Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 26, 1964

One Child Elders

Wm. E. Wallace

In I Timothy 3:4 and Titus 1:6 children are referred to as necessary, in connection with an elder's household, in order that he may be qualified from the standpoint of fatherly experience. The point to be grasped in both references is the elder's ruling influence for good in a family situation.

In filling out various forms we come across the question, "Number of children____." I answer one instead of none, because I have one, just one. I have taken my one child to some public places in response to a rule that "Children under 12 must be accompanied by parents" — no one challenged us when we appeared as one child and one parent. An apartment rental advertisement reads: "Couples with children need not apply." This includes any couple with one child.

In English the plurals of some words are often used when the number is indefinite. The plural is used where there is a generalization in which the singular number is included. The English plural is often used like this in the Bible, and Greek plurals are so used in the New Testament.

In Genesis 21:1 Sarah is referred to as having children — but she had only one. In Mark 10:29 Jesus promises blessings to a man who leaves sisters and children for his sake. There is certainly no reason to believe that a man who leaves one sister, or one child for Christ's sake will not receive the blessings promised. See also Ephesians 6:1; Titus 2:4; I Timothy 5:19; I Corinthians 7:19; Colossians 3:21; Romans 8:17; II Corinthians 12:14; I Timothy 5:4; Luke 20:28 and ask yourself if a one child circumstance would be included in each of the situations described by the use of the term children. If you are grammatical and consistent you will come to the conclusion that a one child situation in an elder's household is in harmony with Paul's teaching on the qualifications of bishops.

It is not out of harmony with soundness to run references to clarify the meaning of a verse like I Timothy 3:4 or Titus 1:6. This is what reference Bibles and concordances are for. When a devout Baptist argues salvation by faith only and confronts you with John 3:16, contending that John 3:16 "means just what it says," it is necessary for you to refer to other verses to show that John 3:16 does not mean what the Baptist contends it says.

The reason why an elder must be a married man and a father is this: he must "rule well his own house" (I Timothy 3:4-5). If he has a wife and a child the can meet this qualification. RULING, and FAMILY EXPERIENCE, are the points to be considered, not virility, fertility, or fruitfulness. This context in which the word children appears certainly allows for the singular inclusion in the use of the word children.

In conclusion, I quote from an article on this same subject by brother Charles M. Campbell: 'Surely, in view of the grave and great responsibilities resting upon the church of our Lord, and the solemn duties incumbent upon those who are willing to assume the thankless task of serving as elders, the disciples of the Lord need to be concerned about matters of greater importance than those of a purely academic nature." He is referring to the contention that elders must have more than one child.

— 1006 S. Belmont Indianapolis, Indiana