An Exegetical Analysis of Titus 1:6 – Part 3 (Conclusion)

Arguments Against View 1

To disagree with men of high caliber is difficult, especially, if they are notable evangelical men who have done so much to the evangelical world. However, everyone admits that no one is infallible. Such is the case with men who are the proponents to View 1 – men like MacArthur, Hiebert, and others. Interestingly both MacArthur and Hiebert emphasize in their commentaries the ability of fathers to lead their children to salvation. For instance, MacArthur in his commentary to Titus writes:

If he (i.e. elders) cannot bring his own children to salvation and to godly living, he will not have the confidence of the church in his ability to lead other unbelievers to salvation or to lead his congregation in godly living. Unbelieving, rebellious, or profligate children will be a serious reproach on his life and ministry (italicized mine).[1]

Hiebert likewise notes in his commentary to Titus, “If they (i.e. children) remained pagans, it would thrown into question the father’s ability to lead others to the faith” (italicized mine).[2] Where in Scripture does it teach that one has the “ability” (father or not) to lead others to salvation except God himself? Although no one dares to question the orthodoxy of MacArthur and Hiebert, it is puzzling nonetheless to read such unorthodox comments.

How is their position square with what Paul later said in Titus 3? Specifically, in verse 5, which the apostle said, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” On this regard both MacArthur and Hiebert attribute salvation to God’s sovereign grace. Hence, it is inconsistent to read of the father’s ability to lead others to salvation and the sovereign grace of God in the same commentaries.


Most scholars would agree that having physical children (singular or plural) is not a requirement for elders. For instance, according to Mounce, “This is not a requirement that an overseer have children.”[3] But if one is blessed with children (singular or plural) do children have to be Christians? Is that the meaning of te,kna e;cwn pista,(tekna eckon pista) in Titus 1:6? One would only hope and pray. But the reality is, ultimately, salvation is of the Lord.

I have personally known many families where both parents love the Lord and have tried their best to raise their children in Scripture, yet have their children turn out to be pagans. Their best Christian efforts could not guarantee their children’s salvation. On the other hand, I also have witnessed many families where both parents are godless in many ways, yet have their children turn out to be many theophilus (lover of God). In other words, best Christian parenting does not guarantee their children’s salvation, nor godless parenting keeps children from salvation. All that to say, salvation is God’s sovereign gift, not result of our works (Eph. 2:8-9).

If parents have something to do with their children’s salvation, they have much to boast. But such boasting and notion of salvation are direct antithesis to the true nature of God’s sovereign grace. The whole point of Christian gospel is that salvation is God’s sovereign gift, which is the consistent theme throughout the whole Bible.

  • ·NAU 1 Corinthians 1:30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”

[1] John MacArthur, Titus (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), 31.

[2] Hiebert, 204.

[3] William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, WBC (Nashville: Nelson, 2000), 388.

An Exegetical Analysis of Titus 1:6 – Part 2

An Exegetical Analysis

The critical issue here is to decide on the meaning of the wordpista,(pista) since it is translated either “believing” or “faithful” in various translations as already pointed out. If one should choose the wordpista,(pista) to mean “believing,” then one would conclude that one of the qualifications for an elder is “he must have Christian children.” On the other hand, if one should choose the word pista,(pista) to mean more neutral sense, namely “faithful,” then one would conclude that an elder’s qualification is not determined by whether his children are Christians or not. Either way, this would have some important implications in the life of a local church.

The word pista,(pista) comes from its root wordpisto,j(pistos). Although many proponents of View 1 do not argue that its root word always refers to that of believers, it does have a reference to believers in some cases. The following are five textual examples that occur throughout the Pastoral Epistles[1]:

  • ·NAU 1 Timothy 4:3 men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe (pistoi/j from pistos) and know the truth.
  • ·NAU 1 Timothy 4:10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers (pistw/n from pistos).
  • ·NAU 1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe (pistw/n from pistos).
  • ·NAU 1 Timothy 5:16 If any woman who is a believer (pisth. from pistos) has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.
  • ·NAU 1 Timothy 6:2 ¶ Those who have believers (pistou.j from pistos) as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers (pistoi, from pistos) and beloved. Teach and preach these principles.

At the same time its root word is also translated to “faithful” in many cases. The following are ten textual examples that occur throughout the Pastoral Epistles:

  • ·NAU 1 Timothy 1:12 ¶ I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful (pisto,n from pistos), putting me into service.
  • ·NAU 1 Timothy 1:15 It is a trustworthy (pisto.j from pistos) statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.
  • ·NAU 1 Timothy 3:1 ¶ It is a trustworthy (Pisto.j from pistos) statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.
  • ·NAU 1 Timothy 3:11 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful (pista.j from pistos) in all things.
  • ·NAU 1 Timothy 4:9 It is a trustworthy (pisto.j from pistos) statement deserving full acceptance.
  • ·NAU 2 Timothy 2:2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful (pistoi/j from pistos) men who will be able to teach others also.
  • ·NAU 2 Timothy 2:11 It is a trustworthy (pisto.jfrom pistos) statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
  • ·NAU 2 Timothy 2:13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful (pisto.jfrom pistos), for He cannot deny Himself.
  • ·NAU Titus 1:9 holding fast the faithful (pistou/from pistos) word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
  • ·NAU Titus 3:8 ¶ This is a trustworthy (pisto.jfrom pistos) statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.

And only once in the Pastoral Epistles where the meaning of believing and faithful are used interchangeably.

  • ·NAU 2 Timothy 2:2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Exegetically, the words from the root word pisto.j (pistos) have more neutral renderings (i.e. faithful and trustworthy) throughout the Pastoral Epistles than the specific believing sense. But more importantly, the particular Greek word in Titus 1:6 is not any one of the words that have mentioned above (pistoi/j, pistw/n, pisth., pistou.j, pistoi,, pisto,n, pista.j, or pistou/). Rather, it is pista,, uniquely found only twice in the New Testament – here and Acts 13:34. In regards to the latter text, almost all translations have the more neutral rendering “sure,” which is more close to the meaning “faithful” than “believing.”

George Knight, one of the leading scholars in the Pastoral Epistles, makes the following assessment as he argues for non-salvific meaning than salvific sense:

It is likely, therefore, that te,kna e;cwn pista,here is virtually equivalent to te,kna e;conta evn u`potagh/| (“having/keeping his children under control”) in 1 Tim. 3:4. If that is so, then pista, here means “faithful” in the sense of “submissive” or “obedient,” as a servant or steward is regarded as pisto.j when he carries out the requests of his master.[2]

However, this does not negate a present elder or potential elder candidate to be “off the hook” on his God-given mandate to manage his own household. Although Knight is a proponent to View 2, he offers the following words of strong exhortation:

What must not characterize the children of an elder is immorality and undisciplined rebelliousness, if the children are still at home and under his authority. Paul is not asking any more of the elder and his children than is expected of every Christian father and his children. However, only if a man exercises such proper control over his children may he be an elder.[3]

[Stay tune for Part 3]

[1] I have chosen NAU (New American Standard Updated) as the standard translation.

[2] Knight, 290.

[3] Ibid.

An Exegetical Analysis of Titus 1:6


te,kna e;cwn pista,

(tekna eckon pista)



In our recent monthly men’s fellowship a discussion arose as to what “having children who believe” (in NAS) in Titus 1:6 means in the context of qualifications of church elders. If one would naturally read the text it seems to imply that an elder must have believing children. But what if an elder does not have any children? Does it also mean that an elder must have children and that of believing children? Also, what if an elder has only one child when the text clearly states te,kna (tekna) or children (plural)? Furthermore, does the text teach that if one is given children (plural), then all children must be Christian children? As you can see Titus 1:6 deserves some explanations. Hence, I will attempt to shed some light.

A Quick Synopsis of Two Primary Positions

View 1: An elder must have believing/Christian children.

The text te,kna e;cwn pista, (tekna eckon pista) is translated to mean believing children in many popular English Bibles – e.g. “his children are believers” (ESV); “having children who believe” (NAU); and “a man whose children believe” (NIV).

John MacArthur, one of the proponents to this view[1], states the following in his study Bible:

This refers to children who have saving faith in Christ and reflect it in their conduct. Since 1 Ti[mothy] 3:4 requires children to be in submission, it may be directed young children in the home, while this text looks at those who are older. dissipation or rebellion. “Dissipation” connotes debauchery, suggesting, again, that the reference is to grown children. “Rebellion” carries that idea of rebelliousness to the gospel. Here the elder shows his ability to lead his family to salvation and sanctification (1 Ti 3:4,5), an essential prerequisite for leading the church (emphasis mine).[2]


1. A father has no direct control over the outcome of his children’s salvation. Although parents can be instrumental, ultimately salvation is the sovereign work of God.

2. Contextually, this particular condition refers to the family unit in which the father has his direct authority in managing his own household (cf. 1 Timothy 3:4-5). Hence, it cannot refer to any children who live outside of the father’s managing household.

View 2: The word pista, (pista) in this text should take on more neutral translation than a salvific sense.

Although ESV, NAU, and NIV have translated pista, (pista) to believing children, there are other popular English Bibles that have translated it otherwise – e.g., “having faithful children” (KJV); “with faithful children” (NET); “having faithful children” (NKJ), which all have the more neutral translation “faithful” than the salvific term.

The verb e;cwn (eckon) or having denotes “the possession of persons to whom one has close relationships.”[3] Hence, the implication is that this only refers to children who are still directly under the managing authority of their father in his home.[4]


1. Having believing children safeguards “above reproach” standard of 1 Timothy 3:2.

[Stay tune for Part 2]

[1] Some other proponents include William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, WBC (Nashville: Nelson, 2000), 388; Kenneth S. Wuest, “The Pastoral Epistles-First Peter” in Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 2:184; D. Edmond Hiebert, “Titus” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: 1, 2 Thessalonians, 1, 2 Timothy, and Titus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 204; John Calvin, “Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon” translated by William Pringle in Calvin’s Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 292-3.

[2] John MacArthur, ed., The MacArthur Study Bible (Nashville: Nelson, 2006), 1855.

[3]e;cw” in BAGD (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979), 332.

[4] George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 289.