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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
1 Timothy 5

 

 

Verse 1

PART THIRD.

APOSTOLIC PRECEPTS, 1 Timothy 5:1 to 1 Timothy 6:21

1. Supervisory duties to different classes, 1 Timothy 5:1 to 1 Timothy 6:10.

a. To different ages, 1 Timothy 5:1, 1 Timothy 5:2, and to beneficiary widows; the elderly, 1 Timothy 5:3-10, the youngerly, 1 Timothy 5:11-16.

1. Rebuke—Literally, smite; by inferential meaning smite with rebuke.

Elder—Whether in office or age. The antithesis with younger shows, that after writing the word Paul extends it specifically to age. Though his youth was not to be allowed to be despised, yet must he treat the aged with the deference due from youth.

Younger… brethren—The air and spirit of loving brotherhood should endear him to his coequals.


Verse 2

2. Mothers—So that all these successive terms of relation render the Church a holy family.

All purity—A caution of momentous importance to all young ministers. Toward these sisters of his own age an avoidance of coquetries, familiar freedoms, is due to his own position as a minister. Sad experiences have shown the folly and guilt of neglecting here a safe reserve.

The widows first awakened the Jerusalem Church to the need of sub-apostolic organization, (Acts 6:1-6,) and called the deacons into existence. In an age when men are called to war and subjected to massacre, the widows would form a large and dependent class, and the number of claimants would require their subjection to scrutiny and sifting.


Verse 3

3. Honour—Rightly appreciate after due scrutiny.

Widows indeed—Real and not spurious widows. To a real widow three things were requisite: first, actual death of husband; second, actual destitution, with no relatives to support her; and, third, worthiness as member of the Church.


Verse 4

4. Children or nephews—Who are able, should show piety enough at home to keep them from burdening the Church.

Nephews—Rather, grandchildren. The apostle’s let them learn, implies that these relatives are members of the Church, and may be by the Church required to do their duty under pain of the penalty implied in 1 Timothy 5:8.

RequiteRecompense returns; so expressed to show that the care for feeble parentage is not a mere benevolence, but a repayment, and so a binding duty.

Their parents—Or, progenitors; including grandparents, or any higher living progenitors in direct line. In countries where women marry in extreme youth, great-grandchildren at sixty are no rare occurrence.


Verse 5

5. Now—St. Paul now gives tests for the scrutiny of a widow indeed. She is, first, desolate; that is, left alone by the death of her husband and the non-existence of any progeny to support her. She is, second, truly pious:

for she trusteth, and continueth in fervent, devout duties. By night, instead of revelry, like the wanton widow; by day, instead of wandering, 1 Timothy 5:13, in gossip.


Verse 6

6. The spurious widow, that liveth in pleasure—not necessarily unchaste, but gay and prodigal—is dead to all Christian life, while she liveth a free secular life.


Verse 7

7. These things—This important discrimination between the genuine and the spurious widows.

Charge—For it concerns not only the good economy of the Church, but it concerns the spiritual well-being of the women themselves.

That they may be blameless—That the women of the Church may not be dead, but living blameless examples of Christianity.


Verse 8

8. But—Turning from the widows toward those relatives who may be in duty bound to support them.

If any—Professing Christian person.

Provide not for his own—Comprehending all whom, according to the dictates of natural affection, he ought to aid.

Own house—In the direct line of ancestry and descendants.

Denied the faith—For the faith confesses that the duties of natural love shall be richly felt and truly performed. His conduct truly proclaims to the heathen world that Christianity does not require faithfulness to the most sacred ties.

Worse than an infidel—An unbeliever. For the very heathen often obey the law written on the heart, and are kindly affectioned toward their own; but these break not only this divine-natural law, but the fifth law of the decalogue, and the law in the gospel.


Verse 9

9. First, the required age.

Taken into the number—Of Church widows, to be supported by contributions. The Greek may signify, enrolled in a catalogue, and clearly implies a definite number; namely, genuine widows, Church-supported. There is here no intimation of their being deaconesses, or eldresses; or as being ordained, or having any duties to perform. They appear as simply beneficiaries of the Church bounty.

Threescore years old—Earlier than that age, there is a physical capability of self-support, and if a widow younger than that is in distress, she would be temporarily aided, not as an enrolled and permanent widow, but like any other immediately needy person.

Wife of one man—The 1 Timothy 5:9-10, prescribe what a true widow’s previous history is required to be. First, her marriage relations must be without complication; at any rate since her conversion. For the practice of polyandry, as Fairbairn shows, was by no means rare. President Wolsey says, that even after Christianity obtained ascendency in the Roman empire, “divorce by mutual consent kept its ground all the way down to Justinian.” When Justinian attempted to limit divorce by law to cases of unchastity, such marital plots and poisonings took place that he was obliged to relax the law in the interests of public morality. How in such states of society a woman became more than the wife of one man, is illustrated by the following words of Conybeare: “In the corrupt facility of divorce allowed by both Greek and Roman law, it was very common for man and wife to separate, and marry other parties during the life of each other. Thus, a man might have three or four living wives, or women who had successively been his wives. An example of this may be found in the English colony of Mauritius, where the French revolutionary law of divorce had been left unrepealed by the English Government; and it is not uncommon to meet in society three or four women who have all been wives of one man, and three or four men who have all been husbands of one woman. This successive rather than simultaneous polygamy is perhaps forbidden here.” See note, 1 Timothy 3:2.


Verses 9-15

9-15. What cases shall upon scrutiny be enrolled as widows indeed, 9, 10, and what cases not, 11-16.


Verse 10

10. Second qualification, good Christian housewifery while her husband lived. Of course, the general picture implies that the individual reach this standard so far as circumstances enabled.

Good works—The general term of which next follow the specifications.

Brought up children—Had been a good and dutiful mother.

Lodged strangers—Hospitable, especially to Christian visitors.

Washed… feet—The ordinary hospitable act for the traveller over the tropical sands, and so put as symbol for hearty service rendered by the housewife to the comer.

Every good work—Landing where the catalogue of good qualities started.


Verse 11

11. Cases to be rejected as not widows indeed, and so not to be permanently enrolled.

Younger widows—As able, usually, to support themselves; or likely to get a husband to support them.

Refuse—Reject from the college of superannuated widows entitled to support.

For—It is of the first importance that the enrolled widowhood should possess the perfect veneration of the Church, since nothing would more surely arrest the contributions and break up the institution than a suspicion in the Church that its money went to a lot of wanton flirts.

When they… wax wanton—The verb wax wanton refers to the sexual impulse arising from vigorous middle life. Under its influences not apostasy, but a wandering from Christ, and (1 Timothy 5:13) idleness and dissipation, result.

They will marry—Rather, they will, or determine, to marry. The apostle does not say or mean that the marrying itself is against Christ. On the contrary, (1 Timothy 5:14,) he decides that it is the best thing they can do. But, first, the marriage, in such a case, results from an undevout mental state, scandalizing and endangering to the venerable college; and it results in an inroad by marriage upon the enrolment, indicating that it need not and should not have been made. It is, in general, better that the younger widows be turned over to matrimony, (1 Timothy 5:14,) possible or probable, than be enrolled.


Verse 12

12. Having damnation—Rather, the judgment of their own conscience that (not because) they have, etc. Not because they marry, but because of the apostate state of mind and behaviour which resulted in the marriage, and of which the marriage was, perhaps, the best remedy.

First faith— Like the first love of Ephesus. Revelation 2:4. The word faith here is taken by the great body of commentators to signify a vow taken by the widow on enrolment, or ordination as eldress or deaconess, including obligation of celibacy. But, 1. The word never signifies vow, so far as our investigation goes, in the New Testament. 2. If these were an order of eldresses or deaconesses the description of them should have taken place in the third chapter. 3. It seems a most reasonable conclusion that this widow list was simply a continuation, or rather recurrence, of the beneficiary widowhood of Acts 6:1-6, which existed before any official class existed except the apostles, and was, therefore, itself no official class.


Verse 13

13. Withal—That is, additionally, or, at the same time. Wandering like gossips from house to house in order, as tattlers and meddlesome busy-bodies, to retail scandal.


Verse 14

14. I will—Spoken apostolically; I decide.

The adversary—Not the devil, but the assailant, whoever he may be, of Christianity.


Verse 15

15. Some—The apostle has obviously drawn his picture from actual life. Indeed, the when they wax wanton of 1 Timothy 5:11 implies that such was the character of the women of the period that it would be the probable course of all alike; and that nothing but marriage or age was likely to keep them in order.


Verse 16

16. Have widows—Spoken of the younger widows, as 1 Timothy 5:8 refers rather to the support of elder widows.

Let them—Referring to the any man or woman; that is, the son or daughter, or other relative able to maintain the widow.

Widows indeed—Note on 1 Timothy 5:3.


Verse 17

b. To elders, their stipend, trial, ordination, and purity, 1 Timothy 5:17-25.

17. Double honour—A double appreciation, or apprisal, showing itself not only in respect, but in means of support. He who expended most time and labour, would need and deserve most remuneration. That compensation is here included is agreed by critics and confirmed by Paul’s reasons assigned in the next verse.

Labour in the word and doctrine— This may mean that there were two kinds of elders, namely, ruling elders and preaching elders; or it may simply mean that some were more efficient than others. The former supposes a distinction of office, the latter a difference in the men. The former is not the necessary meaning; and this passage is hardly sufficient to show a twofold office.


Verse 18

18. Ox that treadeth—Rather, the ox when he treadeth. Deuteronomy 25:14. A precept of humanity to man as well as mercy to the ox, and in its application to the elder a principle, a portion of justice and right.

The labourer is worthy—The words are found in Luke 10:7, and seem to be a quotation thence. Yet as it is introduced with the Scripture saith, Alford and others prefer to believe that Paul would not call the gospel of Luke Scripture, and so conclude that it is simply a general proverb adduced both by Jesus and Paul. Wordsworth, however, thinks that as Peter styled Paul’s writings Scriptures, Paul might be supposed so to style Luke’s gospel. We believe that the gospel of Luke was at this time published— was known to Paul; and we see no reason to doubt that the words of Jesus were by him known to be there recorded. It would be no wonder that the apostle should style the recorded words of Christ Scripture. So much for the compensation of elders.


Verse 19

19. Trial of elders.

Two or three witnesses—Moses (Deuteronomy 19:15) required that number of witnesses to condemn a man; St. Paul requires that number to even put an elder on trial. The character of the man demanded a double amount of presumption against him.


Verse 20

20. Them of the elders that sin and are proved as sinning by the due witnesses, it is Timothy’s duty to rebuke before all. It is doubtful whether the all refers to the other elders or all the congregation. The obvious antithesis could refer it to the others of the elders.


Verse 21

21. Elect angels—Clearly in contrast from the reprobate angels; equivalent, therefore, to holy angels.

Without preferring—Rather, without pre-judgment, or prejudice against either one.

Partiality— Prejudgment in favour of either one.


Verse 22

22. Of care in ordination.

Suddenly—Without full investigation into the fitness of the candidate.

Partaker… sins—By introducing unworthy men into the sacred ministry, for whose sins thou wouldst be responsible.

Keep thyself pure—And so wilt thou secure a pure ministry and ministration in the Church, both by proper selection and spotless example.


Verse 23

23. There is no connexion in language between this and the previous verse, but we may imagine one in Paul’s mind. He bids Timothy keep himself pure, and then there arises the image in his mind of the actually pure character of Timothy; his persistent abstinence, for instance, from wine, which is, indeed, injuring his health and so is overdone.

Drink no… water—Rather, Be no longer a water drinker, that is, exclusively. From these words it is clear that, 1. Timothy was totally abstinent from all that could intoxicate; 2. It took an apostle’s authority to induce him to cease abstinence; and, 3. St. Paul authorized the use of alcohol only as medicine.


Verse 24

24. Some men’s sins—Refers back to other men’s sins. Yet 1 Timothy 5:23 is no parenthesis, being a continuation of the subject of keeping pure, that is, from other men’s sins, in promoting them to responsible positions. How shall Timothy find other men’s sins in Church judicature? Some men’s sins will appear open, that is, clear and evident; their antecedents will like witnesses, go beforehand to the ecclesiastical trial and judgment, and convict them. Some men, however, the antecedents do not convict; but they, the sins, with their evidence, will follow after the arraignment, and bring conviction by the proof adduced.


Verse 25

25. Also the good works—Which are the well-known antecedents of some, are manifest beforehand; so that the trial will be only matter of form. The characters of the men refute the charges. They, the good deeds, that are otherwise than previously manifest, cannot be hid; they will come out at last.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-timothy-5.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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