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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 Timothy 5

Verse 3

1 Timothy 5:3. Honour widows To honour here, signifies not only to respect but maintain, as is evident from the context from 1Ti 5:17 and other passages of Scripture: "Respect and maintain the widows, who are (what that word imports) really χηρας, that is, bereaved and desolate."

Verse 4

1 Timothy 5:4. Nephews, Or, grand-children.

Verse 5

1 Timothy 5:5. Night and day. That is, continually; morning and evening, and on every proper occasion, whether by night or by day.

Verse 6

1 Timothy 5:6. But she that liveth in pleasure The Jews had a common saying among them, "that wicked men, while they live, are to be reckoned among the dead." The Pythagoreans built empty tombs for those who had revolted from philosophy; and it was reckoned a beautiful thought in Pythagoras, and other ancient heathens, "that a worthless man is a dead man." That the same thought is not as much admired in St. Paul's writings, in which it is to be taken in a deeply spiritual sense, and is very frequentlyused, can proceed from nothing but an unreasonable partiality for what is of heathen extraction, and a most ungenerous contempt of what is Jewish or Christian, and, above all, from a total ignorance of all genuine religion, and the whole plan of redemption by our Lord Jesus Christ. But, for spiritual remarks on this passage, see the Inferences and Reflections.

Verse 7

1 Timothy 5:7. That they may be blameless. Some would refer this to the widows; but the gender of the word ανεπιληπτοι, rather favours our referring it either to the deacons, or to Timothy's hearers in general; since it is certain that widows were not the only persons who, in so luxurious a city as Ephesus, were in danger of falling into such sensualities as he had been warning them against.

Verse 8

1 Timothy 5:8. For his own, &c.— That is, "for his own relations, and his own domestics;—those of his own family." Denying the faith, is here, according to St. Paul, leading a wicked life, or living and acting contrary to the moral law, which is adopted in the Christian law. Suppose the man of whom the apostle is here speaking, to have been perfectly evangelical in his sentiments; yet, as long as he provided not for his own family, St. Paul declares that such a one had thereby denied the faith; and was so much worse than one guilty of error in speculation, as to be worse even than an infidel himself; for the heathens were sensible of the reasonableness and necessity of taking care of their near relations. Others have interpreted the passage thus: "Every such Christian is in effect an apostate, (as denying the faith seems to import,) and that is worse than being an infidel, because the former sins against greater light and obligations."

Verse 9

1 Timothy 5:9. Be taken into the number, Be put upon the list, is the precise signification of the word καταλεγεσθω . Surely none can imagine that the apostle meant to confine the charity of the church to widows of such an age, and who had all these characters. We must therefore conclude, that he speaks of those who bore the office of deaconesses, who were probably entrusted with the care of entertaining Christian strangers, whether ministers or others; and perhaps of entertaining some poor children, who might be maintained by the alms of the church: and it might be very proper on many accounts, and for very obvious reasons, that this office should be committed only to persons of an advanced age, and such as hadlaid aside all thoughts of marrying again. It is evident, that they who had practised hospitality themselves in their most prosperous days, would be particularly fit for one part of this office, and peculiarly worthy of the countenance which this office gave, and of the trust which it implied. We find that these widows were to be such as had been the wife of one man. It is very certain that second marriages in the general are not condemned by Christianity. The apostle expressly advises the younger widows to marry again, 1 Timothy 5:14.

Verse 10

1 Timothy 5:10. If she have washed the saints' feet, It was an usual piece of civility, as well as a great refreshment in the Eastern countries, to wash a person's feet, or to take care that it should be done for him. See Genesis 18:4; Genesis 19:2.Luke 7:38; Luke 7:38; Luke 7:44.John 5:14-43.5.15; John 5:14-43.5.15.

Verse 11

1 Timothy 5:11. When they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, The word Καταστρηνιασωσι, is a strong expression, which cannot be exactly rendered into English. When these widows grew negligent of their proper duty, sensual affections might prevail upon them; and their credit among Christians being hurt by such an unbecoming conduct, it is very probable that they would even take up with heathen husbands, and so be led to apostatize from Christianity.

Verse 12

1 Timothy 5:12. Having damnation, &c.— Condemnation, which, without repentance, must end in eternal damnation, because they violate, and thereby destroy that living faith, which always produces purity of heart.

Verse 13

1 Timothy 5:13. And withal—to be idle, &c.— And moreover, being idle, they get a habit of rambling from house to house; and are not only idle, but triflers, φλυαροι :—a word derived from the verb φλυειν, which signifies the noise made by water, when it is ready to boil over; and therefore well expresses the inward fermentation (if we may so speak) in the minds of these trifling people, which they vented by unprofitable discourses.

Verse 17

1 Timothy 5:17. Let the elders, &c.— The apostle proceeds to give directions concerning elders, and that under three heads: First, with respect to the provision which the church was to make for them, especially for the diligent among them. Secondly, with respect to Timothy's reproving them, which was not to be done but upon good evidence; and, if well attested, it was to be done publicly, for a warning to others. This being an ungratefulwork, he charges it upon Timothy in the most solemn manner. And then, thirdly, with respect to Timothy's ordaining of elders, he advises that it be done upon mature and deliberate consideration; and particularly upon a full inquiry into their characters. In the midst of these faithful and wise admonitions, he drops some brief directions concerning Timothy's health, as considering his life of great importance to the Christian church, 1 Timothy 5:17-54.5.25. The elders here specified, were perhaps the first-fruits or first converts in the Christian church at Ephesus.

Verse 18

1 Timothy 5:18. The labourer is worthy of his reward. This passage occurs no where in the New Testament, except here and Luke 10:7. St. Luke was the companion of St. Paul, and wrote his gospel, not only under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but, as it were, under the inspection of that apostle; insomuch that some of the ancients have applied that Gospel to St. Paul, and called it his gospel.

Verse 20

1 Timothy 5:20. Them that sin, rebuke This was also according to the custom of the synagogue.

Verse 21

1 Timothy 5:21. And the elect angels, That is, "Those angels, who having kept their stations, when so many of their fellows were seduced by Satan, are now confirmed in a state of immutable felicity, and shall attend our common Lord to the awful judgment of the great day."

Verse 22

1 Timothy 5:22. Lay hands suddenly on no man, "Suddenly and rashly, before his character and qualifications have been fully examined, and thoroughly approv

Verse 23

1 Timothy 5:23. Drink no longer water One cannot forbear reflecting here, how very temperate Timothy must have been, to need an advice of this kind, which amounts to no more than mingling a little wine with his water: and what is said of his many infirmities, compared with the apostle's exhortation to him to be instant in preaching the word, may certainly teach us, that every weakness of constitution is not to be acquiesced in, as an excuse for not going on with the ministry; though, doubtless, great allowances are to be made for bodilyinfirmities; and life itself may often depend upon seasonable interruptions of public labour. The 24th and 25th verses contain reasons for being cautious in ordination, mentioned 1 Timothy 5:22.

Verse 24

1 Timothy 5:24. Some—are open before-hand, &c.— Are notorious, going before to judgment; and some men follow after.

Inferences.—With what respect should the aged, whether men or women, and with what affability and purity should younger people, be cautioned against every sinful practice and avoidable infirmity! The descendants of poor widows ought to treat them with attention, and provide as honourably for them as they can. How unnatural, and how contrary to all the principles of Christianity, and worse than heathenish is it, for gospel professors to neglect their destitute parents and their own families! But if the offspring or pious relations of poor widows are not able to maintain them, the church to which they belong ought to take them under its care. And if any church want good matrons to attend their sick and poor, they may appoint such widows of advanced years to that service, as have obtained a good report, and shewn a humble compassionate regard to the saints and servants of Christ: but young widows ought not to be put into that office, lest, giving themselves up to pleasure, they become idle, tattling, busy-bodies who are the pests of society; and at length renounce their profession of the true faith, and, following the devices of Satan, throw off religious restraints to their own condemnation: they are indeed in the worst sense dead, while they live: but as to poor young widows of better character, instead of their being burdensome to the church, it may be advisable for them to marry believing husbands, who are capable of maintaining them; and to bear and bring up such children in the fear of the Lord, as he may be pleased to give them in his Providence; as also to manage their household business with economy and good housewifery.—How solemn is the charge given in this chapter, to all bishops and pastors, as well as evangelists, in the presence of God and his Christ, and the holy angels, that they faithfully declare these things, and fulfil every part of their office! and though reproofs and censures are the most difficult and grievous duties of their station, yet they are to discharge them with fidelity, and without partiality, whether it be towards church officers or towards private members. But with what care and caution should the bishops or chief pastors of churches proceed in ordinations, lest they themselves share with the ordained in their guilt! And, O! what prudence, tenderness, and courage do they need for conducting themselves, according to the appearances of some people's sins on the one hand, and good deeds on the other, which shew themselves before or after they pass judgment upon them! How arduous, upon the whole, is the ministerial work! and how ought they, who are eminently laborious in preaching and supporting the pure gospel of Christ, to be honoured with great respect and a comfortable maintenance, according to the directions of both the Old and New Testaments. And though they ought to be temperate in all things, they need not confine themselves to drinking water; but may lawfully use wine, with moderation, for the stomach's sake, when their labours and bodily infirmities require it, and it becomes needful for the preservation of their health, and their service in the church.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The apostle proceeds to give Timothy farther directions concerning the needful, though less pleasing, work of rebuke. Ministers are reprovers by office and must be faithful to this trust.

Rebuke not an elder, in years or office (if ought be found in him which demands censure,) with a magisterial air, or an unbecoming severity; but, out of respect to his venerable years, entreat him as a father, to remove the cause of offence: and the younger men as brethren, with all freedom, yet withal in love and meekness: the elder women, as mothers, with due respect; the younger, as sisters, with all purity; avoiding every thought, word, look, or gesture, that has the most distant tendency to evil.

2nd, The apostle particularly directs Timothy, how to behave in the case of widows who applied to be assisted out of the church's stock, and to be employed in pious offices under the direction of the deacons.
1. Honour widows that are widows indeed, really in distress, in need of assistance, and deserving to be placed on the church's list; and these he describes as follows: Now she that it a widow indeed, and desolate, without any friends to support her, trusteth in God, who is the friend of the friendless; and they who cast their care upon him shall not be destitute: and such a one continueth in supplications and prayers night and day; depending upon the Lord's providential help, and shewing her undissembled piety. But she that liveth in pleasure, gayly, idly, and voluptuously, is dead while she liveth; dead to God and godliness, and in no wise to be received of the church, or supported from the common stock. And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless, and that no just offences may call for rebuke or censure. Note; A life of carnal pleasure is a state of real death: the soul there lies entombed in flesh, and such a person is really a living sepulchre.

2. If any widows have near relations capable of providing for them, the church ought not to be burdened with their maintenance. If any widows have children or nephews, or grandchildren, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents, by taking all care of them when labouring under age and infirmities; for that is good and acceptable before God; their bounden duty, and agreeable to his holy will. But if any one who makes profession of the Christian name, refuse that assistance, which in such a case he is bound to afford, and provide not for his own, and specially for these of his own house, (his aged parents, next to his wife and children, claiming a title to maintenance, as parts of that family which depend on him for a provision,) he hath denied the faith, by such a conduct, and is worse than an infidel: even the very heathen will rise up to condemn a conduct so base and unnatural. Therefore if any man or woman that believeth, have widows, mothers, or grandmothers, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may have a sufficiency to relieve them that are widows indeed.

3. He points out the age and qualifications of those who should be entered on the poor's list, or taken into office and employed by the church under the deacons. Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man; well reported of for good works in her former better days; if she have brought up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; if she have lodged strangers, when brought by Providence in her way; if she have washed the saints' feet, condescending to the lower offices of charity; if she have relieved the afflicted, with her help, her counsel, and her substance; if she have diligently followed every good work.

4. But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, as they may be in danger of doing, they will then marry, improperly, perhaps wickedly, into some heathen family; having thus damnation, because they have cast off their first faith, and apostatized from the profession which they once made: and withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house in useless and impertinent visiting; and not only idle, but tattlers also, and busy bodies, officious and talkative, speaking things which they ought not, to the hurt of their neighbour's reputation, and the disturbance of society.

3rdly, The apostle directs Timothy,
1. Concerning the proper maintenance of a gospel ministry. Let the elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double honour, highly esteemed and liberally provided for, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine, whose eminent zeal and diligence require a suitable acknowledgment: for the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn; but as he works, he shall be freely allowed to eat: and our Lord hath said, The labourer is worthy of his reward. Note; The work of the ministry is laborious; and well do they who discharge it with zeal and diligence, deserve a comfortable provision.

2. Concerning the accusation of an elder. Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses of character and credibility; and listen to no base surmises or slanderous suggestions. Them that sin before all, being open, notorious, and scandalous offenders, rebuke before all, publicly and with sharpness, that others also may fear, respecting no man's rank or greatness. I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Judge; and the elect angels, who are the spirits that minister to the heirs of salvation; that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, not prejudging the cause, through favour or affection; doing nothing by partiality, nor suffering any consideration to prejudice or bias your mind for or against any man, but deciding according to truth.

3. Concerning the ordination of ministers. Lay hands suddenly on no man to put him into the ministry, till he has been thoroughly tried, and found faithful, and able; neither be partaker of other mens' sins, by conniving at the intrusion of unfit persons into the sacred office: keep thyself pure from the blood of all men, discountenancing all unbecoming behaviour, and in thy own conversation a pattern of purity and chastity.

4. Concerning his own health. Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake, and thine often infirmities; indefatigable labour and strict abstemiousness probably preyed upon a tender constitution, and required in moderation something more supporting than water, to which he had confined himself. Note; The creatures of God are designed for our use and comfort; only let them be used with moderation; not to pamper the flesh, but so as to enable us the better to fulfil the duties of our station.

5. With regard to censure and ordination, of which he had before spoken, he farther observes, Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and, being notorious, such are to be rejected from the ministry, and laid under the church's censure; and some men they follow after, and though they studiously conceal their sins, yet, on deeper and closer examination, they will after a while come out; and therefore they should not hastily be admitted into sacred orders, without due probation. Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand, their whole character strikingly exemplary, and their ministerial gifts eminent; so that they may be admitted without hesitation: and they that are otherwise cannot be hid; more caution is needful with those whose qualifications are dubious, and it requires some time to make it clear whether they should be received; for, if they are really corrupt in principle or practice, they will soon betray themselves. Note; (1.) Before any be admitted into sacred orders, their character and qualifications should be well examined. An ignorant and scandalous ministry is the greater reproach to any church. (2.) However secretly men may hide their sins, yet usually in time their true character appears, and at least at a judgment-day no veil can hide the workers of iniquity.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.