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(6) A solemn charge is given to Timothy to keep these commandments; 1 Timothy 5:21.
(7) The statement of his duty not to ordain any person rashly or hastily to the sacred office; 1 Timothy 5:22.
(8) To guard his health; 1 Timothy 5:23.
(9) A declaration respecting sin - that sometimes it is open beforehand, and sometimes it is concealed until it is revealed at the judgment, closes the chapter; 1 Timothy 5:24-25. The design of this closing statement seems to be, to show Timothy that he should not judge people by appearances, but that he should evince great caution in forming his estimate of their character.
Rebuke not an elder - The word “elder” here is not used in the sense in which it often is, to denote an officer of the church, a presbyter, but in its proper and usual sense, to denote an aged man. This is evident, because the apostle immediately mentions in contradistinction from the elder, “the younger men,” where it cannot be supposed that he refers to them as officers. The command to treat the “elder” as a “father,” also shows the same thing. By the direction not to rebuke, it is not to be supposed that the minister of the gospel is not to admonish the aged, or that he is not to show them their sins when they go astray, but that he is to do this as he would to a father. He is not to assume a harsh, dictatorial, and denunciatory manner. The precepts of religion always respect the proprieties of life, and never allow us to transgress them, even when the object is to reclaim a soul from error, and to save one who is wandering. Besides, when this is the aim, it will always be most certainly accomplished by observing the respect due to others on account of office, relation, rank, or age.
But entreat him as a father - As you would a father. That is, do not harshly denounce him. Endeavor to persuade him to lead a more holy life. One of the things for which the ancients were remarkable above most of the moderns, and for which the Orientals are still distinguished, was respect for age. Few things are enjoined with more explicitness and emphasis in the Bible than this; Leviticus 19:32; Job 29:0; Proverbs 20:20; Proverbs 30:17; compare Daniel 7:9-10; Revelation 1:14-15. The apostle would have Timothy, and, for the same reason, every other minister of the gospel, a model of this virtue.
And the younger men as brethren - That is, treat them as you would your own brothers. Do not consider them as aliens, strangers, or enemies, but entertain toward them, even when they go astray, the kindly feelings of a brother. This refers more particularly to his private conversation with them, and to his personal efforts to reclaim them when they had fallen into sin. When these efforts were ineffectual, and they sinned openly, he was to “rebuke them before all” 1 Timothy 5:20, that others might be deterred from following their example.
The elder women as mothers - Showing still the same respect for age, and for the proprieties of life. No son who had proper feelings would rebuke his own mother with severity. Let the minister of religion evince the same feelings if he is called to address a “mother in Israel” who has erred.
The younger as sisters - With the feelings which you have toward a sister. The tender love which one has for a beloved sister would always keep him from using harsh and severe language. The same mildness, gentleness, and affection should be used toward a sister in the church.
With all purity - Nothing could be more characteristic of Paul’s manner than this injunction; nothing could show a deeper acquaintance with human nature. He knew the danger which would beset a youthful minister of the gospel when it was his duty to admonish and entreat a youthful female; he knew, too, the scandal to which he might be exposed if, in the performance of the necessary duties of his office, there should be the slightest departure from purity and propriety. He was therefore to guard his heart with more than common vigilance in such circumstances, and was to indulge in no word, or look, or action, which could by any possibility be construed as manifesting an improper state of feeling. On nothing else do the fair character and usefulness of a youthful minister more depend, than on the observance of this precept. Nowhere else does he more need the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the exercise of prudence, and the manifestation of incorruptible integrity, than in the performance of this duty. A youthful minister who fails here, can never recover the perfect purity of an unsullied reputation, and never in subsequent life be wholly free from suspicion; compare notes, Matthew 5:28.
Honour widows - The particular attention and respect which are enjoined here, seem to refer to the class of widows who were supported by the church, and who were entrusted with the performance of certain duties toward the other female members, see 1 Timothy 5:9. It is to be remembered that the contact of the sexes was much more circumscribed in Oriental countries than it is among us; that access to the female members of the church would be much less free than it is now, and that consequently there might have been a special propriety in entrusting the duty of watching over the younger among them to the more aged. This duty would be naturally entrusted to those who had not the care of families. It would also be natural to commit it, if they were qualified, to those who had not the means of support, and who, while they were maintained by the church, might be rendering a valuable service to it. It would seem, therefore, that there was a class of this description, who were entrusted with these duties, and in regard to whose qualifications it was proper that Timothy should be instructed. The change of customs in society has made this class less necessary, and probably the arrangement was never designed to be permanent, but still it may be a question whether such an arrangement would not now be wise and useful in the church. On this subject, see the notes on Romans 16:1.
That are widows indeed - Who are truly widows. We associate with the word “widow,” commonly, not only the idea of the loss of a husband, but many other things that are the usual accompaniments of widowhood - a poor and dependent condition; care and solicitude; sadness and sorrow. This idea is implied in the use of the word employed here - χήρα chēra - which means properly one who is “bereaved,” (from the adjective χήρος chēros, “bereaved”), and which, as Calvin says, conveys the idea of one in distressed circumstances. What Paul regarded as constituting true widowhood, he specifies in 1 Timothy 5:4-5, 1 Timothy 5:9-10. He connects with it the idea that she had no persons dependent on her; that she was desolate, and evinced true trust in God; that she was so aged that she would not marry again; and that by her life she had given evidence of possessing a heart of true benevolence; 1 Timothy 5:10.
But if any widow have children - Who would be dependent on her care, and who might themselves contribute to her support.
Or nephews - The word nephew now commonly means the son of a brother or sister. Formerly the English word also meant grandchildren, or descendants of any description. Webster. The Greek word here - ἔκγονα ekgona - has the latter meaning. It denotes those “sprung from or born of;” and then descendants of any kind - sons, daughters, grandchildren. The Greek word would not, in fact, properly include nephews and nieces. It embraces only those in a direct line.
Let them learn first to show piety at home - Margin, “or kindness.” That is, let the children and grandchildren learn to do this. Let them have an opportunity of performing their duty toward their aged parent or grandparent. Do not receive such a widow among the poor and dependent females of the church, to be maintained at public expense, but let her children support her. Thus they will have an opportunity of evincing Christian kindness, and of requiting her for her care. This the apostle calls “showing piety” - εὐσεβεῖν eusebein - that is, “filial piety;” piety toward a parent by providing for the needs of that parent in advanced age. The word is commonly used to denote piety toward God, but it is also used to denote proper reverence and respect for a parent. Robinson.
And to requite their parents - To repay them, as far as possible, for all their kindness. This debt can never be wholly repaid, but still a child should feel it a matter of sacred obligation to do as much toward it as possible.
For that is good and acceptable before God - It is a duty everywhere enjoined; compare Matthew 15:5-7 notes; Ephesians 6:1-2 notes.
A widow indeed, and desolate - The word rendered “desolate” means “solitary, alone.” It does not necessarily imply the idea of discomfort which we attach to the word desolate. The sense is, that she had no children or other descendants; none on whom she could depend for support.
Trusteth in God - She has no one else to look to but God. She has no earthly reliance, and, destitute of husband, children, and property, she feels her dependence, and steadily looks to God for consolation and support.
And continueth in supplications and prayers night and day - Continually; compare notes on 1 Timothy 2:1; see also the description of Anna in Luke 2:36-37. The apostle regards this as one of the characteristics of those who were “widows indeed,” whom he would have received into the class to be maintained by the church, and to whom the charge of younger members of the church might be entrusted.
But she that liveth in pleasure - Margin, “delicately.” The Greek word (σπαταλάω spatalaō) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, except in James 5:5, “Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth.” It properly means to live in luxury, voluptuously; to indulge freely in eating and drinking; to yield to the indulgence of the appetites. It does not indicate grossly criminal pleasures; but the kind of pleasure connected with luxurious living, and with pampering the appetites. It is probable that in the time of the apostle, there were professedly Christian widows who lived in this manner - as there are such professing Christians of all kinds in every age of the world.
Is dead while she liveth - To all the proper purposes of life she is as if she were dead. There is great emphasis in this expression, and nothing could convey more forcibly the idea that true happiness is not to be found in the pleasure of sense. There is nothing in them that answers the purposes of life. They are not the objects for which life was given, and as to the great and proper designs of existence, such persons might as well be dead.
And these things give in charge - Announce, or declare these things, to wit, particularly respecting the duty of children to their widowed mothers, and the proper duty of those who are widows.
But if any provide not for his own - The apostle was speaking 1 Timothy 5:4 particularly of the duty of children toward a widowed mother. In enforcing that duty, he gives the subject, as he often does in similar cases, a general direction, and says that all ought to provide for those who were dependent on them, and that if they did not do this, they had a less impressive sense of the obligations of duty than even the pagan had. On the duty here referred to, compare Romans 12:17 note; 2 Corinthians 8:21 note. The meaning is, that the person referred to is to think beforehand (προνοεἶ pronoei) of the probable needs of his own family, and make arrangements to meet them. God thus provides for our needs; that is, he sees beforehand what we shall need, and makes arrangements for those needs by long preparation. The food that we eat, and the raiment that we wear, he foresaw that we should need, and the arrangement for the supply was made years since, and to meet these needs he has been carrying forward the plans of his providence in the seasons; in the growth of animals; in the formation of fruit; in the bountiful harvest. So, according to our measure, we are to anticipate what will be the probable needs of our families, and to make arrangements to meet them. The words “his own,” refer to those who are naturally dependent on him, whether living in his own immediate family or not. There may be many distant relatives naturally dependent on our aid, besides those who live in our own house.
And specially for those of his own house - Margin, “kindred.” The word “house,” or “household,” better expresses the sense than the word “kindred.” The meaning is, those who live in his own family. They would naturally have higher claims on him than those who did not. They would commonly be his nearer relatives, and the fact, from whatever cause, that they constituted his own family, would lay the foundation for a strong claim upon him. He who neglected his own immediate family would be more guilty than he who neglected a more remote relative.
He hath denied the faith - By his conduct, perhaps, not openly. He may be still a professor of religion and do this; but he will show that he is imbued with none of the spirit of religion, and is a stranger to its real nature. The meaning is, that he would, by such an act, have practically renounced Christianity, since it enjoins this duty on all. We may hence learn that it is possible to deny the faith by conduct as well as by words; and that a neglect of doing our duty is as real a denial of Christianity as it would be openly to renounce it. Peter denied his Lord in one way, and thousands do the same thing in another. He did it in words; they by neglecting their duty to their families, or their duty in their closets, or their duty in attempting to send salvation to their fellow-men, or by an openly irreligious life. A neglect of any duty is so far a denial of the faith.
And is worse than an infidel - The word here does not mean an infidel, technically so called, or one who openly professes to disbelieve Christianity, but anyone who does not believe; that is, anyone who is not a sincere Christian. The word, therefore, would include the pagan, and it is to them, doubtless, that the apostle particularly refers. They acknowledged the obligation to provide for their relatives. This was one of the great laws of nature written on their hearts, and a law which they felt bound to obey. Few things were inculcated more constantly by pagan moralists than this duty. Gelgacus, in Tacitus, says, “Nature dictates that to every one, his own children and relatives should be most dear.” Cicero says, “Every man should take care of his own family “ - suos quisque debet tueri; see Rosenmuller, in loc., and also numerous examples of the same kind quoted from Apuleius, Cicero, Plutarch, Homer, Terence, Virgil, and Servius, in Pricaeus, in loc. The doctrine here is:
(1)That a Christian ought not to be inferior to an unbeliever in respect to any virtue;
(2)That in all that constitutes true virtue he ought to surpass him;
(3)That the duties which are taught by nature ought to be regarded as the more sacred and obligatory from the fact that God has given us a better religion; and,
(4)That a Christian ought never to give occasion to an enemy of the gospel to point to a man of the world and say, “there is one who surpasses you in any virtue.”
Let not a widow be taken into the number - Margin, “chosen.” The margin expresses the sense of the Greek more accurately, but the meaning is not materially different. Paul does not here specify into what “number” the widow is to be “taken,” or for what purpose she is to be “chosen,” but he speaks of this as a thing that was well understood. There can be no doubt, however, what he means. In the Acts of the Apostles 1 Timothy 6:1 we have this account: “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a complaining of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.” “It appears that from the first formation of the Christian church, provision was made out of the public funds of the society for the indigent widows who belonged to it;” see Patey’s Horae Paulinae on 1 Tim. No. 11. To this, as to a well-known practice, Paul here evidently refers. The manner in which he refers to it is such as to show that the custom had an existence. All that was necessary in the case, was, not to speak of it as if it were a new arrangement, but to mention those who ought to be re garded as proper subjects of the charity. It would seem, also, that it was understood that such widows, according to their ability, should exercise a proper watch over the younger females of the church. In this way, while they were supported by the church, they might render themselves useful.
Under threescore years old - For such reasons as those mentioned in 1 Timothy 5:11-14.
Having been the wife of one man - There has been much diversity of opinion whether this means that she had never had but one husband, or whether she had been the wife of but one man at a time; that is, whether she had cast off one and married another; see Whitby, in loc. The same difficulty has been felt in regard to this as on the passage in 1 Timothy 3:2; see the notes on that verse. Doddridge, Clarke, and others, suppose that it means, “who had lived in conjugal fidelity to her husband.” The reason assigned for this opinion by Doddridge, is, that the apostle did not mean to condemn second marriages, since he expressly 1 Timothy 5:14 commends it in the younger widows. The correct interpretation probably is, to refer it to one who had been married but once, and who, after her husband had died, had remained a widow. The reasons for this opinion briefly are:
(1) That this is the interpretation most naturally suggested by the phrase;
(2) That it agrees better with the description of the one that was to be enrolled among the “number” - those who were “widows indeed” - as we should more naturally apply this term to one who had remained unmarried after the death of her husband, than to one who had been married again;
(3) That, while it was not unlawful or improper in itself for a widow to marry a second time, there was a degree of respect and honor attached to one who did not do it, which would not be felt for one who did; compare Luke 2:36-37, “She was a widow of great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years.” The same is true now. There is a higher degree of respect felt for such a widow than there is for one who has been married again, though she may be again a widow.
(4) Among the pagans, it was regarded as especially honorable to have been married to but one man, and such widows were the Pudicitioe Coronam, or crown of chastity; Val. Max. L. i. c. ii.; compare Livy, L. 10:c. 23; see Whitby.
(5) As these persons were not only to be maintained by the church, but appear also to have been entrusted with an office of guardianship over the younger females, it was of importance that they should have such a character that no occasion of offence should be given, even among the pagan; and, in order to that, Paul gave direction that only those should be thus enrolled who were in all respects widows, and who would be regarded, on account of their age and their whole deportment, as “widows indeed.” I cannot doubt, therefore, that he meant to exclude those from the number here referred to who had been married the second time.
Well reported of for good works - Of good character or reputation; see the notes on 1 Timothy 3:7.
If she have brought up children - Either her own or others. The idea is, if she has done this in a proper manner.
If she have lodged strangers - If she has been characterized by hospitality - a virtue greatly commended in the Scriptures; compare notes on 1 Timothy 3:2.
If she have washed the saints’ feet - It is not certain whether this is to be understood literally, or whether it merely denotes that she had performed offices of a humble and self-denying kind - such as would be shown by washing the feet of others. It was one of the rites of hospitality in the East to wash the feet of the guest Genesis 18:4, and Paul might have spoken of this as having been literally performed. There is not the slightest evidence that he refers to it as a religious rite, or ordinance, anymore than he does to the act of bringing up children as a religious rite; compare notes on John 13:1-10.
If she have relieved the afflicted - If it has been her character that she was ready to furnish relief to those who were in distress.
If she have diligently followed every good work - This is one of the characteristics of true piety. A sincere Christian will, like God, be the friend of all that is good, and will be ready to promote every good object according to his ability. He will not merely be the friend of one good cause, to the neglect of others, but he will endeavor to promote every good object, and though from special circumstances, and special dealings of Providence, he may have been particularly interested in some one object of charity, yet every good object will find a response in his heart, and he will be ready to promote it by his influence, his property, and his prayers.
But the younger widows refuse - That is, in respect to the matter under discussion. Do not admit them into the class of widows referred to. It cannot mean that he was to reject them as members of the church, or not to treat them with respect and kindness.
For when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ - There is probably a thought conveyed by these words to most minds which is by no means in the original, and which does injustice both to the apostle and to the “younger widows” referred to. In the Greek there is no idea of wantonness in the sense of lasciviousness or lewdness; nor was this, though now a common idea attached to the word, by any means essential to it when our translation wan made. The word “wanton” then meant “wandering” or “roving in gaiety or sport; moving or flying loosely; playing in the wind; then, wandering from moral rectitude, licentious, dissolute, libidinous” - Webster. The Greek word here used, καταστρηνιάζω katastrēniazō, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The word στρηνιάω strēniaō - however, is used twice, and is in both cases translated “lived deliciously;” Revelation 18:7, Revelation 18:9. The word is derived from στρῆνος strēnos (whence “strenuous”), properly meaning “rudeness, insolence, pride,” and hence, “revel, riot, luxury;” or from - streenees - , the adjective - “strong, stiff, hard, rough.” The verb then means “to live strenuously, rudely,” as in English, “to live hard;” also, to live wild, or without restraint; to run riot, to live luxuriously. The idea of strength is the essential one, and then of strength that is not subordinate to law; that is wild and riotous; see Pussow and Robinson, Lexicon. The sense here is, that they would not be subordinate to the restraints implied in that situation, they would become impatient, and would marry again. The idea is not that of wantonness or lewdness, but it is that of a mind not subdued by age and by trials, and that would be impatient under the necessary restraints of the condition which was contemplated. They could not be depended on with certainty, but they might be expected again to enter into the married relation.
They will marry - It is clear, from this, that the apostle did not contemplate any vows which would prevent their marrying again; nor does he say that it would be absolutely wrong for them to marry, even if they were admitted in to that rank; or as if there were any vows to restrain them from doing it. This passage, therefore, can never be adduced in favor of that practice of taking the veil in nunneries, and of a vow of perpetual seclusion from the world.
Having damnation - Or, rather, having “condemnation;” or incurring guilt. This does not mean of necessity that they would lose their souls; see the phrase explained in the notes on 1 Corinthians 11:29. The meaning is, that they would contract guilt, if they had been admitted among this class of persons, and then married again. The apostle does not say that that would be wrong in itself (compare notes on 1 Timothy 5:14), or that they would be absolutely prohibited from it, but that injury would be done if they were admitted among those who were “widows indeed” - who were supported by the church, and who were entrusted with a certain degree of care over the more youthful females - and then should leave that situation. It might give occasion for scandal it might break in upon the arrangements; it would show that there was a relaxing of the faith, and of the deadness to the world, which they were supposed to have; and it was better that they should be married 1 Timothy 5:14, without having been thus admitted.
Because they have cast off their first faith - This does not mean that they would lose all their religion, or wholly fall away, but that this would show that they had not the strong faith, the deadness to the world, the simple dependence on God 1 Timothy 5:5, and the desire which they had to be weaned from worldly cares and influences, which they once had. When they became widows, all their earthly hopes seemed to be blasted. They were then dead to the world, and felt their sole dependence on God. But if, under the influence of these strong emotions, they were admitted to the “class of widows” in the church, there was no certainty that they would continue in this state of mind. Time would do much to modify their grief. There would be a reviving love of the world, and under the influence of this they would be disposed to enter again into the marriage relation, and thus show that they had not the strong and simple faith which they had when the blow which made them widows fell heavily upon then.
And withal - In addition to the prospect that they may marry again, there are other disadvantages which might follow from such an arrangement, and other evils to be feared which it is desirable to avoid.
They learn to be idle - That is, if supported by the church, and if without the settled principles which might be expected in those more aged and experienced, it may be feared that they will give themselves up to an indolent life. There would be a security in the age and established habits of these more advanced in life, which there could not be in their case. The apostle does not mean that widows are naturally disposed to be idle, but that in the situation referred to there would be danger of it.
Wandering about from house to house - A natural consequence of supposing that they had nothing to do, and a practice not only profitless, but always attended with mischief.
Tattlers also - Literally, “overflowing;” then overflowing with talk; praters, triflers. They would learn all the news; become acquainted with the secrets of families, and of course indulge in much idle and improper conversation. Our word “gossipers” would accurately express the meaning here. The noun does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. The verb occurs in John 3:10; rendered, “prating against.”
And busy-bodies - see the notes on 2 Thessalonians 3:11. The word means, probably, “working all round, overdoing,” and then “an intermeddler.” Persons who have nothing to do of their own, commonly find employment by interesting themselves in the affairs of their neighbors. No one likes to be wholly idle, and if anyone is not found doing what he ought to do, he will commonly be found engaged in doing what he ought not.
Speaking things which they ought not - Revealing the concerns of their neighbors; disclosing secrets; magnifying trifles, so as to exalt themselves into importance, as if they were entrusted with the secrets of others; inventing stories and tales of gossip, that they may magnify and maintain their own consequence in the community. No persons are commonly more dangerous to the peace of a neighborhood than those who have nothing to do.
I will therefore - I give it as my opinion; or this is my counsel; compare notes, 1 Corinthians 7:6, 1Co 7:10, 1 Corinthians 7:40.
That the younger women marry - The word “women” is not expressed or necessarily implied in the original - neooteras - - and it is evident that the apostle here had particular reference to “widows,” and that the injunction should be understood as relating to them. We are not to suppose that he gives this as an absolute and universal command, for it might not always be at the option of the widow to marry again, and it cannot be doubted that there may be cases where it would be unadvisable. But he speaks of this as a general rule. It is better for such persons to have domestic concerns that require their attention, than it is to be exposed to the evils of an idle life. We may learn from this:
(1)That second marriages are not improper or unlawful, but that in some circumstances they may be preferable to widowhood;
(2)That marriage itself is in a high degree honorable. How different are the views of the inspired apostle Paul about marriage from those of the Papists!
Bear children, guide the house - These words signify, says Bloomfield, to “exercise and occupy themselves in the duties of a wife.” It is better to be employed in the duties growing out of the cares of a family, than to lead a life of celibacy.
Give none occasion to the adversary - The enemy of religion - the pagan or the infidel.
To speak reproachfully - Margin, “for their railing.” That is, on account of a life which would do no honor to religion. In the performance of domestic duties, when fully employed, they would avoid the evils specified in 1 Timothy 5:13. Every one who professes religion should so live as to give no occasion to an infidel or a man of the world to speak reproachfully of the cause of the Redeemer.
For some are already turned aside after Satan - That is, some young widows. The meaning is, that in the respects above mentioned 1 Timothy 5:13, they had followed the great Tempter, rather than the Lord Jesus. This is stated as a reason why they should not be admitted into the number of the widows who were to be maintained at the expense of the church, and to whom the care of the younger female members was to be committed.
If any man or woman that believeth - Christians are often simply called “believers,” because faith is the leading and most important act of their religion.
Have widows - Widowed mothers, or grandmothers, or any other widows whose support would naturally devolve on them.
Let them relieve them - That is, let them support them. This was an obvious rule of duty; see the notes on 1 Timothy 5:8. Nothing can be more unreasonable than to leave those who are properly dependent on us to be supported by others, when we are able to maintain them ourselves.
That it may relieve, ... - That it may have the means of supporting those who are truly dependent. To require or expect the Church, therefore, to support those whom we ought ourselves to support, is, in fact, to rob the poor and friendless. In regard to these directions respecting widows 1 Timothy 5:3-16, we may remark in general, as the result of the exposition which has been given:
(1) They were to be poor widows, who had not the means of support themselves.
(2) They were, probably, to be not merely supported, but to be usefully employed in the service of the church, particularly in overseeing the conduct, and imparting instruction to the female members.
(3) They were to be of such age and character that there would be security of stability and correctness of deportment; such that they would not be tempted to leave the situation or to act so as to give occasion of reproach.
(4) It is by no means certain that this was intended to be a permanent arrangement. It grew probably out of the special customs respecting contact between the sexes in the Oriental world, and would undoubtedly be proper now in similar circumstances. But it by no means follows that this arrangement is binding on the churches where the customs of society are different. Yet.
(5) The passage inculcates the general principle that the poor widows of the church are to be assisted when they have no relatives on whom they can naturally depend. No class of people are more helpless than aged widows, and for that class God has always shown a special concern, and his people should do so likewise.
Let the elders that rule well - Greek, πρεσβύτεροι presbuteroi, Presbyters. The apostle had given full instructions respecting bishops 1 Timothy 3:1-7; deacons 1 Timothy 3:8-13; widows 1 Timothy 5:3-16; and he here proceeds to prescribe the duty of the church toward those who sustain the office of elder. The word used - “elder” or “presbyter” - properly refers to age, and is then used to denote the officers of the church, probably because the aged were at first entrusted with the administration of the affairs of the church. The word was in familiar use among the Jews to denote the body of men that presided in the synagogue; see the Matthew 15:2 note; Acts 11:30; Acts 15:2 notes.
That rule well - Presiding well, or well managing the spiritual interests of the church. The word rendered “rule” - προεστῶτες proestōtes - is from a verb meaning to be over; to preside over; to have the care of. The word is used with reference to bishops, Titus 1:5, Titus 1:7; to an apostle, 1 Peter 5:1; and is such a word as would apply to any officers to whom the management and government of the church was entrusted. On the general subject of the rulers in the church; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 12:28. It is probable that not precisely the same organization was pursued in every place where a church was established; and where there was a Jewish synagogue, the Christian church would be formed substantially after that model, and in such a church there would be a bench of presiding eiders; see, on this subject, Whately’s “Kingdom of Christ delineated,” pp. 84-80. The language here seems to have been taken from such an organization. On the Jewish synagogue, see the notes on Matthew 4:23.
Be counted worthy of double honour - Of double respect; that is, of a high degree of respect; of a degree of respect becoming their age and office; compare 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13. From the quotation which is made in 1 Timothy 5:18, in relation to this subject, it would seem probable that the apostle had some reference also to their support, or to what was necessary for their maintenance. There is no improbability in supposing that all the officers of the church, of whatever grade or rank, may have had some compensation, corresponding to the amount of time which their office required them to devote to the service of the church. Nothing would be more reasonable than that, if their duties in the church interfered with their regular employments in their secular calling, their brethren should contribute to their support; compare notes on 1 Corinthians 9:0.
Especially they who labour in word and doctrine - In preaching and instructing the people. From this it is clear that, while there were “elders” who labored “in the word and doctrine,” that is, in preaching, there were also those who did not labor “in the word and doctrine,” but who were nevertheless appointed to rule in the church. Whether, however, they were regarded as a separate and distinct class of officers, does not appear from this passage. It may have been that there was a bench of elders to whom the general management of the church was confided, and that a part of them were engaged in preaching; a part may have performed the office of “teachers” (see the Romans 12:7 note; 1 Corinthians 12:28 note), and a part may have been employed in managing other concerns of the church, and yet all were regarded as the προεστῶτες πρεσβύτεροι proestōtes presbuteroi - or “elders presiding over the church.” It cannot, I think, be certainly concluded from this passage, that the ruling elders who did not teach or preach were regarded as a separate class or order of permanent officers in the church. There seems to have been a bench of elders selected on account of age, piety, prudence, and wisdom, to whom was entrusted the whole business of the instruction and government of the church, and they performed the various parts of the duty as they had ability. Those among them who “labored in the word and doctrine,” and who gave up all their time to the business of their office, would be worthy of special respect, and of a higher compensation.
For the Scripture saith - This is adduced as a reason why a church should show all due respect and care for its ministers. The reason is, that as God took care to make provision for the laboring ox, much more should due attention be paid to those who labor for the welfare of the church.
Thou shalt not muzzle the ox - see this passage explained, and its bearing on such an argument shown, in the notes on 1 Corinthians 9:8-10.
And, The labourer is worthy of his reward - This expression is found substantially in Matthew 10:10, and Luke 10:7. It does not occur in so many words in the Old Testament, and yet the apostle adduces it evidently as a quotation from the Scriptures, and as authority in the case. It would seem probable, therefore, that he had seen the Gospel by Matthew or by Luke, and that he quoted this as a part of Scripture, and regarded the Book from which he made the quotation as of the same authority as the Old Testament. If so, then this may be regarded as an attestation of the apostle to the inspiration of the “Gospel” in which it was found.
Against an elder - The word “elder” here seems to be used in the sense in which it is in the previous verse as relating to “office,” and not in the sense of an aged man, as in 1 Timothy 5:1. The connection demands this interpretation.
Receive not an accusation - He was not to regard such a charge as well founded unless sustained by two or three witnesses. It is clear from this, that Paul supposed that Timothy would be called on to hear charges against others who were in the ministerial office, and to express his judgment on such cases. There is no reason, however, to suppose that he meant that he should hear them alone, or as a “bishop,” for this direction does not make the supposition improper that others would be associated with him. It is just such counsel as would now be given to a Presbyterian or congregational minister, or such as would be given to an associate justice in a court, on the supposition that a brother judge was at any time to be tried by him and his colleagues.
But before two or three witnesses - Margin, “under.” The meaning is, unless supported by the testimony of two or three persons. He was not to regard an accusation against a presbyter as proved, if there was but one witness in the case, however positive he might be in his testimony. The reasons for this direction were probably such as these:
(1) This was the requirement of the Jewish law in all cases, which had thus settled a principle which the apostle seems to have regarded as important, if not obligatory, under the Christian dispensation; see Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15; compare notes on John 8:17; 2 Corinthians 13:1.
(2) There would be much greater reason to apprehend that one person might be deceived in the matter on which he bore witness, or might do it from malignant motives, or might be bribed to give false testimony, than that two or three would give such testimony; and the arrangement, therefore, furnished important security for the innocent.
(3) There might be reason to apprehend that evil-minded persons might be disposed to bring charges against the ministers of the gospel or other officers of the church, and it was important, therefore, that their rights should be guarded with anxious care. The ministers of religion often give offence to wicked people by their rebukes of sin (compare Mark 6:17-20); wicked people would rejoice to see an accusation against them sustained; the cause of religion would be liable to suffer much when its ministers were condemned as guilty of gross offences, and it is right, therefore, that the evidence in the case should be as free as possible from all suspicion that it is caused by malignity, by hatred of religion, or by conspiracy, or by a desire to see religion disgraced.
(4) The character of a minister of the gospel is of value, not only to himself and family, as is the case with that of other people, but is of special value to the church, and to the cause of religion. It is the property of the church. The interests of religion depend much on it, and it should not be wantonly assailed; and every precaution should be adopted that Christianity should not be deprived of the advantage which may be derived in its favor from the piety, experience, and talents of its public defenders. At the same time, however, the wicked, though in the ministry, should not be screened from the punishment which they deserve. The apostle gave no injunction to attempt to cover up their faults, or to save them from a fair trial. He only demanded such security as the nature of the case required, that the trial should be fair. If a minister of the gospel has been proved to be guilty of crime, the honor of religion, as well as simple justice, requires that he shall be punished as he deserves. He sins against great light; he prostitutes a holy office, and makes use of the very reputation which his office gives him, that he may betray the confidence of others; and such a man should not escape. There should be no “benefit of clergy,” and neither a black coat, nor bands, nor the lawn should save a villain.
Them that sin - That have been proved to have committed sin - referring probably to the elders mentioned in the previous verse, but giving the direction so general a form that it might be applicable to others.
Rebuke before all - Before all the church or congregation. The word “rebuke” properly denotes to reprove or reprehend. It means here that there should be a public statement of the nature of the offence, and such a censure as the case demanded. It extends only to spiritual censures. There is no power given of inflicting any punishment by fine or imprisonment. The power of the church, in such cases, is only to express its strong and decided disapprobation of the wrong done, and, if the case demands it, of disowning the offending member or minister. This direction to “rebuke an offender before all,” may be easily reconciled with the direction in 1 Timothy 5:1, “Rebuke not an elder.” The latter refers to the private and pastoral conversation with an elder, and to the method in which he should be treated in such contact - to wit, with the feelings due to a father; the direction here refers to the manner in which an offender should be treated who has been proved to be guilty, and where the case has become public. Then there is to be a public expression of disapprobation.
That others also may fear - That they may be kept from committing the same offence; compare 1 Peter 2:14. The end of punishment is not the gratification of the private feelings of him who administers it, but the prevention of crime.
I charge thee before God - compare Luke 16:28; Acts 2:20. The word rendered “charge” means, properly, to call to witness; then to affirm with solemn attestations; and then to admonish solemnly, to urge upon earnestly. It is a word which implies that the subject is of great importance. Paul gives this charge as in the presence of God, of the Redeemer, and of the elect angels, and wishes to secure that sense of its solemnity which must arise from the presence of such holy witnesses.
And the Lord Jesus Christ - As in the presence of the Lord Jesus; with his eye resting upon you.
And the elect angels - It is not uncommon in the Scriptures to speak as if we were in the presence of holy angels, and of the disembodied spirits of the good; compare notes on Hebrews 12:1. No one can prove that the angels, and that the departed spirits of holy men, are not witnesses of what we do. At all events, it is right to urge on others the performance of duty as if the eye of a departed father, mother, or sister were fixed upon us, and as if we were encompassed by all the holy beings of heaven. Sin, too, should be avoided as if every eye in the universe were upon us. How many things do we do which we would not; how many feelings do we cherish which we would at once banish from our minds, if we felt that the heavens above us were as transparent as glass, and that all the holy beings around the throne were fixing an intense gaze upon us! The word “elect” here seems to imply that there had been some influence used to keep them, and some purpose respecting them, which had not existed in regard to those who had fallen. Saints are called “elect” because they are chosen of God unto salvation (notes on Ephesians 1:4-5), and it would appear that it is a great law extending through the universe, that both those who remain in a state of holiness, and those who are made holy, are the subjects of purpose and choice on the part of God. The fact only is stated; the reasons which led to the choice, alike in regard to angels and human beings, are unknown to us; compare notes on Matthew 11:25.
That thou observe these things - Probably referring to all the things which he had enjoined in the previous parts of the Epistle.
Without preferring one before another - Margin, “prejudice.” The meaning is, “without previous judgment” - χωρὶς προκρίματος chōris prokrimatos - without any prejudice on account of rank, wealth, personal friendship, or predilection of any sort. Let there be entire impartiality in all cases. Justice was beautifully represented by the ancients as holding a pair of scales equally balanced. It is as important that there should be entire impartiality in the church as in civil transactions, and though it is not wrong for a minister of the gospel to have his personal friends, yet in the administration of the affairs of the church he should remember that all are brethren, and all, of whatever rank, color, sex, or age, have equal rights.
Partiality - Greek, “inclination,” or “proclivity” - that is, without being inclined to favor one party or person more than another. There should be no purpose to find one guilty and another innocent; no inclination of heart toward one which would lead us to resolve to find him innocent; and no aversion from another which would make us resolve to find him guilty.
Lay hands suddenly on no man - Some have understood this of laying on hands to heal the sick (Koppe); others of the laying on of hands to absolve penitents, but the obvious meaning is to refer it to ordination. It was usual to lay the hands on the heads of those who were ordained to a sacred office, or appointed to perform an important duty; notes, 1 Timothy 4:14; compare Acts 6:6; Acts 8:17. The idea here is, that Timothy should not be hasty in an act so important as that of introducing people to the ministry. He should take time to give them a fair trial of their piety; he should have satisfactory evidence of their qualifications. He should not at once introduce a man to the ministry because he gave evidence of piety, or because he burned with an ardent zeal, or because he thought himself qualified for the work. It is clear from this that the apostle regarded Timothy as having the right to ordain to the ministry; but not that he was to ordain alone, or as a prelate. The injunction would be entirely proper on the supposition that others were to be associated with him in the act of ordaining. It is just such as a Presbyterian father in the ministry would give in a charge to his son now; it is in fact just the charge which is now given by Presbyterians and congregationalists to those who are set apart to the sacred office, in reference to ordaining others.
Neither be partaker of other men’s sins - This is evidently to be interpreted in connection with the injunction “to lay hands suddenly on no man.” The meaning, in this connection, is, that Timothy was not to become a participant in the sins of another by introducing him to the sacred office. He was not to invest one with a holy office who was a wicked man or a heretic, for this would be to sanction his wickedness and error. If we ordain a man to the office of the ministry who is known to be living in sin, or to cherish dangerous error, we become the patrons of the sin and of the heresy. We lend to it the sanction of our approbation; and give to it whatever currency it may acquire from the reputation which we may have, or which it may acquire from the influence of the sacred office of the ministry. Hence, the importance of caution in investing anyone with the ministerial office. But while Paul meant, doubtless, that this should be applied particularly to ordination to the ministry, he has given it a general character. In no way are we to participate in the sins of other people. We are not to be engaged with them in doing wrong; we are not to patronize them in a wicked business; we are not to be known as their companions or friends; and we are not to partake of their unlawful gains. We are not to lend money, or a boat, or a horse, or a pistol, or a bowie-knife, for an unlawful business; we are not to furnish capital for the slave-trade, or for manufacturing intoxicating drinks, or for an enterprise that contemplates the violation of the Sabbath.
Keep thyself pure - Particularly, in regard to participation in the sins of others; generally, in all things - in heart, in word, in conduct.
Drink no longer water - There has been much difficulty felt in regard to the connection which this advice has with what precedes and what follows. Many have considered the difficulty to be so great that they have supposed that this verse has been displaced, and that it should be introduced in some other connection. The true connection, and the reason for the introduction of the counsel here, seems to me to be this: Paul appears to have been suddenly impressed with the thought - a thought which is very likely to come over a man who is writing on the duties of the ministry - of the arduous nature of the ministerial office. He was giving counsels in regard to an office which required a great amount of labor, care, and anxiety. The labors enjoined were such as to demand all the time; the care and anxiety incident to such a charge would be very likely to prostrate the frame, and to injure the health. Then he remembered that Timothy was yet but a youth; he recalled his feebleness of constitution and his frequent attacks of illness; he recollected the very abstemious habits which he had prescribed for himself, and, in this connection, he urges him to a careful regard for his health, and prescribes the use of a small quantity of wine, mingled with his water, as a suitable medicine in his case. Thus considered, this direction is as worthy to be given by an inspired teacher as it is to counsel a man to pay a proper regard to his health, and not needlessly to throw away his life; compare Matthew 10:23. The phrase, “drink no longer water,” is equivalent to, “drink not water only;” see numerous instances in Wetstein. The Greek word here used does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament.
But use a little wine - Mingled with the water - the common method of drinking wine in the East; see Robinson’s Bibliotheca Sacra, 1:512, 513.
For thy stomach’s sake - It was not for the pleasure to be derived from the use of wine, or because it would produce hilarity or excitement, but solely because it was regarded as necessary for the promotion of health; that is, as a medicine.
And thine often infirmities - ἀσθενείας astheneias - Weaknesses or sicknesses. The word would include all infirmities of body, but seems to refer here to some attacks of sickness to which Timothy was liable, or to some feebleness of constitution; but beyond this we have no information in regard to the nature of his maladies. In view of this passage, and as a further explanation of it, we may make the following remarks:
(1) The use of wine, and of all intoxicating drinks, was solemnly forbidden to the priests under the Mosaic law, when engaged in the performance of their sacred duties; Leviticus 10:9-10. The same was the case among the Egyptian priests. Clarke; compare notes on 1 Timothy 3:3. It is not improbable that the same thing would be regarded as proper among those who ministered in holy things under the Christian dispensation. The natural feeling would be, and not improperly, that a Christian minister should not be less holy than a Jewish priest, and especially when it is remembered that the reason of the Jewish law remained the same - “that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and clean and unclean.”
(2) It is evident from this passage that Timothy usually drank water only, or that, in modern language, he was a “tee-totaller.” He was, evidently, not in the habit of drinking wine, or he could not have been exhorted to do it.
(3) He must have been a remarkably temperate youth to have required the authority of an apostle to induce him to drink even a little wine; see Doddridge. There are few young men so temperate as to require such an authority to induce them to do it.
(4) The exhortation extended only to a very moderate use of wine. It was not to drink it freely; it was not to drink it at the tables of the rich and the great, or in the social circle; it was not even to drink it by itself; it was to use “a little,” mingled with water - for this was the usual method; see Athaeneus, Deipno. lib. 9: x. 100:7.
(5) It was not as a common drink, but the exhortation or command extends only to its use as a medicine. All the use which can be legitimately made of this injunction - whatever conclusion may be drawn from other precepts - is, that it is proper to use a small quantity of wine for medicinal purposes.
(6) There are many ministers of the gospel, now, alas! to whom under no circumstances could an apostle apply this exhortation - “Drink no longer water only.” They would ask, with surprise, what he meant? whether he intended it in irony, and for banter - for they need no apostolic command to drink wine. Or if he should address to them the exhortation, “use a little wine,” they could regard it only as a reproof for their usual habit of drinking much. To many, the exhortation would be appropriate, if they ought to use wine at all, only because they are in the habit of using so much that it would be proper to restrain them to a much smaller quantity.
(7) This whole passage is one of great value to the cause of temperance. Timothy was undoubtedly in the habit of abstaining wholly from the use of wine. Paul knew this, and he did not reprove him for it. He manifestly favored the general habit, and only asked him to depart in some small degree from it, in order that he might restore and preserve his health. So far, and no further, is it right to apply this language in regard to the use of wine; and the minister who should follow this injunction would be in no danger of disgracing his sacred profession by the debasing and demoralizing sin of intemperance.
Some men’s sins are open beforehand - This declaration, though it assumes a general form, is to be taken evidently in connection with the general subject of introducing men to the ministry 1 Timothy 5:22; and 1 Timothy 5:23 is to be regarded as a parenthesis. The apostle had given Timothy a charge 1 Timothy 5:22 respecting the character of those whom he should ordain. He here says, in reference to that, that the character of some people was manifest. There was no disguise. It was evident to all what it was, and there could be no danger of mistake respecting it. Their conduct was apparent to all. About such people he ought not to hesitate a moment, and, no matter what their talents, or learning, or rank in the community, he ought to have no participation in introducing them to the ministry.
Going before to judgment - Their character is well understood. There is no need of waiting for the day of judgment to know what they are. Their deeds so precede their own appearance at the judgment-bar, that the record and the verdict can be made up before they arrive there, and there will be scarcely need even of the formality of a trial. The meaning here is, that there could be no doubt about the character of such people, and Timothy should not be accessory to their being introduced into the office of the ministry.
And some men they follow after - That is, their character is not fully understood here. They conceal their plans. They practice deception. They appear different from what they really are. But the character of such people will be developed, and they will be judged according to their works. They cannot hope to escape with impunity. Though they have endeavored to hide their evil deeds, yet they will follow after them to the judgment-bar, and will meet them there. The meaning, in this connection, seems to be, that there ought to be circumspection in judging of the qualifications of men for the office of the ministry. It ought not to be inferred from favorable appearances at once, or on slight acquaintance, that they are qualified for the office - for they may be of the number of those whose characters, now concealed or misunderstood, will be developed only on the final trial.
Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand - The character of some people is clear, and accurately understood. There can be no doubt, from their works, that they are good people. We need not wait for the day of judgment to determine that, but may treat them here as good men, and introduce them to offices which only good men can fill. The idea here is that their character may be so certain and undoubted that there need be no hesitation in setting them apart to the office of the ministry.
And they that are otherwise cannot be hid - That is, they cannot be ultimately concealed or misunderstood. There are arrangements in the divine government for bringing out the character of every man so that it may be clearly understood. The expression here refers to good men. The idea is, that there are some good men whose character is known to all. Their deeds spread a glory around them, so that no one can mistake what they are. They correspond, in respect to the publicity of their character with those mentioned in 1 Timothy 5:24, whose “sins are open beforehand;” for the good deeds of the one are as manifest as the sins of the other. But there are those who are “otherwise.” They are modest, retiring, unobtrusive, unknown. They may live in obscurity; may have slender means for doing good; may be constitutionally so diffident that they never appear on the stage of public action. What they do is concealed from the world. These correspond in respect to publicity with those mentioned in 1 Timothy 5:24, “whose deeds follow after them.” Yet, says the apostle, these cannot always be hid. There are arrangements for developing every man’s character, and it will be ultimately known what he is. The connection here, seems to be this. As Timothy 1 Timothy 5:24 was to be on his guard in introducing men into the ministry, against those whose character for evil was not developed, but who might be concealing their plans and practicing secret sins, so he was to endeavor to search out the modest, the unobtrusive, and those who, though now unknown, were among the excellent of the earth, and bring them forward to a station of usefulness where their virtues might shine on the world.
Apart from the reference of this beautiful passage 1 Timothy 5:24-25 to the ministry, it contains truth important to all:
(1) The character of many wicked people is now clearly known. No one has any doubt of it. Their deeds have gone before them, and are recorded in the books that will be open at the judgment. They might even now be judged without the formality of appearing there, and the universe would acquiesce in the sentence of condemnation.
(2) The character of many wicked people is concealed. They hide their plans. They are practicing secret iniquity. They do not mean that the world shall know what they are. More than half the real depravity of the world is thus concealed from human view, and in regard to more than half the race who are going up to the judgment there is an entire mistake as to their real character. If all the secret wickedness of the earth were disclosed, no one would have any doubt about the doctrine of human depravity.
(3) There is a process steadily going forward for bringing out the real character of people, and showing what they are. This process consists, first, in the arrangements of Providence for developing their character here. Many a man, who was supposed to be virtuous, is shown, by some sudden trial, to have been all along a villain at heart. Many a minister of the gospel, a lawyer, a physician, an officer in a bank, a merchant, whose character was supposed to stand fair, has been suffered to fall into open sin, that he might develope the long-cherished secret depravity of his soul. Secondly, the process will be completed on the final trial. Then nothing will be concealed. Every man will been seen as he is. All they whose characters were understood to be wicked here, will be seen then also to be wicked, and many who were supposed on earth to have a good character, will be seen there to have been hollow-hearted and base hypocrites.
(4) Every man in the last day will be judged according to his real character. No one, however successful he may have been here, can hope to practice a deception on his final Judge.
(5) There is a fitness and propriety in the fact that there will be a final judgment. Indeed, there must be such a judgment, in order that God may be just. The characters of people are not fully developed here. The process is not completed. Many are taken away before their schemes of iniquity are accomplished, and before their real characters are understood. If they were to live long enough on the earth, their characters would be ultimately developed here, but the divine arrangement is, that man shall not live long here, and the development, therefore, must be in the future world.
(6) The modest, the retiring, the humble, and those here unknown, will not be overlooked in the last great day. There is much good, as there is much evil in the world, that is now concealed. There are many plans of benevolence formed which they who formed them are not permitted to complete; many desires of benefiting others are cherished which there are no means of gratifying; many a deed of kindness is performed which is not blazoned abroad to the world; and many a wish is entertained for the progress of virtue, the freedom of the enslaved, the relief of the oppressed, and the salvation of the world, which can find expression only in prayer. We are not to suppose then that all that is concealed and unknown in the world is evil.
(7) There will be amazing developments in the last great day; and as it will then be seen in the revelations of the secret deeds of evil that human nature is corrupt, so it will be seen that there was much more good in the world than was commonly supposed. As a large portion of the wickedness of the earth is concealed, so, from the necessity of the case, it is true that no small portion of the goodness on earth is hidden. Wickedness conceals itself from shame, from a desire better to effect its purposes, from the dread of punishment; goodness, from its modesty, its retiring nature, and from the want of an opportunity of acting out its desires; but whatever may have been the cause of the concealment, in all cases all will be made known on the final trial - to the shame and confusion of the one class; to the joy and triumph of the other.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28