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Bible Commentaries

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible
1 Timothy 5

 

 

Verse 1

“Up to this point in this letter, Paul has been giving instructions on matters that touched Timothy’s relationship with the whole congregation. Almost the whole of the remainder of the letter is concerned with specific directions to Timothy to assist him in dealing with various groups and individuals within the congregation” (Reese p. 217).

“Do not sharply rebuke”: In Classical Greek this refers to a sharp castigation with words. The word rendered “sharply rebuke” literally means to “strike with blows”, thus to smite or pound with words.

“An older man”: In view of the fact that this context includes various age groups, younger men, older women, and younger women, the expression older man or elder in this section refers to an elder in respect to age. The same principle would apply to addressing a man who is in the office of an elder (3:1), but this verse applies to rebuking any older man. As does the Old Testament, the New Testament stresses the importance of respect for age (Leviticus 19:32; Proverbs 16:31; Proverbs 20:29; Titus 2:1 ff). We should note that older men do not have the liberty to do anything they please, merely because they are old. Older men are not immune from committing folly, and neither does age give one the right to sin.

“But rather appeal to him as a father”: Timothy must correct older men in the same way he would appeal to his own father. “Admonition is necessary for all, but a disrespectful, roughshod assault upon an older man by a preacher who is younger merely lays the accuser open to rebuke. All vindictiveness and bitterness must be avoided” (Kent p. 168). The term “appeal” means to “call alongside” for the purpose of encouragement, appeal, or admonition. “It is always a difficult thing to reprimand anyone with graciousness” (Barclay p. 119). “It is one of the tragedies of life that youth is so often apt to find age a nuisance” (p. 120).

“To the younger men as brothers”: The term “appeal” also applies to when younger men need correction. This group of younger men would include those younger than Timothy and those who were his own age as well. This reminds Timothy “that he is to avoid all show of self-exaltation over them because of his position” (Hiebert p. 90).


Verse 2

“The older women as mothers”: “So when Timothy admonishes the older women, he must deal with them as a loving adult son would deal with his own mother were she erring” (Reese p. 218).

“And the younger women as sisters”: “Paul’s mention of father, brothers, mothers, sisters, shows that he is thinking of the church as a family and each member must be treated with family affection” (Hiebert p. 90). Becoming a Christian may cost us some physical family ties, but Jesus noted that we have become part of a larger and bigger family (Matthew 12:49-50; Matthew 19:29; Mark 10:29-30).

“In all purity”: With proper manners and behavior (4:12). “Denotes chastity which excludes all impurity of spirit, manner, and act” (Vine p. 232). When Timothy must deal with younger women, he should behave, as he would want other men to act toward his own sister. “This warning is significant, for at this very point many young men on the threshold of long and fruitful service have lost their usefulness” (Kent p. 169). Paul was not naïve; rather he knew the danger that could beset a young preacher when it was his duty to admonish a youthful female. “He was therefore to guard his heart with more than common vigilance in such circumstances, and was to indulge in no word, or look and action, which could by any possibility be construed as manifesting an improper state of feeling” (Barnes p. 174).


Verse 3

The Care of Widows

“Honor”: To revere, venerate, and in this context, “honor” includes not only respect, but also financial support (Matthew 15:4). God had equally stressed care for widows in the Old Testament as well (Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 10:18; Deuteronomy 27:19; Deuteronomy 14:28; Deuteronomy 24:19-21; Deuteronomy 26:12). The term “honor” also reminds us that the financial support mentioned in this section is not to be dealt out to them as to mere paupers, in a manner to degrade them, but as to women whom the church holds in honor. The support here is not charity or a hand out; rather it is a way of honoring these women.

“Widows”: The basic thought of the word “widow” is that of loneliness. “The word comes from an adjective meaning ‘bereft’ and speaks of her resultant loneliness as having been bereft of her husband” (Hiebert p. 91).

“Who are widows indeed”: Truly, in reality, in point of fact. The term “indeed” is a contrast between a widow who has family and one who is completely alone (5:4,5,16). Timothy is to see to it that such widows are cared for, and such is an indication of true religion (James 1:27).


Verse 4

“But if any widow has children or grandchildren”: “When the King James Version was translated the word ‘nephews’ meant grandchildren, but that meaning has now become obsolete. The Greek word means ‘sprung from one’, that is, offspring or descendants” (Hiebert p. 92).

“They must first learn”: That is, learn by use and practice. “Present active imperative, ‘let them keep on learning’” (Robertson p. 583). The term “first” indicates, “before anything else is done, first of all” (Thayer p. 555). “In the first place, as their first and natural obligation” (Vincent p. 258).

“To practice piety”: “To be pious, to act reverently towards” (Thayer p. 262). “To show piety towards any to whom dutiful regard is due” (Vine p. 183).

“In regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents”: The words “some return” means, “a requital, recompense” (Vine p. 285). “Make a return to those who brought them up” (Arndt p. 46). “Younger family members are to show some appreciation for the sacrifice and care that their parents and grandparents extended to them. Hendriksen calls attention to an old Dutch proverb which indicates it frequently seems easier for one poor father to bring up ten children than for ten rich children to provide for one poor father” (Reese p. 221). “The children owe their parents a great debt which they can never fully repay for all the love, patience, and self-sacrificing care bestowed upon them during their infancy and childhood” (Hiebert p. 92). Every child should look forward to the day when they can repay their parents.

“For this is acceptable in the sight of God”: (Mark 7:9-12; John 19:26-27). In contrast, being disrespectful of our parents is not pleasing to God (Romans 1:30; 2 Timothy 3:2). Various writers have noted that in the ancient world and even in the modern world, the vice of abandoning old and infirm parents was common.


Verse 5

“Now she who is a widow indeed and who has been left alone”: This is a widow, in contrast to the widow who has family, who is completely alone. She is entirely alone, without husband, children, grandchildren, or other close kin.

“Has fixed her hope on God”: That is, she continues to keep her hope on God (present active indicative). “Hath trusted and continueth to trust” (Macknight p. 239). “There may also be involved the idea that without love of friend or child, they must cast themselves on the support of the everlasting arms of God. The real widow has nowhere else to go for help” (Reese p. 222).

“Continues in entreaties and prayers night and day”: She does not have to be told to do these things; rather dependence upon God is part of her daily life. “The words simply describe the desolate one casting all her care on the Lord, and telling Him, as her only friend, of all her thoughts and actions and needs” (Reese p. 223).


Verse 6

“But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure”: The root meaning of the phrase “wanton pleasure” means “riotous and luxurious living”. This widow does not live for God; rather she lives for herself and pleasure.

“Is dead even while she lives”: That is, she is spiritual dead though she is physically alive. “Her frivolous, selfish, sensual existence is not true life; it fills none of life’s true needs; and, as to any real value to herself or to others, she is practically dead” (Hiebert p. 93). The New Testament often talks about people being “dead” in sin (Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13; Luke 15:24).


Verse 7

“Prescribe these things as well”: That is, command, charge, and order that Christians practice these truths. The preacher needs to remember to preach God’s word with authority; these are not optional matters or opinion.

“So that they may be above reproach”: The term “they” refers to the Christians in Ephesus. The expression “above reproach” means, “not open to attack”, “one against whom no charge can be sustained”, “one whose conduct is such that his reputation is not besmirched” (Reese p. 224). If these Christians fail to take care of their own (5:8) or support this type of widow (5:11-13), they will lose their influence in the community, not to mention, favor with God.


Verse 8

“If anyone does not provide for his own”: The term “provide” means to “take thought for, think of beforehand”. That is, providing for one’s own means, making plans now for the future care of our parents when they become aged. “It is a Christian duty thus to foresee and to provide for one’s dependents” (Hiebert p. 94). How many younger Christians now are making plans so they can care for their parents when their parents cannot care for themselves?

“His own”: That is, parents or grandparents, even though they might not be living with you. It seems that this could also include taking care of Christian relatives, such as aunts and uncles or brothers and sisters who might not have any children to care for them.

“And especially for those of his household”: Which means that the expression, “his own” includes more than those family members who are just in his immediate household. “His own people and especially the members of his family” (Arndt p. 708).

“Especially”: Chiefly, most of all, above all (4:10; 5:17).

“Household”: Related by blood, kindred (Thayer p. 439). “Of all the members of a household, member of one’s family” (Arndt p. 556).

“He has denied the faith”: That is, has denied doctrines that compose the faith (Ephesians 6:2; Mark 7:9-12).

“Worse than an unbeliever”: “First, it is worse to claim to possess the true teaching and then flagrantly deny it, than to make no such claim” (Reese p. 225). “When pagan moralists and infidels in contemporary society acknowledged their obligation to their parents, it is unthinkable that Christian morality should lag behind general pagan standards” (p. 226).

Even unbelievers support their parents and grandparents and express love towards family members (Matthew 5:44-48). Compare with 1 Corinthians 5:1.


Verse 9

The Qualifications for Widows to be Enrolled

“A widow is to be put on the list only if”: The expression “put on the list” means “to set down on a list, to register, to enroll” (Thayer p. 333). Used only here in the New Testament, it is the regular classical word for enrolling enlisting soldiers, hence our English word “catalogue”.

Some here have attempted to argue that Paul is creating an “office” of widowed women who were appointed by the church to perform certain acts of charity, such as the care of orphans, the supervision of the younger women, and so on. Yet such goes against the context of these verses. These widows have already lived a life of faithful service (), and the issue of this chapter is not church work, but rather financial support for widows with no dependents (5:3-4,16). Remember, the church can help any Christian widow (Acts 6:1 ff), but this chapter is talking about permanent and ongoing support. These are widows that the congregation would permanently support until they died.

“If”: Definite qualifications exist.

“She is not less than sixty years old”: We should note that God selected this age, thus there is His wisdom behind why this was the cut-off point. Remember, the Bible grants permission for widows to remarry (1 Corinthians 7:39). A widow over sixty does have the right to remarry, but she would not be a “widow indeed” seeing that now she would have someone to care for her needs.

“Having been the wife of one man”: This woman first must have been married in order to qualify as a “widow”. Secondly, such an expression means that this woman had been faithful to her husband.

Many argue that the above expression does not mean she could have only been married once, seeing that Paul’s instructions to the younger widows to marry (), would bar them from support in their old age (if their second husband died). And this appears to be the main reason, or only real argument, why someone would interpret “wife of one man” as meaning, “a wife of one man at a time”.

First, the church can support any Christian widow. The widow indeed is a specific type of widow, one who was completely alone. Remember, this type of widow has no living husband or children. Secondly, Paul did give women advice that would have prevented them from becoming a “widow indeed”, that is he advised younger widows to have more children (), and in the Corinthian letter he advised some not to get married in the first place (1 Corinthians 7:28).

According the Arndt and Gingrich, the term “one” here means, “single, only one”. The reader should be aware that the NIV renders this passage “has been faithful to her husband”. But such a rendering is an interpretation of “wife of one man” and not a translation.


Verse 10

“Having a reputation for good works”: “Approved, well attested in good deeds” (Arndt p. 493). This phrase denotes all kinds of good works rather than merely good intentions. Good works are the mark of a faithful Christian (Matthew 5:16; Titus 3:1; Ephesians 2:10).

“If she has brought up children”: The term “if” means that this requirement must be met, here is another condition. To bring up children means, “to rear young” (Vine p. 188), “to care for them physically and spiritually” (Arndt p. 809). Clearly the stress in the passage is on whether or not she has brought up her own children well. Obviously the verse asks more than just that she had some children, rather, did she bring them up in the instruction of the Lord? (Ephesians 6:4).

“If she has shown hospitality to strangers”: (Matthew 25:35; Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9; 3 John 1:5).

“If she has washed the saints’ feet”: Literally, washing feet was an act of hospitality (Genesis 18:4; Luke 7:44). “In the ancient world, whenever a guest entered your house, it was customary to provide a towel and basin, and wash the dust and dirt of travel off the guest’s feet. Servants sometimes provided this courtesy. The woman of the house also often did this task” (Reese p. 230).

This verse is not talking about an official foot-washing ordinance that was practiced in the assembly, but rather has this woman been willing to give herself to good works, even humble and menial service. None of the other good works mentioned in this section, such as bringing up children are acts of worship in the assembly, so why should we think that feet washing is a reference to an act of worship in the assembly? Secondly, it means did she truly practice hospitality verses simply having people over socially. “Not only was she hospitable to strangers, she also welcomed friends and neighbors as guests into her home” (Reese p. 231).

“If she has assisted those in distress”: To “assist” is to help, give aid and relieve. The term “distress” refers to any kind of trouble or affliction. “The attitude behind such helpful actions is one of friendship, willing to reach out to try to help people who were in trouble” (Reese p. 231). Note, even this poor widow had been able to assist people. “However, the relief may not have been merely, or even chiefly, by gifts but by her loving and sisterly encouragement, being ever ready to mourn with those who mourn, deeming none too low or degraded to receive her ministrations of love” (Hiebert p. 96).

“If she has devoted herself to every good work”: “After such a life of loving service, no one in the congregation will ever be tempted to think the church is wasting money to provide for such a one regularly, the rest of her life” (Reese p. 232). The term “devoted” means to diligently follow, to follow close upon.


Verse 11

“But refuse to put younger widows on the list”: No widow was to be placed on the roll for permanent support, even if she was completely without husband or children.

“For”: The reason for the rejection or the wisdom behind this verse.

“When they feel sensual desires”: Note, nothing is wrong with such desires, for Paul will command them to marry (5:14).

“In disregard of Christ, they want to get married”: Note, sensual desires and wanting to get married refer to the same thing in this context. Sensual desires are in this context are not connected with adultery or fornication. What is meant by “disregard of Christ” is explained in the next verse.


Verse 12

“Thus incurring condemnation”: Which is explained in the next phrase.

“Because they have set aside their previous pledge”: By enrolling the young widow into a place a permanent support the church would be really helping her to lose her soul. The term “set aside” is often used of disregarding or breaking an oath, a treaty, or a promise.

Points to Note

1. What is the “previous pledge”? Is it a pledge not to remarry (if she was put on the list, of a widow indeed)? Or, is this the very first promise she made to God, that is the promise she made to Him when she became a Christian?

2. Is she condemned for marrying another Christian (which is encouraged: ), or is she condemned because she ends up marrying someone outside the faith? (1 Corinthians 7:39).

3. It seems to me that the condemnation in the above passage and the disregard to Christ is that to enroll such a young woman as a widow indeed would end up forcing her in time to break a certain commitment to Christ. For the widow indeed is pictured as completely preoccupied with the things of God (). So the church would be allowing a woman to make a certain commitment to Christ that she would not keep, thus in a sense breaking a type of vow and incurring condemnation. It would appear that the widow indeed was a woman prepared to never remarry and live the rest of her days exclusively for Christ.


Verse 13

“At the same time”: Another problem.

“They also learn to be”: To be fully supported by the congregation without the need to work, would place the younger widow in a place of temptation. Notice, not working is not a good thing. Idleness, too much free time, financial freedom from working, can be a great curse.

“Idle”: Which means free from labor, at leisure, lazy, shunning labor which one ought to perform. Such permanent support at such a young age can lead to a dangerous new habit.

“As they go around from house to house”: There is nothing wrong in going house to house if we are teaching or doing good works, yet this constant movement is not constructive. “She might become one of those creatures who drift from house to house in an empty social round” (Barclay p. 132). Some feel that the woman is going from house to house because this is one way that the early church provided for them, that is, she would live with one family for a while then another.

“And not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention”: The “busybody” is usually defined as one who pays attention to things that do not concern them, meddlesome and curious. The person who is busy about the affairs of others all the while neglecting important matters. “Since she had nothing of her own to take up her attention, she would be very apt to be over-interested and over-interfering in the affairs of others. It was true then, as it is true now, that ‘Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do’. The full life is always the safe life, and the empty life is always the life in peril” (Barclay pp. 132-133).

Point to Note

Paul does not even want to talk about the subject matter of such gossip. There is an important lesson here. There are two aspects to gossip, first the person who spreads it and the people who are eager to listen to it. There are things that are not proper to mention, in which Christians should have no interest. We need to examine our motives. Do we enjoy listening to spicy pieces of information? Are we eager to hear about someone’s shortcomings or failure? Do we derive a certain amount of enjoyment from hearing about such things?


Verse 14

“Therefore”: In view of these pitfalls.

“I want younger widows to get married”: The very fact that they married the first time indicates that they will have sexual desires. These are not women who like some men have a gift to live a single life (1 Corinthians 7:7).

“Bear children, keep house”: To bear children implies their training as well (2:15). To keep house means to manage and direct the household affairs.

“And give the enemy no occasion for reproach”: The “enemy” can refer to both a human being opposed to the gospel and the devil himself. “Any human enemy of Christ, any sneering worldly man, who delights to find any flaws in the character of Christ’s followers” (Reese p. 238). Any misconduct by Christian widows would give unbelievers an opportunity to discredit the church and the gospel message. The term “reproach” means, “railing, abuse, verbal abuse”. If the younger Christian widow will marry, bear children and manage the home, she will be greatly limiting the enemy’s opportunity to criticism. “The world is quick to use any scandal to discredit the Church. It is always true that ‘the greatest handicap the Church has is the unsatisfactory lives of professing Christians’” (Barclay p. 133).

Please note that God does not feel that domestic duties are unimportant, rather, such duties can be a powerful argument for the attractiveness of Christianity. Hiebert notes, “Paul conceived of the home as the woman’s intended sphere, the place where she finds her security from social dangers; there her womanly qualities find their full play” (p. 100). See also Titus 2:3-5.


Verse 15

“For some have already turned aside to follow Satan”: The term “some” generally is interpreted to mean “some widows”. It could be that Paul has in mind certain contemporary examples of such reproachful behavior.

In the context, to follow Satan means that some younger widows had already become busybodies and gossips ().


Verse 16

“If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows”: The KJV here has “any man or woman”. The “woman” could be mentioned here exclusively because she would be the household manager and she would be the one taking care of such widows on a daily basis (5:14).

“She must assist them and the church must not be burdened”: Here we find a definite distinction between the work of the congregation and the work of the individual. It is not the job of the local congregation to take care of all needs, even all the needs among Christians. Family has the first responsibility. The term “burdened” suggests that a local congregation has limited resources and might be overwhelmed with needs if individual members do not fulfill their responsibilities first.

“So that it may assist those who are widows indeed”: To expect or demand that the local congregation take care of all widows, is to in effect rob the church from the resources to help those who are in the most desperate need of such help, that is, the widow indeed. This is a repetition of the truth taught in 5:4,8. “The first obligation of this believing woman is to those within her own circle. Personal charity cannot effectively be replaced by organizational charity” (Hiebert p. 100).


Verse 17

“The qualifications for overseers or elders were given in chapter 3. Now Paul sets forth to Timothy the way these elders were to be treated by the congregation. It was Timothy’s responsibility to see that these matters were carried out” (Kent p. 181).

“The elders”: Here the term “elders” applies not to older men (5:1), but to those who serve as elders (3:1ff), for these elders “rule well”, are worthy of financially support and work hard at preaching and teaching.

“Who rule”: “To be over, superintend, preside over” (Thayer p. 539). “Lit. to stand before, to lead, attend to (indicating care and diligence)” (Vine p. 307). “Be at the head of, rule, direct” (Arndt p. 707). The same stress on ruling is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 3:4; 1 Timothy 3:12 and Hebrews 13:17.

“Well”: “Indicating what is done rightly” (Vine p. 207). “Fitly, appropriately, in the right way” (Arndt p. 401). Found also in 3:4 and 3:12. “That which is done excellently, in a commendable way. The work of the elder must not be taken for granted by the congregation” (Kent p. 181).

“Are to be considered worthy”: “Deem deserving” (Thayer p. 53). This means that a congregation must not be remiss in properly honoring and appreciating elders who rule well. Elsewhere Paul noted that members need to “appreciate those who diligently labor among you”, “that you esteem them very lightly in love because of their work” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).

“Of double honor”: The term “honor” here from the context includes financial payment. “Honorarium, compensation” (Arndt p. 818). Many views exist consider what this “double honor” includes. In the third century, there was a practice of putting a double portion of food before the elders at their social gatherings. Some feel that this refers to being paid twice as much as the widows indeed or deacons, another suggestion is that they are to get one honor for their age and another for their work. The context would argue that the double honor refers to respect for the work they do and financial compensation with that respect. Some try to argue that those who served with distinction receive double honor while those who served without undue exertion are still honored. This does not make much sense to me, for an elder or any Christian is not doing their job if they are not exerting themselves.

“Especially”: That is, chiefly, most of all, above all, particularly.

“Those who work hard”: To labor with wearisome effort, to toil (1 Thessalonians 5:12).

“At preaching and teaching”: God places tremendous importance upon preaching and teaching the gospel. Elders are to be apt to teach and are to be able to ground the members in the faith and oppose those who teach error (Acts 20:28-31; Hebrews 13:7; Hebrews 13:17; Titus 1:9 ff).


Verse 18

“For the Scripture says”: The first Scripture cited is Deuteronomy 25:4 “Thou shall not muzzle the ox while He is threshing”. Threshing was sometimes done by having the grain trampled under foot by horses or oxen. This is still a common mode in the East. The cattle were driven over the grain, treading heavily as they go, and in this manner the threshing is accomplished. In general the beasts are allowed to eat of the grain they thread out. The principle involved is that all labor is to be duty requited.

Compare with 1 Corinthians 9:9-10.

“The text reflects the ancient agricultural practice of driving an ox drawing a threshing-sledge over the grain to release the kernels from the stalk. Out of mercy for the laboring animal the Israelites were forbidden to muzzle the ox, so that he might have some "material benefit" from his labor” (Fee pp. 406-407). And if God doesn"t want the labor of an ox to go unrewarded, how much more the labor of a man! “Paul asserts that God does not legislate for oxen and forget men” (McGarvey p. 91). “Paul is saying that the law was written for man"s benefit; after all, oxen cannot read” (Willis p. 288). And if this was the command given to Israelites concerning the "treatment" of their oxen, then how much more it applied to their treatment of their fellowman.

Point to Note

Note that Paul quotes from the Old Testament here as justification for the support of elders and yet clearly Paul does not believe that we are still under the Law of Moses. Therefore, when the New Testament writers quote from the Old Testament, those quotations are not to be taken as meaning that we are still under the Law, like James 2:8-10.

“And”: This is another Scripture that is quoted.

“The laborer is worthy of his wages”: This verse is an exact quotation of Jesus’ words as recorded in Luke 10:7. This means: 1. The book of Luke was already in existence when 1 Timothy was written and it was regarded as “Scripture” by Christians. 2. This shows that the New Testament books were regarded as Scripture and inspired by God by First Century Christians (2 Peter 3:15-16). It was not a process that took decades or centuries to determine. 3. Both statements are placed on the same level, that is, both are inspired by God. “The Gospel of Luke is put on an equal basis with the Old Testament Scriptures as far as inspiration is concerned. Of course, the New Testament has taken the place of the Old Testament as the covenant for God’s people to live by, and so likewise the writings of the New Testament are our rule of faith and practice in this Messianic age” (Reese p. 246).


Verse 19

“Do not receive”: That is accept or admit with approval. Do not acknowledge, give ear to, or even entertain.

“An accusation against an elder”: The preacher’s responsibility toward the elders includes more than just seeing to it that they are honored. The preacher is also to be very careful about listening to criticism of and accusations against the elders. The term “accusation” infers that the elder is being accused of a sin. “Due to misunderstanding, party faction, or personal animosity an elder at times receives the very opposite of the honor due him. The influence of even the best minister might be destroyed, if idle gossip and social tattling were accounted a sufficient ground for serious charges and judicial proceedings” (Hiebert pp. 102-103). Timothy is not even to listen to an accusation that is not supported by reliable witnesses. “This safeguard of the elder is a wise one. No person is more subject to Satan’s attack in the form of gossip and slander than God’s servant. If every accusation necessitated full investigation, the elder would have time for little else. Even charges of which an elder is acquitted can damage his work” (Kent p. 185).

“Except on the basis of two or three witnesses”: “Any discipline must be founded on fact, not on rumor or innuendo. Permit no man to accuse an elder unless he is accompanied by two or three witnesses who are ready to back up the accusation. Lacking such support, the accusation must not even be taken up or entertained” (Reese p. 247). (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 19:15; John 8:17). Note, the witnesses are not at the end of the process, but rather, must be at the very beginning. We should also note that such witnesses need to be known as truthful and impartial men. “A man who had been disciplined might well seek to get his own back by maliciously charging an elder with some irregularity or some sin. Irresponsible, slanderous, and malicious talk does infinite damage and causes infinite heartbreak, and such talk will not go unpunished by God” (Barclay p. 135).


Verse 20

“Those who continue in sin”: This demonstrates that the safeguard in the previous verse was not designed to protect unfaithful elders. The expression “continue in sin” either means that the elder is still active in the sin of which he is accused or the guilt of a past sin has clearly been established by the previous witnesses. That is, a sin of which the elder refuses to give up or repent. This context is speaking about a sin that has become public (two or three witnesses) because the elder refuses to acknowledge it or forsake it. “Translates a present participle and the tense naturally suggests that they are living in the practice of sin” (Hiebert p. 103).

“Rebuke in the presence of all”: Matthew 18:17. Nothing is lost when sin is exposed (Acts 5:1-11). This means more than just, “in the presence of all the other elders”, but rather, in the presence of the entire congregation (Matthew 18:17). “A public rebuke in such a case would at once vindicate the church from complicity with the sin, and deter others from falling into it” (Hiebert p. 103). Note, God does believe in the value of punishment as a deterrence. The term “rebuke” has the sense of showing someone his sin and summoning him to repentance.

“So that”: Discipline is administered to not only save the elder but also to save others as well.

“The rest also will be fearful of sinning”: Compare with Acts 5:11. “People will then have a respect for the church and will search their own lives, when they see that even leaders are not exempt from discipline for sin” (Kent p. 185). Some fear concerning sin, public exposure and its consequences is a healthy thing among Christians.


Verse 21

“I solemnly charge you”: To command earnestly, to bear a solemn witness (2 Timothy 2:14; 2 Timothy 4:1). “Fully aware of the awful responsibility of the judicial functions laid upon Timothy, Paul with great solemnity charges him to exercise judgment with complete impartiality” (Hiebert p. 103). “It has been well remarked that the solemnity of this charge indicates the temptation which there might be to Timothy to shrink from reproving men of weight and influence” (P.P. Comm. p. 100).

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus”: Timothy must be impartial for the God he serves is impartial (Acts 10:34-35; Romans 2:11). “Timothy is to carry out his task under the consciousness of working under the direct gaze of the spiritual world. All Christian work should be carried out as in God’s sight” (Hiebert p. 103). Instead of being concerned of what men will think, Timothy needs to remember that God is constantly watching him and that God’s approval is far more meaningful and important. Remember, God sees all (Hebrews 4:13; Revelation 2:2).

“And of His chosen angels”: The term “chosen” or “elect” seems to distinguish these angels from the angels that sinned (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6). Such angels will come with Christ when He returns (2 Thessalonians 1:7). Compare with Ephesians 3:10. “Timothy stands in an awful presence-the God of the universe, the Messiah at His right hand, and the angels (His chosen attendants and ministers, gathered around His throne)-as he goes about doing the work of an evangelist in the city of Ephesus. Evangelists today have the same audience!” (Reese p. 251).

“To maintain”: That is, to follow, guard, and care for.

“These principles”: What has just been mentioned in the previous verses.

“Without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality”: The term “bias” means “prejudice, pre-judging and discrimination”. The term “partiality” means literally a leaning to one side, that is to incline the scales of justice to one side or the other. “The balance of justice in the hands of Timothy must be equal” (Reese p. 252). “Before all the facts are heard, Timothy must not lean either toward the accuser nor toward the accused” (p. 252). “He is guilty regardless of how much you like him, if he is innocent, then hating him won’t make him guilty” (Williams p. 28). “There is nothing which does more harm than when some people are treated as if they could do no wrong, and when others are treated as if they could do no right. Justice is a universal virtue, and in it the church must surely never fall below the impartial standards which even the world rightly demands” (Barclay p. 136).


Verse 22

“Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily”: The idea here is to lay hands upon a person for the purpose of public recognition. In the context, this could mean either, do not be rash in bringing charges against an elder or do not be rash in appointing men to the office of an elder. Often the expression “laying hands upon” refers to the later, that is, in the sense of appointing someone to a work (Acts 6:6; Acts 13:3; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6).

“Too hastily”: That is, too quickly, too easily, with a suggestion of rashness and inconsiderateness. This means that the church cannot be too careful in the men that are appointed to the office of an elder. The connection with the immediate context appears to be that if Timothy makes sure the right men are selected to serve, the problems associated with elders that continue in sin can be greatly reduced.

“Thereby share responsibility for the sins of others”: First, accepting unsupported accusations against an elder would be sharing in the sins of others. We may not bring the accusation, but giving our approval to it, or doing nothing, makes us accomplices. The same would be true if Timothy yielded to peer pressure and appointed a man who was unqualified but who some in the congregation really wanted to serve. If Timothy appoints an unqualified man then Timothy is partly responsible for the wrong that such an elder will commit. “If we ordain a man to the office of elder who is known to be living in sin, or to cherish dangerous error, we become patrons of his sin and of the heresy” (Barnes p. 186).

“Keep yourself free from sin”: Notice the stress on the term “yourself”. The preacher cannot always prevent others from sinning, but he certainly can keep himself pure. Appointing pure men to the office of an elder will ensure that Timothy remains pure in the process. Compare this verse with those who seek to justify their own failures by saying that every Christian sins every day and in fact we are probably committing sins constantly that we do not even realize.


Verse 23

“No longer drink water exclusively”: Contrary to the claims of some writers, everyone in the First Century was not drinking wine as the only available beverage and there was water that was pure and clean to drink. Note that Timothy did not drink wine socially or as a beverage.

“Use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments”: Here we learn that Timothy had some health problems that were frequent and yet these did not stop him from being a very productive worker. As Kent notes, “Timothy’s weak stomach is no argument for drinking liquor today” (p. 188). Also note the term “little”. Paul does not rebuke Timothy for his drinking water, but rather notes that he adds a little wine in view of his medical condition.

Carefully note that this passage argues against those who claim that God only heals through the prayer of faith. Paul recognized that medicines are useful for God’s people. Compare with Matthew 9:12.

Point to Note

“It is almost surprising to learn that this is one of the verses that people use who want to quiet their consciences about their habit of drinking alcoholic beverages. Timothy’s weak stomach is no argument for drinking alcoholic beverages today! Before passages such as this, or Jesus’ turning the water to wine at the wedding in Cana, are appealed to as ‘proof’ that it is OK for a Christian to be a consumer of alcoholic beverages, it would be well to consult Farrar Fenton’s The Bible and Wine or William Patton’s Bible Wines to get a better idea of the vast difference in alcoholic content between fermented beverages of the ancient world and the distilled spirits the world has used since the Arabs introduces distillation in the 6th century A.D.” (Reese p. 256).


Verse 24

“The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment”: The term “evident” means “open, manifest, known to all”. In the context, the “sins” under consideration may be specifically the sins of elders (5:20), yet the principle in this verse would apply to all men. “Paul explains that the wise choosing of elders is not an impossible task” (Kent p. 188). The true character of a man will manifest itself sooner or later. “These principles would aid Timothy in judging character, to avoid the danger mentioned in verse 22. In testing men as to their fitness for office, he must remember that there are two classes of sins, open and hidden” (Hiebert p. 105).

“For others, their sins follow after”: To follow close upon, “dog their steps” (Deuteronomy 28:15; Numbers 32:23). “There are obvious sinners, whose sins are clearly leading to their own disaster and to their own punishment; and there are secret sinners who behind a front of unimpeachable rectitude live a life that is in essence evil and ugly. What man cannot see, God does see, as someone said, ‘God does not pay every Friday night’” (Barclay p. 139).

The application would be that Timothy does not need to feel guilty if an elder turns out to be less that he appeared. God does not demand omniscience of Timothy, thus he would not be devastated when what appeared to be a faithful Christian is anything but that.


Verse 25

“Likewise also”: The same principle also applies to good deeds.

“Deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed”: The term “otherwise” in this verse means of the same quality, that is good works, but good works are not that evident. This is another reason why Timothy needs to be very thorough in the process of appointing men to the eldership. He might miss a very qualified man, who simply has been busy in the background, yet those good deeds cannot be hidden for long. Eventually, people do find out about the Christian who has been working quietly and eagerly.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/1-timothy-5.html. 1999-2014.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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