For those who are not used to Bible language, let it be clarified that the function of bishop in the church is that of an overseer, also called an elder or a presbyter. According to the New Testament, each of the primitive churches had a plurality of them.
For good order in the gatherings of the newly converted to the Gospel of Christ, the churches, the apostle Paul instructed his collaborators Timothy and Titus to establish supervisors in each one, and mentioned certain moral and spiritual characteristics so that those competent for this office might be recognised. This is the standard which serves as a model for all assemblies.
Men are made overseers by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28) and it is normal for assemblies to have a few (Philippians 1:1), although it is not correct to say that a church cannot exist without them, for it does happen, especially in the younger churches. Only the Spirit of God can make overseers, and it is He who places the wish to take on this responsibility in the heart of the believer, and makes him competent to do so.
A man cannot be made a supervisor by election of the members of a congregation nor by ecclesiastic ordination. It is the responsibility of the members of an assembly only to recognise those men among them who have been made overseers by the Holy Spirit of God (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13). It is what Timothy and Titus carried out in those assemblies who still did not know how it should be done, for they didn't have the printed New Testament for the knowledge of all as we do now.
The recognition may be formalised in a meeting of the assembly to make it public, but it can also be informal when the church members know, as if instinctively, who are those who God constituted for this noble service to the church and manifest these characteristics. It is not necessary to use titles or names like overseer, presbyter, bishop, elder, pastor or others to distinguish them: their own personality, character and dedication to the flock will be sufficient to identify them. If an assembly is unable to recognise competent overseers within it, it must ask God, in prayer, to raise them.
Given this preamble, we now go to the question in focus, which only concerns one of the characteristics which an overseer must have, but it is very important. It is based on 1 Timothy 3:4: "one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence". We have in reality two conditions here, related between them:
One who rules his own house well: "for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?" (1 Timothy 3:5). If a man isn't able to rule his own house, he lacks wisdom, love and/or dedication to those who are there, three things which are also essential to a good ministry. It is a gap which must be filled in before he is enabled for the far more difficult task of taking care of the church of God. To rule his house well, a man must know his own folk intimately, give them a good example to follow and teach them how to walk in the way of the Lord. Besides support and security, he must show them love, treat them with dignity, and know how to avoid an excess of severity and an unjust indulgence.
The difference in authority is to be noted: as the head of a family, he can rule it in his own way, and his success will show if he is a good father of a family which fears God. But as one of the overseers of the assembly he will be caring, or ministering, in the church of God, in obedience to the commandments of the supreme Shepherd, the Lord Jesus.
There is an erroneous tendency to think that the bishop occupies a superior ecclesiastical position within the church, involving hardly any responsibility, whereas in reality it involves a lot of work and humble service to the others as a servant of Christ.
In his own home the number of people is relatively small, they are generally all related to him and the children will be much younger than he. In the church the number will be greater, and there will be a greater diversity in character, age, experience and temperament. If with the authority he has, he isn't able to rule his home well, it is very improbable that he is able to provide the care a church needs as one of its ministers.
Having his children in submission with all reverence: while his children are living with him, they must be taught from a very early age to respect, honour and obey their parents, which is one of the old commandments repeated in the New Testament. The father who knows how to rule his home, not only teaches this to his children but requires obedience from them whilst they are with him, and assumes responsibility for their actions.
The condition with all reverence is on the part of the children, that is, they show reverence for their father for what he is - they do not fear him lest they be punished, but they accept his position as a worthy, respected, honoured, righteous and pure authority.
They must be "faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination" (Titus 1:6). After they grow up and leave home to start their own family, the responsibility of the father is ended. The overseers of the assembly should feel united with the members of the church, especially with the younger ones, guiding them and training them so that they may walk well in the ways of the Lord, giving them all the support so that they may grow and mature in the faith.
On this subject, it may be noted that it is not said in this passage that the wife must be in submission, like the children. But the wife (an adult), being a Christian like her husband, must be subject to her husband in everything, just as the church is subject to Christ (Ephesians 5:24). Furthermore, as every Christian husband, he should love his wife, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.
When the wife is not in submission to her husband, this is a clear indication that she really never received Christ as her Lord and Saviour. Her unhappy husband may rule his house well but cannot impose his authority over a rebellious wife and cannot be blamed if, having fulfilled his own duty, the marriage is undone on her initiative.
In conclusion, the short answer to the question made to us is the following: If a wife is not in submission to her husband, in the Lord, she is at fault, and if he nevertheless loves her as is his duty, he cannot be blamed. The lack of subjection of his wife does not necessarily prove that he does not rule his house well. But if the children of a man are undisciplined within his home, this is evidence that he lacks wisdom or that he is evading his responsibility, which discredits him for a greater responsibility such as that of a bishop in the church.