The Biblical Requirements for Elders: Part 6

The Significance of the Requirement of Wife, Children and Well-Managed Household for the Elder in 1 Tim 3.1-7 and Tts 1.5-9

In a previous article, I documented from the Scripture the 26 unique requirements specified for the elder. Of them all, at least in my observation and review of many SoF (Statement of Faith) documents posted online by so-called conservative churches, the single requirement most abused, distorted and conveniently ignored is the requirement for a wife, children and well-managed household.

I quote from myself:

The following four requirements, however, are specified with an attendant reason:

… manages his own household … [1 Tim 3.4-5]

… but if (εἰ δέ τις) a man does not know how … how (πῶς) will he take care of the church of God?

… not a new convert [1 Tim 3.6]

so that (ἵνα) he will not … fall into the condemnation …

… must have a good reputation with those outside [1 Tim 3.7]

so that (ἵνα) he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil

… holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching [Tts 1.9]

so that (ἵνα) he will be able both to exhort … and to refute...

As I mentioned there, of the 26 requirements, the Holy Spirit was pleased to state why the requirement is part of the list for four of them. We may, certainly, from this infer that these four requirements deserve special attention.

In the discussion to follow, I want to split this list of 4 requirements into 2 main categories:

  • the first is the requirement for wife, children, and a well-managed household;
  • the second are the other three (as shown above).

For that second category, the reason is introduced with the conjunction ἵνα, a word used typically to specify either purpose or result. (We often see ἵνα translated as “so that”; this is a very typical use.)

Taking each of the last category:

  1. The overseer candidate should not be a new convert because he will be more susceptible to conceit and thereby fall into condemnation.
  2. The overseer candidate should have a good reputation with non-Christians because otherwise he increases the risk of falling into reproach relative to his working relationships with them.
  3. The overseer candidate should be very competent in handling of the Word of the Scripture because otherwise he will be unable to properly exhorted those within the assembly or refute those who teach error.

At the most basic level, each of these makes sense, doesn’t it? Yet, it was the Holy Spirit who was pleased to emphasize them, in spite of the fact that each of the given reasons are obvious.

It is that first category the wife, children, and well-managed household – that too frequently is ignored, distorted and disobeyed. And, as I’ll demonstrate now, it is the single most-emphasized requirement in the list of 26!

[I deliberately avoid here any notion of a requirement being “important” or “less important”! If the Holy Spirit was pleased to specify them, then all are vital, important – and required. What I do show here is that that same Holy Spirit was pleased to emphasize 4 of the 26 requirements, and of those, a single one was emphasized over the other three.]

One legitimate – and obvious – way of evaluating emphasis is to review the count of words used for each of the requirements. As this list shows, many of the requirements are only a single word (or a single word preceded by the negative). So, let’s look at the word counts for the sections 1 Tim 3.2-7 and Tts 1.6-9 for the second category (of the requirements with a reason mentioned above, two in 1 Tim 3 and one in Tts 1).

[Note that I don’t count the words of introductory text, only those that are part of the requirements details proper.]

 1 Tim 3.2-7

75: total word count
10: words devoted to the requirement “not a new convert”
18: words devoted to the requirement “have a good reputation”

Tts 1.6-9

63: total word count
21: words devoted to the requirement “holding fast the faithful word”

Now let’s look at the word count for that first category (of the requirement specified with a reason):

1 Tim 3.2-7

25: words devoted to the requirement “wife, children and well-managed household”

Tts 1.6-9

12: words devoted to the requirement “wife, children and well-managed household”

Formatted in list form in descending order, the four requirements and their percentage of the total text of both passages combined (that is, compared to the total of 75 + 63 = 138 words):

37 (26.8%): words devoted to the requirement “wife, children and well-managed household”
                  : this becomes 29.0% when the three words concerning marriage (“one-woman man”) are added
21 (15.2%): words devoted to the requirement “holding fast the faithful word”
18 (13.0%): words devoted to the requirement “have a good reputation”
10 (7.3%): words devoted to the requirement “not a new convert”

So, it is evident that the single most-emphasized requirement for the overseer candidate is that he is a once-married, faithful husband of one wife (a “one-woman man”) and has children (plural!) who are well-behaved. He must also have a well-managed household.

Let’s look in detail at this Holy-Spirit-emphasized requirement. Note that two of the three components (“one-woman man” and “having children”) of this aggregate requirement are repeated in both 1 Tim 3 and Tts 1:

1 Tim 3.2: a one-woman man
Tts 1.6: a one-woman man

1 Tim 3.4: his own household managing well

having children in subjection with all dignity

but if a man does not know how to manage his own household ...

Tts 1.6: having believing children not accused of dissipation or rebellion

At first glance, it seems like the Holy Spirit changed His mind regarding the requirement of children

  • “having children” in 1 Tim 3 to
  • “having believing children” in Tts 1

in the interval between the writing of these two epistles. I’ll handle that apparent discrepancy below.

If the overseer candidate is to satisfy this requirement, he must begin with his marriage. He, first of all, must be a “one-woman man”. The Greek phrase used in both passages is essentially identical:

1 Tim 3.2: μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα
Tts 1.6: μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἀνήρ

The only difference is that the case used in 1 Tim 3 is accusative (to match with the predicate accusative construction) while the phrase in Tts 1 is in the nominative case (to match with the indicative mode of the sentence).

What is noteworthy is the word chosen by the Holy Spirit for “man”: ἀνήρ (a male) instead of ἄνθρωπος (a human).

The Greek noun ἄνθρωπος may mean “the male of the human species” (and many times does), but more generally its root concept is closer to our words “mankind”, “humanity”, or “people”. The Greek noun ἀνήρ is used exclusively in those contexts for the male gender (in distinction from the female gender). Frequently, in fact, ἀνήρ is frequently translated “husband”.

Here is just a small sampling of the use of ἄνθρωπος as the generic term for “mankind”, “humanity”, or “people” (the highlighted word is ἄνθρωπος) regardless of the noun selected by the NASB translators:

Mat 4.19
And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Mar 7.23
All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.

Mar 10.27
Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”

Jhn 12.43
for they loved the approval of men rather than the [approval of God.

Jhn 16.21
Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.

Act 17.26
and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,

Rom 1.18
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

Rom 12.18
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

1 Cor 4.9
For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.

1 Cor 15.39
All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish.

Gal 3.15
Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations. even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it.

Phi 4.5
Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.

Heb 13.6
so that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?”

Jas 3.8
But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.

1 Pet 3.4
but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.

Rev 9.6
And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them.

Rev 9.18
A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths.

In each of these, it is seen clearly that the author did not use ἄνθρωπος to indicate “man” or “male” in contrast to “woman” or “female”. Indeed, a proper understanding of each of these must include persons of both genders (a fact confirmed by the words chosen by the NASB translators for ἄνθρωπος in these examples).

There are many more just like these. But, you’ll find not even a single example of the noun ἀνήρ to indicate anything other than the male of the human species in all its 200+ occurrences in the NT. Every one of them are used exclusively of the male gender. So, when the Holy Spirit uses the phrase

one-woman man (ἀνήρ)

He states exactly that the overseer candidate must be a male and must be married to exactly one female. No other understanding is possible!

There is an additional and interesting subtlety here, shown by the fact that the Holy Spirit did not use the common verb γαμέω (to marry, to take a wife). Instead, He chose a three-word phrase that emphasizes both the exclusivity and permanence of the marriage union: the overseer candidate is a “one-woman” type of man. He is to have a single wife, and that “one-ness” characteristic implies a life-long permanence. This understanding is completely compatible to the Lord's original design of the human species:

Gen 1.18
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”

Gen 1.23-24
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

In an age in which the biblical view of the marriage union is under constant attack, is being “redefined” and "fluid", it is extraordinary that those who profess to be the Christian church in the world has, in fact, distorted the Lord’s marriage directive regarding the overseer into a form that is in basic conformity to the world’s debased view of marriage and family (not to mention gender).

And not to put too fine a point on it here: today’s churches have as overseers/elders/pastors individuals who are

  • unmarried men;
  • married men with no children;
  • divorced men;
  • men with completely unruly families;
  • women;
  • etc.

They have as an implicit goal to twist plain and simple Scripture in ever-more imaginative ways to make their churches more “appealing” to the masses of the lost (I think here of “seeker-friendly” churches).

Now that I have detailed the only possible understanding of “one-woman man”, let’s move on to the requirement regarding children, their behavior, and the well-managed home. Here they are:

1 Tim 3.4: his own household managing well

having children in subjection with all dignity

but if a man does not know how to manage his own household ...

Tts 1.6: having believing children not accused of dissipation or rebellion

Let’s look first at that verb “managing” in 1 Tim 3.4. The Greek verb is προΐστημι (to be the head (of), rule, direct); it is used 8 times in the NT. In the NASB, it is translated as “lead”, “have charge”, “manage”, “rule”, and “engage”. It is noteworthy that each is completely compatible with the translation of ἐπισκοπή as “overseer”.

Here are a few examples of the use of προΐστημι:

Rom 12.8
or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

1 The 5.12
But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction,

1 Tim 5.17
The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.

It is evident that the underlying idea of “manage” or “lead” is clear. I quote from myself:

The office of the elder (based on the list of requirements shown above) is primarily one of a leader, a manager, a shepherd (based on the enumeration above). Of course he must be of sterling and holy character; but the full list of requirements eliminates any man who may be a “good, spiritual” Christian in contrast to the one who is a “good, spiritual” Christian who also excels in management and leadership and has demonstrated those skills with his wife and children first and foremost.

As I mentioned here, the requirement for marriage, children, and a well-managed home is specified with an attendant reason:

1 Tim 3.5
but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?

This is why, at the time the overseer candidate is being evaluated (and throughout his tenure as elder/pastor as well), that his management experience must be seen favorably in the example of his home!

This is exactly the reason why

  • the unmarried man,
  • the married man with no children,
  • the married man with children too young to evaluate (relative to demonstrating the wholesome and mature management of his children)
  • and the married man whose (now adult) children have grown and moved away

are all disqualified if any of these are his status while being considered as a candidate for the office of overseer. The Holy Spirit requires proven management and leadership skills—skills in the only place they are truly important: the raising of children and the management of his home in the present!

There is another point that may be missed if we’re not careful: from the Lord’s perspective, it is the husband who is viewed as responsible for the management and leadership of his home, not his wife!

We are all very familiar with the beautiful passage in Proverbs chapter 31 that extols the virtues of the “excellent wife”. This is how the Bible views her activities and responsibilities:

  • The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
  • She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.
  • She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight.
  • She is like merchant ships; she brings her food from afar.
  • She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens.
  • She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard.
  • She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
  • She senses that her gain is good; her lamp does not go out at night.
  • She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle.
  • She extends her hand to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy.
  • She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
  • She makes coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
  • She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen.
  • Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.
  • She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
  • She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
  • Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: “Many daughters have done nobly,
  • But you excel them all.”
  • Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
  • Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

This is a very impressive list! The godly wife is commended and held in high esteem by the Almighty.

But, all this does not change the fact that that same Lord holds the husband responsible for the management and leadership of his home, in the very same way that a corporation CEO is held responsible for the operation of his company, a political leader is held responsible for the actions of his government, the Emergency Department lead physician is held responsible for treatment administered during his shift, or a military commander is held responsible for those in his charge. Remember, as I detailed here, the overseer’s position is one primarily of leadership, management and oversight–not merely spirituality.

Is the husband faithful to his wife by this standard:

Eph 5.25-32
Husbands, love your wives
, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

The Scripture is quite clear: the Lord views the very life of a man’s wife as something which that husband is to nourish and cherish, something for which he must be willing to give his own life. This is the biblical backdrop of the fact that the husband is held responsible for his home. It is beyond dispute that this is exactly the care that the Lord Christ shows to His bride/wife. (Rev 21.9)

Before I move on to the next point of this chapter, I use an analogy to underscore the point of the husband’s duty to manage his household well. It would be more reasonable to ask a middle school student to manage Exxon corporation (for example) as CEO than it would be to ask/expect/elect//appoint/etc. an inexperienced man to lead/manage the assembly without the proven track-record with his own wife, children and home. Yet, it is exactly the latter that is routinely done in thousands of so-called conservative churches throughout America. I can’t help but think of this of this OT passage, the words of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet to an obstinate Israel:

Jer 5.30-31
An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?

Indeed, a day of reckoning is coming for the so-called churches of our day:

1 Pet 4.17
For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

Let’s continue with additional details of the requirement (after the requirement that the overseer candidate must be a proven leader/manager in his own home): children.

1 Tim 3.4:
his own household managing well
keeping his children under control with all dignity
but if a man does not know how to manage his own household ...

Tts 1.6
having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion

The first element to note is the plural children (not the singular child!); it is not merely that the overseer candidate must be raising a child. It is well known that some children are easier than others to raise: if the overseer candidate is to prove that he has his children under control, then that can be shown only in his raising of children, not "merely" raising one child! This distinction is very important–and just as conventiently ignored by far too many churches of our day.

The fact of a husband and wife having multiple children is well-supported by the Scripture. Here is but one well-known text that could be selected from many:

Psa 127.3-5
Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.

Is this not the essence of the Lord’s command to Adam and Eve while they were yet in the garden:

Gen 1.27-28
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

The Lord has not changed His mind on this point and the rule still applies–especially to the overseer candidate! No man can be appointed to the office of the overseer/elder/pastor unless he is in the process of raising children!

But, the mere raising of children is not the only detail we need to consider here:

1 Tim 3.4:
his own household managing well
keeping his children under control with all dignity
but if a man does not know how to manage his own household ...

Tts 1.6:
having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion

The overseer candidate’s children must be well-behaved! This is seen most directly in the passage in 1 Timothy. The phrase

ἐν ὑποταγῇ

means “in obedience, submission, subjection”. The Greek noun ὑποταγή is used in only three other places in the NT:

2 Cor 9.13
Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all,

Gal 2.5
But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.

1 Tim 2.11
A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.

The verb form, ὑποτάσσω, occurs about 30 times. Here are a few representative passages:

Luk 2.51
And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

Luk 10.17
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”

Rom 8.7
because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,

Rom 8.20
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope

Rom 10.3
For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.

Eph 5.24
But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

Jam 4.7
Submit
G5293 therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

1 Pet 5.5
You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.

Unruly, disobedient, wild, disrespectful, poorly-behaved children automatically cause the overseer candidate to be disqualified.

[I remember two cases, about 10 years ago, in a church my wife and I attended for a brief time in the north Dallas area.

The first is that the previous Senior Elder’s (still at home) daughter had to be committed to drug rehab facility (finally) after considerable illicit drug use. At least he stepped down voluntarily; the real question is how long had that situation existed before the problem could no longer be conveniently hidden/ignored?

The second was the case of a ~15 year old son of the elder of the “Families” ministry (!) who was arrested with two or three other teens at a break-in/robbery attempt. The elder would not step down of his own volition; he was, finally, removed by the other elders after a few weeks of controversy.

I truly am afraid to even think about how often this occurs in our so-called conservative churches.]

But, the mere fact of the appearance of well-behaved children is not enough. Notice again the careful phrasing chosen by the Holy Spirit:

ἐν ὑποταγῇ μετὰ πάσης σεμνότητος

The last phrase, μετὰ πάσης σεμνότητος, means “with all dignity”. The noun σεμνότητος is used only in two other passages in the NT:

1 Tim 2.2
for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

Tit 2.7
in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified,

Remember what the Holy Spirit spoke through Peter:

1 Pet 5.1-3
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.

As the elder is not to “lord over” his flock, so the overseer candidate must ensure the good behavior of his children, but with dignity in every way.

[I have seen the case of an elder whose "age 10-ish" children were generally well-behaved, but essentially lacked in any discernable childhood joy or "energy" (for lack of a better term). Over multiple years, I don’t ever recall seeing them smile naturally (that is, at those times when no one else was with them). It’s not that they were dour or moody; they just lacked the typical boundless energy and innocent joy one is accustomed to see in a child of their age. I did wonder what kind of life they had with their elder father and whether their primary emotion was one of fear–or at least lack of joybecause they were “preacher’s kids” after all.]

 Remember this passage given to all fathers:

Eph 6.4
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger
, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Col 3.21
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger
, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Yes, the Scripture (especially the Proverbs!) is clear that children are to be disciplined (yes, even spanking and the rod!); but, physical or emotional brutality or intimidation is never permitted! How many overseer candidates have the appearance of a well-managed home that operates primarily from a foundation of fear and intimidation rather than love and dignity.

I hope that it is becoming obvious that the overseer candidate’s children must be old enough to demonstrate that he exercises the correct “rule/management” concerning his children.

 


Before closing this article, I next detail from the Scripture why this must be so by detailing the noun used for children (τέκνον), and from the fact of what is said about the oversight and management relationship of the father to the child.

 

First, there are three nouns used in the NT for the general concept of child: τέκνον, νήπιος, and βρέφος. The use of the former (τέκνον) within the requirements list, instead of the latter two (νήπιος and βρέφος), is significant.

Let’s review νήπιος and βρέφος first.

The noun βρέφος occurs in 8 NT passages and is used exclusively for the concept of newborn (and even pre-born) (in contrast to infant):

Luk 1.41, 44
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. … “For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. ”

Luk 2.12, 16
“This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” … So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

Luk 18.15
And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them.

Act 7.19
It was he who took shrewd advantage of our race and mistreated our fathers so that they would expose their infants and they would not survive.

2 Tim 3.15
and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. [Paul evidently wants to make the point that from the earliest point in his life Timothy was raised within the framework of the Scriptures.]

1 Pet 2.2
like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,

The noun νήπιος is used only 14 times in the NT for very young children in two related, but distinct, ways. The first is essentially identical to the concept of infant or the very young child:

Mat 21.16
and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF’?”

1 Cor 13.11
When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

Gal 4.1
Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything,

However, in the second place, there is a marked tendency in the NT to use νήπιος as a metaphor for the very young, the immature (especially spiritual immaturity), even the foolish:

Mat 11.25
At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.

Luk 10.21
At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.

Rom 2.20
a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth,

1 Cor 3.1
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.

Gal 4.3
So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.

Eph 4.14
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;

Heb 5.13
For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.

The Greek noun τέκνον can be used generically in much the same way that ἄνθρωπος may mean male, female, or (occasionally) children. That is, τέκνον is used far more frequently in the NT than νήπιος and βρέφος combined.

For example, both from the context of the passage quoted (from Jeremiah) and the context of Matthew chapter two:

Mat 2.18
“A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE.”

1 The 2.7
But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.

it is evident that Matthew and Paul use τέκνον for children that were up to the age of 2 years old or children who are still nursing. However, this use is extremely rare, appearing in only this pair of passages out of approximately 100 uses of τέκνον in the NT.

The predominant use of τέκνον is simply to indicate a child, and this occurs in both literal and metaphorical contexts. (Note that the metaphorical uses may overlap.)

The first common use of τέκνον is as a literal child: a person of the human species who is not viewed as an adult or mature. Here are several representative uses:

Mat 10.21
Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.

Mat 19.29
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.

Luk 1.7
But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.

Luk 11.13
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

Luk 23.28
But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.

Act 7.5
But He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, and yet, even when he had no child, He promised that HE WOULD GIVE IT TO HIM AS A POSSESSION, AND TO HIS DESCENDANTS AFTER HIM.

Act 21.5
When our days there were ended, we left and started on our journey, while they all, with wives and children, escorted us until we were out of the city. After kneeling down on the beach and praying, we said farewell to one another.

1 Cor 7.14
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.

2 Cor 12.14
Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.

Eph 6.4
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

 

The second common use of τέκνον is as a metaphor for a person, not infrequently an adult, but someone who is viewed as younger or less mature in comparison to someone else (typically, the speaker).

Mat 3.9
and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.

Mat 21.28
But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’

Mat 23.37
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.

Luk 7.35
Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.

Luk 15.31
And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.'

Luk 16.25
But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.

Joh 8.39
They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham.

Rom 9.7
nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.”

Gal 4.28
And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.

 

The third common use of τέκνον is as a term of endearment; this use is very common in the Pauline epistles.

Mar 2.5
And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son,  your sins are forgiven.”

Mar 10.24
The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children,  how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!

Luk 13.34
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children  together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!

1 Cor 414
I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.

2 Cor 6.13
Now in a like exchange—I speak as to children —open wide to us also.

Gal 4.19
My children,  with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you—

1 Tim 1.2
To Timothy, my true child  in the faith. Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. ... This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son,  in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight,

2 Tim 1.2
To Timothy, my beloved son.  Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

2 Tim 2.1
You therefore, my son,  be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Tts 1.4
To Titus, my true child  in a common faith. Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

Phm 1.10
I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment,

3 Joh 1.4
I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.

 

The fourth common use of τέκνον is as a metaphor for children of God; that is, those who have been called by grace through faith to the Lord Christ. (Eph 2.8-9) This use is also very common in the Pauline epistles.

Joh 1.12
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,

Joh 11.52
and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

Rom 8.16-17
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

Rom 8.21
that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Gal 4.28
And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.

Eph 5.1,8
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;... for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children  of Light

Phi 2.15
so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,

1 Joh 3.1-2
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

 

It is significant to note that the presumed sentience, will and ability of the child to act, understand and obey is predominant in the passages where τέκνον is used. Note also the implicit association of the noun τέκνον with the spiritual/moral nature (either good or evil) of the child:

Mat 10.21
Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.

Mat 21.28
But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’

Mar 2.5
And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Luk 2.48
When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.”

Luk 16.25
But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.

1 Cor 4.14
I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.

Gal 4.19
My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you—

Eph 2.3
Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

Eph 5.8
for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light

Eph 6.1
Children
, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

Phl 2.15
so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,

Col 3.21
Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.

1 The 2.11
just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children,

1 Pet 1.14
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance,

2 Pet 2.14
having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children;

1 Joh 3.10
By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

2 Joh 1.4
I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father.

Rev 12.5
And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.

It will be obvious to all (excepting those who are wantonly destructive of Scripture!) that when the Holy Spirit requires the overseer candidate to be in demonstrable control of his children, that those children must be old enough to actually show that they are under willing control, namely, a control that is borne from dignity rather than from frustration, intimidation or fear. The children must be old enough to understand right and wrong, to know reward for obedience and punishment for disobedience, to demonstrate that the process of maturity to adulthood is well underway. They must demonstrate true biblical respect for their parents, to know and experience their love, care and compassion and to respond in kind. They must demonstrate a love, respect and care for their siblings. This simply can’t be demonstrated if there is only a single child, or in the case of children, with newborns or infants.

 


There is yet more to cover: that unique phrase in Titus:

Tts 1.6:
having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion

To do so, I devote a separate article to this and compare it to its counterpart in 1 Tim 3 (“keeping his children under control”).

[There is much to consider why 1 Timothy 3 mentions only the behavior of the children while Titus adds the dimension “believing children …”.]

 


Before closing this article, I want to demonstrate another reason that the overseer candidate must be in the process of raising children; that is, he can’t seriously be considered for the position of elder if all his children have grown and moved away at that time when he is being evaluated.

I have maintained, both in this article and another (on the significance of the present tense), that the Holy Spirit’s use of the present tense is significant and is to be followed literally. The Greek language is more than adequate to express the following thought, had it been the one the Holy Spirit intended:

1 Tim 3.4
He must be one who manages, or has managed, his own household well, keeping now or having kept his children under control with all dignity

For the relatively few churches that “sorta/maybe/possibly/kinda/perchance” pretend to follow the requirements list (instead of blatantly ignoring them), the above is the typical "working" interpretation of verse 4.

But, of course, the distortion above is not what the Holy Spirit said!

But to those who still object to my point, please carefully consider a text from the same book and author, 1 Timothy chapter 5, concerning the provisions for widows.  I’ve highlighted all verbs that are in either the aorist or perfect tenses (that is, verbs not the present tense as was used in chapter 3; rather, the actions are represented as having been completed, rather than in the process of being completed):

1 Tim 5.9-10
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 (lit., “one-man woman”), having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.

The only way for the assembly to determine whether a widow was worthy of support is on the basis of her past accomplishments as a Christian wife and mother, as a woman who has been a model for younger women. The difference between the purpose of this passage and 1 Tim 3.1-7 is profound—and a powerful demonstration when the Holy Spirit used the present tense to detail the requirements of the overseer He actually meant that those requirements are met in the present, not the past! And just as easily, when the Spirit meant the past tense, He used the past tense, as we see in 1 Tim 5!

It is the widow’s demonstrable reputation of past good works and character that qualify her for the support of the assembly in the present. In the case of the overseer candidate desiring a place of leadership over the assembly, it is his current character and qualifications that must be considered!

The issue is that once a man’s children have grown and moved away, it can no longer be observed in the present just what type of home-manager he was. If, at the time of his evaluation, the overseer candidate either has “20-ish” children still living at home or his children moved away years before (and perhaps now have families of their own), then the conclusion must be automatic: he can’t demonstrate in the present that he fulfills the requirements of in-the-present raising children! In short, his time to assume the leadership role of the overseer has passed. He may teach (assuming he is actually qualified) or serve in any number of other ways, but he can’t—and shouldn't—be the overseer.

 


It is now time to conclude this article with several, vital, direct questions. In the light of the biblical details I’ve presented here, carefully consider the answer to the following questions in the context of the typical, current, so-called conservative, evangelical churches of our day:

  • How many of them have unmarried pastors?
  • How many of them have “recent pastoral graduates” just out of seminary, “20-ish” men who really must be considered “new converts” relative to their ability to lead and teach Bible, and are likely just married (if at all) with either no or (an) infant child/children?
  • How many of them have recently added a (new to them) pastor (to replace one who left for whatever reason), but who really did not biblically evaluate the candidate simply because he was already an experienced pastor? That is, he was essentially accepted “as is”?
  • How many of them have pastors who have been married more than once?
  • How many of them have pastors who have become divorced while a pastor and yet retain their positions?
  • How many of them have pastors who have been caught in a sexual scandal and yet retain their positions?
  • How many of them have pastors who have been caught in other moral scandals and yet retain their positions?
  • How many of them have pastors who behave as autocrats, “lording it over the assembly”?
  • How many of them have pastors who are generally inaccessible to the assembly, placing one or more bureaucratic layers between themselves and the assembly? (I heard of a case, from a former employee of a massive “church” in this area, that the Senior Pastor’s office was actually hidden by means of a secret entrance?!)
  • How many of them have pastors who have a consuming love of money and/or power?
  • How many of them have pastors who really don’t know the Bible or how to teach it?
  • How many of them have pastors who really don’t know how to lead?
  • How many of them have pastors who really don’t show that they truly care about their assemblies as a true shepherd would care for his flock?
  • How many of them have pastors who show favoritism in the assembly?
  • How many of them have pastors whose families appear to indicate that they are under control more out of intimidation or fear rather than by love, compassion, and true leadership.
  • How many of them have married pastors who have never had children?
  • How many of them have pastors who have only a single child?
  • How many of them have pastors whose children are typically not well-behaved?
  • How many of them have pastors whose (generally) teenage children have gotten into serious trouble (law, drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.) and yet retain their position?
  • How many of them have pastors whose children make a profession of faith, yet those children have no consistent, joyful, faithful demonstration of the Lordship of Christ in their lives?
  • How many of them have pastors who consistently rely on commentaries as the main source of their messages?
  • How many of them have pastors who have never actually preached completely through a single book of the Bible, verse-by-verse, choosing rather to preach topical messages regularly?
  • How many of them have pastors who have never preached through the major doctrines of the Bible?
  • How many of them have pastors whose children are yet so young (νήπιος or βρέφος instead of τέκνον) that their behavior can’t realistically be evaluated when attempting to ascertain whether that pastor has obedient children?
  • How many of them have pastors who became pastors well after their children had grown and moved away?
  • How many of them have female pastors?
  • How many of them have "gender fluid" pastors?

These are not idle questions; they speak directly to the heart of the matter!

For any assembly to answer any of the questions above in the affirmative (“Yes, we have...”), it indicates that that assembly is in real trouble and is in active rebellion to the Scripture.

These questions reveal why that which professes to be conservative Christianity is in such an intractable, useless, pernicious, humanistic, vapid, self-destructive mess and has no real, effective, consistent, Lord-blessed witness to the lost!

How could it even be possible that a church have a “good reputation with those outside” when that same church is led by a man who shouldn’t be in his position in the first place because he doesn’t meetand likely never metthe qualifications? And, just as importantly, how can a church have a “good reputation with those outside” when it is filled with people who don’t know, don’t care about, or don’t apply to their overseer the requirements that were specified by the Holy Spirit nearly two thousand years ago?

You may be sure that the Lord does not actively bless such an assembly; this fact is abundantly clear when one compares to Scripture current churches.

And, there is another vital aspect of these questions to consider. Here, I quote from myself:

Lest someone begin to think that I place the entire responsibility for this debacle on the shoulders of the elders/pastors, we must also consider the biblical responsibilities of their congregations, and what happens when they become cold and careless:

2 Tim 4.1-4
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

We see the failure to heed this warning being played out with devastating results in today’s “churches”. This situation can’t and won’t be corrected until God’s true people honestly, deeply and humbly repent of their carelessness and begin to study and apply true, undiluted, undistorted Scripture both to their leadership and themselves!

It is time for a complete reformation, like that which occurred nearly five centuries ago.

  • Those careless overseers/elders/pastors/shepherds that hold the Word of God in contempt by not meeting the requirements of the office should repent and step down.
  • Those congregations that have carelessly and obstinately attracted leaders that cater to their foolishness must also repent.

Until these are fulfilled, the so-called church in America will continue its decline.

Luk 18.8b
However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”