|Volume 25 Number 6 June 2023
Louis Rushmore, Editor
One veteran Gospel preacher observed that commentators do not address this aspect of the qualifications for deacons in the church of the Bible. “How old must the children of deacons be?” The phrases “one who rules his own house well” (1 Timothy 3:4 NKJV) regarding elders and “ruling their children and their own houses well” (1 Timothy 3:12) pertaining to deacons employ the same Greek words. To this extent, the qualifications for elders and for deacons are the same. However, the reference to elders is modified by the phrases “having his children in submission with all reverence” (1 Timothy 3:4) and “having faithful children” (Titus 1:6). Certainly, one or more children of an elder must be old enough to obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ as well as to demonstrate submission to the father of the family. This implies a relative age range for the children of elders.
However, the phrases “having his children in submission with all reverence” and “having faithful children” do not appear among the qualifications for deacons. We simply find “ruling their children and their own houses well.” There is no implication relative to a maturity comparable to that necessary to comprehend and to obey the Gospel of Christ.
Various Bible translations render 1 Timothy 3:12 “ruling their children and their own houses well” (NKJV; KJV; ASV; BBE; Douay-Rheims), “managing their children and their own households well” (ESV; cf., NIV; CJB; God’s Word; Lexham English Bible; Goodspeed, RSV), “the children leading well, and their own houses” (YLT), “good managers of their children and their own households” (NASU; NET), “managing their children and their own households competently” (HCSB), “in full control of their children and everyone else in their home” (CEV), “conducting their children and their own houses well” (Darby), “good leaders of children and their own families” (Easy-to-Read Version), “able to control their children and manage their own households properly” (Phillips) and more of the same. The emphasis is on the father rather than necessarily upon the children. If that’s so, the age of the children regarding deacons is immaterial.
Both prospective elders and deacons must be “capable managers of their own families” (Bible Knowledge Commentary), but more, as noted above, is required of elders regarding their children who have become Christians and who are faithful. Wuest phrases the portion of 1 Timothy 3:12 under our consideration, “ruling their children and their own households in a commendable way.” The emphasis here is directly upon the action of the father and the husband but indirectly upon the responses of the home.
Deacons are not junior elders and have differing biblical roles from those of elders. Deacons are not primarily leaders but rather servants who specialize in physical responsibilities to which they have been appointed. Deacons do not “rule” the local church as do elders (Hebrews 13:7, 17). Hence, it is not surprising that the qualifications for elders and deacons vary somewhat, for our inquiry, regarding the age of the children respectively. The children of elders must be old enough to have obeyed the Gospel – to have become Christians. Elders must rule their families, including children who are responsive to their respective fathers and to Jesus Christ. A deacon must competently manage his family, which includes his submissive wife and his children of whatever age they may be. We may have an opinion regarding how old a deacon’s children must be, but without further biblical information – comparable to modifying phrases applied to the children of elders – we must refrain from stipulating more than what Scripture clearly teaches (1 Corinthians 4:6).
Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament. Colorado Springs: Cook Communications Ministries, 2000.
Wuest, Kenneth S. The New Testament: An Expanded Translation. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans P., 1961.