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Must An Elder Have More Than One Child?
By George Faull

There are those who teach that elders must have a plurality of children. I used to teach that same error. I have come to a different position through a study of the Word of God. It pays to keep an open mind and to compare "spiritual things with spiritual things." Let's look at the question closely.

First, the emphasis of the qualifications is on the elders ability to rule his own house, not the number of his children. If he has successfully reared a single child, he has done an excellent job that many men could not do. If that single child is an obedient, God-fearing child, he has proven his ability to rule his own house. An only child proves the point, as it is difficult to rear an only child that is not spoiled.

Second, the use of the word "children" and "child" are used interchangeably in the Scriptures. (The Greek `padion' is translated "child "17 times and "children" 21 times.)

Sarah, the mother of one child, says, "Who would have said unto Abraham that Sarah should have given children suck? For I have born him a son in his old age." (Genesis 21:7)

Rachel said, "Give me children or else I die." (Genesis 30:1) Did she want twins? No, she wanted a child.

At the year of Jubilee all slaves were set free "both he and his children." Must those with one child remain enslaved?

If you object to all of the references being from the Old Testament, then let's look at some New Testament examples:

Jesus blesses those who forsake children for His cause (Matthew 19:29). Are those who forsake only one child not going to be blessed?

The Sadducees said, "Moses said if a man die having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up seed unto his brother." We know this law was not acted upon if he had one son.

But does Paul use "children" and "child" synonymously? Yes, a widow was to have brought up children to be qualified as a widow in the early church. (1 Tim. 5:10) Did this rule out a widow with only one child?

Fathers are not to provoke their children to wrath (Eph. 6:4). Is a man with only one child to provoke it to wrath?

This should be sufficient to show that those of us who insist on more than one child have fallen prey to straining at a `word' instead of grasping a biblical concept. Let those men with only one child rest assured that having but one child is not a disqualification for that noble work of shepherding.

Written by George Faull, President of Summit Theological Seminary,

*I have added the comments in paranthesis.