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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
1 Timothy 5:8

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
New American Standard Bible

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Beneficence;   Commandments;   Husband;   Industry;   Minister, Christian;   Parents;   Women;   Thompson Chain Reference - Care;   Family;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Parents;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Widow;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Ancestors;   Denial;   Faith;   Family;   Widow;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Abortion;   Deacon, Deaconess;   Denial;   Wealth;   Widow;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Alms;   Parents;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Widows;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Aging;   Offices in the New Testament;   Poor, Orphan, Widow;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Infidel;   Ministry;   Widow;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Brotherly Love;   Care, Careful;   Faith;   Family;   Hating, Hatred;   Home;   Timothy and Titus Epistles to;   Widows;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Infidel;   Unbeliever,;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Deaconess;   Widow;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Deacon;   Houses;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Church;   Infidel;   Specially;   Widow;  

Clarke's Commentary

Verse 8. But if any provide not for his own — His own people or relatives.

Those of his own house — That is, his own family, or a poor widow or relative that lives under his roof.

Hath denied the faith — The Christian religion, which strongly inculcates love and benevolence to all mankind.

Is worse than an infidel. — For what are called the dictates of nature lead men to feel for and provide for their own families. Heathen writers are full of maxims of this kind; TACITUS says: Liberos cuique ac propinquos NATURA carissimos esse voluit. "Nature dictates that to every one his own children and relatives should be most dear." And Cicero, in Epist. ad Caption: Suos quisque debet tueri. "Every man should take care of his own family."

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:8". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​acc/1-timothy-5.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


The young, the old and the widows (5:1-16)

It may at times have been difficult for Timothy to deal with those who were older or those who were of the opposite sex. Paul therefore reminds him to be careful how he treats people, and always to show fitting courtesy and to act with moral uprightness (5:1-2).
The church must care for those of its members who are in need. But the church does not have a duty to support financially those elderly people who have children and grandchildren who can look after them. The church should support only the widows who are very poor and who have no one to whom they can turn for help except God (3-5). Other widows, who have found a means of support by turning to a life of pleasure, should be sternly warned, for they are killing their spiritual lives (6-7). Paul repeats that, wherever possible, the widows in the church should be looked after by their own families. Even unbelievers acknowledge they have a responsibility towards elderly parents (8).
Because of its limited finances, the church should limit the number of widows on its welfare list. It should include only those who are over the age of sixty, have been married only once, have promoted Christian standards in their families and households, have demonstrated the servant attitude in their manner of living and have a reputation for good deeds (9-10).

Younger widows should not be included on the church’s welfare list. In past cases some have shown a tendency to remarry hastily and the results have been disastrous. Others have become gossips and busybodies. They would do better to remarry (to those who share their faith; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:39) and so have the responsibility of bringing up children and looking after the home (11-15). In summary, people should look for ways to provide for widows privately rather than to let them become a burden to the church (16).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:8". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bbc/1-timothy-5.html. 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

But if any man provideth not for his own, and specially his own household, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.

Spence has the following comment on this verse:

The circle of those whose support and sustenance were the responsibility of the Christian is here enlarged. Not merely parents and grandparents, but "he must assist those of his own house." Even dependents connected with the family who may have fallen into poverty and neglect are included. H. D. M. Spence, op. cit., p. 202.

Charity begins at home, and so do all other obligations of the Christian life. As White said:

One of the most subtle temptations of the devil is his suggestion that we can best comply with the demands of duty in some place far away from home. Jesus always said, "Do the next thing; begin at Jerusalem, etc." The path of duty begins from within our own house, and we must walk it on our own street. Newport J. D. White, Expositor’s Greek Testament, Vol. IV (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 128.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:8". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bcc/1-timothy-5.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

But if any provide not for his own - The apostle was speaking 1 Timothy 5:4 particularly of the duty of children toward a widowed mother. In enforcing that duty, he gives the subject, as he often does in similar cases, a general direction, and says that all ought to provide for those who were dependent on them, and that if they did not do this, they had a less impressive sense of the obligations of duty than even the pagan had. On the duty here referred to, compare Romans 12:17 note; 2 Corinthians 8:21 note. The meaning is, that the person referred to is to think beforehand (προνοεἶ pronoei) of the probable needs of his own family, and make arrangements to meet them. God thus provides for our needs; that is, he sees beforehand what we shall need, and makes arrangements for those needs by long preparation. The food that we eat, and the raiment that we wear, he foresaw that we should need, and the arrangement for the supply was made years since, and to meet these needs he has been carrying forward the plans of his providence in the seasons; in the growth of animals; in the formation of fruit; in the bountiful harvest. So, according to our measure, we are to anticipate what will be the probable needs of our families, and to make arrangements to meet them. The words “his own,” refer to those who are naturally dependent on him, whether living in his own immediate family or not. There may be many distant relatives naturally dependent on our aid, besides those who live in our own house.

And specially for those of his own house - Margin, “kindred.” The word “house,” or “household,” better expresses the sense than the word “kindred.” The meaning is, those who live in his own family. They would naturally have higher claims on him than those who did not. They would commonly be his nearer relatives, and the fact, from whatever cause, that they constituted his own family, would lay the foundation for a strong claim upon him. He who neglected his own immediate family would be more guilty than he who neglected a more remote relative.

He hath denied the faith - By his conduct, perhaps, not openly. He may be still a professor of religion and do this; but he will show that he is imbued with none of the spirit of religion, and is a stranger to its real nature. The meaning is, that he would, by such an act, have practically renounced Christianity, since it enjoins this duty on all. We may hence learn that it is possible to deny the faith by conduct as well as by words; and that a neglect of doing our duty is as real a denial of Christianity as it would be openly to renounce it. Peter denied his Lord in one way, and thousands do the same thing in another. He did it in words; they by neglecting their duty to their families, or their duty in their closets, or their duty in attempting to send salvation to their fellow-men, or by an openly irreligious life. A neglect of any duty is so far a denial of the faith.

And is worse than an infidel - The word here does not mean an infidel, technically so called, or one who openly professes to disbelieve Christianity, but anyone who does not believe; that is, anyone who is not a sincere Christian. The word, therefore, would include the pagan, and it is to them, doubtless, that the apostle particularly refers. They acknowledged the obligation to provide for their relatives. This was one of the great laws of nature written on their hearts, and a law which they felt bound to obey. Few things were inculcated more constantly by pagan moralists than this duty. Gelgacus, in Tacitus, says, “Nature dictates that to every one, his own children and relatives should be most dear.” Cicero says, “Every man should take care of his own family “ - suos quisque debet tueri; see Rosenmuller, in loc., and also numerous examples of the same kind quoted from Apuleius, Cicero, Plutarch, Homer, Terence, Virgil, and Servius, in Pricaeus, in loc. The doctrine here is:

(1)That a Christian ought not to be inferior to an unbeliever in respect to any virtue;

(2)That in all that constitutes true virtue he ought to surpass him;

(3)That the duties which are taught by nature ought to be regarded as the more sacred and obligatory from the fact that God has given us a better religion; and,

(4)That a Christian ought never to give occasion to an enemy of the gospel to point to a man of the world and say, “there is one who surpasses you in any virtue.”

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:8". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bnb/1-timothy-5.html. 1870.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

8And if any person do not provide for his own Erasmus has translated it, “If any woman do not provide for her own,” making it apply exclusively to females. But I prefer to view it as a general statement; for it is customary with Paul, even when he is treating of some particular subject, to deduce arguments from general principles, and, on the other hand, to draw from particular statements a universal doctrine. And certainly it will have greater weight, if it apply both to men and to women.

He hath denied the faith (90) He says that they who do not care about any of their relatives, and especially about their own house, have “denied the faith.” And justly; for there is no piety towards God, when a person can thus lay aside the feelings of humanity. Would faith, which makes us the sons of God, render us worse than brute beasts? Such inhumanity, therefore, is open contempt of God, and denying of the faith.

Not content with this, Paul heightens the criminality of their conduct, by saying, that he who forgets his own is worse than an infidel This is true for two reasons. First, the further advanced any one is in the knowledge of God, the less is he excused; and therefore, they who shut their eyes against the clear light of God are worse than infidels. Secondly, this is a kind of duty which nature itself teaches; for they are (στοργαὶ φυσικαί) natural affections. And if, by the mere guidance of nature, infidels are so prone to love their own, what must we think of those who are not moved by any such feeling? Do they not go even beyond the ungodly in brutality? If it be objected, that, among unbelievers, there are also many parents that are cruel and savage; the explanation is easy, that Paul is not speaking of any parents but those who, by the guidance and instruction of nature, take care of their own offspring; for, if any one have degenerated from that which is so perfectly natural, he ought to be regarded as a monster.

It is asked, Why does the Apostle prefer the members of the household to the children? I answer, when he speaks of his own and especially those of his household, by both expressions he denotes the children and grandchildren. For, although children may have been transferred, or may have passed into a different family by marriage, or in any way may have left the house of the parents; yet the right of nature is not altogether extinguished, so as to destroy the obligation of the older to govern the younger as committed to them by God, or at least to take care of them as far as they can. Towards domestics, the obligation is more strict; for they ought to take care of them for two reasons, both because they are their own blood, and because they are a part of the family which they govern.

(90)Ou, il a renonce’ a la foy.” — “Or, he hath renounced the faith.”

Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:8". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​cal/1-timothy-5.html. 1840-57.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Shall we turn now in our Bibles to First Timothy chapter five? Paul is a spiritual father to Timothy, Timothy's mentor. He looks upon him as a son; in fact, he calls him his son in the faith. Timothy has been left in Ephesus to oversee the church that Paul established there. While he is in Ephesus, Paul wrote to him this epistle. And in this epistle, he seeks to instruct Timothy in things of the church.

In a Bible doctrine class in seminary, you would have a subject known as Ecclesiology. And they use the epistles of Thessalonians and Timothy for their Ecclesiology classes. For as Paul said in verse fifteen, how that he has written these things in order that he might know how he ought to behave in the house of the Lord.

So as we get to chapter five, he deals first of all with Timothy's behavior towards the elders, men, the younger men, the elder women, and the younger women.

Rebuke not an elder ( 1 Timothy 5:1 ),

Timothy was a younger man. He told him don't let any man despise thy youth. And here Paul is telling him not to rebuke an elder.

but entreat him as a father ( 1 Timothy 5:1 );

Looking upon him as a father and talk to him as you would a father, entreat him as you would a father. Older people, I think, naturally resent being told by younger people what they ought to do or being rebuked by younger people. So Paul said, Don't rebuke them, entreat him as a father.

and the younger men as brothers ( 1 Timothy 5:1 );

There is a right way and a wrong way of calling a person's attention to a failure in their walk. The wrong way engenders strife, resentment. The way I present it to a person can create an animosity. Be careful that we don't build walls and barriers by the way in which we seek to correct someone. In dealing with the younger men, Paul said entreat them like a brother; treat the older men like fathers.

The elder women as mothers; and the younger as sisters, with all purity ( 1 Timothy 5:2 ).

Timothy was evidently unmarried. Paul tells him in another place to flee youthful lusts. Treat the younger women like sisters. And then,

Honour widows that are widows indeed ( 1 Timothy 5:3 ).

And now Paul seeks to define for Timothy who are the true widows.

If any widow have children or ( 1 Timothy 5:4 )

The word "nephew" should be translated "grandchildren,"

let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God ( 1 Timothy 5:4 ).

So the first responsibility and Paul will repeat this again, for the welfare and the care of the widows lies upon the children and the grandchildren. Now the church did take upon itself the responsibility of caring for the needy within the body. It was a part of the ministry of the church.

You remember in Acts chapter six, where the Grecians came to the apostles and they complained that their widows were not being dealt with as bountifully as were the Hellenists, as were the Hebrews at the administration of the church's welfare program. And so there was a taking care of the widows by the church. But Paul seeks to define who are really qualified to come under the care of the church. If a widow had children or grandchildren, then it was their primary and first responsibility to take care of their needs.

Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate ( 1 Timothy 5:5 ),

Now these are the ones that the church is to take care of. One who is a "widow indeed, and desolate,"

who's trusting in God, and is continuing in supplications and prayers night and day ( 1 Timothy 5:5 ).

And that is really the qualification for those widows that were to be taken care of by the church. They really were given a ministry within the church, and the ministry within the church was the ministry of intercessory prayer. And so they "trusted in God, and were continuing in supplications and prayers night and day" for the church and the work of the church.

How grateful we are for those prayers of the older women within the church. I really feel a tremendous loss here at Calvary with the death of many of these older women who held the church up in prayer continually. We had a blessed group of older women, many of them widows, who have now gone to be with the Lord, but who had this special ministry of prayer and supplication night and day.

Paul said in contrast to those,

Those that are living in pleasure are dead while they still live ( 1 Timothy 5:6 ).

I think that one of the most reprehensible things going is a dirty old woman. Now, I think that dirty old men are bad, too. But you know, there's something about an older lady that there should have developed that softness and that beauty. And you see some beautiful older lady who is a grandmotherly type and then you hear her talk and she's using profanity and all, and there's just something that doesn't set right. It's just not there. You know, I think that you usually think of the older women as mothers and, the way that some of them talk or act, it's just really reprehensible. And one of the saddest things is to see in Las Vegas these old ladies standing there at these one-armed bandits just working those things all day long, with a cigarette hanging out of their mouth, you know. I mean, that just isn't in my mind the picture of what old ladies ought to be doing.

There is a beauty that comes to that older woman who has been walking with the Lord. There's almost a sacredness. I love to just sit down and share with those who have been walking with the Lord through the years. And from their mouth there pours the richness of God's love and God's goodness through the years. Widows indeed.

But those that are living for pleasure, those poor gals in Vegas, they're dead, Paul said, while they're still alive. I mean, they may still be breathing but man, they're dead and so is anybody who lives for pleasure, spiritually dead though they still may be alive.

And these things [Paul said] give in charge, that they may be blameless. For if any provide not for his own, specially those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel ( 1 Timothy 5:7-8 ).

That is, if they do not take care of the members of their own family, if they do not take care of the needs of those of their own family, really they have denied the faith. Honor thy father and mother, the Scriptures said. And you've denied the faith if you refuse to take care of your elderly parents and grandparents.

Let not a widow be taken into the number under sixty years of age, having been the wife of one man ( 1 Timothy 5:9 ),

Now this special ministry for widows, it seemed to be a ministry that was set aside in the church, and it was something that was an honored position. It was more or less a lifetime commitment by the older women to really give themselves to the burden of prayer and the prayer ministry for the church, and there was almost an office for the widows of the ministry of prayer. They were supported by the church. They were put on the church's payroll and their duty was just to continue night and day in prayer and supplication for the church. And I'll tell you, the church would be wise to hire the widows to do that, be profited by that kind of a ministry. A lot more than probably some of these young men that we put on staff who don't know quite yet what they're doing. If we had some widows that we put on staff just to pray for the church, a valuable asset. Any of you widows looking for a job?

So let the widow not be taken into the number; that is, the special ministry group who are cared for by the church, who are under sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband who are,

Well reported for their good works ( 1 Timothy 5:10 );

These are the qualifications. They've got to have a good report that they have been doing good works.

if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work ( 1 Timothy 5:10 ).

Great qualifications. Then there was the special area of ministry for them. But Paul said the younger widows, don't take them into this special company.

Refuse them: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; Having [not damnation, but condemnation], because they have cast off their first faith ( 1 Timothy 5:11-12 ).

So Paul says that the younger widows should marry. If they are brought into this special company in ministry within the church, and then should leave that, fall in love and so forth, having made that commitment to Christ, having put the hand to the plough; turning back, they would feel condemned. Not good. It is better that they just go ahead and marry and bear children and all and not be brought into this special company of ministering widows within the church. For if the church is taking care of them,

They're apt to be just going around from house to house becoming idle, and tattlers and busybodies, speaking about things that they should not be speaking. So better that they marry, have the responsibility of bearing their children, guiding their houses, and then gives no occasion for the enemy to speak reproachfully. For [he said] some are already turned aside after Satan. Now if any man or woman that believes has widows, let them take care of them, and not the church be charged; that they may take care of them that are widows indeed. Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in word and doctrine ( 1 Timothy 5:13-17 ).

Now this indicates that there were other ministries for the older men besides just teaching the word and teaching doctrine, but these older men, these older saints accounted worthy of double honor. Again, even as the older women are a tremendous blessing to the church, so those older men who have walked with the Lord for years can be a tremendous blessing to the church. How I thank God for the ministry of the older men in this church. The blessing that they are, the ministry that they have and they should be accounted worthy of double honor.

For the scripture says, You are not to muzzle the ox that treads out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his hire ( 1 Timothy 5:18 ).

So the double honor to the older men. Then,

And against an elder receive not an accusation, unless there be at least two or three witnesses ( 1 Timothy 5:19 ).

Don't take one person's word for it; let there be two or three witnesses.

Them that sin rebuke before all, that others may also fear ( 1 Timothy 5:20 ).

Now I'm afraid that if the church practiced this open public rebuke of the sinners, it would create, no doubt, a fear but it might also create an empty church. You remember when the woman was brought to Jesus, taken in the act of adultery and they said, Our law says stone her, what do you say? And Jesus said, Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. And He began to write on the ground; it doesn't tell us what, but I feel certain that He was writing the names of the individuals and the sins they were guilty of. And it says they began to leave from the eldest to the youngest until there was none left. And if there was an open rebuke for sin, and we started going down naming everybody and naming the sins, it would create fear, I'm sure, within the church.

When I was a young man there was a man that I admired very much. I admired his ministry, Dr. Claire Britain. He was a medical doctor as well as a minister. And at a summer camp, I listened to him one year and he was saying that he could look into a young person's eyes, and the eyes are so revealing. They tell everything that the young person is guilty of; it's all there in their eyes. Man, I was afraid to look at him. Didn't want him to see everything that was there.

Now I charge thee [Paul said] before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that you observe these things without preferring one before another, do nothing by partiality ( 1 Timothy 5:21 ).

We are all of us children of God. And as such, each of you are equally important to God. There are no second-class heavenly citizens. To you, I mean, to Jesus you are as important as anybody else, and it is the church's business to follow the example of Christ and to show love, appreciation, honor, respect, and all, to everyone without partiality. We're not to say, Hey, he's got big bucks, you know, treat him good, and the church is guilty of sin before God. Paul is pretty straight with it. "I charge you before God and before Jesus Christ and before the elect angels." I mean, it's a heavy-duty charge. Don't show partiality, treat everyone alike.

How opposite that is from the natural tendency, if someone is a professional person; Oh, he's a doctor. Oh, he's a chief of police. Oh, he's a lawyer, or something, and oh, he's very wealthy, you know. And there is that tendency to, oh, you know, show little favors and oh, why don't you come sit at our table, you know.

James also wrote saying have no respect of persons. "God is no respecter of persons" ( Romans 2:11 ). And we're not to have respect of persons. James says, Hey, someone comes in, you know, and they're well-dressed and you know, wearing diamonds and all, he says, you say, Hey, come on down, take this nice seat down here. Some guy comes in rags, you say, Hey, sit in the corner, man. And he said that's wrong. You see, in the eyes of the Lord we are all the same. God doesn't look upon me with any greater favor or honor or anything than He looks upon you. It is a tragic thing that the church has set up certain men that we say, Oh well, you know, look how close he is to God. We are equally close to God. We are equally in God's favor. God is no respecter of man's person. And we are not to be, either. So doing nothing by partiality.

Now lay hands suddenly on no man ( 1 Timothy 5:22 ),

What does that mean? Don't come up and say, hey, you know, lay hands on me suddenly and shock. No, he's talking now in the laying on of hands for the ordaining of a person for a ministry within the body of Christ. Let a person sort of prove themselves, don't be quick to ordain people to a particular task. Oh, glad to see you here this morning. Here, take this Sunday school book; we need a teacher for our sixth grade class, you know. A lot of churches feel that you got to lock the person into a job, you know, get them involved, you know, and hold them. But Paul said, "Don't lay hands on." You know, it's a lot easier to get people in than it is to get them out. And a tragic thing has taken --has happened in the church, and without really learning the individual, ordaining them for particular tasks or particular job, and then you can rule that quickness of judgment for a long time. So don't lay hands on any man suddenly.

and neither be a partaker of other men's sins: keep yourself pure ( 1 Timothy 5:22 ).

Hey, that's not just good exhortation for Timothy; that's good for all of us. Keep ourselves pure. Now this is for Timothy.

Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine oft infirmities ( 1 Timothy 5:23 ).

Most of the people in that culture and in that day did drink wine. The wine that they drank was a mixture of water and wine, three parts of water, two parts of wine. And it was as common, as water as far as a drink was concerned, because in many of the areas the water was polluted. It would be like someone going down to Mexico and writing back and saying, Oh, man, I've got, you know, Montezuma's revenge, you know. And you know, so you would write to them and say, Hey, you better drink cokes or something, you know, instead of that water. You know, drink a little wine for your stomach's sake, for this dysentery and so forth. And that's basically what Paul is suggesting to Timothy.

Now this is to me quite interesting, however. In that I have no doubt that of those men in the New Testament who had the gifts of the Holy Spirit in operation in their life, the gift of miracles, healings and all, certainly Paul ranks with the chiefest of the apostles in the ministry gifts of the Spirit. Paul had many miracles wrought through his ministry. Paul had, I'm sure, the gift of faith, the gift of working of miracles, gifts of healing working through his life. And yet here is his son in the faith, Timothy.

Now when Paul was in Ephesus, they took his aprons and his sweatbands and they laid them on the sick people and they were healed. Why didn't Paul just anoint the handkerchief and send it to Timothy and say, Sleep on this? Now I am certain that Paul had prayed for Timothy's stomach disorders. And there are indications that Timothy was a very feeble person and was a sickly person, yet a companion of Paul. The question, why didn't God heal Timothy? Why was he allowed to be sickly? Why would Paul write sort of a medical, physical prescription for his ailment rather than just pray for his healing? I am convinced that Paul did pray for Timothy's healing. But nonetheless, Timothy wasn't healed.

I believe the reason why is that we would not be caught up in that kind of heresy that we'd say, Well, brother, you're still sick because there's some sin in your life. Or you're still sick because you just don't have enough faith. Or you're sick because you have this personal problem or something of that nature. To keep us from that kind of foolish, unscriptural speculation, we have the case of Timothy, a close associate, companion, son of Paul in the faith who Paul is giving some just, pure advice to, from a physical level for his oft sicknesses rather than having a divine touch of God and a healing upon his body.

God does not heal in every case. And in those cases where God doesn't heal, God has a purpose for not healing. It is not the lack of faith. It is not something wrong in the life of the individual. There is something within those eternal purposes of God that we cannot, do not, and will not understand. And I am thoroughly opposed to that kind of teaching that if you will follow this formula, you will be healed, and then that person who has this chronic illness feels constantly guilty. There's something wrong with me, something wrong with my relationship with God. Why aren't I healed you know, what's wrong with me? And actually you are kicking a person when they are down if you lay some kind of heavy trip on them that way. Oh, brother, you know, there's just got to be something wrong, you know. If you just had enough faith it would happen to you, too.

There's an interesting scripture concerning Jesus that we do not understand in our modern culture today. It said concerning Jesus, "A bruised reed he would not break" ( Isaiah 42:3 ). To put that into a modern vernacular would be; He would not kick a man who is down. That's what meant by "a bruised reed he would not break." He wouldn't kick a man when he's down.

Paul himself had an affliction, which he prayed three times that God would deliver him from it. God finally answered, but not by delivering him but by just giving him the grace to endure it, declaring, "My grace is sufficient for you: my strength will be made perfect in your weakness" ( 2 Corinthians 12:9 ). So let us not be guilty of judging wrongly. Or of laying some heavy burden upon someone who is already burdened because of their illnesses, because of their weaknesses. Let us just recognize that God doesn't heal in every case. Now God does heal in some cases, He doesn't heal in other cases. Why He heals some and does not heal others is totally bound up in the sovereignty of God. As the Holy Spirit divides to each man severally as He wills of the gifts of the Spirit.

So Paul is encouraging Timothy for the stomach problem just drink a little wine. Don't drink that water anymore, dangerous stuff. I understand when they come to the United States from Mexico they always warn them, now don't drink the water. It's because we have different amoebas here than they do down there, and they get the same kind of problems from our water that we get from theirs. It's just that they become immuned to those amoebas in their water as we have become immuned to the amoebas. Hey, we don't have the purest water in the world, believe me.

Now he said,

Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after. Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid ( 1 Timothy 5:24-25 ).

In other words, before you meet the person, often you hear about them and their sins have gone before them. People have told you, Oh hey, he's done this and he's done that and all. Before he ever comes and you meet him or he confesses whatever, you've already heard of what he has done. That happens so many times. A person comes to confess something and you've already heard it from two or three persons. And the same thing with a person's good works, they also go before them. Or people have shared with you, Oh, he's really, you know, outstanding and this, that or the other, and you hear of them before you meet them. Their works precede them. They're manifest beforehand, cannot be hid.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:8". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​csc/1-timothy-5.html. 2014.

Contending for the Faith


Paul deals with social, family, and spiritual relationships in the three divisions of this chapter. In the first section--verses 1-2

--the Apostle Paul teaches about the relationships between the younger and the older in the church.

The second division--verses 3-16--contains directives primarily about the care of widows but also about other areas of family responsibility.

Then in the third division--verses 17-25--Paul draws a contrast between elders who rule well and elders who sin. He concludes by explaining how elders in each category are to be dealt with.

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:8". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​ctf/1-timothy-5.html. 1993-2022.

Contending for the Faith

Qualifications of a Widow Indeed

Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless. But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. 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; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.

Paul has in mind a certain category of widows when he discusses their being supported by the church, and he here outlines the qualifications they must meet before being considered for support. In the midst of those qualifications, he inserts two warnings, in verses 7 and 8.

these things give in charge: Paul here commands Timothy to "make solemn warning" concerning these qualifications and guidelines.

But if any provide not for his own: "For his own" refers to relatives in general.

those of his own house: This phrase refers to one’s immediate family.

denied the faith: Paul issues the warning that the man who does not provide for his family has rejected the faith; that is, he has done contrary to the essence of the Christian faith. An essential component of a Christian’s life is to provide honorably for his own. To reject this part of the Christian’s belief renders his entire set of standards void and useless. This teaching has no application to the disabled but refers to the able-bodied individual who is too lazy and selfish to provide for his own relatives.

worse than an infidel: This phrase simply means that even the unbelievers provide for their families. Therefore, the Christian who will not do so is worse than an unbeliever.

The subject of providing for one’s family is directly applicable to what Paul says to Timothy about support for the widow. Paul shows that certain desolate widows should be supported; not included in this number are those who are the responsibility of their faithful Christian relatives.

Let not a widow be taken into the number: This phrase in verse 9 is essential in understanding this section of the study. The "number" necessarily implies that there is a certain class or category of widows whose entire living is to be supplied by the church. Any woman whose husband has died may be considered; however, only those who meet the following guidelines Paul begins laying down in verse 5 may be selected to receive their living from the church.

desolate: The first qualification for a widow who is to receive support is that she be "desolate," that is, abandoned or forsaken. If a widow has children who are not members of the church but are willing to care for her, then she is not in need. But if unbelieving children have abandoned her, the church is obligated. Paul makes it clear that the rule of caring for one’s own applies to believers, because he adds in verse 16, "If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged, that it may relieve them that are widows indeed." A widow is not desolate when she (a) has believing children since they are commanded to care for her, (b) has unbelieving children who will care for her, (c) has been provided for through trusts, savings accounts, or life insurance left her by her husband, or (d) has her own pension or government assistance.

trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayer night and day: This rule must be understood in contrast to the next phrase.

But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth: One whose highest purpose in life is the pursuit of pleasure is spiritually dead. The church would be squandering funds to support such a person, for the funds given to her would be spent on frivolities. Therefore, the widow worthy of support trusts in God and proves her trust by a habit of prayer and supplication.

supplications and prayer: "Supplications" means requests or pleas for help of one who is capable of supplying. "Prayer" is a broader term that may include thanksgiving. The person who has no trust or confidence that God can or will supply his needs is not likely to bother himself with prayer and supplication to God. Prayer and supplication, then, is an indication of one’s trust in God.

blameless: She cannot be rightfully charged with wrongdoing.

threescore years of age: She is age sixty or older.

having been the wife of one man: "Having been" demands an inquiry into the widow’s past. If she is to be taken into the number, she must have been married only once.

Well reported of for good works: Her reputation as one who is engaged in righteous activity must be well-established. Four categories of good works are specifically named.

if she have brought up children: This verse does not say if she has born children, rather if she has brought up, or reared, children. Therefore, she could have reared her own or orphans. Please note that to bring up children is here complimented as a good work.

if she have lodged strangers: Opening her home to the care of visitors to provide food and shelter for them is a requirement for the widow indeed.

if she have relieved the afflicted: This sister must have waited on or have given aid to the sick or injured.

if she have washed the saints’ feet: Footwashing is as literal as lodging strangers and relieving the afflicted. As in the case of hospitality and caring for the sick, it applies in a personal way when there is a need for footwashing. One cannot lodge strangers until the opportunity presents itself. One cannot wait on the sick until someone is hurt or becomes ill. Footwashing was a common practice, an act of hospitality, in the time this was written because most travel was by foot. The command is as binding now as in the time the passage was written, as the need arises and the opportunity presents itself. In our time, the opportunity to wash feet might present itself in a situation in which someone is too sick to bathe himself or because of surgery or injury cannot bend forward to wash his own feet.

Footwashing is an act of hospitality and humility, not an act of worship. It is to be performed outside the services of the church on an individual basis. The scriptures nowhere instruct Christians to meet in a formal footwashing ceremony. The same logic that would insist on footwashing as a part of a church service must also require a service for waiting on the sick and lodging strangers.

Washing feet, lodging strangers, and following every good work are activities the Christian woman is to have engaged in during all of her Christian life, not just as she turned 60. Her reputation should show that she performed these good works when she had a husband and children at home.

In summary, a widow must have the following qualifications to be eligible for full church support:

1.    She must be desolate.

2.    She must show by continual supplication and prayer that she trusts in God.

3.    She must be blameless.

4.    She must live by faith and trust in God, not in pleasure.

5.    She must be at least 60 years old.

6.    She must have been married only one time.

7.    She must have brought up children.

8.    She must have washed the saints’ feet.

9.    She must have relieved the afflicted.

10.    She must have lodged strangers.

11.    She must have followed all good works with diligence.

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:8". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​ctf/1-timothy-5.html. 1993-2022.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

1. Provisions for widows 5:3-16

Paul gave instructions concerning the church’s responsibility for its widows to clarify how and for whom the church should provide special care. Widows have been and still are especially vulnerable individuals. As such God has always shown special concern for their protection (cf. Deuteronomy 10:18; Deuteronomy 24:17; Psalms 68:5; Isaiah 1:17; Luke 2:37). The early church normally mirrored His attitude (Acts 6:1; Acts 9:39). In the Greco-Roman world a female normally obtained her social status and identity from her male, either her father or, after marriage, her husband. [Note: Towner, The Letters . . ., p. 335.]

". . . the real widow seems to be set up as an ideal in contrast to the young widows in much the same way that Timothy is in contrast to the false teachers (1 Timothy 4:6-16; 1 Timothy 6:11-16)." [Note: Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy . . ., p. 114.]

This whole discussion of widows appears to focus on the younger widows in particular. They may be the same women Paul spoke of in 2 Timothy 3:6-7 who were responding positively to the false teachers. This may explain the surprising length of the section. This is the most extensive treatment of a group in the whole epistle.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:8". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/1-timothy-5.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

C. How to deal with widows and elders 5:3-25

Paul now addressed how Timothy was to deal with two main problem areas in the Ephesian church, the younger widows and the erring elders.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:8". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/1-timothy-5.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Paul cited a commonly recognized responsibility to encourage the relatives of widows to maintain them. Family members have a universally recognized duty to care for one another. Even unbelievers acknowledge this. If a Christian fails here, he behaves contrary to the teaching of his faith and is, in this particular, worse than the typical unbeliever who helps his needy relations. Even the Lord Jesus made provision for His mother’s care as He hung on the cross (John 19:26-27).

"The Christian who falls below the best heathen standard of family affection is the more blameworthy, since he has, what the heathen has not, the supreme example of love in Jesus Christ." [Note: Newport J. D. White, "The First and Second Epistles to Timothy and the Epistle to Titus," in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, 4:129.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:8". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/1-timothy-5.html. 2012.

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Chapter 5

THE DUTY TO REPRIMAND ( 1 Timothy 5:1-2 )

5:1-2 If you have occasion to reprimand an older man, do not do so sharply, but appeal to him as you would to a father. Treat the younger men like brothers; the older women as mothers; the younger women as sisters, in complete purity.

It is always difficult to reprimand anyone with graciousness; and to Timothy there would sometimes fall a duty that was doubly difficult--that of reprimanding a man older than himself. Chrysostom writes: "Rebuke is in its own nature offensive particularly when it is addressed to an old man; and when it proceeds from a young man too, there is a threefold show of forwardness. By the manner and mildness of it, therefore, he would soften it. For it is possible to reprove without offence, if one will only make a point of this; it requires great discretion, but it may be done."

Rebuke is always a problem. We may so dislike the task of speaking a warning word that we may shirk it altogether. Many a person would have been saved from sorrow and shipwreck, if someone had only spoken a warning word in time. There can be no more poignant tragedy than to hear someone say: "I would never have come to this, if you had only spoken in time." It is always wrong to shirk the word that should be spoken.

We may reprimand a person in such a way that there is clearly nothing but anger in our voice and nothing but bitterness in our minds and hearts. A rebuke given solely in anger may produce fear; and may cause pain; but it will almost inevitably arouse resentment; and its ultimate effect may well be to confirm the mistaken person in the error of his ways. The rebuke of anger and the reprimand of contemptuous dislike are seldom effective, and far more likely to do harm than good.

It was said of Florence Allshorn, the great missionary teacher, that, when she was Principal of a women's college, she always rebuked her students, when need arose, as it were with her arm around them. The rebuke which clearly comes from love is the only effective one. If we ever have cause to reprimand anyone, we must do so in such a way as to make it clear that we do this, not because we find a cruel pleasure in it, not because we wish to do it, but because we are under the compulsion of love and seek to help, not to hurt.

THE RELATIONSHIPS OF LIFE ( 1 Timothy 5:1-2 continued)

These two verses lay down the spirit which the different age relationships should display.

(i) To older people we must show affection and respect. An older man is to be treated like a father and an older woman like a mother. The ancient world knew well the deference and respect which were due to age. Cicero writes: "It is, then, the duty of a young man to show deference to his elders, and to attach himself to the best and most approved of them, so as to receive the benefit of their counsel and influence. For the inexperience of youth requires the practical wisdom of age to strengthen and direct it. And this time of life is above all to be protected against sensuality and trained to toil and endurance of both mind and body, so as to be strong for active duty in military and civil service. And even when they wish to relax their minds and give themselves up to enjoyment, they should beware of excesses and bear in mind the rules of modesty. And this will be easier, if the young are not unwilling to have their elders join them, even in their pleasures" (Cicero: De Officiis, 1: 34). Aristotle writes: "To all older persons too one should give honour appropriate to their age, by rising to receive them and finding seats for them and so on" (Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics, 9: 2). It is one of the tragedies of life that youth is so often apt to find age a nuisance. A famous French phrase says with a sigh: "If youth but had the knowledge, if age but had the power." But when there is mutual respect and affection, then the wisdom and experience of age can cooperate with the strength and enthusiasm of youth, to the great profit of both.

(ii) To our contemporaries we must show brotherliness. The younger men are to be treated like brothers. Aristotle has it: "To comrades and brothers one should allow freedom of speech and common use of all things" (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 9: 2). With our contemporaries there should be tolerance and sharing.

(iii) To those of the opposite sex our relationships must always be marked with purity. The Arabs have a phrase for a man of chivalry; they call him "a brother of girls." There is a famous phrase which speaks of "Platonic friendship." Love must be kept for one; it is a fearful thing when physical things dominate the relationship between the sexes and a man cannot see a woman without thinking in terms of her body.

CHURCH AND FAMILY DUTY ( 1 Timothy 5:3-8 )

5:3-8 Honour widows who are genuinely in a widow's destitute position. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let such children learn to begin by discharging the duties of religion in their own homes; and let them learn to give a return for all that their parents have done for them; for this is the kind of conduct that meets with God's approval. Now she who is genuinely in the position of a widow, and who is left all alone, has set her hope on God, and night and day she devotes herself to petitions and prayers. But she who lives with voluptuous wantonness is dead even though she is still alive. Pass on these instructions that they may be irreproachable. If anyone fails to provide for his own people, and especially for the members of his own family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

The Christian Church inherited a fine tradition of charity to those in need. No people has ever cared more for its needy and its aged than the Jews. Advice is now given for the care of widows. There may well have been two classes of women here. There were certainly widows who had become widows in the normal way by the death of their husbands. But it was not uncommon in the pagan world, in certain places, for a man to have more than one wife. When a man became a Christian, he could not go on being a polygamist, and therefore had to choose which wife he was going to live with. That meant that some wives had to be sent away and they were clearly in a very unfortunate position. It may be that such women as these were also reckoned as widows and given the support of the Church.

Jewish law laid it down that at the time of his marriage a man ought to make provision for his wife, should she become a widow. The very first office-bearers whom the Christian Church appointed, had this duty of caring fairly for the widows ( Acts 6:1). Ignatius lays it down: "Let not widows be neglected. After the Lord be thou their guardian." The Apostolic Constitutions enjoin the bishop: "O bishop, be mindful of the needy, both reaching out thy helping hand and making provision for them as the steward of God, distributing the offerings seasonably to every one of them, to the widows, the orphans, the friendless, and those tried with affliction." The same book has an interesting and kindly instruction: "If anyone receives any service to carry to a widow or poor woman...let him give it the same day." As the proverb has it: "He gives twice who gives quickly," and the Church was concerned that those in poverty might not have to wait and want while one of its servants delayed.

It is to be noted that the Church did not propose to assume responsibility for older people whose children were alive and well able to support them. The ancient world was very definite that it was the duty of children to support aged parents, and, as E. K. Simpson has well said: "A religious profession which falls below the standard of duty recognised by the world is a wretched fraud." The Church would never have agreed that its charity should become an excuse for children to evade their responsibility.

It was Greek law from the time of Solon that sons and daughters were, not only morally, but also legally bound to support their parents. Anyone who refused that duty lost his civil rights. Aeschines, the Athenian orator, says in one of his speeches: "And whom did our law-giver (Solon) condemn to silence in the Assembly of the people? And where does he make this clear? 'Let there be,' he says, 'a scrutiny of public speakers, in case there be any speaker in the Assembly of the people who is a striker of his father or mother, or who neglects to maintain them or to give them a home'." Demosthenes says: "I regard the man who neglects his parents as unbelieving in and hateful to the gods, as well as to men." Philo, writing of the commandment to honour parents, says: "When old storks become unable to fly, they remain in their nests and are fed by their children, who go to endless exertions to provide their food because of their piety." To Philo it was clear that even the animal creation acknowledged its obligations to aged parents, and how much more must men? Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics lays it down: "It would be thought in the matter of food we should help our parents before all others, since we owe our nourishment to them, and it is more honourable to help in this respect the authors of our being, even before ourselves." As Aristotle saw it, a man must himself starve before he would see his parents starve. Plato in The Laws has the same conviction of the debt that is owed to parents: "Next comes the honour of loving parents, to whom, as is meet, we have to pay the first and greatest and oldest of debts, considering that all which a man has belongs to those who gave him birth and brought him up, and that he must do all that he can to minister to them; first, in his property; secondly, in his person; and thirdly, in his soul; paying the debts due to them for their care and travail which they bestowed upon him of old in the days of his infancy, and which he is now able to pay back to them, when they are old and in the extremity of their need."

It is the same with the Greek poets. When Iphigenia is speaking to her father Agamemnon, in Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis, she says (the translation is that of A. S. Way):

"'Twas I first called thee father, thou me child.

'Twas I first throned my body on thy knees,

And gave thee sweet caresses and received.

And this thy word was: 'Ah, my little maid,

Blest shall I see thee in a husband's halls

Living and blooming worthily of me?'

And as I twined my fingers in thy beard,

Whereto I now cling, thus I answered thee:

'And what of thee? Shall I greet thy grey hairs,

Father, with loving welcome in mine halls,

Repaying all thy fostering toil for me?'"

The child's joy was to look forward to the day when she could repay all that her father had done for her.

When Euripides tells how Orestes discovered that an unkind fate had made him unwittingly slay his own father, he makes him say:

"He fostered me a babe, and many a kiss

Lavished upon me....

O wretched heart and soul of mine!

I have rendered foul return! What veil of gloom

Can I take for my face? Before me spread

What cloud, to shun the old man's searching eye?"

To Euripides the most haunting sin on earth was failure in duty to a parent.

The New Testament ethical writers were certain that support of parents was an essential part of Christian duty. It is a thing to be remembered. We live in a time when even the most sacred duties are pushed on to the state and when we expect, in so many cases, public charity to do what private piety ought to do. As the Pastorals see it, help given to a parent is two things. First, it is an honouring of the recipient. It is the only way in which a child can demonstrate the esteem within his heart. Second, it is an admission of the claims of love. It is repaying love received in time of need with love given in time of need; and only with love can love be repaid.

There remains one thing left to say, and to leave it unsaid would be unfair. This very passage goes on to lay down certain of the qualities of the people whom the Church is called upon to support. What is true of the Church is true within the family. If a person is to be supported, that person must be supportable. If a parent is taken into a home and then by inconsiderate conduct causes nothing but trouble, another situation arises. There is a double duty here; the duty of the child to support the parent and the duty of the parent to be such that that support is possible within the structure of the home.


5:9-10 Let a woman be enrolled as a widow only if she is more than sixty years of age; if she has been the wife of one husband; if she has earned an attested reputation for good works; if she has nourished children; if she has been hospitable to strangers; if she has helped those in trouble; if she has washed the feet of the saints; if she has devoted herself to every good work.

From this passage it is clear that the Church had an official register of widows; and it seems that the word widow is being used in a double sense. Women who were aged and whose husbands had died and whose lives were lovely and useful were the responsibility of the Church; but it is also true that, perhaps as early as this, and certainly later in the early Church, there was an official order of widows, an order of elderly women who were set apart for special duties.

In the regulations of the Apostolic Constitutions, which tell us what the life and organization of the Church were like in the third century, it is laid down: "Three widows shall be appointed, two to persevere in prayer for those who are in temptation, and for the reception of revelations, when such are necessary, but one to assist women who are visited with sickness; she must be ready for service, discreet, telling the elders what is necessary, not avaricious, not given to much love of wine, so that she may be sober and able to perform the night services, and other loving duties."

Such widows were not ordained as the elders and the bishops were; they were set apart by prayer for the work which they had to do. They were not to be set apart until they were over sixty years of age. That was an age which the ancient world also considered to be specially suited for concentration on the spiritual life. Plato, in his plan for the ideal state, held that sixty was the right age for men and women to become priests and priestesses.

The Pastoral Epistles are always intensely practical; and in this passage we find seven qualifications which the Church's widows must satisfy.

They must have been the wife of one husband. In an age when the marriage bond was lightly regarded and almost universally dishonoured, they must be examples of purity and fidelity.

They must have earned an attested reputation for good works. The office-bearers of the Church, male or female, have within their keeping, not only their personal reputation, but also the good name of the Church. Nothing discredits a church like unworthy office-bearers; and nothing is so good an advertisement for it as an office-bearer who has taken his Christianity into the activity of daily living.

They must have nourished children. This may well mean more than one thing. It may mean that widows must have given proof of their Christian piety by bringing up their own families in the Christian way. But it can mean more than that. In an age when the marriage bond was very lax and men and women changed their partners with bewildering rapidity, children were regarded as a misfortune. This was the great age of child exposure. When a child was born, he was brought and laid before his father's feet. If the father stooped and lifted him, that meant that he acknowledged him and was prepared to accept responsibility for his upbringing. If the father turned and walked away, the child was quite literally thrown out, like an unwanted piece of rubbish. It often happened that such unwanted children were collected by unscrupulous people and, if girls, brought up to stock the public brothels, and, if boys, trained to be slaves or gladiators for the public games. It would be a Christian duty to rescue such children from death and worse than death, and to bring them up in a Christian home. So this may mean that widows must be women who had been prepared to give a home to abandoned children.

They must have been hospitable to strangers. Inns in the ancient world were notoriously dirty, expensive and immoral. Those who opened their homes to the traveller, or the stranger in a strange place, or to young people whose work and study took them far from home, were doing a most valuable service to the community. The open door of the Christian home is always a precious thing.

They must have washed the feet of the saints. That need not be taken literally, although the literal sense is included. To wash a person's feet was the task of a slave, the most menial of duties. This means that Christian widows must have been willing to accept the humblest tasks in the service of Christ and of his people. The Church needs its leaders who will live in prominence; but no less it needs those who are prepared to do the tasks which receive no prominence and little thanks.

They must have helped those in trouble. In days of persecution it was no small thing to help Christians who were suffering for their faith. This was to identify oneself with them and to accept the risk of coming to a like punishment. The Christian must stand by those in trouble for their faith, even if, in so doing, he brings trouble on himself.

They must have devoted themselves to all good works. Every man concentrates his life on something; the Christian concentrates his on obeying Christ and helping men.

When we study these qualifications for those who were to be enrolled as widows, we see that they are the qualifications of every true Christian.

THE PRIVILEGE AND THE DANGERS OF SERVICE ( 1 Timothy 5:9-10 continued)

As we have already said, if not as early as the time of the Pastoral Epistles, certainly in later days, the widows became an accepted order in the Christian Church. Their place and work are dealt with in the first eight chapters of the third book of The Apostolic Constitutions, and these chapters reveal the use that such an order could be and the dangers into which it almost inevitably ran.

(i) It is laid down that women who would serve the Church must be women of discretion. Particularly they must be discreet in speech: "Let every widow be meek, quiet, gentle, sincere, free from anger, not talkative, not clamorous, not hasty of speech, not given to evil-speaking, not captious, not double-tongued, not a busybody. If she see or hear anything that is not right, let her be as one that does not see, and as one that does not hear." Such Church officials must be very careful when they discuss the faith with outsiders: "For unbelievers when they hear the doctrine concerning Christ, not explained as it ought to be, but defectively, especially that concerning his Incarnation or his Passion, will rather reject it with scorn, and laugh at it as false, than praise God for it."

There is nothing more dangerous than an official of the Church who talks about things which ought to be kept secret; and a Church office-bearer must be equipped to communicate the gospel in a way that will make men think more and not less of Christian truth.

(ii) It is laid down that women who serve the Church must not be gadabouts: "Let the widow therefore own herself to be the 'altar of God,' and let her sit in her own house, and not enter into the houses of the unfaithful, under any pretence to receive anything; for the altar of God never runs about, but is fixed in one place. Let therefore the virgin and the widow be such as do not run about, or gad to the houses of those who are alien from the faith. For such as these are gadders and impudent." The restless gossip is ill-equipped to serve the Church.

(iii) It is laid down that widows who accept the charity of the Church are not to be greedy. "There are some widows who esteem gain their business; and since they ask without shame, and receive without being satisfied, render other people more backward in giving.... Such a woman is thinking in her mind of where she can go to get, or that a certain woman who is her friend has forgotten her, and she has something to say to her.... She murmurs at the deaconess who distributed the charity, saying, 'Do you not see that I am in more distress and need of your charity? Why therefore have you preferred her before me?'" It is an ugly thing to seek to live off the Church rather than for the Church.

(iv) It is laid down that such women must do all they can to help themselves: "Let her take wool and assist others rather than herself want from them." The charity of the Church does not exist to make people lazy and dependent.

(v) Such women are not to be envious and jealous: "We hear that some widows are jealous, envious calumniators, and envious of the quiet of others.... It becomes them when one of their fellow-widows is clothed by anyone, or receives money, or meat, or drink, or shoes, at the refreshment of their sister, to thank God."

There we have at one and the same time a picture of the faults of which the Church is all too full, and of the virtues which should be the marks of the true Christian life.

THE PERILS OF IDLENESS ( 1 Timothy 5:11-16 )

5:11-16 Refuse to enrol the younger women as widows, for when they grow impatient with the restrictions of Christian widowhood, they wish to marry, and so deserve condemnation, because they have broken the pledge of their first faith; and, at the same time, they learn to be idle and to run from house to house. Yes, they can become more than idle; they can become gossips and busybodies, saying things which should not be repeated. It is my wish that the younger widows should marry, and bear children, and run a house and home, and give our opponents no chance of abuse. For, even as things are, some of them have turned aside from the way to follow Satan. If any believing person has widowed relations, let such a person help them, and let not the Church be burdened with the responsibility, so that it may care for those who are genuinely in the position of widows.

A passage like this reflects the situation in society in which the early Church found itself.

It is not that younger widows are condemned for marrying again. What is condemned is this. A young husband dies; and the widow, in the first bitterness of sorrow and on the impulse of the moment, decides to remain a widow all her life and to dedicate her life to the Church; but later she changes her mind and remarries. That woman is regarded as having taken Christ as her bridegroom. So that by marrying again she is regarded as breaking her marriage vow to Christ. She would have been better never to have taken the vow.

What complicated this matter very much was the social background of the times. It was next to impossible for a single or a widowed woman to earn her living honestly. There was practically no trade or profession open to her. The result was inevitable; she was almost driven to prostitution in order to live. The Christian woman, therefore, had either to marry or to dedicate her life completely to the service of the Church; there was no halfway house.

In any event the perils of idleness remain the same in any age. There was the danger of becoming restless; because a woman had not enough to do, she might become one of those creatures who drift from house to house in an empty social round. It was almost inevitable that such a woman would become a gossip; because she had nothing important to talk about, she would tend to talk scandal, repeating tales from house to house, each time with a little more embroidery and a little more malice. Such a woman ran the risk of becoming a busybody; because she had nothing of her own to take up her attention, she would be very apt to be over-interested and over-interfering in the affairs of others.

It was true then, as it is true now, that "Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do." The full life is always the safe life, and the empty life is always the life in peril.

So the advice is that these younger women should marry and engage upon the greatest task of all, rearing a family and making a home. Here we have another example of one of the main thoughts of the Pastoral Epistles. They are always concerned with how the Christian appears to the outside world. Does he give opportunity to criticize the Church or reason to admire it? It is always true that "the greatest handicap the Church has is the unsatisfactory lives of professing Christians" and equally true that the greatest argument for Christianity is a genuinely Christian life.


5:17-22 Let elders who discharge their duties well be judged worthy of double honour, especially those who toil in preaching and in teaching; for Scripture says: "You must not muzzle the ox when he is treading the corn," and, "The workman deserves his pay."

Do not accept an accusation against an elder unless on the evidence of two or three witnesses.

Rebuke those who persist in sin in the presence of all, so that the others may develop a healthy fear of sinning.

I adjure you before God and Christ Jesus and the chosen angels that you keep these regulations impartially, and that you do nothing because of your own prejudices or predilection.

Do not be too quick to lay your hands on any man, and do not share the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

Here is a series of the most practical regulations for the life and administration of the Church.

(i) Elders are to be properly honoured and properly paid. When threshing was done in the East, the sheaves of corn were laid on the threshing-floor; then oxen in pairs were driven repeatedly across them; or they were tethered to a post in the middle and made to march round and round on the grain; or a threshing sledge was harnessed to them and the sledge was drawn to and fro across the corn. In all cases the oxen were left unmuzzled and were free to eat as much of the grain as they wished, as a reward for the work they were doing. The actual law that the ox must not be muzzled is in Deuteronomy 25:4.

The saying that the workman deserves his pay is a saying of Jesus ( Luke 10:7). It is most likely a proverbial saying which he quoted. Any man who works deserves his support, and the harder he works, the more he deserves. Christianity has never had anything to do with the sentimental ethic which clamours for equal shares for all. A man's reward must always be proportioned to a man's toil.

It is to be noted what kind of elders are to be specially honoured and rewarded. It is those who toil in preaching and teaching. The elder whose service consisted only in words and discussion and argument is not in question here. He whom the Church really honoured was the man who worked to edify and build it up by his preaching of the truth and his educating of the young and of the new converts in the Christian way.

(ii) It was Jewish law that no man should be condemned on the evidence of a single witness: "A single witness shall not prevail against a man for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offence that he has committed, only on the evidence of two witnesses, or of three witnesses, shall a charge be sustained" ( Deuteronomy 19:15). The Mishnah, the codified Rabbinic law, in describing the process of trial says: "The second witness was likewise brought in and examined. If the testimony of the two was found to agree, the case for the defence was opened." If a charge was supported by the evidence of only one witness, it was held that there was no case to answer.

In later times Church regulations laid it down that the two witnesses must be Christian, for it would have been easy for a malicious heathen to fabricate a false charge against a Christian elder in order to discredit him, and through him to discredit the Church. In the early days, the Church authorities did not hesitate to apply discipline, and Theodore of Mopseuestia, one of the early fathers, points out how necessary this regulation was, because the elders were always liable to be disliked and were specially open to malicious attack "due to the retaliation by some who had been rebuked by them for sin." A man who had been disciplined might well seek to get his own back by maliciously charging an elder with some irregularity or some sin.

This permanent fact remains, that this would be a happier world and the Church, too, would be happier, if people would realize that it is nothing less than sin to spread stories of whose truth they are not sure. Irresponsible, slanderous and malicious talk does infinite damage and causes infinite heartbreak, and such talk will not go unpunished by God.

RULES FOR PRACTICAL ADMINISTRATION ( 1 Timothy 5:17-22 continued)

(iii) Those who persist in sin are to be publicly rebuked. That public rebuke had a double value. It sobered the sinner into a consideration of his ways; and it made others have a care that they did not involve themselves in a like humiliation. The threat of publicity is no bad thing, if it keeps a man in the right way, even from fear. A wise leader will know the time to keep things quiet and the time for public rebuke. But whatever happens, the Church must never give the impression that it is condoning sin.

(iv) Timothy is urged to administer his office without favouritism or prejudice. B. S. Easton writes: "The well-being of every community depends on impartial discipline." Nothing does more harm than when some people are treated as if they could do no wrong and others as if they could do no right. Justice is a universal virtue and the Church must surely never fall below the impartial standards which even the world demands.

(v) Timothy is warned not to be too hasty "in laying hands on any man." That may mean one of two things.

(a) It may mean that he is not to be too quick in laying hands on any man to ordain him to office in the Church. Before a man gains promotion in business, or in teaching, or in the army or the navy or the air force, he must give proof that he deserves it. No man should ever start at the top. This is doubly important in the Church; for a man who is raised to high office and then fails in it, brings dishonour, not only on himself, but also on the Church. In a critical world the Church cannot be too careful in regard to the kind of men whom it chooses as its leaders.

(b) In the early Church it was the custom to lay hands on a penitent sinner who had given proof of his repentance and had returned to the fold of the Church. It is laid down: "As each sinner repents, and shows the fruits of repentance, lay hands on him, while all pray for him." Eusebius tells us that it was the ancient custom that repentant sinners should be received back with the laying on of hands and with prayer. If that be the meaning here, it will be a warning to Timothy not to be too quick to receive back the man who has brought disgrace on the Church; to wait until he has shown that his penitence is genuine, and that he is truly determined to mould his life to fit his penitent professions. That is not for a moment to say that such a man is to be held at arms' length and treated with suspicion; he has to be treated with all sympathy and with all help and guidance in his period of probation. But it is to say that membership of the Church is never to be treated lightly, and that a man must show his penitence for the past and his determination for the future, before he is received, not into the fellowship of the Church, but into its membership. The fellowship of the Church exists to help such people redeem themselves, but its membership is for those who have truly pledged their lives to Christ.

ADVICE FOR TIMOTHY ( 1 Timothy 5:23 )

5:23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine for the sake of your stomach, to help your frequent illnesses.

This sentence shows the real intimacy of these letters. Amidst the affairs of the Church and the problems of administration, Paul finds time to slip in a little bit of loving advice to Timothy about his health.

There had always been a strain of asceticism in Jewish religion. When a man took the Nazirite vow ( Numbers 6:1-21) he was pledged never to taste any of the product of the vine: "He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink; he shall drink no vinegar made from wine, or strong drink, and shall not drink any juice of grapes or eat grapes, fresh or dried. All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, not even the seeds or the skins" ( Numbers 6:3-4). The Rechabites also were pledged to abstain from wine. The Book of Jeremiah tells how Jeremiah went and set before the Rechabites wine and cups: "But they answered, We will drink no wine; for Jonadab, the son of Rechab our father, commanded us, You shall not drink wine, neither you nor your sons for ever; you shall not build a house; you shall not sow seed; you shall not plant or have a vineyard" ( Jeremiah 35:5-7). Now Timothy was on one side a Jew--his mother was a Jewess ( Acts 16:1) --and it may well be that from his mother he had inherited this ascetic way of living. On his father's side he was a Greek. We have already seen that at the back of the Pastorals there is the heresy of gnosticism which saw all matter as evil and often issued in asceticism; and it may well be that Timothy was unconsciously influenced by this Greek asceticism as well.

Here we have a great truth which the Christian forgets at his peril, that we dare not neglect the body, for often spiritual dullness and aridity come from the simple fact that the body is tired and neglected. No machine will run well unless it is cared for; and neither will the body. We cannot do Christ's work well unless we are physically fit to do it. There is no virtue--rather the reverse--in neglect of or contempt for the body. Mens sana in corpore sano, a healthy mind in a healthy body, was the old Roman ideal, and it is the Christian ideal too.

This is a text which has much troubled those who are advocates of total abstinence. It must be remembered that it does not give any man a licence to indulge in drink to excess; it simply approves the use of wine where it may be medicinally helpful. If it does lay down any principle at all, E. F. Brown has well stated it: "It shows that while total abstinence may be recommended as a wise counsel, it is never to be enforced as a religious obligation." Paul is simply saying that there is no virtue in an asceticism which does the body more harm than good.


5:24-25 Some men's sins are plain for all to see, and lead the way to judgment; the sins of others will duly catch up on them. Even so there are good deeds which are plain for all to see, and there are things of a very different quality which cannot be hidden.

This saying bids us leave things to God and be content. There are obvious sinners, whose sins are clearly leading to their disaster and their punishment; and there are secret sinners who, behind a front of unimpeachable rectitude, live a life that is in essence evil and ugly. What man cannot see, God does. "Man sees the deed, but God sees the intention." There is no escape from the ultimate confrontation with the God who sees and knows everything.

There are some whose good deeds are plain for all to see, and who have already won the praise and thanks and congratulations of men. There are some whose good deeds have never been noticed, never appreciated, never thanked, never praised, never valued as they ought to have been. They need not feel either disappointed or embittered. God knows the good deed also, and he will repay, for he is never in any man's debt.

Here we are told that we must neither grow angry at the apparent escape of others nor embittered at the apparent thanklessness of men, but that we must be content to leave all things to the ultimate judgment of God.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

Bibliographical Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:8". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dsb/1-timothy-5.html. 1956-1959.

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

1 Timothy 5:8

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:8". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​gbc/1-timothy-5.html. 2021.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

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.

Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:8". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​geb/1-timothy-5.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Directions Concerning Widows. A. D. 64.

      3 Honour widows that are widows indeed.   4 But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.   5 Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.   6 But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.   7 And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.   8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.   9 Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man,   10 Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.   11 But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry;   12 Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.   13 And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.   14 I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.   15 For some are already turned aside after Satan.   16 If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.

      Directions are here given concerning the taking of widows into the number of those who were employed by the church and had maintenance from the church: Honour widows that are widows indeed. Honour them, that is, maintain them, admit them into office. There was in those times an office in the church in which widows were employed, and that was to tend the sick and the aged, to look to them by the direction of the deacons. We read of the care taken of widows immediately upon the first forming of the Christian church (Acts 6:1), where the Grecians thought their widows were neglected in the daily ministration and provision made for poor widows. The general rule is to honour widows that are widows indeed, to maintain them, to relieve them with respect and tenderness.

      I. It is appointed that those widows only should be relieved by the charity of the church who were pious and devout, and not wanton widows that lived in pleasure,1 Timothy 5:5; 1 Timothy 5:6. She is to be reckoned a widow indeed, and it to be maintained at the church's charge, who, being desolate, trusteth in God. Observe, It is the duty and comfort of those who are desolate to trust in God. Therefore God sometimes brings his people into such straits that they have nothing else to trust to, that they may with more confidence trust in him. Widowhood is a desolate estate; but let the widows trust in me (Jeremiah 49:11), and rejoice that they have a God to trust to. Again, Those who trust in God must continue in prayer. If by faith we confide in God, by prayer we must give glory to God and commit ourselves to his guidance. Anna was a widow indeed, who departed not from the temple (Luke 2:37), but served God with fasting and prayer night and day. But she is not a widow indeed that lives in pleasure (1 Timothy 5:6; 1 Timothy 5:6), or who lives licentiously. A jovial widow is not a widow indeed, not fit to be taken under the care of the church. She that lives in pleasure is dead while she lives, is no living member of the church, but as a carcase in it, or a mortified member. We may apply it more generally; those who live in pleasure are dead while they live, spiritually dead, dead in trespasses and sins; they are in the world to no purpose, buried alive as to the great ends of living.

      II. Another rule he gives is that the church should not be charged with the maintenance of those widows who had relations of their own that were able to maintain them. This is mentioned several times (1 Timothy 5:4; 1 Timothy 5:4): If any widow have children or nephews, that is grandchildren or near relations, let them maintain them, and let not the church be burdened. So 1 Timothy 5:16; 1 Timothy 5:16. This is called showing piety at home (1 Timothy 5:4; 1 Timothy 5:4), or showing piety towards their own families. Observe, The respect of children to their parents, with their care of them, is fitly called piety. This is requiting their parents. Children can never sufficiently requite their parents for the care they have taken of them, and the pains they have taken with them; but they must endeavour to do it. It is the indispensable duty of children, if their parents be in necessity, and they in ability to relieve them, to do it to the utmost of their power, for this is good and acceptable before God. The Pharisees taught that a gift to the altar was more acceptable to God than relieving a poor parent, Matthew 15:5. But here we are told that this is better than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices; this is good and acceptable, c. He speaks of this again (1 Timothy 5:8; 1 Timothy 5:8), If any provide not for his own, c. If any men or women do not maintain their own poor relations who belong to them, they do in effect deny the faith for the design of Christ was to confirm the law of Moses, and particularly the law of the fifth commandment, which is, Honour thy father and mother; so that those deny the faith who disobey that law, much more if they provide not for their wives and children, who are parts of themselves; if they spend that upon their lusts which should maintain their families, they have denied the faith and are worse than infidels. One reason why this care must be taken that those who are rich should maintain their poor relations, and not burden the church with them is (1 Timothy 5:16; 1 Timothy 5:16) that it may relieve those who are widows indeed. Observe, Charity misplaced is a great hindrance to true charity; there should be prudence in the choice of the objects of charity, that it may not be thrown away upon those who are not properly so, that there may be the more for those who are real objects of charity.

      III. He gives directions concerning the characters of the widows that were to be taken into the number to receive the church's charity: not under sixty years old, nor any who have divorced their husbands or been divorced from them and have married again; she must have been the wife of one man, such as had been a housekeeper, had a good name for hospitality and charity, well reported of for good works. Observe, Particular care ought to be taken to relieve those, when they fall into decay, who, when they had wherewithal, were ready to every good work. Here are instances of such good works as are proper to be done by good wives: If she have brought up children: he does not say, If she have borne children (children are a heritage of the Lord), that depends on the will of God; but, if she had not children of her own, yet if she had brought up children. If she have lodged strangers, and washed the saints' feet; if she have been ready to give entertainment to good Christians and good ministers, when they were in their travels for the spreading of the gospel. Washing of the feet o their friends was a part of their entertainments. If she have relieved the afflicted when she had ability, let her be relieved now. Observe, Those who would find mercy when they are in distress must show mercy when they are in prosperity.

      IV. He cautions them to take heed of admitting into the number those who are likely to be no credit to them (1 Timothy 5:11; 1 Timothy 5:11): The younger widows refuse: they will be weary of their employments in the church, and of living by rule, as they must do; so they will marry, and cast off their first faith. You read of a first love (Revelation 2:4), and here of a first faith, that is, the engagements they gave to the church to behave well, and as became the trust reposed in them: it does not appear that by their first faith is meant their vow not to marry, for the scripture is very silent on that head; besides the apostle here advises the younger widows to marry (1 Timothy 5:14; 1 Timothy 5:14), which he would not if hereby they must have broken their vows. Dr. Whitby well observes, "If this faith referred to a promise made to the church not to marry, it could not be called their first faith." Withal they learn to be idle, and not only idle, but tattlers, c., 1 Timothy 5:13; 1 Timothy 5:13. Observe, It is seldom that those who are idle are idle only, they learn to be tattlers and busy-bodies, and to make mischief among neighbours, and sow discord among brethren. Those who had not attained to such a gravity of mind as was fit for the deaconesses (or the widows who were taken among the church's poor), let them marry, bear children, c., 1 Timothy 5:14; 1 Timothy 5:14. Observe, If housekeepers do not mind their business, but are tattlers, they give occasion to the adversaries of Christianity to reproach the Christian name, which, it seems, there were some instances of, 1 Timothy 5:15; 1 Timothy 5:15. We learn hence, 1. In the primitive church there was care taken of poor widows, and provision made for them; and the churches of Christ in these days should follow so good an example, as far as they are able. 2. In the distribution of the church's charity, or alms, great care is to be taken that those share in the public bounty who most want it and best deserve it. A widow was not to be taken into the primitive church that had relations who were able to maintain her, or who was not well reported of for good works, but lived in pleasure: But the younger widows refuse, for, when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry. 3. The credit of religion, and the reputation of Christian churches, are very much concerned in the character and behaviour of those that are taken into any employment in the church, though of a lower nature (such as the business of deaconesses), or that receive alms of the church; if they do not behave well, but are tatlers and busy-bodies, they will give occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. 4. Christianity obliges its professors to relieve their indigent friends, particularly poor widows, that the church may not be charged with them, that it may relieve those that are widows indeed: rich people should be ashamed to burden the church with their poor relations, when it is with difficulty that those are supplied who have no children or nephews, that is, grand-children, who are in a capacity to relieve them.

Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:8". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​mhm/1-timothy-5.html. 1706.

Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible

1 Timothy 1:1-20. We enter now on the confidential communications of the apostle to some of his fellow-labourers, and tonight on the epistles to Timothy. The two have much in common, but they have also not a little that is distinct. The first epistle is characterized by laying down the order which becomes both individuals and the church of God viewed as His house. We shall find, I trust, how remarkably His care for godly moral order, which descends into the family, into the relations of children and parents, of servants and masters, of man and woman, is also bound up with some of the main doctrines of the epistle. At the same time, while this pertains more particularly to the first epistle, there is a striking expression which meets us on the very threshold, and belongs not merely to these two epistles, but also to that addressed to Titus. God is not here regarded as our Father, but as our Saviour God. We have in harmony with this none of the special privileges of the family of God. The relationships before us wear another character. Thus, we have nothing at all about the body of Christ; we hear nowhere again of the bride of the Lamb; but what tallies with God as a Saviour. It is not Christ our Saviour, though, of course, He is so; but there is broader truth pressed even of God our Saviour, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This prepares for much that we shall find. God, as a Saviour God, is certainly in contrast with His dealings under law, or in government. Nevertheless it takes in also His preserving care, which extends far beyond believers, though very especially toward believers. It embraces also that which is much deeper than presidential care, even the salvation which is in course of accomplishment through Christ. I do not say accomplished; because salvation here, as elsewhere, must not be limited simply to redemption, but goes out into the results of that mighty work on the cross, whereby the soul is kept all the way through the wilderness, and the body of humiliation changed into the likeness of the Lord's glorious body.

Accordingly, Paul introduces himself as the "apostle of Jesus Christ by commandment of God." Authority has a large place in these epistles; thence the apostle shows it was not his writing to his child Timothy in this respect without the Lord. It was not merely love, it was not simply that the Spirit of God empowered him to meet need, but he styles himself in it the "apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Christ Jesus, our hope; to Timothy, my true child in faith: grace, mercy, and peace," etc.

Another feature of these epistles meets us in the place which is given to mercy. I do not merely now refer to what has been often observed the introduction; but we shall find that mercy is wrought into the tissues and substance of the epistle. Mercy supposes the need, the constant wants, the difficulties, the dangers, of the saints of God. It supposes also that God is acting in love, and in full view of these difficulties. Hence we find that, while there is jealous care, there is also a remarkable tenderness, which appears every now and then, in these epistles; and this is just and beautiful in its season. The apostle was drawing toward the close of his career, and (although all be inspired, and he was a rare jewel even among the apostles) there is, I am persuaded, an evidence of a tone more suitable to the growing trials and necessities of the saints of God; a tenderness towards those that were faithful and tried, that is far more manifest here than in the earlier epistles. I do not say that all was not in its due time and measure, but we can well understand it. As a faithful servant, he had been for many years not only leading on, but sharing too the hardest of the fight, and had gone through perils such as had left many of his companions behind. Shame, afflictions, persecutions, the enticements of Satan too, had drawn away some that had been in the foremost ranks of old. He was now left with comparatively few of the familiar faces of those he had loved and laboured with so long.

We can easily understand, then, how calculated such circumstances were to draw out the expression of a love that was always there, but that would be in a more comely and suitable manner expressed at such a conjuncture of circumstances. This we shall find in these epistles. He writes to Timothy as his genuine child; it is not at all the usual way in the earlier epistles. It was his Bethany, Here and now was the opening of that long pent-up heart. At the same time he was also laying an important commission on one that was raised up of God for the purpose, who was comparatively young, who would soon have to fight his way without the sympathy and the countenance of one that had been so blest to him. Hence he says here," Grace, mercy, and peace." He felt his need, but certainly the mercy was not lacking in God, but rich and ready to flow. "Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when. I went into Macedonia." We see the love that even an apostle adopts towards his child in faith. It was not at all a peremptory word, though full of earnest desire for the work of the Lord. He wishes Timothy to stay, "that thou mightest charge some not to be teachers of other doctrine, nor to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than God's administration* which is in faith."

*The true reading, represented by (Cod. Sin.) and all other uncials save the Clermont, and almost if not all the cursive manuscripts, is οἰκονομίαν , dispensation, in the sense of administration, or stewardship. Even Matthaei joins the rest of the critics, with the Complutensian Polyglott, against the received οἰκοδομίαν , which he considers a mere blunder of δ for ν by Erasmus's printers. But this does not account for the Latin, Syriac (save later), Gothic, etc.; even supposing δ was the slip of the scribe. It is evident that "edification" is not the point in question, but the right order of the house of God, and this in faith. Internal evidence is thus as strong as external as to the true reading.

Then he explains what the nature of this charge was. Often, I fear, "commandment" gives the English reader a wrong impression. I do not say that "commandment" is not correct, but that so naturally do people in Christendom turn to what we call the Ten Commandments, or ten words of the law, that whenever the word "commandment" occurs, you may expect many, even children of God, who might and ought to know better, at once unconsciously turning back to the law. But so far was this from being the writer's thought here, that we shall find him in a moment deprecating most strongly that whole system of idea as a misuse of the law. What the apostle means by the commandment is the charge that he was laying on his child in the faith and fellow-labourer Timothy. The end of the charge or commandment "is love out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned." It was, in point of fact, not merely that charge that he was giving him, but the charge touched the truth of the gospel; it was the care of the faith, jealousy for the revelation of God Himself, our Saviour God in Christ. The end of all this was "love, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned." And so then, as remarked already, far from leaving the smallest reason for any perversely to confound this with the law, the apostle instantly turns to that perverting of the law, which is so natural to the heart of man. "From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; desiring to be law-teachers; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm;" and thereupon he parenthetically, as disposing of this matter, shows what the lawful use of the law is. They were not to suppose that he meant that God could make anything without a real use. As there is no creature of God that has not its value, so certainly the law of God has its right field of application, and its own proper use. Thus he vindicates God in what He has given, as well as afterwards in what He has made, and nowhere so much as in this epistle do we find this.

At the same time it is evident that he consigns the law to what we may call a comparatively negative use. The use of the law is to condemn, to kill, to deal with evil. This never could be the full expression of God. It does keep up a witness to God's hatred of evil no doubt; those that are presumptuous it leaves without excuse. But a Christian, who takes up the law as the rule of his own life, must in the very first instance give up his place as being in Christ, and abandon that righteousness of God which he is made in Him. The law was not enacted for the Christian. It is not, of course, that any Christian deliberately intends such folly; but this is really what the error implies. The very principle of taking the law for himself is the abandonment (without knowing or intending it) of all his blessing in Christ. To apply it thus is ignorance of the mind of God It was never designed for such a purpose. But there remains the lawful use of the law. It was made not for the righteous, but for an unrighteous man. Clearly what Satan here aimed at was to put the saints under the law. But the apostle will not hear of it, treating it as simply condemnatory of the bad, and in no way either the power or the rule of what is good for the believer. "Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for lawless and disobedient, for ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for smiters of fathers and smiters of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine."

A weighty sentence, and eminently characteristic also of these epistles. The time was appropriate for it. The saints (at Ephesus especially) had heard a great deal of heavenly truth. There was also an effort, as we see, to correct what was supposed to be a defect, in those that were living on heavenly fare, by supplementing their truth with the law. But this is all wrong, cries the apostle. It is an unwitting denial not only of Christians, but even of your place as righteous men. Very different from this is the true and divine principle. But "sound doctrine" is brought in here; and we shall see how very beautifully this is applied in the epistle at a later point. For a moment he just touches on the wholesome thought, then turns to a higher one. There is in Christ that which lifts entirely out of nature, and puts one before God according to all that is in his heart his counsels of glory for us in Christ. In fact, immediately after this he calls what he preached the "gospel of the glory" ("the glorious gospel," as it is styled in our version,) "of the blessed God." "According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust." He takes great pains to show that no glory that is revealed in Christ, no blessedness in our total clearance from flesh, no setting of the believer free before God in Christ Jesus, impairs, but, on the contrary, gives importance to "sound doctrine."

By "sound doctrine" we shall find that he brings in the nicest care for the least relations of this life, as flowing from the grace and truth of God. This is the true guard against an abuse of heavenly truth; not putting persons under law, which is inevitable bondage and condemnation, that brings no glory to God, nor power or holiness to the man. But at the same time heavenly truth, so far from being inconsistent, never shines so much as when it is seen in the smallest details of walk in the home, in the family, in the ordinary occupation, in the bearing and tone of a man in his life day by day. It is not merely in the assembly; neither is it in worship only; it is not certainly in ministerial work alone, but in the quiet home. The relationship of a servant to his master gives a blessed opportunity in its place for showing out what the truth of the glory is to faith, and what the strength of the grace which is come to man in Christ the Lord. This is what we shall find in these epistles to Timothy that the apostle combines in his own wonderful way his reference to ordinary duty, and even enters into the smallest matters of this life, according to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God. He refers to his own case; for he was so much the better a preacher of the gospel, because he so deeply felt himself an object of the grace of God, who revealed it in Christ to him. What can be conceived more remarkably characteristic of the man? The bearing of the passage is therefore intensely personal and practical. "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, appointing me unto ministry." He does not forget this, but he takes care to assert another and a far nearer and more immediate want "who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and insolent: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus."

This accordingly brings out a statement of the gospel: "Faithful is the word, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy." It is always mercy, as may be observed. It is not so much a question of righteousness; justification is not here prominent, as in other epistles. "I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." This draws out his ascription of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord; and then he repeats the words of the fifth verse: "This charge I commit unto thee." It is not the law, nor any supposed adaptation of it, to direct the path of those who receive the gospel. "This charge," he maintains, is the commandment of our Saviour God. It is that which He is sending out now, and nothing else. "This charge I commit to thee, child Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou mightest war the good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience, which some having put away, concerning, faith have made shipwreck."

There again we find the same mingling of the faith and good conscience as we had earlier. Some having put away, not the faith, but a good conscience, made shipwreck of the faith. Thus, no matter what you may hold or appear to delight in, abandoning jealousy over your ways, giving up self-judgment in the great or small matters which each day brings before us, is fatal. It may be a very little sin that is allowed, but this, where it is unjudged in God's sight, becomes the beginning of a very great evil. Having put away a good conscience, their ship no longer answers the helm, and as to faith they make shipwreck: "of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may be instructed not to blaspheme." Satan's power is regarded and really is in the outside world. The apostle had delivered these men to him. The power to torment and harass the soul with fears does not belong to the house of God, where, as we shall find, His presence is known, and this is incompatible with fear, with doubt, with question of acceptance and of blessing in His sight. The apostle had given up to the enemy these men, who had abandoned all that was holy, not only in practice, but also afterwards, as a consequence, in faith. They were consigned to Satan, not necessarily to be lost surely not; but that they might be so troubled, by proving what the power of Satan is by the flesh, and in the world, that they might be thus brought back broken in all their bones, and glad to find a refuge again in the house of God. Better surely not to need such discipline; but, if we do need it, how precious to know that God turns it to account in His grace, that they might be thoroughly dealt with and exercised in the conscience!

In the next chapter (1 Timothy 2:1-15) the apostle carries on his care as to what was becoming. This, you will find, is a main topic of the epistle. It is not merely instruction for saints, or conversion of sinners, but also the comeliness that belongs to the saints of God their right attitude toward those without as well as those within. In it we begin with what is toward those in authority, that are without. "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in eminence; that we may pass a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and gravity." May it not be a question whether we are sufficiently careful and exercised in heart, as to that which becomes us in this respect? Do we really enter on our due place of intercession, and exercise that which becomes us before God, as having so blessed a function the mind of God in this world, and care for those that seem to be outside our reach? But in truth to stand in this world in known and near relationship with a Saviour God, with One that we know, at once brings before us also those that are outside. Christianity fosters no spirit of harsh: unruly independence. And what then becomes us in respect of them? Prayer, intercession, even for the highest, let them be kings or in eminence; they need it most. Nothing but the strong sense of the infinite blessing of the place that grace has given us could lead to or keep up such prayer. But sometimes we are apt to settle down in the enjoyment of the grace, without reflecting on that which becomes us as to those outside it. From pre-occupation within, how often we forget those without!

But the reason goes deeper. "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who desires that all men should be saved:" speaking now of His gracious willingness. Not His counsels but His nature rises before us. We must be blind if we fail to see that a great point in these epistles is the good and loving nature of God, that would have us look at all men without exception. It is another thine, how far the counsels of God work, how far the effectual work of His grace is applied; but nothing alters God's nature. And this is true both in the spirit of grace that becomes the saints, and also in their zealous care for the glory of God. Hence he says: "There is one God, and one mediator between God and men." This is always the ground and character of the First and Second of Timothy. It is not the Father and His family; it is God and man. And it is not merely God as He once dealt with Israel, for then this Mediator was not. There was a promise, but the Mediator of grace was not come. But now, apart from the heavenly relations that are ours, and much that we know and enjoy by the Holy Ghost in our hearts here below, there is this that needs to be looked after and maintained, that is, the public character if we may so speak of the Christian, and that which belongs to him thus broadly before men. It is the testimony of God as a Saviour God, of a God that has to do with men. Accordingly He has revealed Himself in a Mediator. Thus he speaks of Him: "There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, the testimony in its own season. Whereunto I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not), a teacher of Gentiles in faith and truth."

His general exhortation is pursued, but still in view of the due and decent outward order, of that which met the eye even of an unconverted person. "I will therefore that the men" that is, not women "that the men pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and disputing." There are occasions and places where it would be wholly unsuitable for women to speak, but as to men they pray everywhere. There is no place where it is not in season, but let it be "without wrath and disputing." or "reasoning." Either would be altogether opposed to the spirit of prayer. Prayer is the expression of dependence on God; and wrangling on the one hand, and all angry feeling on the other, even supposing it might have some righteousness about it, still are unsuitable to prayer. Thus, what may have its place may really be uncomely in drawing near to God. A spirit of reasoning would be quite as out of place.

But with regard to woman he says, "In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in orderly guise, with modesty and sobriety; not with plaits and gold, or pearls, or costly array." It does not matter what may be the particular taste and habits of the day or of the country, the Christian woman, as much as the Christian man, ought to be above the age, and unlike the world. And indeed it is this very want that he here takes occasion to connect with Christianity itself in its outward order before man; so that we may truly desire that our Saviour God should not lose, as it were, His character in and by His people; for this is the great point that the apostle is so full of in these epistles. Such is the way in which a woman can contribute to a right and godly testimony as well as a man.

But he pursues it a little more. He says, "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man." In truth he really goes somewhat beyond this. A woman might say, "I do not usurp authority; I only exercise it." But this precisely is what is wrong. It is forbidden to be exercised. Nothing therefore can be more exclusive. It does not matter, if the man may be weak and the woman strong; it would have been better they had thought of this before they became husband and wife. But even thus no excuse avails; the woman is not to exercise authority over the man; nor (need I add?) in any other relationship. For this he traces things to their roots. "Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being quite deceived was in transgression." That is, he decides things with that marvellous power which God gave him beyond any of the other apostles of tracking the stream to its source, both in man and to God; and this ruling of the case he deduces from the unquestionable facts of the beginning of divine history as to the man and woman. The man was not deceived, in a certain sense: so much the worse; he was a bold sinner. The woman was weak and misled by the serpent; the man deliberately did what he did with his eyes open. Adam sinned against God knowingly. Of course it was dreadful and ruinous; nevertheless this shows the difference in their character from the outset. Men as a class are not so liable to be deceived as woman She is more open to be taken in by appearance. The man may be ruder and worse bolder in his sin, but still the Lord remembers this even to the last. At the same time the apostle mingles this with that which is the lot of women here below: "But she shall be preserved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety." It is not merely if "she," but if "they" continue. How serious is the word for both man and woman! In the government of God He mingles the most solemn things with that which is the most thoroughly personal, showing how He would have the conscience exercised, and jealous care even on such a matter as this. I do not agree with those who refer the childbearing to the Incarnation.

And now he comes (1 Timothy 3:1-16), not so much to comely order as to the outside, or as to the relation of man and woman, but to the ordinary governments and helps of the saints. He takes up what was of a graver kind, and touching more on spiritual things, namely, bishops (or elders); then deacons; and this leads him naturally to the house of God. "Faithful is the word, If any one aspireth to oversight, he desireth a good work. The overseer then must be blameless, husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity." It is plain that this is not at all a question of spiritual gift. One might be endowed with a good gift and yet not have a well-regulated house. Perhaps the wife might not behave properly, or the children be unruly: no matter what his gift, if the wife, or the family were a dishonour, he could not be an overseer (for this is the simple and true meaning of bishop").

In early days persons were brought in to the confession of Christ who had been Pagans, and trained up in its habits. Some of these had more than one wife. A true and gifted Christian one might be; but if such were his unhappy position, he was precluded from exercising formal oversight. The evil of polygamy could not be corrected at that time by strong measures. (Since then in Christendom it is dealt with as criminal.) To dismiss his wives would be wrong. But the Holy Spirit by such an injunction applied a principle which was destined to undermine, as in fact it did undermine, polygamy in every form. There was a manifest censure conveyed in the fact, that a man with two or more wives could not be set in the charge of elder or deacon. A man was not refused as a confessor of Christ, nor was he forbidden to preach the gospel, because such might have been his sad circumstances at home. If the Lord called him by His grace, or gave him as a gift to the church, the church bowed, But an elder or bishop was to be one that not only had a suitable gift for his work, but also in the family or in his circumstances must be free from all appearance of scandal on the name of the Lord. He must have a good report, and be morally irreproachable in himself and his household. There might be trial or sorrow, few families were without both; but what is spoken of here is something that damaged the public repute of the. assembly. For this very reason the grand point for local oversight was moral weight. It was not only the ability to inform, counsel, or rebuke, but in order to do all this efficiently a certain godly influence proved at home and abroad. In the practical difficulties with which an elder or bishop would be called to interfere continually in an assembly, there should never be room for those whose conduct might be in question to point to flaws in his own home, or in his own open life and spirit. Thus wisely and holily did the Spirit demand that he should be a person of good report himself, that neither past ways nor present habits should in the least degree compromise the office; and again, with a stainless reputation as well as a man of some spiritual experience in his family "one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil." These things would not apply to a man's ministry in the word. A Christian may begin to preach almost as soon as he believed the word of truth, the gospel of salvation; but for one to be clothed with a public and responsible place as elder in an assembly is another thing altogether.

As a rule the apostle never appointed persons elders directly after they were converted. A certain time was needful for the Spirit of God to work in the soul, and discipline them in the midst of their brethren. They would then and thus manifest certain capabilities and moral qualities, and acquire weight, which would make them respected and valued, besides gaining experience in godly care for the well-being of the saints of God. All these things, where there were circumstantial requisites, relative and personal suitability, would mark out a person for this office.

Besides, though this is not said here, in order to be an overseer, one must be appointed by a valid authority; and the only one recognised by Scripture is an apostle or an apostolic delegate. Thus the Christians that a superficial. observer of the present day might tax with inattention to godly order in these respects are in truth those alone who are really adhering to it. For manifestly to set up men in such a position of charge without a proper validating authority is really to vitiate all in its very springs. Those who refuse to exceed their powers are clearly in the right, not those who imitate the apostles without warrant from the Lord. I am perfectly satisfied therefore that those now gathered to His name have been mercifully and truly led of God in not presuming to appoint elders or bishops. They do not possess the needful authority more than others; and there they stop, using, and blessing God for, such things as they have. Appointment must always raise the question, who they are that appoint. And it is impossible for an honest man of intelligence to find a scriptural answer, so as to sanction those who pretend to ordain, or those who claim to be duly ordained, in Christendom. There was no difficulty in primitive days. Here indeed (if we except a debatable allusion in another place) the apostle does not touch the subject of appointment as he does to Titus. He merely puts before Timothy the qualities requisite for both the local charges.

After the overseers he turns to the deacons. "Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved." The modern deacon in the larger and national bodies has no resemblance to this, and is indeed an unmeaning form. It is a mere noviciate for the so-called presbyters who compose the body of the clergy. Of old no inexperienced man ought to have been in such a position. Even though it was a function about outward things, still they were to be first proved. "Then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave." It is plain on the face of it that this is more particularly insisted on for the deacons than for the elders. The reason was, that as the deacons had to do more with externals, there was greater danger of their wives making mischief and heart-burning. They might interfere with these matters, which we know are apt to gender strife, as they cast a gloom over the Pentecostal Church at an early day. There was not the same temptation for the wives of the elders or overseers. Hence it is written here, "Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife." In this we find the same thing as was said of the elders: both must rule their children and their own houses well. "For they that have served well purchase to themselves a good degree, and much boldness in faith which is in Christ Jesus."

Then the apostle sums up these regulations, and says, These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God," (may we, too, profit by his words, beloved brethren!) "which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." The church is the guardian of the truth, its sole responsible witness on the earth. The church owes all in the grace of our Lord Jesus to the truth. It may not be competent to define the truth: inspired men have done so. At the same time it is bound to hold forth God's word as the truth, and to allow nothing inconsistent with it in the doctrine or ways of the assembly. For we are called to be a manifestation of the truth before the world, even of that which goes beyond that of which the church is the embodiment. The acts done should always be an expression of the truth. It is a most important duty, therefore, and one requiring continual watchfulness. God alone can vouchsafe or keep it good.

Truly, there are often difficulties that arise in the church of God, and prudence might suggest many plans to meet the difficulty; but then it is the house of God, not merely the house of the prudent or the good. It is a divine institution. It has nothing in common with well-intentioned men doing their best. Let the matter be ever so simple, whether it be a question of discipline or order, it should express the truth of God applied to the case. This shows the exceeding solemnity of either advising or resisting any course that might be the will of God in any particular matter. Excellent desires, zeal, honesty, are in no way sufficient for the purpose. God can employ the most feeble member of the assembly; but still ordinarily one looks for better guides. One might expect that while God would give no allowance to a man presuming on gift or experience, because the moment you begin to assume to yourself or to others, there is danger, but nevertheless, surely one might expect that God would, by suitable means, bring out that which is wholesome, and true, and godly in short, what would express His own mind on any given subject.

These are among the reasons why the apostle maintains it here. We have it viewed in its outward comely order in this world, but the principle of the maintenance of this, and nothing less than this, always remains true. No renewed state gives any reason for abandoning it. The great thing is never to let details swamp the principle. There is always a way for those who, consciously weak, distrust themselves; and this is to wait, to refuse to act until God shows His way. Faith waits till it gets a distinct word from God. No doubt it is hard to be at one's wits' end, but it is a good thing for the soul. So here: he bids Timothy to take heed to these things, in case he himself tarried.

And what is that truth especially which characterizes the church? This is another instance of the tone of the epistle. "Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness." Mark the expression "mystery of godliness," or piety. It is not simply the mystery of Christ in the church, but the "mystery of godliness." "God* was manifested in flesh, was justified in Spirit, was seen of angels, was preached among Gentiles, was believed on in [the] world, was received up in glory." It is not God reigning over a people here below. This was no mystery, but the wonted expectation of all Israel, indeed, of saints before Israel. They expected the Messiah, the Redeemer to come, the One that would make good the promises of God. But now "God was manifested in flesh, was justified in Spirit." The power of the Holy Ghost had shown itself all through His life, had been proved to the uttermost in His death, and now marked Him out as Son of God in resurrection. He was "seen of angels," not of man alone; He was "preached among Gentiles," instead of being found on a throne amongst the Jews; He was "believed on in the world," instead of manifestly governing it by power. Another state of things altogether is present: it is Christianity; but Christianity viewed in the person of Christ Himself, in the grand bearings of His own person and His work; not as forming a heavenly body, nor even pursuing the special privileges of the habitation of God through the Spirit; but laying the foundation for the house of God, as the scene and support of His truth and moral order before the world. The whole matter is closed by Jesus, not only "believed on in the world," but "received up in glory."

* Cod. Sin. () agrees with the great authorities which give ὅς , "who" (or others, ὅ , "which") instead of Θεός , "God."

Now what is the reason why this is brought in here? It seems to be set in contrast with the speculations of men (1 Timothy 4:1-16) who wanted to interweave with Christianity certain dreams of a fancied spirituality above the gospel. What was this scheme? They fancied that the gospel would be a still better system if the converts would eat no meat; if they would not marry, and so on. This was their notion of bringing in some "higher life," superior to anything that the apostles had taught How does he meet them? He shows here the "mystery of godliness;" but along with this, and immediately after it, he brings in the most necessary fundamental truth. This is the point that has much struck my mind in speaking of 1 Timothy at this time.

That is to say, there is a combination of God's revelation in Christ, in most essential and even lofty features, with the plainest and simplest truth of God as to creation. Now, you will find that the way in which false doctrine enters habitually is in contrast with this. Men thus break down, who despise common duties; they are far too good or too great for occupying themselves with the homely things that become a Christian man or woman. They may perhaps weave the love of Christ (we will suppose) into some high-flown speculations; but they set aside that which connects itself every day with moral propriety. Oh, how often this has been the case! how one could easily recount one name after another, if it would become any so to do! Such then is the way in which error is prone to show itself. The man who most of all brings out what is heavenly and divine is he who should be devoted and obedient in the simplest duties of every day. This very epistle is the witness of it. Whereas the moment one sanctions the principle of making little of the family relations, setting aside duty, neglecting it personally, and making it even a boast to do so, as if jealousy for the Lord's glory were mere legalism, the result will be that, while they set aside the common claims of every day's duty, the conscience is ruined, and shipwreck of the faith is inevitable. They first cast aside a good conscience, and then the faith itself comes to nothing.

Thus the apostle brings the reader into close juxtaposition with the mystery of godliness, or, as it is emphatically called, the mystery of piety. The glorious person of Christ is traced through from His manifestation in flesh, or incarnation, until He is beheld "received up in glory." The work of God proceeds in the church on earth founded on this. In contrast with it 1 Timothy 4:1-16 follows up: "But the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons; in hypocrisy of liars, cauterised in their own conscience, forbidding to marry, [bidding] to abstain from meats, which God created to be received with thanksgiving of those that are faithful and know the truth." Some necessary changes are here made, so as to convey what seems to me the meaning. Then he proceeds: "For every creature of God is good," etc. We can hardly descend to anything lowlier than this.

But these airy speculators had completely forgotten God. They despised the simple self-evident truth that every creature of God is good. So, too, we see that they put a disparagement on the basis of family life, and the social system marriage. Not to marry through devotedness to God's work may be right and most blessed; but here it was a pretension to superior sanctity. As a principle and practice, Christian people were urged not to marry at all. Now the moment that this ground is taken, the same apostle who tells us what he believed to be the best thing. (namely, to be free from fresh ties, so as to care only for the Lord), defends resolutely the sanctity of marriage, and resents the blow struck at the creatures of God. It was really a slight of His outward love, and of His providential arrangements. Danger threatens wherever there is a virtual setting aside of God's rights, no matter what the plea. Oriental philosophy, which tinctured some of the Greeks, fostered these high soarings of men. As usual, Paul brings in God, and the dream is dissipated. The moment you use anything so as to set aside the plain duty of every day, you prove yourself to be losing the faith, to have slipped from a good conscience, to have fallen a victim to the enemy's deceits; and what will be the end of it?

The apostle then gives personal counsel to Timothy, of a very salutary character. As he also desires that none should despise his youth, so he urges that he should be a model of the believers, in word, conversation, love, faith, and purity. He was to give himself to reading, to exhortation, to teaching, and not to neglect his gift, given him through prophecy, in the imposition of the hands of the presbytery or elderhood. Nothing simpler, nor more wholesome. It might have been thought that one so specially endowed as Timothy was not called to occupy himself thus, and be wholly in them, that his profiting should appear to all. But no; grace and gift create a corresponding responsibility, instead of absolving from it. Timothy must give heed to himself, as well as to the teaching; and he must continue in them, instead of relaxing after a rigorous beginning. Depend upon it that those who seek to give out had better take care that they take in; that both labourers and those laboured amongst may ever grow in the truth. Doing thus, Timothy would save both himself and those that heard him.

In 1 Timothy 5:1-25 the apostle gives needful directions to Timothy as regards an elder. He was not to be rebuked sharply, but to be entreated as a father. Undoubtedly Timothy stood in a prominent place of trust and service; but this gave no exemption from the comeliness that becomes every one especially a young man. The apostle had maintained his post of honour in the preceding chapter; now he will not let him forget the due consideration of others. How often does over-frankness drop words which rankle in the memory of an elder, easily floated over when love flows freely, but when it ebbs, an occasion of shipwreck! Again, "younger men as brethren; the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity." Nothing more beautiful, more tender, more holy; nothing more calculated to edify and cement the saints to the glory of God, whilst His wisdom enters into all circumstances with an easy elasticity which is characteristic of His grace.

So too we find divinely-furnished regulations as to those who ought to be chargeable to the assembly what was right in the case of the younger widows what was desirable as to younger women in general; and then again the obligations toward elders, not now when faulty, but in their ordinary functions and service. "Let the elders that preside well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine." But what if they were charged with wrong? "Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear." Prejudice and partiality must be eschewed at all cost. Finally, care, must be taken to avoid any compromise of the name of the Lord. Thus the well-known sign of blessing in the outward act of laying on hands was to be done circumspectly. "Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure."

There is condescension even to so small a point seemingly as to tell him not to be a water-drinker. It would seem that Timothy's scrupulous conscience felt the dreadful habits of those times and lands so as to bring him into bondage but the apostle, not in a mere private note, but in the body of the inspired letter itself, sets aside his scruples, and bids him "use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities." I am aware that men have cavilled at this, yielding to their own thoughts of what they deem fit subjects for the pen of inspiration; but if we exclude anything whatever from the range of the Spirit of God, we make it to be merely a question of the will of man. And what must issue from this? There is nothing either too great or too little for the Holy Spirit. Is there anything that may not, that ought not, to be a question of doing God's will? Thus, if a person takes wine, or anything else, except to please God, and is not in danger on the score of morality, certainly he has lost all adequate sense of his own place as a witness of the glory of God. How happy ought we to be that God gives us perfect liberty! only let us see to it that we use it solely for His praise.

In the last chapter (1 Timothy 6:1-21) comes the question of servants and their masters, which also it was important to regulate; for we all know that a servant might turn to a selfish account that his master and himself were brethren in Christ. It is all very well for the master to say so; and certainly he should never act without bearing in mind his own spiritual relationship to his servant; but I do not think it becomes a servant to say "brother" to his master. My business is to know him as my master. No doubt it would be grace on his part to own me as his brother. Everything therefore where grace is at work will be found to have its blessed place. Whoever thought differently (and such have never been wanting) was puffed up, and could only suggest evil.

Then he touches on the value of piety with a contented mind in contrast with the love of money, and its various snares in this age as in all that are past. These things will be found dealt with successively, until at last the apostle calls on the man of God to flee these things himself, and to pursue the path of righteousness, etc., as well as strive in the good combat of faith; otherwise a man of God was in no degree free from danger. He was to lay hold of eternal life, to which he had been called, and had confessed the good confession before many witnesses, and this in view of the great event which will display our fidelity or the lack of it the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which in its own time the blessed and only Potentate shall show. At the same time he calls on him to charge them that are rich neither to be high-minded nor rely on aught so uncertain. What would give weight to the charge? That he was above such desires himself, trusting in the living God, who affords us all things richly for enjoyment. Let them be rich in good works, liberal in distributing, ready to communicate, laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, that they may lay hold of what is really life. "O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of false-named knowledge, which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee."

Bibliographical Information
Kelly, William. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:8". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​wkc/1-timothy-5.html. 1860-1890.
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