Vol. 5, No. 12
Since You Asked
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Names may be included at the discretion of the Editor unless querists request their names be withheld. Please check our Archive for the answer to your question before submitting it; there are over 1,000 articles in the Archive addressing numerous biblical topics. Submit a Question to GGO.
... how old do they have to be, can you hold a 2 or 4 year olds accountable for being (riotous and unruly) and considered faithful, and are they still considered when they are 30 and their state is either unknown or they have become unfaithful, and finally how are step children figured into the equation when deciding about an elder? ~ Richard Morse, Wewahitchka, Fl
The King James Version of the Bible in Titus 1:6 reads, "If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly" (emphasis added). However, several other English translations indicate that the children are to be believers or Christians: "having children that believe" (American Standard Version), "whose children believe" (New International Version), "having children who believe" (New American Standard Version) and "his children are believers" (Revised Standard Version). While personally, I do not generally recommend the latter three versions of the Bible because of their weaknesses, in this case, they accurately represent the message for today's readers more clearly than perhaps the King James Version. Two and four-year-olds (and much older children) are incapable of believing, repenting, confessing Christ and consenting to immersion for the remission of sins. Therefore, children who are not yet Christians do not correspond to the Titus 1:6 qualification for membership in the eldership (though one or more other children in one's family may).
Whether grown, accountable children continue to affect the qualification of an elder by their righteous or unrighteous conduct is a matter of dispute among otherwise biblically sound brethren. There is nothing in the Greek word for "children" in Titus 1:6 to indicate age or stage of life. Raising a family whereby a man gains experience that he can apply to guiding the family of God is the intent of this qualification. "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)" (1 Timothy 3:4-5). A man does not lose the experience he acquired while his children were in his home simply because they become adults and move out of his home. In my opinion, the qualifications for elders in this regard have to do with are one's accountable, dependent (in the home) children members of the church. However, either a father or the church over which he serves or would serve may choose to forgo the eldership were one or more (especially all) of a man's grown children to become unfaithful.
Also respecting the Greek word for children in Titus 1:6, there is nothing inherent in the word to limit its use to one's natural children. The word is frequently used in Scripture to refer to people who are not the blood-related children of the person with whom they are being associated. There is no reason to suppose that "children" in Titus 1:6 must refer exclusively to children fathered by a prospective elder.
A lengthy letter regarding division in the church was received recently, without going into all the details, nevertheless, which I would like to generally address here. I have seen my share of division in the church and division continues to divide congregations from time to time. Almost every congregation experiences these type of pains (irrespective of whether it actually divides) at some time in its history. Brethren have a number of theories regarding the solution to division and unrest in any given congregation, including: (1) "Things will never get any better around here until there are some funerals." (2) "Anyone who disagrees with me is wrong and I'll make our disagreement a test of fellowship, irrespective of whether the conflict is a matter of opinion or a violation of biblical doctrine."
Polarization of congregations, schools and programs throughout the brotherhood is commonplace, sometimes because of doctrine and sometimes without consideration of biblical doctrine. Polarization within congregations over opinions as well as biblical doctrine is common, too. Division seldom results in any good when it occurs between congregations or within congregations.
However, division is not catastrophic in every case. Sharp contention between the apostle Paul and Barnabas caused them to part from each other (Acts 15:36-41). These two stellar servants of God divided over opinion. In that instance, two good works occurred as they each selected a missionary partner and went on separate missionary journeys. The contention and division was not permanent or considered even in the heat of passion as a test of fellowship; John Mark, the object of the contention, was later a useful attendant to the apostle Paul (2 Timothy 4:11).
Sometimes division is necessary to preserve righteous souls (2 Corinthians 6:17); however, the context of the passage pertains not to division among brethren but to dividing brethren from the wicked world. Failure on the part of individual Christians to separate from five of the seven churches of Asia, were the congregations unwilling to repent, would have been necessary to preserve the righteous souls (Revelation 2-3).
Ordinarily, though, division should not be allowed to raise its ugly head in any congregation of the Lord's church (1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 3:1-3). Brethren need courage to disallow a Diotrephes to take over a local congregation (3 John 9-10). Preachers with honest hearts who make mistakes should be corrected discreetly (Acts 18:26); but, preachers and teachers who are impenitent and refuse to be corrected with the Word of God need to be identified (Romans 16:17-18). Divisive persons must not be allowed much time to ill affect a congregation (Titus 3:10-11 New King James Version).
Since we are humans with the typical human frailties, each child of God must resolve to do his or her best to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. May we strive toward Christian unity and biblical balance. May each of us be big enough to be as tolerant of one another as God's Word allows and not make tests of fellowship over things that are not matters of biblical authority. We do want to spend eternity together with God in heaven, don't we? I can't see that happening as long as we cannot stomach each other (fellow Christians) on earth, can you?
Where in Scripture can I find proofs that the attendance of and participation in a local church is a necessity; i e why do we "need to assemble and work with a local congregation"?
Jewish Christians in the first century were abandoning the Lord's church in large numbers and returning to Judaism, for which cause their failure to assemble was especially noted. "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25). Assembling with the church in the first century was when biblical instruction and edification were obtained (1 Corinthians 14:12ff; Acts 20:7), public prayers were prayed to God and praises were sung to God (1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16), the Lord's Supper was observed weekly (Acts 20:7) and the contribution was given weekly (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).
There is a biblical emphasis on assembling for worship with a local congregation. "If therefore the whole church be come together into one place..." (1 Corinthians 14:23). The Greek word for "church" has to do with the idea of "assembly," and the Greek word from which we derive "be come together" means to convene an assembly. Hence, we have reference to "the whole church be come together into one place" -- the assembly of a local congregation with all its members who can attend. The same emphasis on assembling with a local congregation appears in 1 Corinthians 11:18, "...when ye come together in the church..." The words "When ye come together" are used respecting the observance of the Lord's Supper and refer to the assembly of the local congregation (1 Corinthians 11:20). This phraseology appears regarding the Lord's Day assembly additional times in 1 Corinthians 11 and 14.
Further, the local congregation is supposed to work the works of God together, which is evident from several New Testament epistles (Colossians 1:2, 10; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-3; 2 Thessalonians 1:1, 11). Consequently, letters of recommendation from one church to another were written in the first century for brethren traveling from one congregation to another (Acts 18:27), and the apostle Paul joined himself to the local congregation in Jerusalem when abiding there (Acts 9:26). Christianity is not portrayed in the Bible as a punched ticket to heaven without further activity or participation with the Lord's people.