“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you – if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers…”

Is Paul requiring that the children of elders be believers or faithful?

I’m convinced there are several reasons it is better to translate this word faithful or trustworthy rather than believe.

First, since Paul uses this particular Greek word to mean both faithful or believing in different places simply looking at the word itself won’t solve the problem.  (Though see Dr. William Barrick’s comment on Paul’s usage of this word.)  Context must be the final determiner and the context of this passage seems to indicate that Paul is speaking about trustworthiness or faithfulness. 

For example, look at the phrase that follows where Paul is explaining what he means when he says that an elder’s children are to be faithful.  He writes, ““having children who believe not accused of dissipation or rebellion.” 

What do both of these terms emphasize?  Behavior.  Why would Paul say, elder’s children need to be believers and specifically this is what they are to look like – they are not to be drunks and they are not to be unsubmissive?  Both these terms seem more fit to describe what it means to be trustworthy or reliable than they do what it means to be a believer.

Second, if you translate this word believe and not faithful you are placing a higher and more difficult requirement on the elders in Crete than Paul did on the elders in Ephesus.  In 1 Timothy 3, Paul says, “The elder must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity.”  Remember the readers of 1 Timothy probably would not have had Titus to read.  So therefore they could have elders whose children were not believers.  Paul’s directions in 1 Timothy do not say anything about having believing children – just having under control kids.  Now if Paul was really saying in Titus that an elder’s children must be believers, why did he not say the same thing when he wrote 1 Timothy?  Ephesus was an older and more established church than the church in
Crete so it would have made more sense for Paul to tell them that their elders must have children who believe because they had been established as a church for a longer period of time.  But he didn’t.  On top of that, the phrase he does use – under control – matches perfectly with the terms used in Titus – “not accused of dissipation or rebellion”, two terms that would mark an out of control child.

Third, if Paul were requiring elders to have believing children he would be requiring those elders to do something that only God can do.  Can a man save his children?  No, of course not.  Salvation is a gift of God.  Now notice that all of the other descriptions in Titus are to be true of all believers not just elders.  Why then would this one requirement be unique?

Finally, how can this requirement be checked?  How can one be know for absolute certain that one’s children are not hypocrites and false professors?  Beyond that, at what age does this requirement begin?  If an elder has three teenagers who are believers and than his wife becomes pregnant and has a baby – does he have to step down as an elder because that baby is not a believer yet?

For more see Andreas Kostenberger's blog and William Barrick's blog