By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: Concerning Tit. 1:6 and the qualifications of elders, must all of an elder’s children be free from the charge of living riotous and unruly? Also, must all of his children be believers? If so with the first, why not with the second?
Reply: The Scriptures teach that certain things are required of men in order that they may qualify to be elders in a local church. Included in the qualifications, as set forth by the Holy Spirit in both 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1, for a man to be an elder, (1) he must have a family (a wife and children, I Tim. 3:2, 4; Tit. 1:6), (2) he must rule well his own house (having his family under control, 1 Tim. 3:4), and (3) he must have children who are believers (Christians, Tit. 1:6). The word “believing” in this passage is from the Greek pistos. While at times the word simply means “faithful” or “trustworthy” it may, in other instances, refer to those who are Christians (Acts 10:45); 16:34; 1 Tim. 6:2 etc.). These “believing” children are not to be accused of riot or unruly. The word “riot” is the same word that is translated “excess” or “riot” in Eph. 5:18 (“And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot. . . “). Being old enough to conduct themselves as profligates, it is logical to conclude that “believing” children in Tit. 1:6 would be those who are Christians.
In response to the first part of the question, all of the children of an elder must be free from the charge of being riotous and unruly. As a father he must “nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). If his children who are in his household are out of control, he has not obeyed the admonition of Eph. 6:4. Furthermore, he does not rule well his own house (1 Tim. 3:4). Therefore, he would not be qualified to serve as an elder.
In response to the second part of the question, all of an elder’s children would not have to be believers (Christians) if there are some in his household who were not old enough to obey the gospel. If those children of a man’s family who have reached an accountable age have become Christians, but there are younger children not yet accountable and, therefore, have not become Christians, he would meet the qualification of having believing children. Should there be any doubt about him fulfilling that requirement, please consider this. Suppose there was a man who had been faithfully serving as an elder in a congregation. He has children who were Christians. His wife became pregnant and bore him a child. We do not believe that this man becomes disqualified to serve any longer because he now has a child who is not a Christian. Logic shows us that all of a man’s children do not necessarily have to be Christians in order for him to qualify to serve as an elder. Should there be those children in his household considered to be old enough to obey but who have not obeyed the gospel, would be another matter.
So, as to why all of the children of an elder must be free from the charge of living riotously and unruly, but all of a man’s children would not have to be believers, is explained by the reasons above.
Question: At what age do you feel a child should be baptized? Do you feel that a child should be held back?
Reply: The specific age at which a child should be baptized cannot be determined. It all depends upon the circumstances. One child may be taught sufficiently at a very early age and will, therefore, want to render obedience. Whatever the age may be, the child should be accountable; that is, he should know right from wrong, realizing that he is lost and must obey the gospel. When the age of accountability is reached must be determined by each individual case. One child may have reached it at a very early age, whereas another child may not have reached it until later years. How much the child knows, his awareness of his condition and his desire to be baptized are determining factors as to when the child is a proper subject of baptism.
Dealing with the child who wishes to be baptized can be a very difficult matter. A young child should not be pressured to be baptized, neither should he be discouraged. First, parents should make it their duty to teach their children fully as to the seriousness of the step in becoming a Christian. Also what is involved in being a Christian, in addition to the truth about baptism itself should be greatly stressed. Children need to know that there are other things important as well as baptism. When they have been sufficiently taught and thereby become proper subjects of baptism, then it should be left up to the child as to when he should be baptized.
Guardian of Truth XXV: 1, p. 2
January 1, 1981