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INTRODUCTION TO I TIMOTHY 5
In this chapter the apostle lays down rules about the manner of rebuking persons, suitable to their several ages; gives directions concerning widows, both old and young; and instructs Timothy how to behave towards elders in office on different accounts. The rules for giving reproof to old men, as fathers; to young men, as brethren; to elder women, as mothers; and to the younger, as sisters, are in 1 Timothy 5:1. Next follow the directions about taking care of widows, who are to be honoured and maintained by the church, that are widows indeed, 1 Timothy 5:3 not such who have relations that are capable of taking care of them, who ought to do it, and not burden the church; since so to do is an act of piety, a requiting parents for their former care and kindness, and is good and acceptable in the sight of God, 1 Timothy 5:4 but such who are desolate and alone, and have no husbands nor children, nor any to support their wants, but wholly depend on the providence of God, and are constant at the throne of grace crying for help and relief, which shows they are living Christians; whereas such who spend their time in sinful lusts and pleasures, are dead while they live; wherefore if members of churches, with respect to this business, would be blameless, they ought to take care of the former, and reprove the latter, 1 Timothy 5:5. And as for those persons who cast their poor widows upon the church, and will not provide for them, when they are able, they are to be looked upon as deniers of the faith, and to be worse than the Heathens themselves, 1 Timothy 5:8. The qualifications of widows to be taken care of by the church, besides those before mentioned, are, that they be sixty years of age, having been the wife of one man, and well known for their good works, some of which are particularly mentioned, 1 Timothy 5:9 but those who are under the age fixed, and especially are fit for marriage, and the procreation of children, should be rejected, because of their lasciviousness, idleness, tattling, and busying themselves about other people's matters; these, on the contrary, should be directed to marry, bear children, take care of household affairs, and give no occasion to the enemy to reproach and blaspheme; and the rather such advice should be taken, since there had been some sad instances of apostasy in such persons, 1 Timothy 5:11. And then the apostle repeats his order to believers, to take care of their poor widows, who were able to do it themselves, that so the church might not be burdened, and might be able to relieve such as were real and proper objects, 1 Timothy 5:16. And then follow rules with respect to elders in office, as that those that rule well, and labour in the ministry of the word, should be honourably maintained; which is confirmed by a passage of Scripture in the Old Testament, and by a saying of Christ's in the New, 1 Timothy 5:17, that an accusation should not be received against one of such a character, but by two or three witnesses, 1 Timothy 5:19 and that such of them that fell into any notorious sin should be publicly rebuked, in order to make others afraid to sin, 1 Timothy 5:20. And these things the apostle, in the most solemn manner, charges Timothy, in the sight of God, Christ, and the angels, to observe, without partiality, 1 Timothy 5:21. To which he adds, that he would not have him be hastily concerned in the ordination of anyone as an elder, lest he should involve himself in his sin, whereas by acting otherwise he would be free, 1 Timothy 5:22 and then inserts some advice to himself, to take care of his health, 1 Timothy 5:23 and concludes the chapter with observing, on occasion of what he had said, 1 Timothy 5:22 that some men's sins were open, and their characters were easily discerned, and others were private, and such were also the good works of others; which made the case either more easy or more difficult to determine what was to be done; and therefore nothing should be done suddenly and rashly, 1 Timothy 5:24.
Rebuke not an elder,.... By whom is meant, not an elder in office, but in age; for elders by office are afterwards spoken of, and particular rules concerning them are given, 1 Timothy 5:17. Besides, an elder is here opposed, not to a private member of a church, but to young men in age; and the apostle is here giving rules to be observed in rebuking members of churches, according to their different age and sex, and not according to their office and station; and this sense is confirmed by a parallel text in Titus 2:2. Now an ancient man, a member of a church, is not to be rebuked in a sharp and severe way; the word here used signifies to smite or strike; and so the Arabic version renders it, "do not strike an elder"; meaning not with the hand, but with the tongue, giving hard words, which are as heavy blows; reproof is a smiting, and there is a gentle and a sharp one, Psalms 141:4. It is with the former, and not the latter, that man in years is to be reproved, when he is in a fault, whether with respect to doctrine or practice, as such persons may be as well as younger ones; and when they are observed to err, they should not be roughly and sharply dealt with:
but entreat him as a father; as a child should entreat a father, when he is going out of the way; give him honour and respect, fear and reverence, and persuade him to desist; entreat and beseech him to return to the right path of truth and holiness; use him as a father in Christ, that has known him that is from the beginning, and as of long standing in the church: this must be understood of lesser crimes, and not of atrocious and flagitious ones, obstinately continued in, to the great scandal of religion, and dishonour of the Gospel; for then severer methods must be used; see Isaiah 45:20. But though this is the sense of the passage, yet the argument from hence is strong, that if an elder in years, a private member, who is ancient, and in a fault, is not to be roughly used, but gently entreated, then much more an elder in office.
And the younger men as brethren; the Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions read, "as thy brethren". Timothy was a young man himself; and as he was to consider an elderly man as his father, and use him accordingly; so he was to consider young men as equal with him, at least in age, and take the more freedom with them, in reproving them for their faults, and use somewhat more authority with them; and yet consider them as brethren in Christ, and reprove them in a brotherly way, and with brotherly love.
The elder women as mothers,.... When they offend in any point, they are to be reasoned, and argued, and pleaded with, as children should with their mothers; see Hosea 2:2 and are to be considered as mothers in Israel, and to be treated with great tenderness and respect.
The younger as sisters; using the freedom as a brother may with a sister; and considering them as sisters in Christ, and in a way becoming the relation, tell them their faults freely and privately, but
with all purity: in such manner as to preserve chastity in looks, in words, and actions.
Honour widows that are widows indeed. Who those are, see in 1 Timothy 1:5. The honour to be given them is not a putting of them into the office of a deaconess, in the church; which office, some think, is referred to in Acts 6:1, and did obtain in some of the primitive churches; and it might be that some of these widows, the apostle here and hereafter speaks of, might be preferred to the rest, and be set over them, and have the care of such, who were more infirm; but then this could only be the case of some, whereas the honour here spoken of is what is to be given to all that are really widows; and therefore rather regards some external honour and respect to be shown them, by words and actions; and especially it designs an honourable provision for them, and maintenance of them; in which sense the word is used in 1 Timothy 5:17. So, with the Jews, giving gifts to persons, and making presents to them, is called honour. When Manoah asked the angel's name, that he might do him honour, when his saying came to pass, Judges 13:17 the sense, according to them, is q,
"that I may inquire in what place I may find thee, when thy prophecy is fulfilled, and give thee דורון, "a gift"; for there is no honour but what signifies a gift, as it is said, Numbers 22:17, "honouring I will honour thee".''
So giving gifts to the poor, or providing for their maintenance, is doing them honour; and that this is the sense here, appears by what follows in the context.
q Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 10. fol. 199. 4.
But if any widow have children or nephews,.... Such are not widows indeed; they are not desolate, or alone, or without persons to take care of them; their children or nephews should, and not suffer the church to be burdened with them. Wherefore it follows,
let them learn first to show piety at home; which some understand of the widows, who, instead of casting themselves upon the church for a maintenance, or taking upon them the office of a deaconess, to take care of others, should continue in their own families, and bring up their children and nephews in like manner as they have been brought up by their parents, which will be more pleasing and acceptable unto God; but it is better to interpret it of their children; and so the Ethiopic version expresses it, "let the children first learn to do well to their own house", or family. It is the duty of children to take care of their parents in old age, and provide for them, when they cannot for themselves: this is a lesson they ought to learn in the first place, and a duty which they ought principally to observe; they should not suffer them to come to a church for relief, but first take care of them themselves, as long as they are in any capacity to do it; and these should be their first care before any others; so to do is an act of piety, a religious action, a pious one; it is doing according to the will and law of God, and is well pleasing to him:
and to requite their parents; for all the sorrow, pain, trouble, care, and expenses they have been at in bearing and bringing them forth into the world, in taking care of them in their infancy, in bringing them up, giving them an education, providing food and raiment for them, and settling them in the world; wherefore to neglect them in old age, when incapable of providing for themselves, would be base ingratitude; whereas to take care of them is but a requital of them, or a repaying them for former benefits had of them:
for that is good and acceptable before God; it is good in itself, and grateful, and well pleasing in his sight; it is part of the good, and perfect, and acceptable will of God; and which, as other actions done in faith, is acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Now she that is a widow indeed,.... A real widow, whom the Jews r call גמורה, "a perfect one", in opposition to one that is divorced, or a brother's widow, that has had the shoe plucked off for her: and such an one as the apostle means, is one that is
desolate, or "alone": who has neither husband to take care of her, nor children or nephews to show kindness to her, nor any worldly substance to subsist upon:
but trusteth in God: not in man, nor in an arm of flesh, but in the living God, the giver of all good things, the Judge of widows; who vindicates their cause, avenges the injuries done them, protects and defends them, and relieves their wants, and gives all encouragement to them, to trust in him; see Jeremiah 49:11.
and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day; as the widow Anna did, Luke 2:36. A Widow indeed is one that has no outward dependence, betakes herself to the Lord, puts her confidence in him, and cries to him continually for a daily supply; and such an one, amidst all her poverty and meanness, is a living believer, one that lives by faith on the Lord; and is profitable, and useful to the church by her prayers and supplications made for them, as well as for herself; whereas she that is in the next verse described is just the reverse.
r Jarchi in Exek. xliv. 22.
But she that liveth in pleasure,.... Voluptuously, and deliciously; lives a wanton, loose, and licentious life, serving divers lusts and pleasures:,
is dead while she liveth; is dead in trespasses and sins, while she lives in them; is dead morally or spiritually, while she lives a natural or corporeal life. There is a likeness between a moral and a corporeal death. In a corporeal death, the soul is separated from the body; and in a moral death, souls are separated from God, and are alienated from the life of God; and are without Christ, who is the author and giver of spiritual life; and have not the Spirit, which is the Spirit of life: death defaces and deforms the man, and a moral death lies in the defacing of the image of God, first stamped on man, and in a loss of original righteousness; for as death strips a man naked of all, as he was when he came into the world, so sin, which brings on this moral death, has stripped man of his moral righteousness, whereby he is become dead in law, as well as in sin: and as in death there is a privation of all sense, so such who are dead, morally or spiritually, have no true sense of sin, and of their state and condition; are not concerned about sin, nor troubled for it, but rejoice in it, boast of it, plead for it, and declare it: between such persons and dead men there is a great similitude; as dead men are helpless to themselves, so are they; they can do nothing of, nor for themselves, in matters of a spiritual nature; and as dead men are unprofitable unto others, so are they to God, and man; and as dead men are hurtful and infectious to others, so they by their evil communications corrupt good manners; and as dead bodies are nauseous and disagreeable, so are such persons, especially to a pure and holy Being; and as dead men are deprived of their senses, so are these: they are blind, and cannot see and discern the things of the Spirit of God; they have not ears to hear the joyful sound of the Gospel, so as to understand it, approve of it, and delight in it; they have no feeling, nor are they burdened with the weight of sin; nor have they any taste and savour of the things of God, but only of the things of men; so that in a spiritual sense they are dead, while they are alive. It is a common, saying to be met with in Jewish writers, בחייהן קרויין מתים
רשעים, "the wicked while alive are said to be dead" s. And they say t also, that men are called מתים, "dead", from the time they sin; and that he that sins is accounted כמת, "as a dead man" u.
s T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 18. 2. & Hieros. Beracot, fol. 4. 4. Midrash Kohelet, fol. 78. 2. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 58. 3. Caphtor, fol. 79. 1, 2. & 84. 1. Jarchi in Gen. xi. 32. & Baal Hatturim in Deut. xvii. 6. t Tzeror Hammer, fol. 5. 9. u lb. fol. 6. 2. & 127. 2.
And these things give in charge,.... Concerning rebuking persons of a different age and sex, and concerning the maintenance of widows; and particularly that children provide for their parents when helpless; and that widows trust in God, and give themselves to prayer and supplication, and not live in sin:
that they may be blameless; before men, and in the view of the world, and not be chargeable with any notorious crime; though none are without blame in themselves, and before God, but as considered in Christ Jesus.
But if any provide not for his own,.... Not only for his wife and children, but for his parents, when grown old, and cannot help themselves:
and specially for those of his own house; that is, who are of the same household of faith with him; see Galatians 6:10, and so the Syriac version renders it, "and especially those who are the children of the house of faith"; for though the tie of nature obliges him to take care of them, yet that of grace makes the obligation still more strong and binding; and he must act both the inhuman and the unchristian part, that does not take care of his pious parents: wherefore it follows,
he hath denied the faith; the doctrine of faith, though not in words, yet in works; and is to be considered in the same light, and to be dealt with as an apostate from the Christian religion.
And is worse than an infidel; for the very Heathens are taught and directed by the light of nature to take care of their poor and aged parents. The daughter of Cimon gave her ancient father the breast, and suckled him when in prison. Aeneas snatched his aged father out of the burning of Troy, and brought him out of the destruction of that city on his back; yea, these are worse than the brute creatures, and may be truly said to be without natural affections; such should go to the storks and learn of them, of whom it is reported, that the younger ones will feed the old ones, when they cannot feed themselves; and when weary, and not able to fly, will carry them on their backs. The Jews w have a rule or canon, which obliged men to take care of their families, which runs thus:
"as a man is bound to provide for his wife, so he is hound to provide for his sons and daughters, the little ones, until they are six years old; and from thenceforward he gives them food till they are grown up, according to the order of the wise men; if he will not, they reprove him, and make him ashamed, and oblige him; yea, if he will not, they publish him in the congregation, and say such an one is cruel, and will not provide for his children; and lo, he is worse than an unclean fowl, which feeds her young.''
w Maimon. Hilchot Ishot, c. 12. sect. 14.
Let not a widow be taken into the number,.... That is, of widows, to be maintained by the church; though some choose to understand these words of the number of such who were made deaconesses, and had the care of the poor widows of the church committed to them; and so the Arabic version renders it, "if a widow be chosen a deaconess"; but the former sense is best, for it appears from 1 Timothy 5:1 that the apostle is still speaking of widows to be relieved: now such were not to be taken under the church's care for relief, under threescore years old: for under this age it might be supposed they would marry, and so not be desolate, but would have husbands to provide for them; or they might be capable of labour, and so of taking care of themselves. The age of sixty years was by the Jews x reckoned
זקנה, "old age", but not under.
Having been the wife of one man; that is, at one time; for second marriages are not hereby condemned, for this would be to condemn what the apostle elsewhere allows, Romans 7:2. Nor is the sense only, that she should be one who never had more husbands than one at once; for this was not usual for women to have more husbands than one, even where polygamy obtained, or where men had more wives than one: this rather therefore is to be understood of one who had never put away her husband, and married another, which was sometimes done among the Jews; see Mark 10:12, and this being a scandalous practice, the apostle was willing to put a mark of infamy upon it, and exclude such persons who had been guilty of it from the number of widows relieved by the church.
x Pirke Abot, c. 5. sect. 21.
Well reported of for good works,.... Both by the members of the church, and by them that were without:
particularly if she have brought up children; that is, "well", as the Arabic version adds; in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; commanding them, as Abraham did, to keep the way of the Lord, and to do justice and judgment; training them up in the paths of religion and virtue, from which they will not so easily depart when grown up.
If she have lodged strangers; as Abraham and Lot did, who entertained angels unawares: this may be understood of strangers in common, but especially of the brethren, ministers, and others, who came from distant parts, and travelled about to spread the Gospel of Christ. The y Jews say many things בכבוד אכסניא, "in honour of hospitality" or entertaining of strangers, especially of receiving into their houses the disciples of the wise men, and giving them food and drink, and the use of their goods; this was what gave persons a very great character with them, and highly recommended them.
If she have washed the saints' feet; which was usual in those hot countries, where they wore sandals only, partly for refreshment, and partly for the removal of dust and filth, contracted in walking; instances of this we have in several places of Scripture, Genesis 18:4. It was such a common piece of civility, that our Lord complains of the neglect of it towards him, Luke 7:44. It was what he did to his own disciples, and in so doing set them an example of what they should do to one another, John 13:14 and being a mean and low office, and which very likely was done by the servants of the house; the sense may be, if she has condescended to do the meanest office for the saints.
If she have relieved the afflicted; either in body, with her purse; or in mind, by visiting them, and speaking comfortably to them: in general,
if she have diligently followed every good work; not only have done good works at certain times, but has followed that which is good; has closely pursued it, and that with great eagerness and diligence; has been constant and indefatigable in the performance of it.
y T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 63. 2.
But the younger widows refuse,.... To admit them into the number of widows relieved by the church; partly because they are fit for labour, and so can take care of themselves; and partly because they may marry, as the apostle afterwards advises they should, and so would have husbands to take care of them:
for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ; that is, being at ease, and without labour, live a wanton, loose, and licentious life, and in carnal lusts and pleasures, contrary to the commands of Christ, and to the reproach and dishonour of his name:
they will marry; not that it would be criminal for them to marry, or that second marriages are unlawful; for the apostle afterwards signifies that it was right, fit, and proper that such should marry; but his sense is, that marriage being the effect of wantonness, would not be so honourable in them, and especially after they had made application to the church for relief, and had declared themselves widows indeed, and desolate, and such as trusted in God, and gave themselves up to supplication and prayer; wherefore it would be much better for them, and more to the credit of religion, to marry first, than afterwards and it would be best not to apply at all to the church; and if they should, it would be most advisable to reject them for the said reasons.
Ver. 12 Having damnation, c.] Not for their second marriage, but for their wantonness against Christ, or their sinful and luxurious way of living, contrary to the Gospel of Christ: and this is to be understood not of eternal damnation, which cannot, with propriety, be said to be had now but either of the reproach and scandal cast upon them, and religion, for their wantonness; or the judgment and censure of the church for the same; or having sin, and the guilt of sin upon them, in which sense the word is used, Romans 5:16.
Because they have cast off their first faith; or that faith which they first professed, even the doctrine of faith; which they may be said to cast off, because they walked not according to it, their conversation was not becoming their profession of it; and though they continued to profess the same faith they did in words, yet in works they denied it, or cast it off; for which reason they fell under the notice, judgment, and condemnation of the church, as well as exposed themselves to the reproach of men.
And withal they learn to be idle,.... Being at ease, and without labour, living at the expense of the church: "wandering about from house to house"; having nothing else to do: such an one is what the Jews z call אלמנה שובבית, "the gadding widow"; who, as the gloss says,
"goes about and visits her neighbours continually; and these are they that corrupt the world.''
Of this sort of women must the Jews be understood, when they say a, it is one of the properties of them to be יוצאניות "going out", or gadding abroad, as Dinah did; and that it is another to be
דבריות, "talkative", which agrees with what follows:
and not only idle, but tattlers also; full of talk, who have always some news to tell, or report to make of the affairs of this, or the other person, or family:
and busy bodies; in the matters of other persons, which do not concern them:
speaking things which they ought not; which either are not true, and, if they are, are not to be spoken of, and carried from place to place: this is a very great inconvenience, the apostle observes, arising from the admission of such young widows to be relieved and maintained at the church's charge.
z T. Bab. Sota, fol. 22. 1. a Bereshit Rabba, sect. 45. fol. 40. 3.
I will therefore that the younger women marry,.... Or "the younger" widows rather; and so some copies read; for this is not the apostle's advice to young women in general, though it will suit with them, but with younger widows in particular, of whom he is speaking:
bear children; and bring them forth, and feed, and nourish them, and bring them up in a religious way:
guide the house; manage domestic affairs, direct, order, or do what is proper to be done for the good of the family; which is much more commendable than to throw themselves upon the church, and live an idle and wanton life, and after that marry: and so
give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully; that is, either that Satan, the grand adversary of the saints, might have no opportunity to reproach them, and cast in their teeth their unbecoming walk, or accuse them before the throne; or that any enemy of the Christian religion might have no room nor reason to speak evilly of Christ, his Gospel, truths, and ordinances, on account of the disorderly conversation of any that profess his name; or that the ο αντικειμενος, the great opposer of Christ, the man of sin, and son of perdition, even antichrist, 2 Thessalonians 2:4, might have no handle from hence to speak reproachfully of marriage, and forbid it, under a pretence of sanctity, as 1 Timothy 4:3.
For some are already turned aside after Satan. Meaning some of those younger widows, whom the apostle knew, and had observed to have departed from the faith they first professed, and turned their backs on Christ, and gave themselves up to carnal lusts and pleasures, and an idle and impure life and conversation, walked according to the course of this world, and the prince of it, by whom they were led captive at his will; for so everyone that apostatizes from a profession of Christ, and follows either false teachers, and their doctrines, as the Gnostics, that condemned marriage, or any sinful and impure way of life, may be said to turn aside after Satan; and as that apostle knew this to be fact, from his own observation, he therefore gives the above advice.
If any man or woman that believeth have widows,.... That is, if any member of a church, whether a brother or a sister, have mothers or grandmothers, or any near relations widows, in mean circumstances, and incapable of taking care of themselves:
let them relieve them; out of their own substance; which is what the apostle before calls showing piety at home, and requiting their own parents:
and let not the church be charged; or burdened with the maintenance of them:
that it may relieve them that are widows indeed; that the church may be in a better capacity, its stock not being expended on others, to supply the wants of those who are really widows; who have neither husbands, nor children, nor any relations, to provide for them; nor anything in the world to support themselves with.
Let the elders that rule well,.... By whom are meant not elders in age; though such ought to be honoured and respected, and to have a proper maintenance either from their children or the church, when reduced, and incapable of helping themselves; but then this is what should be done to all such persons, whereas the elders here are particularly described as good rulers and labourers in the word and doctrine; besides, elders in age are taken notice of before; nor are civil magistrates intended, such as were called the elders of Israel; for though such as discharge their office well are worthy of honour, yet it does not belong to any of them to labour in preaching the doctrine of the Gospel: nor are deacons designed, for they are never called elders in Scripture; nor is their work ruling, but serving of tables; nor does the ministry of the word belong to them as such; nor is any maintenance allowed them from the church on account of their office: nor are lay elders meant, who rule, but teach not; since there are no such officers appointed in the churches of Christ; whose only officers are bishops or elders and deacons: wherefore the qualifications such are only given in a preceding chapter. There are no other that rule in churches, but such who also speak to them the word of God; wherefore by him that rules, and the labourer in word and doctrine, are not meant two distinct orders, but different persons of the same order; some of these ruling well, but do not take so much pains in the ministry of the word; while others of them both rule well and labour in the word, and who are to be reckoned deserving of the honour hereafter mentioned. These are called "elders", because they are commonly chosen out of the senior members of the churches, though not always, Timothy is an exception to this; and because of their senile gravity and prudence, which were necessary in them: and they may be said to "rule", because they are set in the highest place in the church, and over others in the Lord, who are to submit themselves to them, and obey them. Christ's church is a kingdom, he is King of it, and his ministering servants are rulers under him; and who rule "well" when they rule not with force and cruelty, or lord it over God's heritage; but when they govern according to the laws which Christ the King and lawgiver has prescribed; when they explain and enforce those laws, and show them to the people, and see that they are put in execution and when they discharge this part of their work with diligence and prudence. Now let such be
counted worthy of double honour; which some understand of honour in this world, and in the world to come, and which they have; they are honoured now by Christ, though reproached by the world, by being called unto, qualified for, and succeeded in the work of the ministry; and when they have faithfully discharged it, they will be honoured by him hereafter, and be introduced into his joy with commendation, and shine as the stars for ever and ever. But rather this is to be understood both of that outward respect that is to be shown them by words and actions; and of a sufficient maintenance that is to be provided for them; in which sense the word "honour" is used in this chapter before; :-, and some think that the comparison is between the widows before mentioned, and these elders; that if poor widows in the church are to be honoured and maintained, then much more the officers of it; these are worthy of more honour, even of double honour, or, a larger and a more honourable main tenant: and indeed this seems to be the meaning of the word "double" when used both in an ill and in a good sense; see Revelation 18:6 and is an allusion to the firstborn among the Jews, who was to have a double portion of his father's goods, Deuteronomy 21:17 and so may here signify, that the ministers of the Gospel ought not to have a short and scanty, but a large and honourable maintenance.
Especially they who labour in the word and doctrine; which lies in a constant reading of the Scriptures, the word of God, and diligently searching into them, and comparing them together, in order to find out the mind and will of God in them; in a daily meditation upon them, and study of them; and in frequent and fervent wrestling with God, or prayer to him, to give an understanding of them; and in endeavouring to find out the sense of difficult passages, which are hard to be understood; and in providing for the different cases and circumstances of hearers, that everyone may have a portion; and in the choice of apt and proper words to express truth in, to the capacities of all: this is labouring in the word in private; besides which there is labouring in doctrine, in public; in preaching the Gospel constantly, boldly, and faithfully; in holding it fast against all opposition, and in defending it by argument, both by word and writing. The phrase seems to be Jewish, a like one is often to be met with in Jewish writings: Rabbenu was sitting לעי באורייתא,
""and labouring in the law" before the congregation of the Babylonians at Tzippore b;''
and again c,
"R. Jonah gave tithes to R. Acha bar Alia, not because he was a priest, but because he לעי באוריתא, "laboured in the law";''
and they say d,
"there is no greater reward for a man in the world, as for him דלעי באוריתא, "who labours in the law";''
hence we read e of עמל תורה, "the labour of the law", which they say the mouth is made for, and of labourers in the law f; and such persons they judged worthy of the greatest respect, and to be preferred to others. For, they say g,
"if a congregation is obliged to give a salary to a doctor (or ruler of the synagogue), and to a minister of the congregation, and it is not in their power to give to both; if the ruler is a famous man, and great in the law, and expert in doctrine, he is to be preferred, but if not the minister of the congregation is to be preferred.''
b Bereshit Rabba, sect. 33. fol. 28. 3. c T. Hieros. Masser, Sheni, fol. 56. 2. d Zohar in Gen. fol. 60. 4. & pasira. e T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 99. 2. f Derech Eretz, fol. 17. 4. g Jore Des, Tit. 251. sect. 13.
Ver. 18 For the Scripture saith,.... In Deuteronomy 25:4
thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn;
Deuteronomy 25:4- :.
Deuteronomy 25:4- :. The ox, for its strength and labour, is a fit emblem of a Gospel minister; and its treading the corn out of the husk and ear aptly represents the beating out, as it were, of Gospel truths, by the ministers of it, their making the doctrines of the Gospel clear, plain, and evident to the understandings of men; wherefore, as the ox was not muzzled when it trod out the corn, but might freely and largely feed upon it, so such who labour in the preaching of the Gospel ought to have a sufficient and competent maintenance: for which purpose this citation is made, as also the following:
and the labourer is worthy of his reward; which seems to be taken from Luke 10:7 which Gospel was now written, and in the hands of the apostle; who here, by two testimonies, the one from Moses, and the other from Christ, supports the right of the honourable maintenance of the ministers of the Gospel.
Against an elder receive not an accusation,.... A charge of any crime:
but before two or three witnesses; good sufficient ones, who are capable of well attesting the fact: a charge against a pastor of a church is not to be easily received; it should not be listened to privately, unless it clearly appears by such a number of witnesses; nor should it be brought publicly before the church, until it is privately and previously proved, by a sufficient number of credible witnesses, that it is really fact. The sense is, not that judgment shall not pass against him but by such a number of witnesses, or that the evidence upon his trial shall consist of such a number; for this is no other than what ought to be in the case of a private member, and of every man, according to Deuteronomy 19:15. But the sense is, that the affair of an elder shall not be put upon a trial, much less sentence pass, until it has been privately proved against him, by proper testimonies, beyond all exception; only in such a case, should a church admit a charge against its elder. The reason of this rule is, because of his high office and the honour of the church, which is concerned in his, as well as of religion; for it carries in it some degree of scandal for such a person to be charged, even though he may be cleared; as also because of his many enemies, who through envy, malice, and the instigation of Satan, would be continually pestering the church with charges, could they be easily admitted.
Them that sin rebuke before all,.... This the apostle adds to the above rule, to show that he was far from screening wicked ministers, or elders, guilty of flagitious crimes, and gross enormities: for these words, though they may be applied unto, and may hold good of all offenders, that are members of churches; yet they seem chiefly to regard elders, even such who sin, who continue to sin, who live in sin, in some notorious sin or another; which is evident and known, to the great scandal of religion, and dishonour of the Gospel: and so some read the words, "them that sin before all, rebuke"; not only admonish once and again, but degrade them from their office, and withdraw from them, as from other disorderly persons, and cut them off, and cast them out of the church, and that in a public manner; and so the Arabic version renders it, "before the congregation": which was done only in case of notorious offences: and which rule is observed by the Jews, and runs thus h;
"a wise man, an elder in wisdom, and so a prince, or the father of the sanhedrim, that sins, they do not excommunicate him (with Niddui) always בפרהסיא, "publicly", unless he does as Jeroboam the son of Nebat and his companions; but when he sins other sins, they chastise him privately.''
The end is,
that others also may fear; that other elders, or other members of the church, or both, may fear to do the same evil things, lest they incur the same censure and punishment: the Syriac version reads, "other men"; and the Arabic version, "the rest of the people". The phrase seems to be taken out of Deuteronomy 13:11.
h Maimon. Talmud Tora, c. 7. sect. 1.
I charge thee before God,.... Who sees and knows all things, and is a righteous and most impartial Judge; with whom there is no respect of persons, and in whose place and stead, the judges of the earth, both civil and ecclesiastical, stand; and to whom they are accountable for the judgment they pass on men and things; and in whose house or church Timothy was, whose business he was doing, and which ought to be done, with a view to his glory; wherefore the apostle gives him this solemn charge as in his sight:
and the Lord Jesus Christ: who also is God omniscient; and is Jesus Christ the righteous, the Head of the church, and the Judge of quick and dead; before whose judgment seat all must appear; where there will be no respect of persons, nor any partiality used.
And the elect angels; by whom are meant not some of the angels, the more choice, excellent, and principal among them; as the seven angels in the Apocryha:
"I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.'' (Tobit 12:15)
among whom Raphael is said to be one. But this is a spurious account, and not to be credited; nor was it an ancient tradition of the Jews, that there were seven principal angels; :-. The Chaldee paraphrase on Genesis 11:7 is mistaken by Mr. Mede, where not "seven", but "seventy" angels are spoken of: but here all the good angels are designed, called sometimes the holy angels, and sometimes the angels in heaven; and here, by the Syriac version, "his angels"; either the angels of God, as they are sometimes styled; or the angels of Jesus Christ, being made by him, and being ministers to him, and for him; and also "elect", because chosen to stand in that integrity and holiness, in which they were created; and to enjoy everlasting glory and happiness, while others of the same species were passed by and left to fall from their first estate, and appointed to everlasting wrath and damnation: so that it may be observed that God's election takes place in angels as well as in men; and which flows from the sovereign will and pleasure of God; and was made in Christ, who is their head, and by whom they are confirmed in their happy state; and in which they must be considered in the pure mass, since they never fell; and which may serve to illustrate and confirm the doctrine of election with respect to men. Now before these the apostle charges Timothy; since they are near to the saints, encamp about them, minister unto them, and are concerned for their good; are spectators of their actions, and witnesses of what is done in churches, since they frequently attend the assemblies of the saints, and will descend with Christ, when he comes to judge the world in righteousness: the mention of them in this, charge gives no countenance to the worshipping of angels, since they are not set upon a level with God and Christ; nor is the charge delivered before them as judges, but as witnesses; nor are the words in the form of an oath, but of a charge; the angels are not sworn by, or appealed unto; only in their presence is this solemn charge given; and it may be observed, that even inanimate creatures, the heavens and the earth, are sometimes called upon as witnesses; and besides, it was usual with the Jews to make such kind of obtestations, So Agrippa i, in his speech to the Jews, exhorting them to fidelity to the Romans, beseeches them by their holy things, και τους ιερους αγγελους του υεου, "and the holy angels of God", and their common country, that is, the good of it, that they would remain steadfast. What is the amount of this charge follows,
that thou observe these things; either all that are contained in the epistle, or more particularly the rules prescribed in this chapter; concerning rebuking members of a different age and sex, providing for poor widows, and taking care of the ministers of the Gospel, and chiefly what regards the discipline of the church with respect to the elders of it; as not to admit an accusation against them, unless it is sufficiently evident, and yet not connive at notorious sinners, but rebuke them publicly; and this charge belongs not only to Timothy, but to the whole church, and to all succeeding ministers and churches in all ages. The manner in which these things are to be observed is,
without preferring one before another; or, as the words may be rendered, "without prejudgment"; that is, without prejudging a case, or determining, before hearing, how it shall be; or as the Syriac version renders it, "in nothing let thy mind be prepossessed"; the sense is, that he should attend to any case that should come before him in the church, without prejudice or prepossession, and hearken to what is said on both sides; and judge impartially, and not in haste, but weigh well and consider the evidence that is given, and then determine as the case appears; so the Arabic version renders it, "without haste", or precipitancy; to which agrees the advice of the men of the great congregation, or Ezra's congregation, who were in his time, and succeeded him; הוו מתונים בדין, "be slow in judgment" k, or long at it; that so by strict and close examination, things not known at first may be discovered: and when judgment is passed, it should not be through affection to one party, and disrespect to another; which is called in Scripture a respect of persons, and here a preferring one to another; and which is further explained by adding,
doing nothing by partiality; or by inclining to one side more than to another. A judge should not preponderate to either side, but should hold the balance of justice even, and do nothing to turn the scale one way or another, but as the weight and truth of the evidence direct; and such a rule should be observed in all church affairs.
i Joseph. de Bello Jud. l. 2. c. 16. sect. 4. k Pirke Abot, c. 1. sect. 1. Vid. Maimon in ib.
Lay hands suddenly on no man,.... Which is not to be understood of removing censures from off offenders, upon their repentance, which should not be suddenly and hastily done; and which it seems in later times has been done by imposition of hands; but since no such custom obtained in the apostle's time, and a taking off of censures is never in Scripture signified by this phrase, it cannot be intended here; but rather the admission of persons into the work of the ministry, and the installing of them into the office of an or pastor; upon whom, in these early times, hands were laid by the apostles, whereby gifts were conveyed, as on Timothy;
And from this rite this act was so called, as it might be when it was laid aside; just as, with the Jews, an ordination of one of their doctors is called סמיכה, "imposition of hands", though they performed it by words, and not by laying on of hands; which now by them is not judged necessary l: and then the sense is, do not hastily and at once admit any person into the sacred work of the ministry, or constitute him an elder, or pastor, over a church of Christ; but let him be first proved, and let it plainly appear, that he has the grace of God in him, and has gifts for public service bestowed on him; that he is sound in faith, and of a good life and conversation; and a man of uprightness and fidelity;
neither be partaker of other men's sins; of any of the members of the church; by doing the same, joining with them therein, or by consenting to them and taking pleasure in them, as done by others; by conniving at them, and not restraining them, nor reproving for them: or rather this refers to rash and hasty ordinations of ministers; and either regards the sins of those who lay hands suddenly on men, and with whom the apostle would not have Timothy join, that he might not be a partner in their sins; or else the sins of those that are ordained, and these, whether before or after their ordination; which such involve themselves in, who either rashly and ignorantly ordain such persons; and much more if they do it, knowing them to be such: and these sins may include both immorality and error; see #2Jo 10,11. Keep thyself pure; not from his own sins, the sin of nature, indwelling sin, and actual transgressions; no man is, or can be pure, from either of these; nor can any man keep himself; Christ only is able to keep them from falling. But the apostle's meaning is, that he should keep himself pure from the sins of others, by not rashly and suddenly admitting any into the ministry; just as the apostle was pure from the blood of all men, by faithfully preaching the Gospel; so he suggests that Timothy would be pure from partaking of other men's sins, by observing a strict discipline in the house of God. Some refer this to chastity of body, in opposition to the sin of uncleanness, which his youthful age and the temptations about him might expose him to the danger of; and which is scandalous and infamous in a minister of the word. Which sense serves to show the connection of the following words, which otherwise seem to stand unconnected.
l Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 1. sect. 3. & Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. Juthasin, fol. 60. 1. & Maimon. Hilchot Sanhedrin, c. 4. sect. 1, 2.
Drink no longer water,.... Though it was commendable in him to keep under his body, as the apostle did, by abstemious living, and not pamper the flesh and encourage the lusts of it, and so preserve purity and chastity; yet it was proper that he should take care of his health, that it was not impaired by too much severity, and so he be incapable of doing the work of the Lord. And it seems by this, that his long and only use of water for his drink had been prejudicial to his health: wherefore the following advice was judged proper:
but use a little wine; some, by "a little wine", understand not the quantity, but the quality of the wine; a thin, small, weak wine, or wine mixed with water; and so the Ethiopic version renders the words, "drink no more simple water", (or water only,) "but mix a little wine"; though rather the quantity is intended, and which is mentioned. Not as though there was any danger of Timothy's running into an excess of drinking; but for the sake of others, lest they should abuse such a direction, to indulge themselves in an excessive way; and chiefly to prevent the scoffs of profane persons; who otherwise would have insinuated that the apostle indulged intemperance and excess: whereas this advice to the use of wine, was not for pleasure, and for the satisfying of the flesh, but for health,
for thy stomach's sake; to help digestion, and to remove the disorders which might attend it: the Ethiopic version renders it, "for the pain of the liver", and "for thy perpetual disease"; which last might be a pain in his head, arising from the disorder of his stomach: the last clause we render,
and thine often infirmities; or weaknesses of body, occasioned by hard studies, frequent ministrations, and indefatigable pains and labours he endured in spreading the Gospel of Christ.
Some men's sins are open before hand,.... Some men are such open and notorious sinners, that there is no need of any inquiry about them, or any examination of them; or any witnesses to be called to their character, in order to pass judgment concerning them; they even prevent and supersede any formal process about them. With such persons, the apostle intimates, Timothy could have no difficulty upon him, what to do with them; should they be proposed for the ministry, he would know at once what to do with them; namely, reject them. There would be no danger of his laying hands suddenly on such; for the following phrase,
going before to judgment, is not to be understood of God's judgment, or of the last and future judgment of the great day, but of human judgment: it is true indeed that some men's sins are manifest and barefaced, before that day comes; while others are so private, that they will not be known till that day declares them, and brings to light the hidden things of darkness: and much such a way of speaking is used by the Jews; who say m,
"whoever committeth one transgression, (a notorious one,) in this world, it joins to him, "and goes before him"
ליום הדין "to the day of judgment".''
But this sense agrees not with the context; and with what propriety soever it may be said, of some men's sins going before to judgment, it cannot be said with any, that others follow after judgment; since at the general judgment, every work, both good and bad, with every secret thing, will be brought into it; and nothing will follow after that: wherefore the next clause,
and some [men] they follow after; that is, some men's sins follow after, is to be understood of their following after human judgment; or of their appearing in the light after judgment has been passed upon them, which before were hid: and the sense of the whole is this, that the characters of some men are so well known, and it is so plain a case, that they are destitute of the grace of God; have not ministerial gifts; or are unsound in the faith; or are men of immoral lives and conversations; so that there can be no dispute about them, whether they are to be admitted into the ministry of the word or rejected. But there are other persons who may be proposed, whose sins or errors are so private, that they may not be known; and yet may appear afterwards; wherefore it is proper to take time, and not be too hasty, or lay hands suddenly on men.
m T. Bab. Sota, fol. 3. 2. Vid. Avoda Zara, fol. 5. 1.
Likewise also the good works [of some] are manifest before hand,.... The characters of some men, on the other hand, are so fair and bright; and it is so clear a point, that they have received the grace of God in truth; and have a rich furniture for the ministry; and are sound in the doctrine of faith; and are men of such godly lives and conversations, that they prevent any formal inquiry, examination, and judgment; and there can be no difficulty in admitting them at once: and therefore the above rule is not designed for such persons, but to guard against those with whom things do not appear so very clear and manifest:
and they that are otherwise cannot be hid; if they are men of bad principles or practices, they will be discovered in time; for there is nothing hid that shall not be revealed; time will make all things manifest; their errors and sins will break out, and be exposed: and therefore it is right to wait a while, and not to be quick in the reception of them into the Gospel ministry; for otherwise, much mischief may be done to the souls of men, and much dishonour brought on the ways and doctrines of Christ.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29