1 TIMOTHY - CHAPTER 5
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2000 James Melough
“Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as
is also rendered reprimand: censure: speak sharply or harshly to; and while
elder may refer to an overseer, the reference here is to any older man.
It scarcely needs to be said that sometimes the patience of the believers is
sorely tried by the activity of older brethren who are unaware that they can no
longer edify God’s people, but they are to be dealt with gently and courteously, as
we would deal with our own fathers.
injunction, however, seems to go beyond dealing simply with the foibles of old age.
It may relate also to doctrine, deportment, unscriptural participation in
worship, unprofitable disruptive discussion in the Bible study sessions, etc.
The need for gentleness and courtesy in dealing with such things doesn’t
exclude the need for firmness in promoting the well-being of the assembly.
One can be firm without being discourteous or harsh.
means plead with: beseech. Such
elderly men are not to be scolded, or treated disrespectfully, but rather to be
appealed to kindly. Likewise younger men
requiring correction are also to be dealt with lovingly and kindly as we would deal
with one who was our brother. A harsh
angry approach never accomplishes any good, but on the contrary often does much harm.
“The elder women as mothers; the younger sisters, with all purity.”
may be necessary sometimes to rebuke a sister, and the same principle applies.
Older women are to be treated with the same gentleness and courtesy as are
older men; and young women as are young men, with the added injunction relative to
young women that every care must be taken to ensure that the need to administer
rebuke doesn’t become an imagined opportunity for any impropriety.
A safeguard against this would be for the rebuke to be given in the presence
of at least one other brother.
“Honor widows that are widows indeed.”
means to prize: value highly: revere: esteem; and in the present context
“indeed” means without children or other family members to contribute to
her support. Also in the present
context, “honor” suggests that the support was not to be given in the spirit that
so often accompanies what is called “charity” today, i.e., it was not to take
away the respect which was the widow’s due as a believer.
The love that is to bind believers together automatically excludes the
disparagement which is normally associated with social differences.
Love excludes the very idea of contempt.
“But if any widow have children or nephews (grandchildren), let them learn
first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents; for that is good and
acceptable before God.”
is clear that the obligation to support widows devolves not only upon the widow’s
children and grandchildren, but also upon any family members capable of helping with
means godliness, i.e., God-like conduct, and this implies that the injunction
applies to saved family members only, for obviously the unconverted are incapable of
godliness; in addition to which it seems that a believing widow’s acceptance of
support from unsaved relatives would be in violation of the principle embodied in Ge
14:22-23 when Abraham refused to take anything from the king of Sodom.
means to repay. In other words,
children have an obligation to repay the care given them by their parents.
and” have little manuscript support, so the phrase is correctly “for that is
acceptable before God,” meaning that God commends such conduct, that commendation
translating into eternal reward at the Bema.
“Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and
continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.”
is the description of one who is truly a widow: she is desolate, i.e., she is left
all alone, so that all her trust (hope) must be in God, that trust being displayed in
her continued supplications, i.e., the presentation of her needs to Him, and in her
equally faithful prayers, i.e., her thanksgiving and worship not only for His past
provision, but for what He is in Himself. There
is no hypocrisy designed to prompt the support of the assembly.
Her faith in God is genuine; and the words “night and day” mean simply
that she was consistent: her prayer life wasn’t sporadic.
“But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.”
in pleasure” is translated as pleasure-loving: self-indulgent: dissipated: voluptuous
(characterized by sensuous enjoyment): wanton (without regard for what is
right). Such a lifestyle indicates that
the person isn’t a believer at all: she is spiritually dead.
The assembly is under no obligation to support such a widow.
“And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.”
was to give these orders or instructions, so that “they may be blameless.”
The “they” fails to make clear whether obedience will make the widows
blameless, or those in the assembly who make the decision to give or withhold
support. It seems better therefore to
apply it to both. It would encourage godly widows to continue to trust in God; and
it would direct the saints so that they would be good stewards of the things God had
committed to their trust.
“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own
house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
own ... of his own house” refers to his relatives, and especially those living with
him in his house. Such a man contradicts
his own claim to be a believer, and has no right to expect people to regard him as
one, for even an infidel (an unbeliever) wouldn’t be guilty of such conduct, i.e.,
of failing to provide for the needs of an indigent relative, especially one living in
the house with him.
from its application to the care of widowed relatives, the overall lesson is that if
profession isn’t confirmed by conduct, dishonor will be brought on the name of
“Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having
been the wife of one man,”
widow was not to be included in the list of those to be supported by the church,
unless she was at least sixty years old. It
seems that widows under sixty should be considered capable of earning their own
support. The requirement that she have
been the wife of one man may mean that she was to have been married only once, or
perhaps that she was not to have been a divorcee who had married while the divorced
husband still lived. Obviously each case
would have to be dealt with on its own merits, but the principle is that we are to be
careful stewards of that with which God has entrusted us.
Money is not to be given indiscriminately to everyone who asks for it.
“Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she
have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved
the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.”
was to have a reputation for doing good deeds; and relative to her having brought up
children, some translations indicate that she was to have reared them well.
Some translators limit the lodging of strangers to the lodging of only those
who were believers. As for the washing
of the believers’ feet, while it may have been literal, it is more generally taken
to mean the rendering of service, especially menial service, to other believers, and
certainly we may not dismiss the thought of her having used the “water of the
Word” i.e., the Scriptures, to encourage others in their Christian walk.
relief of the afflicted is generally taken to refer to the giving of help and comfort
to those in any kind of trouble, sickness or distress; while the diligence in every
good work seems to be a broad term that applied to one whose whole way of life was
marked by the doing of good.
“But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax
wanton against Christ, they will marry;”
younger than sixty were to be excluded from the list of those to be supported,
because it was considered likely that their desire to be married would lead them to
disregard the claims of Christ, and marry unbelieving husbands, this being implied in
the light of the fact that in verse 14 such widows are encouraged to remarry, but
obviously not unbelieving husbands.
“Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.”
a marriage to an unbeliever would result in their incurring judgment or censure
(rather than damnation), because it would indicate violation of their first promise
(implied) to live in obedience to Christ, for clearly such a promise is implicit in
the decision to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.
He must be given control of the life He has redeemed with His precious blood
shed at Calvary, as it is written, “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the
Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in
your spirit, which are God’s,” 1 Cor 6:19-20. We would do well to remember that this is true of all of us, and
not just of young widows, and we have the same obligation as they to give Him control
of our lives.
damnation (judgment) mentioned here does not imply loss of the soul, but rather
chastisement, and loss of reward at the Bema. There
is nothing to indicate that these younger widows were anything but genuine believers.
particular evil of entering into an unequal yoke is emphasized in 2 Cor 6:14-16,
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath
righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And
what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an
infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple
of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I
will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
“And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and
not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought
supported by the assembly these younger widows, thus rendered financially
independent, would have no incentive to work, and so would tend to become lazy,
spending their time visiting different houses, gossiping and interfering in other
things which they ought not,” may possibly refer to the trouble-making practice of
discussing with everybody, private matters they may have become aware of in the
course of their idle visits.
the practical application isn’t limited to young widows. We all need to be careful that our own visiting and conversation
don’t fall into the same bad pattern. Much
harm attends the indiscriminate revelation of things we may have learned in the
course of a visit to someone’s home, or in the course of what was understood to be
a private conversation.
“I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the
house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.”
women” here is literally “younger widows.”
The life of a godly wife and mother leaves no time for the evils denounced in
the preceding verse, so that the divinely appointed safeguard against such things is
for younger widows to remarry, but to marry “in the Lord,” 1 Cor 7:39, i.e., to
marry only believers.
fully occupied with legitimate things, the young widows will afford Satan no
opportunity to accuse the believers of wrongdoing.
“For some are already turned aside after Satan.”
shows that Paul’s commands weren’t prompted by mere speculation.
He was speaking from experience. Some
young widows had already become involved in the very evils he warned against and
sought to prevent. This doesn’t mean
that they had willingly placed themselves at Satan’s disposal, but that their
unwise conduct had made them his unwitting agents by affording him opportunity to
level charges against believers, to the Lord’s dishonor.
It is believed by some that the specific sin involved their having contracted
marriages with unbelievers.
“If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and
let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.”
was the responsibility of believers, men and women, to help widowed relatives, so
that the assembly would be the better able to supply the needs of indigent widows who
had no such relatives.
social programs have rendered adherence to these instructions unnecessary in many
countries today, it is to be remembered that there are still places where they are as
applicable as in the day when Paul wrote; nor do social programs render obsolete the
spirit of loving care commanded here. Our
selfish modern world still affords many opportunities to display that love in areas
other than the temporal.
some manuscripts “man” is omitted from this verse so that it reads, “If any
woman, etc.,” leading to speculation that the specific instruction here is to women
who may be widows themselves or married to unbelieving husbands, but who are
relatively well off. If this translation
is correct, then such women are being instructed that they too are responsible to
render aid to destitute widowed relatives.
“Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially
they who labor in the word and doctrine.”
implies that some will be better shepherds than others, and it may be well to
consider some factors that might contribute to the differences.
Obviously experience enters into the picture, for naturally one who has
exercised his gift of shepherding over many years will have more experience than a
younger man who has also the gift of shepherding, but who has had less experience in
exercising his gift.
has to be recognized also that God in His sovereignty gives different measures of
gift. As has been noted already, Billy
Graham, for example, has been given the gift of evangelism in fuller measure than
most other evangelists. The degree of
gift, however, is given by God in the measure suited to the sphere of service in
which He desires that man to exercise his gift; and if each believer recognizes this,
there will be no envy or jealousy among the servants, nor will there be partiality
for one servant over another by those amongst whom the gift is exercised.
An example of just such carnal discrimination is recorded in 1 Cor 1:12.
are, unfortunately, other factors involved in the differing abilities between
servants having the same spiritual gift. As
has also been noted already, spiritual gift is not to be neglected, 1 Tim 4:14, but
rather stirred up, 2 Tim 1:6, and the condition of many assemblies testifies loudly
to the sad truth that both of these commands have been ignored by many who take the
place of elders. It is a blessing of inestimable worth to be a member of a church
ruled by elders who give themselves wholeheartedly to the exercise of their spiritual
gift for the glory of God, and the well-being of those whom He has entrusted to their
elders are indeed “worthy of double honor,” and verse 18 leaves no doubt that one
token of that honor is to recompense the man financially for whatever need he may
experience due to his having given to the care of God’s people time that he might
have legitimately used to provide adequately for his own temporal needs.
The elders who are willing to forego financial gain for the sake of God’s
sheep, however, are few and far between.
who labor in the word and doctrine” means simply “they who work hard in preaching
and teaching,” and it shouldn’t be forgotten that such work involves the devotion
of much time to prayer and the study of Scripture, besides the actual preaching and
is to be noted, however, that in our western culture
financial remuneration of elders is seldom necessary today, due to the fact
that the average work week leaves adequate available time.
The problem lies in the fact that too many elders fill up that available time
with activities which will win them no commendation at the Bema.
“For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the
corn. And, The Laborer is worthy of his
first quotation is from Dt 25:4; and the second is from Lk 10:7, the first reminding
us that God has woven into much of the language of the OT a spiritual meaning which
transcends the literal, and which ignored, robs the Word of much of its meaning; and
the reader of much profitable instruction. The
clear teaching here is that he who is gifted as an evangelist, elder, or teacher, and
whose labors in preaching and teaching deprive him of the time to provide for his own
and his family’s needs, is to be supported by the Lord’s people.
In 1 Cor 9:1-14 Paul deals with this subject in detail, concluding with the
words, “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the
things of the temple? And they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the
gospel.” It is the responsibility of
those who are ministered unto spiritually by those whom God has gifted for that work,
to reciprocate by ministering to the temporal needs of their benefactors.
“Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three
verse 1 of this chapter where “elder” means an aged or an older man, here it
refers to an elder, i.e., an overseer, and the need for care in heeding accusations
against an elder is probably due to the fact that the very nature of the elders’
work in preserving God’s order in the assembly, tends to bring them into disfavor
with those who chafe under some of the restraints imposed, not by the elders
themselves, but by God’s Word. A favorite ploy of the libertine to justify his unscriptural
conduct is to try to cast in the role of tyrant those who simply seek to maintain
God’s order in the local church. Nor
should it be forgotten that Satan is always on the alert for opportunity to harm
those who are jealous of God’s honor.
requirement that every charge be substantiated by at least two or three witnesses, is
one of God’s ways of protecting faithful elders from unjustified accusations.
“Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”
the present context “them” clearly relates to, but isn’t confined to, sinning
elders; anyone who sins is to be rebuked in front of the whole assembly, the fear of
such public censure being a strong deterrent against sin.
understand the “them” to refer to those who falsely accuse elders, but there is little reason to limit it to such.
“I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels,
that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing
charge is to command, and “before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ” means simply
that the Father and the Son were witnesses of his having given the command, reminding
Timothy that he was responsible before Them to obey.
Most manuscripts render “before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ” as
“before God, and Christ Jesus.”
“elect angels” would also be observing the manner in which Timothy carried out
these commands, as in fact, they are observers of all we do.
As to their identity, they are obviously
the holy as distinct from the fallen angels; but it is clear that there are
different ranks among the holy angels, and that God assigns them different tasks, so
that the reference here may be to His having chosen (the meaning of “elect”)
certain of them to be responsible for seeing that the orders given Timothy were
carried out. This doesn’t imply
God’s distrust of Timothy, but may rather indicate that since Satan and his demons
would be opposing the young man, God was assigning these chosen angels to protect him
against Satan’s activity. That there
is such angelic activity on behalf of those who belong to God is made clear in such
passages as Da 10; Ps 91:11-12; Mt 4:6, and Heb 1:14.
observe... without preferring one before another” is literally “carry out
impartially,” i.e., ensure that these principles are applied to everyone.
There was, and still is, the danger of being prejudiced against someone for no
valid reason, and also of being disposed to favor someone, e.g., a friend, or a man
of wealth and influence. There was to be
no relaxation of the principles in favor of special friends.
The same principle holds good today also relative to maintaining God’s order
in the assembly.
“Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins:
keep thyself pure.”
“lay hands suddenly on no man” is sometimes taken as a warning to avoid haste in
accusing or in judging another, the command seems to have reference to the need of
avoiding haste in approving or recognizing a man as an evangelist, elder, or teacher,
such recognition being given in the early apostolic age by the placing of the
elders’ hands on him as they publicly commended him to some sphere of service.
(The laying on of hands was a Jewish custom having validity only until the
dissolution of Jewish autonomy in AD 70. It
is not for today).
the present context, the words “neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep
thyself pure” are understood as referring to the need of guarding against joining
others in such hasty commendation as that cited above, the passage of time proving
the commendation to have been an error. Many
an assembly has languished as a result of just such erroneous commendations which
have left men ensconsed in positions for which it is apparent they have no
qualification. This interpretation,
however, doesn’t exclude the need to avoid joining others in what is sinful; while
the injunction relative to purity reminds us that purity begins in the mind.
“Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and
thine often infirmities.”
seems that Timothy drank only water, abstaining from wine perhaps so as to avoid any
possibility of being accused of indulgence to the point of drunkenness.
Paul, however, advised him to drink some wine for his health’s sake, i.e.,
because of his weak stomach and what appears to have been poor health in general.
is instructive to note that Paul, who had the gift of healing, didn’t heal his
young friend, the clear implication being that as it wasn’t God’s will to heal
Paul of his eye problem, 2 Cor 12:8-9, neither was it His will to heal Timothy.
this we learn the lesson that when we pray for healing, either for ourselves or
others, we should always add, “If it be thy will.”
“Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some
men they follow after.”
parenthetically interjected advice relative to Timothy’s poor health, Paul now
appears to revert to the need of caution in evaluating a man’s character without
sufficient evidence, particularly in regard to those whose outward lives might
indicate that they may perhaps have the gift of oversight.
Nothing will be lost, and much gained, by allowing time to reveal more of a
man’s true character before arriving at a conclusion which may later have to be
first part of this verse means that some men make no attempt to hide their sins: they
are there for all to see, and leave no doubt that judgment awaits those men; while
the second part means that though the individual may succeed in hiding his sins, time
will eventually make them evident. The actual sin in a believer’s life may not become known, but
spiritual believers very quickly discern when another believer isn’t right with
God. His worship will become a
mechanical thing lacking the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s leading, as will his
participation at the assembly prayer meeting. Spiritual
believers quickly recognize the difference between what is of the Holy Spirit and
what is of the flesh.
“Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that
are otherwise cannot be hid.”
mentioned sinful works in the preceding verse, Paul now refers to good works,
declaring that in the case of some their good works quickly become evident, while in
the case of others their sterling character becomes evident only after we know them
that are otherwise cannot be hid” refers not to bad works, but is simply saying
that the good works or good character which are not at first evident will eventually
become known as we become better acquainted with the individual.
Paul, it seems, is continuing to assure Timothy that more is to be gained by
waiting than by impatience in determining whether a man has the gift of oversight.
His advice holds true today also. Many
an assembly is suffering the consequences of having acted hastily in deciding that a
man had the qualities of oversight, when in fact, time has revealed their judgment to
have been premature.