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5 Warnings against Worldliness and Instruction in Piety
( 1 Timothy 5 )
Having warned against the evil of some who will apostatise from Christianity and adopt a false religion of the flesh, the apostle now warns us against evils that may arise from worldliness within the Christian circle, and instructs how to deal with the needs of God's people so that nothing may be allowed that would be an occasion for reproach and thus hinder the testimony of God's grace before the world.
(a) The spirit in which wrongs are to be dealt with (verses 1, 2)
Occasions may arise when evils are manifested in the Christian circle that rightly call for rebuke. Nevertheless, in administering rebuke we are to recognise what is due to age and sex, and thus be careful that the rebuke is given in a right spirit. The rebuke may be right and yet have no effect, or even do harm, because of the wrong spirit in which it is given. A right rebuke in a wrong spirit is simply meeting the flesh in the flesh.
Age is to be respected, even if rebuke is called for. An elder brother is not to be rebuked sharply (N.T.), but exhorted with all the deference that a son would pay to a father. The younger men are not to be treated as of little account, but rebuked with love as brethren, the elder women with the deference due to a mother. Younger women are to be dealt with in “all purity”, thus avoiding the careless familiarity that nature might adopt.
Thus in all our dealings with one another the manner is to be such that nothing is done that would outrage propriety and give occasion for scandal.
(b) Instruction as to meeting the needs of God's people and warnings against self-indulgence in temporal things (verses 3-16)
(V. 3). Firstly, we are instructed to pay due regard to widows who are “widows indeed”. A “widow indeed” is not simply a person bereft of her husband, but one marked by certain moral qualities. Whether in need or not, such are to be held in honour.
(V. 4). If, however, such are in temporal need, let the descendants prove their practical piety by rendering a return to their parents, for this is good and acceptable before God. Here again we see that piety brings God into all the details of life, and seeks to act in a way that is pleasing to God.
(V. 5). The apostle then gives us the beautiful marks of one that is a “widow indeed”. She is desolate, being without human resources; her confidence is in God - she “trusteth in God” - and she is dependent upon God, for she “continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.”
(V. 6). In contrast with the widow indeed, the apostle warns us against any in the house of God abandoning themselves to “habits of self-indulgence” (N.T.). Such are dead while living. We are exhorted to reckon ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus ( Rom_6:11 ). We cannot live to self and God at the same time. If living to self we are living to sin, which is lawlessness, or the indulgence of our own wills. Habits of self-indulgence must bring in spiritual death between the soul and God.
(V. 7). Such warnings are necessary in order that, walking in piety, every one in the house of God may not only be acceptable and pleasing to God but also blameless before men.
(V. 8). For a Christian to fail in providing for his own, and especially for those of his own house, is to sink below what is natural, and thus deny the faith of Christianity which sanctions these natural relationships and teaches us to respect them. It is thus possible for a Christian, if acting in the flesh, to behave in a way that is “worse than the unbeliever.”
(Vv. 9, 10). There may, however, be needy individuals in the Christian circle, who have no relatives to provide for them. Such should be put upon the list of those who can be rightly cared for by the assembly. Nevertheless, one must take care not to use the house of God as if it were merely an institution for supporting needy people.
Grace may, indeed, on occasions help the most abandoned. Here it is a question of suitability for inclusion in a list of those who receive regular assistance from the Lord's people. Such must, by their lives, have proved their fitness for such help. In persons of normal health, the one suited for the list must be of an age when, under ordinary circumstances, she would no longer be able to work for her living; she must have been the wife of one husband, and one to whom an honourable testimony is borne by reason of her good works in bringing up children, in having shown kindness to strangers, in having refreshed the saints, comforted the afflicted, and, indeed, followed every good work.
Very blessedly this Scripture shows how much a godly woman can do that is pleasing to God and in helping the Lord's people. The omissions, however, are as striking as the good works that are enumerated. Nothing is said about teaching or preaching or, indeed, anything that would bring the woman into prominence in a public way contrary to the order of God's house.
(Vv. 11-13). The younger widows are not to be put upon the list. To provide for such, as in the case of widows indeed, would lead them to forget Christ as their one Object, and instead have before them simply the desire of remarrying, and thus become guilty of casting off their first faith. It is thus possible, not only to lose our first love, but to cast off our first faith which, at the start of our Christian life, made Christ the great Object.
Moreover, to put the younger widows on the list would only encourage them in idleness and thus become a snare, for their idleness would lead them to wander from house to house as “gossipers and meddlers” (N.T.). A gossiper repeats tales and tittle-tattle to the disadvantage of others; a meddler interferes in the affairs of others, freely expressing opinions about matters which are not his concern. In neither case is there any thought of helping the needy, or seeking to put right any wrong, but rather the indulgence of the flesh in its love of slander. Gossipers and meddlers, whether repeating what is false or true, are in either case “speaking things which they ought not.” The preacher says, “He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets ( Pro_20:19 ); and, again, “Every fool will be meddling” ( Pro_20:3 ). The law says, “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people” ( Lev_19:16 ). Christianity warns us against “wandering about from house to house” as “gossipers and meddlers”.
What names have been wasted and broken;
What pestilent sinks have stirred
By a word in lightness spoken -
By only an idle word!
(V. 14). The judgment of the apostle is that the younger women should marry and find their proper sphere of activity in the home-life, bringing up children and guiding the house. Whether elders are addressed, or widows, or the younger women, all are to remember that they form part of the house of God, and in God's house nothing is to be allowed that will give occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
(V. 15). Through the neglect of these instructions some indeed had already turned aside after Satan. They might not admit or realise the seriousness of their course; but, evidently, to grow careless or wanton in relation to Christ would lead to the soul being beguiled by Satan and turning aside to the devil's temptations.
(V. 16). Widows in the families of Christians are to be relieved by the family, leaving the assembly free to assist those who are widows indeed.
(c) The needs of elders (verses 17-21)
The apostle passes on to instruct us as to meeting the needs of those who hold a position as official elders, and the spirit in which any charges of evil against such are to be met.
(Vv. 17, 18). The work of the elders was to take the lead in the assemblies of God's people (N.T.). They are responsible to see that godly order is maintained in public and private. Honour was due to an elder as such; those who did their work well were to be counted worthy of double honour, especially those who, besides caring for the saints, laboured in word and teaching. Moreover, their temporal needs were not to be forgotten. Both the Old Testament and the New are quoted, as having equal authority as Scripture, to press our responsibility to help the labourer ( Deu_25:4 ; Luk_10:7 ).
(V. 19). The elder, by reason of his service, would be more liable than others to misunderstanding and detraction. His having at times to deal with faults in others could lead to resentment and ill-feeling which might manifest itself in malicious accusation. There might, indeed, be just cause for an accusation, but it was not to be received apart from witnesses.
(Vv. 20, 21). Offenders, whether elders or not, whose faults have been fully proved by adequate witnesses, are to be rebuked before all that others may fear. Nevertheless, everything in the way of rebuke is to be done, not simply before others, but “before God” whose house we are, before the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Son over God's house, and before the elect angels who are ministers of those who form the house. Thus the rebuke would be without “prejudice” that would form a judgment without duly considering the whole matter, and without partiality that would prefer one before another.
(d) Care in the expression of fellowship (verse 22)
(V. 22). In Scripture to lay hands on another is the sign of fellowship, rather than the communication of authority as Christendom teaches. False liberality may affect large-heartedness by carelessly extending fellowship to those who are pursuing a wrong course. We may thus put our sanction on evil and partake of other men's sins. We are to keep ourselves pure, an injunction that clear proves we may be defiled by our associations.
(e) Instruction as to bodily needs (verse 23)
(V. 23). The needs of a weak and suffering body are not to be neglected. Timothy was to “use a little wine” on account of his stomach and “frequent illnesses”. Timothy is not blamed for his illnesses, nor is it suggested that their frequent occurrence proves any lack of faith on his part; nor is he exhorted to seek that elders should lay hands on him or even pray for his healing. He is bidden to use an ordinary remedy. Nevertheless, it is “a little wine” and to be used for the sake of a weak stomach. Thus there is no excuse, in the apostle's advice, for taking an excess of wine or using it for mere self-indulgence.
(f) Warning against judging by appearances (verses 24, 25)
(V. 24). In judging of our associations with others we have to guard against being deceived by appearances. The sins of some are so open that there can be no question as to their character and condemnation. Others may be equally evil and yet deceive by a fair show in the flesh. Nevertheless, their sins will pursue them to judgment.
(V. 25). This may be true of those in whom grace has wrought. With some it is obvious that their good works proclaim their true character. Others may be equally the subjects of grace and yet their works may be less public. In due time all will come to light.
As we read the apostle's instructions and warnings we may well take heed to the word, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” ( 1Co_10:12 ). From the exhortations of the chapter it is evident that the believer can fall into a condition in which he lies in habits of self-indulgence (verse 6); he can act in a way that is worse than an unbeliever and thus deny the faith (verse 8); can wax wanton against Christ and thus cast off the first faith (verse 11); can become an idle wanderer from house to house, gossiping and meddling in the affairs of others (verse 13); and can turn aside after Satan (verse 15).
Moreover, as we read the instructions, we learn that those who compose the house of God should seek to live in a way that is good and acceptable before God (verse 4); blameless before men (verse 7); giving no occasion for reproach (verse 14).
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29