Believing Children=Faithful Children

Question:   Does the Greek word pista  variously translated “believing” or “faithful” in Titus 1:6 refer to unbaptized, non-member children of matured church leaders who aspire to the office of bishop?

Answer:    There are several shades of meaning of the word “believe.” First, Thayer points out that it could be  “used in ref. to God in various senses: aa. It denotes the mere acknowledgment of his existence:…Jas 2:19” In another section of his lexicon he tells us, “…subjectively: Eph iv.13, where c. Meyer; in the sense of a mere acknowledgment of divine things and of the claims of Christianity, Jas. ii.14, 17.”  This is the kind of faith described in John 12:42. This is called the passive meaning of belief or faith.

Second, there is also the active meaning which Thayer has in his lexicon: “…in the N.T. of a conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervor born of faith and conjoined with it: Heb. 11:1…” This is the kind of faith described in James 2:20-26; Hebrews 11:1-40; Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21-23; John 12:45-50; 14:15; 15:14; 2 John 9; 2Thes 1:8.

This expression “believing children” or “faithful children” should be taken in the context of elders’ appointment or ordination. So the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament says, “Certain persons are described as believing in reference to their conversion to Christianity: Thus Acts 16:1 describes Timothy as the son of a Jewish woman who had become a believer (gunaikos Ioudaias pistis); Col. 1:2 speaks of faithful brethren, 1Tim. 6:2 of believing masters, and Titus 1:6 of believing children. Finally, used absolutely pistoi means believers=Christians (so 2 Cor 6:15; Eph 1:1; 1Tim 4:10,12;5:16). In Acts 10:45 oi ek peritomis pistoi are ‘the Christians from among the circumcised’ (=Jewish Christians)”

Related to the qualification of aspiring elders having “believing children” or “faithful children” or “children that believe” the active meaning of pista should be preferred to the passive meaning. The “believing children” should be as their father who aspires to the office of an elder:

(1) The “believing children” should be as their father is: one who holds to the same doctrines about God, the Bible, the Church, Salvation because an Elder is an able teacher (1Tim 3:2) and “holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9); but how could the elder truly carry out these responsibilities if his “believing children” attend denominational groups who don’t believe in water baptism, don’t believe in the NT organization of the church, who are premillennialists, don’t believe in the deity of Christ, don’t believe in the trinity, etc.? Mere mental assent to the historical or philosophical reality of biblical items is not the meaning in Titus 1:6.

(2) “One who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence” (1Tim 3:4) demands that we take the active meaning of the word “pista” for how could we picture an elder’s children who claim to merely believe the Bible  but don’t go to church and are not baptized?  Is he truly ruling his household well? Do the children hold their father up with reverence if they don’t go to church or are not baptized when their father insists that the church is important and baptism is essential to complete obedience? I don’t think that children who don’t agree with their aspiring father about the essentiality of church membership, being baptized, and church attendance really hold their father in reverence.

(3) “(for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will be take care of the church of God?)” 1Tim. 3:5. How could an elder tell members of the church the importance of doctrines if his own children don’t believe in the doctrine he’s teaching in church? How could an elder tell members of the church the importance of attending church services if his own children don’t attend church? How could an elder tell members of the church that baptism is essential to salvation if his children are told that merely believing is okay?

Conclusion:  The better way of interpreting “believing children” therefore is to take the active meaning of the word pista that is found in Titus 1:6 and in the context of elders ruling well in the family of God, the church.

Questions and comments are welcome.  (E.Tanicala 1-2-11)