“If there is one who is irreproachable, a husband of one wife, whose children have faith, not open to the accusation of reckless living or undisciplined behavior, for it is required that the overseer is irreproachable as God’s steward, not intractable, not short-tempered, not violent, not greedy, but hospitable, a lover of good, prudent, upright, pious, disciplined, being devoted to the Word as taught faithfully, that he might be able to exhort people in doctrine that is sound and reprove those who deny it.”
“Whose children have faith…” Indeed, this is a requirement of church leadership. Why might Paul include that, though? Certainly the Apostle Paul must understand that it is the Holy Spirit that generates faith in the elect and that God’s timing is not always to regenerate a child early. In my own experience, I was not born again until I was in my early twenties. Would that have made my father ineligible to serve as an Elder? Perhaps, but I think we need to dig deeper to get at the root of this qualification.
To begin with, this is a particular qualification that is not found in Paul’s instructions to Timothy just as Paul’s instructions that an Elder order his house well (found in 1 Timothy) is not duplicated here. Inference would suggest then, that these are essentially parallel ideas. How do you know whether one has ordered his house well? Their children have faith. Or perhaps we might suggest this…does the Elder order his household in such a way that children growing up in that household will flourish and grow in their faith — that the faith they see in their parents will be such that they would want the same kind of faith for themselves?
Assuming that this inference is correct, we can suggest that when examining one for the office of Elder, one ought to observe the outward fruit of the children (recognizing that only God knows the heart) and what we ought to see in the children is a life that reflects Christian fruit. Does this mean that children will not rebel? No. But this does mean that children are not living in open rebellion to their Father’s faith, either. Were this the case, the Father’s first priority must be to put his house in order and only after that is done will we find that he is eligible to serve as an Elder.
As a pastor, one of the things that I have always impressed on my family is that this is the one vocation in the world where my eligibility to serve can be undone by the actions of my family. Most other vocations focus on the skills and abilities of the person serving in said position, and while this is true of a pastor, children in open rebellion against the faith of their father invalidates his qualifications as well.
Truly, this does not mean that every pastor’s child will be a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. We certainly hope that would be the case, but sadly, as I look around the communities in which I have lived, I have seen many examples where that is not the case. Yet, for those children in the household, under the covenant headship of the Father, should live in a way that reflects a Christian life.