Faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:1). Why add the stipulation if it meant a Christian? You would not.
2. “Faithful in the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:17; Eph. 6:21). Same question.
3. “Faithful to the Lord” (Acts 16:15). Same question.
4. Paul had to go out of his way to address the “faithful brethren” instead of just saying “brethren.” His phraseology emphasized his address for brethren who are faithful (Col. 1:2).
5. Revelation 2:10 describes the concept of being faithful, and the context makes it clear unto whom.
6. “Faithful minister” (Col. 4:7, 9).
Regarding their interpretation, it is important to explain why Paul failed to follow his normal practice and place a simple stipulation within the text of Titus 1:6.
One last thing as far as the word faithful is concerned. It may help if we take note of how the idea is used outside of a Christian context. The moon is a faithful witness of the sun. Yet, no thinks that the moon is a Christian. The world speaks of a husband being faithful to his wife. We know what that means. It is not automatically synonymous with being a Christian. A number of our unfaithful politicians illustrate the need of being a faithful husband.
Paralleling the Two Verses
Though the passage in 1 Timothy gives the reasoning for the qualification of submissive children, both express the relationship of the child to the father. Note the sections we have in boldface:
1. 1 Tim. 3:4-5: One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?).
2. Titus 1:6: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
If the stipulation in Titus 1:6 means that they must be Christians, then the verses have no parallel. No big deal, just an observation. On the other hand, by acknowledging the parallel, the meaning in Titus 1:6 becomes clear.
If the phraseology faithful children means Christians, Paul would not need to add the addition “not accused of riot or unruly,” since being a Christian means a follower of Christ. On the other hand, if the phraseology means faithful to the father, then the additional condition equals two issues instead of one. The first issue addressed is whether the father is able to rule his own house. The second issue is whether, after they leave the household, the children’s actions will reflect upon his work as an elder. Being wicked children leaves the father open to blame in the community, and in the church. Eli’s sons exemplify the problem.
A Deeper Look at the Reason for the Qualification
This qualification of faithful children is one of four qualifications (cf 1 Tim. 3:6; Titus 1:9-11) that has a reason given for its need of being possessed by the man who desires the work of an elder. Understanding why Paul gave the qualification will help us determine its meaning.
For the sake of this discussion we will assume for the moment everybody acknowledges the two passages are parallel. Paul’s reason for the stipulation is “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim. 3:5). Eli’s failure to restrain his sons, who were “children of God,” helps us to understand how to use the qualification (1 Sam. 3:12-13). He said of Eli’s house, “For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever, for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons did bring a curse upon themselves, and he restrained them not” (Emph. rc). If Eli the judge of Israel had sought to restrain his sons, God would not have blamed him for their disobedience. Men like Eli should never be appointed elders because they have shown that they cannot govern the family properly.
Brethren are able to determine a man’s family capabilities by seeing how his children respond to his fatherhood. For children to simply be baptized does not determine the father’s ability to rule his own house. It may more reflect the mother’s influence than it does the father’s (2 Tim. 3:14-17). And, the fact that they might not be Christians does not determine whether he was able to rule his own household.