The Agora
Bible Commentary
1 Timothy

1 2 3 4 5 6

1 Timothy 5

1Ti 5:1

Vv 1,2: The ecclesia is a family (1Jo 2:1,12-14) -- a family that has a closer tie, a sounder reason for unity, than has any natural family: "the bonds of the Truth". A close-knit family is a unit, a body, better able to face trying situations, since they have "the same care one for another" (1Co 12:25). Just as in 1Ti 3, these next two verses demonstrate the family nature of the ecclesia and consequently the close personal relationships of the Truth. Ecclesial elders should always be aware of this family nature of the ecclesia, showing care and consideration in their dealings with brethren. In this they have Paul's example: "I am become all things to all men" (1Co 9:22).

DO NOT REBUKE AN OLDER MAN HARSHLY: The verb is used in the NT only this once. It signifies "to lay blows upon" (figuratively), "to castigate". Here it seems by the context that Paul is speaking -- not particularly of an "elder" as ecclesial leader -- but of any older brother, because (in v 1) Paul is speaking of the different age groups of individuals within the ecclesia. Ct this with the section beginning with v 17, where the "elders" are those that "bear rule", that is, the leaders of the ecclesia.

EXHORT HIM AS IF HE WERE YOUR FATHER: Other versions have "beseech, plead with, appeal to, implore". (The Gr "parakaleo" is the same as the word translated "exhort" in 1Ti 2:1.) In these two vv, each believer is to be treated as a family member -- father, brother, mother, or sister. The ecclesia is our real family: "Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother" (Mat 12:48-50).

The idea is not to build barriers of animosity and resentment, but to admonish with the love you would show to your natural father, only here there is more reason. Timothy was relatively young, and going to an older brother in correction would be enough to alienate that person if not handled properly. This does not remove the duty of correction; yet it is aimed towards temperate action.

TREAT YOUNGER MEN AS BROTHERS: Of course, they are brethren. But here Paul uses the word in the family sense -- as 'equals'. Though inferior in position, attainments, or knowledge to Timothy, they were still his equals in God's sight and deserving of respect and honor as such.

1Ti 5:2

OLDER WOMEN AS MOTHERS: The feminine form of "presbyter" (elder), used only in this verse. A similar word is found in Tit 2:3. Indeed, the elder sisters may be as "mothers" to the young Timothy (cp Rom 16:13). In Jdg 5:7, Deborah is said to have arisen "a mother in Israel". She assumed this position as a prophetess or teacher when no man was ready to assume this role, but she then wisely stepped aside when Barak arose as a righteous leader. However, she still offered him encouragement and solace for the difficult task he had to perform. Barak trusted her so much that he said, "If thou wilt go with me, then I will go" (Jdg 4:8).

YOUNGER WOMEN AS SISTERS, WITH ABSOLUTE PURITY: Or 'with due respect, courtesy, and propriety'. This scarcely needs a further comment. Timothy was to show purity on his own part (1Ti 4:12; 5:22), and all his dealings with the younger women were also to be in the utmost purity of action and intention.

The relationship in the Truth is a close, personal family relationship, that is, it should attain to the mutually affectionate and tender ideal that family relationship should be, though often sadly is not.

Relationship in the Truth is not a cold, impersonal, critical business, nor a mere technical relationship. There must be a deep, personal, living feeling and closeness. If there is the necessary mutual reproof and correction will be gently offered and lovingly accepted. Pointing out where we feel others are wrong is often necessary and often a duty. Done in the right spirit, it is an evidence of love and care. But, it is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, thing to do right in the Spirit and not in the flesh. Fleshly fault-finding comes so easily and naturally to all.

First of all, we should so live all the time and have such a continuous and strong relationship of affection and understanding among us that reproof could be given and received with perfect freedom in the spirit of love. This is an ideal never fully attained but earnestly to be striven for.

1Ti 5:3

Vv 3-16: This section is about widows. It is very interesting and has a practical bearing on today's problems. How should the aged and dependent be cared for?

The emphatic overall teaching of this portion is that, generally speaking, it is a private and not an ecclesial matter. Well-meaning individuals may feel this should be ecclesially organized and undertaken on a large and official manner. But all the emphasis and force of Paul's words here is on restricting organized ecclesial participation' except in special circumstances and on stressing individual responsibility. Three times he emphasizes this basic principle: vv 4,8,16.

In a sense the ecclesia itself is a "widow", since her bridegroom has been taken away (Mat 9:15) and she awaits the return of her husband or lord (Rev 19:7,8). There are, therefore, important lessons for the whole ecclesia to learn from these verses (ie, v 10; Mat 25:34-40).

Vv 3-10: Paul says it is acceptable for "widows indeed", those with absolutely no one who should care for them, to be taken on as regular ecclesial responsibility, but even then only with several rigid and demanding restrictions (vv 9,10 -- which we shall examine).

What of others who are equally in need, but do not so qualify? The general and consistent instruction of the Scriptures concerning love and care for others, especially those of the Household, would adequately take care of all needs in a Body that is truly and spiritually alive. The divine command to all is: "He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none, and he that hath meat let him do likewise" (Luke 3:11).

All who are truly in the Truth will not only be willing, but happy and eager to do so, as children of a bountiful Father. For those not of this enlightened and spiritual disposition, God has nothing to offer. "As a man soweth, so shall he reap."

GIVE PROPER RECOGNITION TO THOSE WIDOWS WHO ARE REALLY IN NEED: Or "honor" (as KJV). The Greek for "honour" is "timao", from which "Timothy" is derived. Honour means "support" (Diag), as in the English "honorarium". The same Greek word clearly means this in Acts 28:10. "For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother" (Mat 15:4). "Despise not thy mother when she is old" (Pro 23:22). There were ample provisions for the care of widows in the OT (Exo 22:22; Deu 14:29; 27:19), as well as for fatherless and strangers. God Himself set the pattern in His care for the weak (Deu 10:18; 24:17; Psa 68:5). The trouble was that the Jews did not truly live by the Law. It remains for the followers of Christ to fulfill this requirement. This is the essence of true religion -- "To visit the fatherless and afflicted" (Jam 1:27). We see hints of this assistance in Acts 6:1; 9:39.

1Ti 5:4

GRANDCHILDREN: Not "nephews", as in KJV.

THESE SHOULD LEARN FIRST OF ALL TO PUT THEIR RELIGION INTO PRACTICE: "Let their relatives learn as their first obligation to be dutiful" (Diag), their duty being the honouring or support of parents (Mat 15:4,6). In these vv in Matthew, Christ condemned those Jews who claimed to "dedicate" their goods to God's service, when their sole aim was to preserve their own wealth and to avoid contributing to the welfare of their parents.

REPAY: "To render proper returns..." (Diag). Can we ever repay our parents? Our children learn how to treat us by the way we treat our parents.

1Ti 5:5

THE WIDOW WHO IS REALLY IN NEED: The widow who would not fit into the above category (v 4). That is, she would have no relatives to care for her. The truly desolate, those with no strength of their own, "the poor of this world", are those most able to trust in God. We must first learn to humble ourselves, to see ourselves for what we are, weak and pitiable, before we can have true trust and faith in our Heavenly Father. Here is the Divine rationale for pain and suffering.

Such a person knows her help comes from above. She is like the lily, who relies wholly upon God's care: "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these" (Mat 6:28,29). Thus she is a widow in the natural sense only, because the Father in Heaven is her true Husband and Protector.

TO PRAY AND TO ASK GOD FOR HELP: "Supplication and prayers" (AV) would be 'petitions and devotions' (1Ti 2:1n). Anna was a superb example of this: "And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day" (Luke 2:37). See also Psa 119:164 ("Seven times a day do I praise thee") and Dan 6:10 ("He kneeled upon his knees three times a day").

1Ti 5:6

BUT THE WIDOW WHO LIVES FOR PLEASURE IS DEAD EVEN WHILE SHE LIVES: Life is given to man for one reason only, to serve and glorify God, to give Him pleasure and to be useful in His eternal purpose.

Pleasure in the abstract is not of itself wrong. There is, in fact, infinitely more true pleasure and enjoyment and satisfaction in the Way of Life than the way of death. David said of that glorious condition to which he looked forward in faith. "In Thy presence is fullness of joy, and at Thy right hand are pleasures evermore" (Psa 16:11).

But Paul is talking about self-pleasing as a motive, compared with God-pleasing as a motive. It is the motive and the motivation that determines whether our service is spiritual or carnal. If we serve God simply to get ourselves into the Kingdom and enjoy its pleasure, this is merely a higher and disguised form of the same old selfishness.

But if we forget ourselves, and serve God out of the joy of love and gratitude and worship and devotion, we shall find all other things are added unto us. Pleasure sought selfishly is never found. It only comes as a by-product of love and service.

PLEASURE: Or "self-indulgence" (Diag, RSV). The only other occurrence of this word is in Jam 5:5, where the rich men are addressed: "Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter." The word does not necessarily imply what the world calls wicked. It really has to do with pampering and spoiling oneself.

For additional comments on the phrase dead while she liveth cp Rom 8:13: "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die." And Rev 3:1: "I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead". In Eph 2:1,5 Paul speaks in a positive fashion of those once "dead" in trespasses and sins, who have been "quickened" or made alive. But the sad truth is that so many of these, in little ways, and step by step, relapse into the death-state of selfish indulgence.

1Ti 5:7

GIVE THE PEOPLE: "Command" them (as in 1Ti 1:18): an instruction given to all the believers, including the widows also.

THESE INSTRUCTIONS: This has reference to what is mentioned in vv 5,6.

SO THAT NO ONE MAY BE OPEN TO BLAME: That is, whether seeking support from the public alms of the ecclesia or not, the widows of the congregation should struggle after an irreproachable, self-denying life, and show publicly before men that they were indeed the servants of Christ. In these words there seems a hint that the former lives of many of these women converts to the Truth had been very different from their current lives, and that in their new profession as believers there was great need of watchfulness on their part not to give any occasion to slanderous tongues.

1Ti 5:8

The true faith is a way of life, in love. The Faith may be denied in daily practice, even if hypocritically kept in word and appearance -- many of the scribes and Pharisees being perfect examples (v 4). Neglecting the most elementary Christ-like duties is no less to be condemned than renouncing the Truth itself. All we have belongs to God; we will answer for our use of what is His.

AND IS WORSE THAN AN UNBELIEVER: Because he has no excuse, being responsible (through his knowledge) to serve God, on penalty of death at the judgment if he fails. Even an "unbeliever" will perform these duties from natural promptings.

1Ti 5:9

PUT ON THE LIST: "Katalego" (from which we get the English "catalogue") signifies "enrolled" or "listed". There must have been a special roll in the ecclesia with the names of those widows to be supported in whole or part by the ecclesia (cp Acts 6:1). The names on the roll were to be limited to those who had the qualifications of these two verses. "Let not a widow be enrolled, unless she has been... "

It is the intention of all of us, widows included, to be "enrolled" in the book of life (Phi 4:2,3). But in this too, we must first meet the qualifications.

FAITHFUL TO HER HUSBAND: "Having been the wife of one man" (as KJV puts it) means simply, a faithful wife (cp 1Ti 3:2). This cannot be a ban against a second marriage for a widow, because Paul himself says that the young widows should marry (v l4). And a woman twice widowed could be just as worthy as one who had been married only once.

In a spiritual vein, the True "Israel" must have been the faithful "wife of one man" and one man only (Eze 16:8; cp Pro 31:10-31)!

1Ti 5:10

AND IS WELL KNOWN FOR HER GOOD DEEDS: One who has "borne witness" within and without the ecclesia "for good works" (which Paul enumerates here). The qualifications here are quite similar to those other lists in 1Ti 3, which can be read for particulars. Cp also the similarities with the works which elicit the approval of Christ the Judge in Mat 25:34-36.

BRINGING UP CHILDREN: Raising them in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord", a primary duty for wives and mothers. Bishops' children were always to be well-behaved and faithful (1Ti 3:4). (Of course, we cannot suppose that this would exclude the childless widows from ecclesial care, if they were otherwise deserving.)

Others have rendered this: "If she have nourished children". She should have given those young ones under her care a solid diet of spiritual food -- to produce healthy children of God. "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Pro 22:6). This word "to train" may be given as "initiate" or "dedicate" (as Samuel's mother dedicated him to the service of Yahweh in His temple -- 1Sa 1:28).

In a broad way, the exhortation to parents (and particularly the sister-mothers) could be stated as: "Give your children adequate and regular meals of the spiritual food of life, that they might gain full understanding and become dedicated thereto." The word for "child" in the verse (Pro 22:6) means "a child from infancy to adolescence". This is the period of development when a child is receptive to principles which will mold his character for a lifetime. The same word is used in Pro 20:1: "Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right". Whilst lacking in full understanding, a child may nevertheless manifest an attitude toward the things of God that will identify him or her as one striving to develop divine principles in daily life (Luke 2:52; 1Sa 2:26: Pro 3:1-4).

SHOWING HOSPITALITY: That is, to travelers (1Ti 3:2n).

WASHING THE FEET OF THE SAINTS: See John 13:2-11 for the example of Christ who washed the saints' feet. This ties in with hospitality, but it depicts the true and most complete love and consideration. Paul had no doubt experienced such hospitality. For a man traveling great distances on foot, either in sandals, or barefooted, the feet would be in dire need of washing from the dust, and for the aches and possible blisters. It depicts true servitude and is perhaps symbolic of all humble and commonplace tasks done on behalf of others (1Sa 25:41; Luke 7:38). Such "menial" tasks, though despised by the proud and mighty, receive their reward from God. Jesus spoke of visiting the sick as an honorable task and he praises the feeding and clothing and giving of drink to even the least among his disciples (Mat 25:35-40; cp Jam 2:15,16).

HELPING THOSE IN TROUBLE: Paul may be concerned at this time with some widespread persecution of the Christians. He is writing here during the time of Nero, who ruthlessly mistreated and even killed the saints of the Most High. It was during this time that Peter wrote his first letter exhorting the believer how best to survive the time of severe trial.

Of course, brethren may be afflicted in ways other than open persecution so that "helping those in trouble" may take many other forms as well. The ecclesia is, or should be, a family, and it is largely by mixing in one another's homes that we can really get to know each other, to learn of another's weaknesses and problems (Gal 6:2), and grow in mutual concern and brotherly love (2Pe 1:7,8). Here is plenty of opportunity for useful work for any and every widow.

1Ti 5:11

Vv 11-16: The young widows are those most likely to be drawn aside by temptations, to marry out of the Truth, to "live in pleasure". Giving such as these a guaranteed income (on a permanent basis, at any rate) would only open the door to other troubles, as Paul shows.

WHEN THEIR SENSUAL DESIRES OVERCOME THEIR DEDICATION TO CHRIST: "Wax wanton" (KJV) is better translated "to grow restless", as it comes from a root word signifying "to remove the reins". We have here a metaphor of a horse being freed and allowed to run wild. The young woman is freed from the necessary guiding and perhaps restraining influence of a husband in the Truth.

Most translators render wanton as "sensual" or "passionate". After having close marital companionship cut off, it is possible that this young widow will seek to involve herself in order to fulfill her previously awakened desires. Her mind could then be on more or less immediate self-gratification, as opposed to service in the ecclesia and obedience to Christ. It is a pity that, in early life, when health and zeal and energy are strong, we serve self rather than God -- and that only later, when the natural vigor for life declines, do we turn our hearts fully toward God. Let us listen to Solomon: "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them" (Ecc 12:1).

THEY WANT TO MARRY: Nothing is wrong with widows marrying in the Truth; so Paul may mean marriage with an alien, perhaps hastily entered, in opposition to the command to marry "only in the Lord" (1Co 7:39). Cp v 14. The key to this verse is in the phrase "against Christ".

1Ti 5:12

THEY HAVE BROKEN THEIR FIRST PLEDGE: They have "apostasized". Very few things are more destructive to a life in the Truth than to marry one outside the saving name of Christ. From the very beginning there has been a sharp distinction between the children of God and the children of the world. God's whole purpose of redemption depends upon the former maintaining a faithful and holy separation from the latter. Union between them, in defiance of this eternal ordinance and purpose, has brought untold misery and punishment and evil. It has, time and time again, sidetracked the called-out people of God into the dead-end of failure.

The Scriptures abound in warnings against alien marriage. The sons of God marrying the daughters of men resulted at last in the Flood. Abraham and Isaac, faithful sojourners looking for the kingdom, opposed such marriages for their sons (Gen 24:3; 28:1). The Law forbade the yoking together of the clean ox and the unclean ass (Deu 22:10). Moses said to take no alien spouses (Deu 7:3,8). Solomon's alien wives turned his heart from God (1 Kings 11:1-11). Ezra (Ezra 9; 10) and Nehemiah (Neh 13:23-29) tell us of the evils of such alliances, and Paul has stressed the serious wrong of such unions (2Co 6:14-18).

1Ti 5:13

GOING ABOUT FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE... IDLERS... GOSSIPS... BUSYBODIES: Not just wandering aimlessly, but "gadding about" (Diag, RSV) with the express purpose of gossip. "By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands and the house droppeth through" (Ecc 10:18). This "house" may well be the house of the ecclesia. In contrast to this is the description of the virtuous woman: "She looketh well to the ways of her household; and eateth not the bread of idleness" (Pro 31:27).

Both the Proverbs and the prophet talk of the feet that "run to evil, and make haste to shed innocent blood" (Pro 1:16; 6:18; Isa 59:7). Such idle gossips may be murderers in the Lord's sight. How do they kill? With a word or an insinuation, they sneak through the night and shoot arrows at the unsuspecting and innocent. "Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment" (Mat 5:21,22). "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life in prospect" (1Jo 3:15).

The perfect picture of righteousness to follow is the description of the woman of Pro 31: "She openeth her mouth with wisdom: and in her tongue is the law of kindness" (v 26). But how far we fall short of this ideal! Unless we are constantly careful and unless we are purely motivated by love and the mind of the Spirit we shall find that much of our conversation about others, when honestly evaluated by divine standards, comes under the heading of gossip and backbiting -- or in other words -- tattlers and busybodies, speaking things which [we] ought not.

True, there are times when it is necessary to speak of the faults of others. But unless it is truly necessary, and done in the scriptural way and in the proper Scriptural spirit we are running a grave risk of divine condemnation. "The words of a talebearer are wounds and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly" (Pro 26:22). The immediate reaction of most of us, on reading this passage, is to be struck with how remarkably it fits someone else. But let us for the time being curb this evasive reaction and consider how remarkably they fit ourselves -- how many times we have allowed the natural malice, of which we all have a share, to lead us into this flesh-gratifying sin. "The words of a tale-bearer are as dainty morsels" (Pro 26:22, RV) -- how true and searching is this divine analysis!

The way of the Truth is the way of love, in all relationships. If our feelings toward our brethren and sisters are not in pure love, regardless of their faults and weaknesses, then we ourselves are not the children of God, but are of the world. Love is kindness and gentleness and a desire to help and strengthen. Solomon records again: "He that covereth a transgression seeketh love, but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends" (Pro 17:9).

This does not mean a glossing over or condoning of what is wrong, but a proper, pure-hearted, sympathetic, loving approach with a desire to build up. Let us take heed that we do not stand at the judgment seat exposed before all as what Paul describes as "tattlers and busybodies". It is a very easy and common sin. "Speak evil of no man" is the command (Tit 3:2).

1Ti 5:14

I COUNSEL YOUNGER WIDOWS TO MARRY: The KJV has "younger women", but as all the context (v 11) shows clearly, Paul must be speaking of younger widows. It is better to marry if they find they cannot contain themselves (1Co 7:8, 9). Again, of course, marriage is to be "only in the Lord" (1Co 7:39).

TO HAVE CHILDREN: See 1Ti 2:15n.

TO MANAGE THEIR HOMES: The question arises: is this verse a prohibition against married sisters working outside the home? After all, the "virtuous woman" is pictured as diligent in business, at least some of which would need to be carried on in the outside world (Pro 31:16,24). It is best not to lay down absolute rules in this matter, while at the same time affirming the wisdom of general principles. Generally, and most of the time, a married sister's surpassingly useful sphere is in the home. And especially is this true when she is the mother of small children. No 'baby-sitters' or 'day-care centers' can begin to do for her children what she can. The young mother who goes out to work each day, for the sake of a higher "standard of living", will very likely do a second-rate job at both her tasks. The loss to her secular employment will be temporal and minimal, but the spiritual loss to her family may be incalculable!

The solution? Forget about "keeping up with the Joneses"; and be thankful for the opportunity (rare in these days!) of making a real "sacrifice" for the Truth. Recognize that the common tasks of the household are a test of your patience and faith; as much as accomplishing some "great thing for the Truth", they are the means to gain eternal life, if done joyfully and wholeheartedly, as unto the Lord (1Ti 2:15).

GIVE THE ENEMY NO OPPORTUNITY FOR SLANDER: Cp 1Ti 3:6,7. The first-century believers had many pagan opponents. The word for "adversary" here means "one who is set over against", as in Tit 2:8. These men went about seeking whom they might devour (1Pe 5:8). Inconsistent behavior by one believer would place all her brethren in the same bad light before the heathen and would bring reproach upon the gospel and the God she claimed to serve.

1Ti 5:15

SOME HAVE IN FACT ALREADY TURNED AWAY TO FOLLOW SATAN: Simply put, some had turned aside to the world. Perhaps their alien husbands had led them away from the Truth. ("Satan" sig the world, as in 1Ti 1:20, the "adversary" -- v 14 -- of the Christians.) What a sad thing this must have been! Some had served the Truth for a time, but had been drawn aside by the cares of the world. Their cases were so well-known that Paul needed not even to mention their names. And the warning is so clear that it really need not be mentioned either: "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples (types), and are written for our admonition. Wherefore let him thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1Co 10:11,12). What a pity that in the "books" of the Father some saints are remembered only in that they turned aside from their high and glorious calling to mingle and marry with the world, and to perish at last in the "wilderness".

1Ti 5:16

SO THAT THE CHURCH CAN HELP THOSE WIDOWS WHO ARE REALLY IN NEED: The word "help" has reference to financial relief. Indiscriminate hand-outs by an organization are not always the best policy -- our governments have begun to discover this. In the household we must guard against this also. Institutionalized charity is a cold and humiliating and depersonalizing thing. Individual and private love and care is a beautiful, mutually-blessing bond of perfectness. Officially organized schemes can easily have dangers and problems and disadvantages.

We must be guided by the Spirit's teaching, whether we see its wisdom or not. But we often can see the wisdom, especially if we first submit in humble faith. In this case we can clearly observe around us many ill-effects from schemes that ignore the Spirit's teaching: (a) encouragement of shirking personal responsibility; (b) constant pressuring for money to keep ambitious schemes afloat; (c) unhappy and unsatisfactory conditions of the recipients; (d) the constant danger of an ever-growing centralized bureaucracy; and (e) an organization held together more and more by its external structure and less and less by any common faith.

1Ti 5:17

Vv 17-25: The word "elders" is "presbuteros", which signifies older persons. Sometimes in the NT, this word is used to denote seniority in general (as in v 2; Luke 15:25; John 8:9; Acts 2:17). At times, the word refers to the Jewish elders of the synagogue (Mat 15:2; 16:21; 26:47,57; Mark 7:3,5; Acts 4:5,23), usually associated with the scribes and Pharisees. These were in authority by virtue of their greater years, and after the pattern of elders throughout the OT times, who performed the judicial and executive offices among the various families and tribes (Num 11:16; Deu 27:1). And the word "presbuteros" is found in the Septuagint in Gen 50:7 and Num 22:7, referring to Gentile "elders".

But in this section the elders were certain people appointed to serve in the first-century body. In the earlier section concerning bishops we explained that elders and bishops are at times synonymous terms. Cp Tit 1:5,7: "Ordain elders in every city... For a bishop must be blameless... " And Acts 20:17,28: "He called the elders of the ecclesia... (and said to them) the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers (the same word as 'bishops'), to feed the ecclesia of God."

The only important difference between these two words is this: "elder" indicates the mature spiritual experience and standing of those so described (the inward character). In contrast, "bishop" lays stress upon the character of the elder's work, comparable to that of a shepherd (the outward manner of service).

Vv 17-21: Their treatment: Elders occupied a special position in the ecclesia, then and now. This is not an elevated position as such, but one of responsibility due to Scriptural maturity through knowledge and experience. The judgment of such men in spiritual matters was (and can be) valuable. It is necessary that others be respectful of elders because of their years of faithful service and their spiritual maturity. (But being respectful does not imply being a "respecter of persons", nor slavishly worshipping men and men's ideas.)

V 17: DIRECT THE AFFAIRS OF THE CHURCH WELL: As loving "fathers" in God's family (cf 1Ti 3:4, where the same word "rule" is used). The picture of a dictatorial, domineering person handing down Olympian pronouncements is not what is intended here. The true picture is that of Christ, standing before his brethren, lovingly and yet sternly, as a faithful guide and example.

DOUBLE HONOR: A twofold honor -- now and later. Honored by discerning men of God now, and honored by Christ and the Father in the future. "Double" is also used in the sense of "much greater" (as in Rev 18:6). The OT and the Law of Moses, which previewed the gospel system of affairs in many ways, outline the duties and privileges of the first-born son, the elder. He was to be the leader and decision-maker of the family. On him devolved the responsibilities for family care, should his father die. More importantly, he assumed the role of priest for the entire family. (This was superseded when the family of Aaron was designated the first-born of all Israel.) And along with all this, the elder was to receive a "double portion" of inheritance in the Promised Land.

As in v 3, so also in v 17 "honor" refers to material provisions (Acts 28:10), and possibly also to respect and obedience. Even today there may be a time when ecclesial or individual funds can be effectively used to aid an elder brother who labors in God's vineyard. But such matters must be handled with tact and love. A brother's service for the Truth must not degenerate into a pay-as-you-go, business-like preaching of smooth and pleasing words for the sake of money. Making a brother dependent upon the financing of others may dull the sharp sword of the Spirit which he endeavors to wield. They who labor in the word and doctrine might be elders concerned specifically with financial matters, or the care of the poor. There might be elders who had the Holy Spirit gifts of healing or speaking with tongues. But Paul here especially singles out those who had the "best gifts". "God hath set some in the ecclesia, first apostles secondarily prophets, thirdly, teachers..." (1Co 12:28).

Greater responsibility and greater "honor" (in the sense already described) was conferred upon the brethren receiving the gifts of interpreting and expounding the Scripture. These gifts were the most important, for they might be the more readily used to the edification of the body in love. Paul himself could certainly be classed as an elder of this type.

1Ti 5:18

THE SCRIPTURE: The singular word "Scripture", as here, is used of a particular passage of the OT (John 7:38, 42; Acts 1:16; 8:32, 35). The plural in the Greek refers to the sacred writings as a whole (Mat 21:42; Luke 24:32; John 5:39).

DO NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE IT IS TREADING OUT THE GRAIN: The oxen who turned the great treadmills to grind the grain were not muzzled in any way, so that they might reach down, and thus partake of the fruit of their labors. This typical lesson from the law is found in Deu 25:4.

Paul uses this same scripture in another letter: "Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof?... Say I these things as a man? Or saith not the law the same also?... Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain. Does God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partakers of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" (1Co 9:6-11).

Here Paul is encouraging the wealthier ones to use their abundance to the good of the Truth, by supporting those who have labored well. However, in another place, Paul speaks of a danger that might come up when certain brethren are supported by others: "Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat" (2Th 3:8-10).

Paul was not customarily supported by any brethren, but this was only by his choice, so that no man could make his preaching void (1Co 9:12,15). He could have received wages, but his reward was in witnessing the fruits of the planting of the gospel, the gospel that is free to all, "without money and without price" (Isa 55:1).

Paul's words of warning were not heeded by some, and this led to the development of the paid hierarchy of the apostasy -- men who depended upon their constituents for support and who therefore preached what their followers wanted to hear and not what they needed.

THE WORKER DESERVES HIS WAGES: Comparable to Luke 10:7 and Mat 10:10, where Jesus is sending forth his twelve disciples. Here he certainly expected that they would be provided food and lodging, so he counseled them not to make extravagant preparations. Instead they were to trust that God would provide them with what was necessary, from one source or another. This is an excellent example for us to imitate in our attitudes to the work of the Truth.

Again, the future aspect is hinted at also. Is not one who labors in the work of the Truth also allowed to partake of its benefits? Is not the workman in the Father's vineyard to receive just wages, at the time when every man shall be rewarded according to his works?

1Ti 5:19

Those that do good are often unjustly accused by those who are jealous of their positions and labors, and by those presumptuous ones who seek their own glory and not the Lord's. A man who is in the forefront, giving stirring and meaningful and stern exhortations, fighting vigorously for the maintenance of truth and peace in the ecclesia, will probably incur much more than his share of wrongful criticism and insinuation from those who themselves lack the vigor, determination or desire to oppose error, or laxity, or to stimulate to activity.

Timothy was never to consider any accusation against an elder unless it were "at the mouth of" (RV) two or three witnesses. To go even further, this is the proper course for an ecclesia in hearing an accusation against anyone (Mat 18:16; 2Co 13:1, and the related OT passages of Deu 17:6; 19:15).

1Ti 5:20

THOSE WHO SIN ARE TO BE REBUKED PUBLICLY: This is of course only after private efforts have failed, in accordance with the principle of Mat 18. A brother having a matter against another should first go to the offender alone, then (if this fails to win the brother) with one or two others, making diligent efforts to reclaim him from his error. Only when this has failed may he go before the whole ecclesia and a public rebuke be issued. The public aspect is stressed here because these elders stand as examples of the Truth to those within and without the ecclesia. In certain cases, disfellowship may be the only course (1Ti 1:20). This would point out that there can be no respect of persons when willful transgression is practiced. These matters affect the "elders" as well as the "lambs" -- we are all subject to God and prone to fail (see esp v 21).

PUBLICLY: "Before all" (AV): That is, all kinds (classes, or races) of men. Examples of "all" prob meaning "without distinction" rather than "without exception": Joh 1:7,9; 3:26; 5:28; 8:2; 12:32; 13:35; Rom 10:13; 1Ti 2:1,2; 4:15; 6:17; Heb 2:9.

"There are many scriptural ways of dealing with the offences of brethren. Withdrawal, or cutting off from fellowship, is the most drastic of all. We may entreat brethren, or reprove them privately, and so leave the matter. In some cases of error everyone would agree that nothing more is needed. We may take others with us, and finally bring a matter before the ecclesia. We may, as an ecclesia, rebuke an offender 'before all, that others also may fear,' or, finally, we may if we feel confident that this is what the Lord would approve -- cut the offender off from fellowship.

"Are we to make it a test of fellowship that there must be unanimity of judgment as to the appropriate method of dealing with an offender?

"When we withdraw from a member for prolonged absence from the table is there to be a division, and an extension of cutting off, because all cannot agree that the time has come for action? Are we to cut off those who refuse to support one of these painful motions because of some real or fancied special circumstances in the case? Assuredly not. These are not matters of principle but of application, and the proper course is for all of us to be subject one to another" (IC, Xdn 60:261-265).

1Ti 5:21

I CHARGE YOU, IN THE SIGHT OF GOD AND CHRIST JESUS AND THE ELECT ANGELS: This is a reminder that everything we do or think is known to our Father in heaven: "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do" (Heb 4:13).

THE ELECT ANGELS: Translated as the "chosen messengers" (Diag, Roth). The angels of God, "who encamp around about them that fear the Lord" (Psa 34:7), who minister to the heirs of salvation (Heb 1:14).

TO KEEP THESE INSTRUCTIONS WITHOUT PARTIALITY: Timothy must judge impartially, for he himself will be judged by Christ. Perhaps the presence of the Father and Son is a reference to the implicit oath taken by believers -- a vow which Christ and God can discern, and one which they expect to be fulfilled.

He who presides over a great community must be without party feelings and must follow the Truth's dictates at every turn. In the ecclesia of God that has not always been so, and it has led to unhappy divisions, where the whole truth has not surfaced and misrepresentations (perhaps deliberate) have taken the place of truth. This leads to factions, jealousy and reprisals, where there was once, and should still be, undivided love. Unprejudiced judgment is difficult, but if a man would "rule" the ecclesia of God be must learn to judge righteous judgment. The ministrations of the overseer should have a basis of equality. Playing favorites is for a child of the world, or a politician, not for a saint of God.

1Ti 5:22

Vv 22-25: Extreme care and caution should be exercised in the selection of elders. The following is good advice for today's ecclesia.

THE LAYING ON OF HANDS: The means whereby elders were ordained to office (1Ti 4:14; 2Ti 1:16; Tit 1:15). "Do not be over-hasty in laying on hands in ordination" (NEB). An examination of the individual alongside the qualities of 1Ti 3 should be made. God's guidance should also be sought by prayer in such matters.

Alternatively: "Do not be hasty in condemning or speaking reproachfully of an elder" -- thus making this phrase follow up on v 19. This could very well fit better than the allusion to selection -- the context would seem to point to this. It could also apply to anyone in the ecclesia who needed correction. Perhaps a good paraphrase of vv 22,24,25 might be: 'Don't be too hasty to bring someone before the ecclesia for reprimand, and be sure to have two or three witnesses when this individual is an elder. On the other hand, if you hesitate to act when it is warranted, you could become a partaker of this individual's wrong by allowing it to foment or condoning it in any other fashion. Don't support others who also may seek hasty judgment. In any case look prayerfully into the matter and strive for purity in your behavior. In some cases it is easy to judge -- the obvious is manifest. In other situations we cannot judge. But rest assured, neither good works nor sins can be hidden from the view of the one who is coming.'

DO NOT SHARE IN THE SINS OF OTHERS: "Neither have fellowship" (Roth). The ecclesia as a whole is responsible for the deeds of an elder whom they have selected, or whom they unwisely allow to remain in office -- for he is exercising the authority of that office with their sanction and as their representative.

A second possibility in interpreting this verse is that it may include a "laying on of hands" in fellowship, with the re-admission to the ecclesia of brethren previously withdrawn from (for example, 1Ti 1:20). Caution should be used in such a situation as this also. This might, because of emotional involvement or family ties, be carried out too hastily, thus destroying any benefit.

KEEP YOURSELF PURE: Could be spoken both to the individual and to the ecclesia. Choose your serving brethren carefully; remove them from office if they act unwisely or unscripturally. Do not directly have company with sinners and so become defiled by touching the dead body. Withdraw from those that walk unworthy of their high calling. This letter and all of Paul's letters counsel the same things with no slackness in acting against the open sins of others.

Paul is also warning Timothy against hasty judgment, for if he joined with those who might suddenly, without sufficient cause, lay hands on a brother for purposes of ecclesial reprimand, he himself will be subject to the higher judge. It is just as wrong to be too hasty as it is to be too hesitant.

Regardless of how we may take this verse, whether in selection of elders or in ecclesial reprimand, care in decision, and purity and sincerity in action are stressed.

1Ti 5:23

V 23 seems out of context; in other words, vv 21,22,24,25 could be read entirely reasonably WITHOUT v 23. What is the point? Perhaps: as Paul writes these vv, encouraging Timothy to "keep himself pure", he realizes that Timothy may be too much given to asceticism (trying to fulfill 1Ti 3:3?), and so Paul reminds Timothy that -- given his constitution -- a little wine could be a healthful thing! Timothy may have been of a weak constitution, as Paul had seemed himself to be, and he would then need the strengthening effects of a little wine. (This verse is a corrective against the suggestion that "wine" in Scripture means unfermented grape juice and nothing more. If so, then what strengthening effect could be derived?)

In his autobiography RR recounts a similar miscalculation: while a young man he embarked with the best of intentions upon a strict (but unbalanced) vegetarian diet (more precisely, as I recall, a rice-only diet!), only to come dangerously close to ruining his health.

Paul is saying here, "Not that I enjoin upon you that extreme and foolish 'purity' which is asceticism. You may even go so far as to use a little wine, as it might be needed for your health." God commands believers to use all Scriptural means which may be at their disposal for preserving health to keep their "temples" sound. But it is good never to forget the other side of the coin. "Be not drunken with wine" (1Ti 3:3; Eph 5:18). Our thoughts must not be clouded by the effects of alcohol or any other strong depressant or stimulant.

The sentiment here expressed is inconsistent with the opinion of some fanatical advocates of total abstinence, that drinking wine is altogether incompatible with true Christianity. Pharisaic 'purity' in such cases does not guarantee true godliness. On the contrary, it can lead to mechanical, rote worship, in following the do's and don'ts of "the Law". Even so, common sense (scriptural sense) should guide us in matters such as this. Paul recommends this to Timothy for purely medicinal purposes, not as a means of escape or a way to warm the 'cockles of his heart'.

In addition, we must consider the weaker members because our liberty should not be an occasion of stumbling to someone else. "If meat makes my brother to offend, I will not eat meat so long as the world stands." We would not want our liberty to be an occasion of stumbling to someone outside the faith either. An elder will give no occasion for the Truth or its adherents to be evil spoken of. Ascetic ideas regarding alcohol seem to play a more professed role today than in the past (wine was frequently taken with meals in Jesus' day). Therefore this word of caution.

And it should be noted that there are brothers and sisters who are recovering alcoholics -- for whom even a "little wine" could be the last push over the edge into the abyss. Clearly such advice as Paul dispenses here is not for them!

The very unpretentious quality of this tidbit of personal advice is an argument for the genuineness of this letter. Would an imposter have thought to include such mundane but practical details? This verse could have come from no pen but Paul's.

1Ti 5:24

The open sins of some men proclaim their sure condemnation to all discerning brethren even before the judgment. And consequently, there are some sins which must not be ignored or glossed over by brethren, and some characteristics which should (if nothing else) influence their selection of serving brethren.

But the sins of some men are so well hidden that they are never manifest until the judgment, at which time their sins confront them. (Thus the "tares" of Christ's parable -- Mat 13:24-30,36-43). Neither Timothy nor we can see all the sins of our brethren. Imagine what a sorry state we would be in if we could! We should not search for their sins either. We cannot truly, fairly and completely judge them (1Co 4:5). The final decision is Christ's, who judges the hidden man of the heart, through the all-knowing power of the Father and the Spirit-word (John 12:48; Heb 4:13).

1Ti 5:25

Those good works which are done in secret now will not be hidden when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, "that everyone may receive in his body, whether he hath done good or evil" (2Co 5:10).

Previous Index Next