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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 5

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

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Verse 1

Verse 1 Timothy 5:1. Rebuke not an elder — That is, an elderly person; for the word πρεσβυτερος is here taken in its natural sense, and signifies one advanced in years. At 1 Timothy 5:17, it is taken in what may be termed its ecclesiastical meaning, and signifies, an officer in the Church, what we commonly call a presbyter or bishop; for sometimes these terms were confounded. There are but few cases in which it at all becomes a young man to reprove an old man, and especially one who is a father in the Church. If such a one does wrong, or gets out of the way, he should be entreated as a father, with great caution and respect. To this at least his age entitles him. The word επιπληξης signifies, do not smite; i.e. do not treat them harshly, nor with magisterial austerity.

The younger men as brethren — Showing humility, and arrogating nothing to thyself on account of thy office. Feel for them as thou oughtest to feel for thy own brethren.

Verse 2

Verse 1 Timothy 5:2. The elder women as mothers — Treating them with the respect due to their age.

The younger as sisters — Feel for every member of the Church, old and young, male and female; consider them as fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters; treat them all with gentleness; and labour to keep them in, not to expel them from, the Church.

With all purity. — εν παση αγνεια. With all chastity. See note on 1 Timothy 4:12.

There are some who seem to take a barbarous pleasure in expelling members from, the Church. They should be continued in as long as possible; while they are in the Church-under its ordinances and discipline, there is some hope that their errors may be corrected; but when once driven out again into the world, that hope must necessarily become extinct. As judgment is God's strange work, so excommunication should be the strange, the last, and the most reluctantly performed work of every Christian minister.

Verse 3

Verse 1 Timothy 5:3. Honour widows that are widows indeed. — One meaning of the word τιμαω, to honour, is to support, sustain, c., Matthew 15:4-5; and here it is most obviously to be taken in this sense. Provide for those widows especially which are widows indeed-persons truly destitute, being aged and helpless, and having neither children nor friends to take care of them, and who behave as becometh their destitute state. But see the note on 1 Timothy 5:10.

Verse 4

Verse 1 Timothy 5:4. But if any widow have children or nephews — This shows that widows indeed are those that have neither children nor nephews, i.e. no relatives that either will or can help them, or no near relatives alive.

Let them learn first to show piety at home — Let these children and nephews provide for their aged or helpless parents or relatives, and not burden the Church with them while they are able to support them.

And to requite their parents — Και αμοιβας αποδιδοναι τοις προγονοις· Let them learn to give benefit for benefit. Your parents supported and nourished you when you were young and helpless; you ought therefore to support them when they are old and destitute. This is called showing piety; and there is doubtless an allusion to the fifth commandment: Honour thy father and thy mother-provide for them in their old age and afflictions; God commands this.

Verse 5

Verse 1 Timothy 5:5. And desolate — και μεμονωμενη. Left entirely alone-having neither children nor relatives to take care of her.

Trusteth in God — Finding she has no other helper, she continues in prayer and supplication, that she may derive that from God which, in the course of his providence, he has deprived her of among men.

Verse 6

Verse 1 Timothy 5:6. But she that liveth in pleasure — Ἡ δε σπαταλωσα· She that liveth delicately-voluptuously indulging herself with dainties; it does not indicate grossly criminal pleasures; but simply means one who indulges herself in good eating and drinking, pampering her body at the expense of her mind. The word is used in reference to what we term petted and spoiled children; and a remarkable passage, is produced by Kypke, from an epistle of Theanus to Eubulus, found in Opusc. Myth. Galaei, page 741, where he says: "What can be done with that boy, who, if he have not food when and as he pleases, bursts out into weeping; and, if he eats, must have dainties and sweetmeats? If the weather be hot he complains of fatigue; if it be cold, he trembles; if he be reproved, he scolds; if every thing be not provided for him according to his wish, he is enraged. If he eats not, he breaks out into fits of anger. He basely indulges himself in pleasure; and in every respect acts voluptuously and effeminately. Knowing then, O friend, ὁτι τα σπαταλωντα των παιδιων, ὁταν ακμασῃ προς ανδρας, ανδραποδα γινεται, τας τοιαυτας ἡδονας αφαιρει· that boys living thus voluptuously, when they grow up are wont to become slaves; take away, therefore, such pleasures from them." I have introduced this long quotation, the better to fix the meaning of the apostle, and to show that the life of pleasure mentioned here does not mean prostitution or uncleanness of any kind, though such a life may naturally lead to dissolute manners.

Is dead while she liveth. — No purpose of life is answered by the existence of such a person. Seneca, in Epist. 60, says of pleasure-takers, and those who live a voluptuous life: Hos itaque animalium loco numeremus, non hominum: quosdam vero ne animalium quidem, sed mortuorum-mortem antecesserunt. "We rank such persons with brutes, not with men; and some of them not even with brutes, but with dead carcasses. They anticipate their own death." Such persons are, as the apostle says elsewhere, dead in trespasses, and dead in sins.

Verse 7

Verse 7. That they may be blameless. — Charge the whole Church to attend to these things, that they may be blameless. The words are not spoken of the widows only, but of the Church or its officers; it cannot be restricted to the widows, for the adjective ανεπιληπτοι is both of the masculine and feminine gender.

Verse 8

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."

Verse 9

Verse 9. Taken into the number — Let her not be taken into the list of those for which the Church must provide. But some think that the apostle means the list of those who were deaconesses in the Church; and that no widow was to be admitted into that rank who did not answer to the following character. See note on 1 Timothy 5:10.

Under threescore years — As it might be supposed that, previously to this age, they might be able to do something towards their own support. See note on 1 Timothy 5:10.

Having been the wife of one man — Having lived in conjugal fidelity with her husband; or having had but one husband at a time; or, according to others, having never been but once married. But the former is the opinion of some of the most eminent of the Greek fathers, and appears to be that most consistent with the scope of the place, and with truth.

Verse 10

Verse 10. Well reported of for good works — Numbers being able to bear testimony, as the word implies, that she has not only avoided all sin, but that she has walked according to the testimony of God.

Brought up children — It was customary among the Gentiles to expose their children, when so poor that they were not able to provide for them. Pious and humane people took these up; and fed, clothed, and educated them. The words brought up may refer to the children of others, who were educated in the Christian faith by pious Christian women.

Lodged strangers — If she have been given to hospitality, freely contributing to the necessitous, when she had it in her power.

Washed the saints' feet — This was an office of humanity shown to all strangers and travellers in the eastern countries, who, either walking barefoot, or having only a sort of sole to defend the foot, needed washing when they came to their journey's end. Pious women generally did this act of kindness.

Relieved the afflicted — Visited and ministered to the sick.

Diligently followed every good work — In a word, if she have been altogether a Christian, living according to the precepts of the Gospel, and doing the Lord's work with all her heart, soul, and strength.

From the character given here of the widow indeed, it may be doubted whether χηρα, widow, was not in some cases the name of an office, which name it might have from being ordinarily filled by widows. It can hardly be supposed that any widow, unless she had considerable property, could have done the things enumerated in this verse, some of which would occasion no small expense. The widow indeed may mean a person who was to be employed in some office in the Church; and Timothy is enjoined not to take any into that office unless she had been before remarkable for piety and humanity. Some think that the widows of whom the apostle speaks had been deaconesses, and wished now to be taken on what might be termed the superannuated list; and the apostle lays down rules for the admission of such, the sum of which is: Let none come on this superannuated list unless she be at least sixty years of age, and can bring proof of her having conscientiously discharged the office and duty of a deaconess.

Verse 11

Verse 11. But the younger widows refuse — Do not admit those into this office who are under sixty years of age. Probably those who were received into such a list promised to abide in their widowhood. But as young or comparatively young women might have both occasion and temptations to remarry, and so break their engagement to Christ, they should not be admitted. Not that the apostle condemns their remarrying as a crime in itself, but because it was contrary to their engagement. See note on 1 Timothy 5:14.

Wax wanton — καταστρηνιασωσι. From κατα, intensive, and στρηνιαω, to act in a luxurious or wanton manner. The word is supposed to be derived from στερειν, to remove, and ηνια, the rein; and is a metaphor taken from a pampered horse, from whose mouth the rein has been removed, so that there is nothing to check or confine him. The metaphor is plain enough, and the application easy.

Verse 12

Verse 12. Having damnation — In the sense in which we use this word I am satisfied the apostle never intended it. It is likely that he refers here to some promise or engagement which they made when taken on the list already mentioned, and now they have the guilt of having violated that promise; this is the κριμα, or condemnation, of which the apostle speaks.

They have cast off their first faith. — By pledging their fidelity to a husband they have cast off their fidelity to Christ, as a married life and their previous engagement are incompatible. Dr. Macknight translates these two verses thus: But the younger widows reject, for when they cannot endure Christ's rein, they will marry; incurring condemnation, because they have put away their first fidelity.

Verse 13

Verse 13. And withal they learn to be idle — They do not love work, and they will not work.

Wandering about from house to house — Gadding, gossiping; never contented with home; always visiting.

And not only idle — If it went no farther, this would be intolerable; but they are tattlers-tale-bearers; whisperers; light, trifling persons; all noise and no work.

Busybodies — Persons who meddle with the concerns of others; who mind every one's business but their own.

Speaking things which they ought not. — Lies, slanders, calumnies; backbiting their neighbours, and everywhere sowing the seed of dissension.

Verse 14

Verse 14. I will therefore that the younger women marry — As the preceding discourse has been about the younger widows, and this is an inference from it; it is most evident that by the younger women the apostle means the young widows. These he considers unfit for the office of the female diaconate, and therefore wills them to marry, educate children, and give themselves wholly up to domestic affairs. Here the apostle, so far from forbidding second marriages, positively enjoins or at least recommends them. And what man of sense could have done otherwise in the cases he mentions? It is no sin in any case to marry, bear children, and take care of a family; but it is a sin in every case to be idle persons, gadders about, tattlers, busybodies, sifting out and detailing family secrets, c., &c. The good sentiment, put by an able poet and pious divine into the mouths of little children, cannot be ill applied to multitudes of women, mothers, and grandmothers: -

"See how the little busy bee

Improves each shining hour,

And gathers honey all the day

From every opening flower!

In works of labour or of skill,

We should be busy too

For Satan finds some mischief, still,

For idle hands to do." DR. WATTS.

The adversary — Any person, whether Jew or Gentile, who might be watching for an occasion to reproach, through the misconduct of its professors, the cause of Christianity.

Verse 15

Verse 15. For some are already turned aside — Some of these young widows, for he appears to be still treating of them, are turned aside to idolatry, to follow Satan instead of Christ. Slight deviations, in the first instance, from a right line, may lead at last to an infinite distance from Christ.

Verse 16

Verse 16. If any man or woman that believeth — If any Christian man or woman have poor widows, which are their relatives, let them relieve them - provide them with the necessaries of life, and not burden the Church with their maintenance, that the funds may be spared for the support of those widows who were employed in its service, teaching children, visiting the sick, c., c. For the performing of such offices it is very likely that none but widows were employed and these were chosen, other things being equal, out of the most indigent of the widows, and therefore called by the apostle, here and in 1 Timothy 5:3, αἱς οντως χηραι, widows indeed-widows desolate, without support, and without relatives. See note on 1 Timothy 5:10.

Verse 17

Verse 17. Let the elders that rule well — Elder is probably here the name of an ecclesiastical officer, similar to what we now term presbyter. See note on 1 Timothy 5:1. Dr. Macknight has remarked that, "in the first age, the name πρεσβυτερος, elder, was given to all who exercised any sacred office in the Church, as is plain from Acts 20:28, where the persons are called επισκοποι, bishops, who, Acts 20:17, were called πρεσβυτεροι, elders. The same thing appears from Titus 1:5, where those are called elders who, Titus 1:7, are named bishops; and from 1 Timothy 4:14, where, collectively, all who held sacred offices in Lystra are called πρεσβυτεριον, the presbytery or eldership, and are said to have concurred with St. Paul in setting Timothy apart to the ministry."

Double honour — Διπλης τιμης. Almost every critic of note allows that τιμη here signifies reward, stipend, wages. Let him have a double or a larger salary who rules well; and why? Because in the discharge of his office he must be at expense, in proportion to his diligence, in visiting and relieving the sick, in lodging and providing for strangers; in a word, in his being given to hospitality, which was required of every bishop or presbyter.

Especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. — Those who not only preach publicly, but instruct privately, catechize, c. Some think this refers to distinct ecclesiastical orders but these technical distinctions were, in my opinion, a work of later times.

Verse 18

Verse 18. The Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox — This is a manifest proof that by τιμη, honour, in the preceding verse, the apostle means salary or wages: "Let the elders that rule well be accounted worthy of double honour," a larger salary than any of the official widows mentioned before, for "the labourer is worthy of his hire." The maintenance of every man in the Church should be in proportion to his own labour, and the necessities of his family. He that does no work should have no wages. In the Church of Christ there never can be a sinecure. They who minister at the altar should live by the altar; the ox that treadeth out the corn should not be muzzled; the labourer is worthy of his hire: but the altar should not support him who does not minister at it; if the ox won't tread out the corn, let him go to the common or be muzzled; if the man will not labour, let him have no hire.

Verse 19

Verse 19. Against an elder — Be very cautious of receiving evil reports against those whose business it is to preach to others, and correct their vices. Do not consider an elder as guilty of any alleged crime, unless it be proved by two or three witnesses. This the law of Moses required in respect to all. Among the Romans, a plebeian might be condemned on the deposition of one credible witness; but it required two to convict a senator. The reason of this difference is evident: those whose business it is to correct others will usually have many enemies; great caution, therefore, should be used in admitting accusations against such persons.

Verse 20

Verse 20. Them that sin rebuke before all — That is, before the members of the Church; which was the custom of the Jews in their synagogues. But, if the words refer to the elders alone, then the transgressing elder is to be reproved before his fellows, and be tried by them.

That others also may fear. — This is the grand object of Church censures, to reclaim the transgressors, and to give warning to others.

Verse 21

Verse 21. I charge thee before God — The apostle would have Timothy to consider that all he did should be done as in the sight of God, the Father of the spirits of all flesh; in the sight of Christ, the Saviour of sinners, who purchased the Church with his own blood; and in the sight of the most holy, approved, and eminent angels, whose office it was to minister to the heirs of salvation. The word εκλεκτοι, elect, applied to the angels here, is supposed to distinguish those who stood, when others fell from their first estate. The former were elect, or approved; the latter reprobate, or disapproved. This is not an unfrequent sense of the word εκλεκτος, elect. Perhaps there is nothing else meant than the angels that are chosen out from among others, by the Lord himself, to be ministering servants to the Church.

Without preferring one before another — χωρις προκριματος. Without prejudice. Promote no man's cause; make not up thy mind on any case, till thou hast weighed both sides, and heard both parties, with their respective witnesses; and then act impartially, as the matter may appear to be proved. Do not treat any man, in religious matters, according to the rank he holds in life, or according to any personal attachment thou mayest have for him. Every man should be dealt with in the Church as he will be dealt with at the judgment-seat of Christ. A minister of the Gospel, who, in the exercise of discipline in the Church, is swayed and warped by secular considerations, will be a curse rather than a blessing to the people of God. Accepting the persons of the rich, in ecclesiastical matters, has been a source of corruption in Christianity. With some ministers the show of piety in a rich man goes farther than the soundest Christian experience in the poor. What account can such persons give of their stewardship?

Verse 22

Verse 22. Lay hands suddenly on no man — Do not hastily appoint any person to the sacred ministry: let the person be well proved before he receives the imposition of hands. Some understand this of laying hands on the sick.

Neither be partaker of other men's sins — It is a sin for any improper person to thrust himself into the sacred office; and he partakes of that sin who introduces, helps him forward, or sanctions him in it. O, what an account will rash, undiscerning, and prejudiced bishops, presbyters, and others, have to render to God for their ordinations! Their laying rash or careless hands "on skulls that cannot teach, and will not learn;" while probably they refuse inducting others well qualified for the Christian ministry.

Keep thyself pure. — From this and every other evil.

Verse 23

Verse 23. Drink no longer water, but use a little wine — The whole of this verse seems, to several learned critics and divines, strangely inserted in this place; it might have been, according to them, a note which the apostle inserted in the margin of his letter, on recollecting the precarious state of Timothy's health, and his great abstemiousness and self-denial. I believe the verse to be in its proper place; and, for reasons which I shall adduce, not less necessary than the directions which precede and follow it. But it may be necessary to inquire a little into the reasons of the advice itself. The priests under the Mosaic law, while performing sacred rites, were forbidden to drink wine: Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever through your generations; Leviticus 10:9; Ezekiel 44:21. It was the same with the Egyptian priests. It was forbidden also among the Romans, and particularly to women and young persons. PLATO, De Legibus, lib. ii., edit. Bip., vol. viii., page 86, speaks thus: Αρ' ου νομοθετησομεν, πρωτον μεν, τους παιδας μεχρις ετων οκτωκαιδεκα τοπαραπαν οινου μη γευεσται; - μετα δε τουτο, οινου μεν δη γευεσθαι του μετριου, μεχρι τριακοντα ετων· - τετταρακοντα δε επιβαινοντα ετων, εν τοις ξυσσιτιοις ευωχηθεντα, κ. τ. λ. "Shall we not ordain by law, in the first place, that boys shall not, on any account, taste wine till they are eighteen years old? In the next place, we should inform them that wine is to be used moderately till they are thirty years old. But when they have attained the fortieth year, then they may attend feasts; for Bacchus has bestowed wine upon men as a remedy against the austerity of old age, της του γηρως αυστηροτητος εδωρησατο τον οινον φαρμακον, ὡστ' ανηβᾳν ἡμας, και δυσθυμιας ληθην γιγνεσθαι, μαλακωτερον εκ σκληροτερου το της ψυχης ηθος, καθαπερ εις πυρ σιδηρον εντεθεντα, γιγνομενον· that through this we might acquire a second youth, forget sorrow, and the manners of the mind be rendered softer, as iron is softened by the action of the fire." But wine, according to the assertions of some, was given to men as a punishment, that they might be rendered insane: Ὁ δε νυν λεγομενος ὑφ' ἡμων, φαρμακον επι τουναντιον φησιν αιδους μεν ψυχης κτησεως ἑνεκα δεδοσθαι, σωματος δε ὑγιειας τε και ισχυος· page 100. "But we have now said that it is, on the contrary, medicine; and was given that the soul might acquire modesty, and the body health and vigour."

From Athenaeus we learn that the Greeks often mingled their wine with water; sometimes one part of wine to two of water; three parts of water to one of wine; and at other times three parts of water to two of wine. See his Deipnosophistae, lib. ix. "Among the Locrians, if any one was found to have drunk unmixed wine, unless prescribed by a physician, he was punished with death; the laws of Zaleucus so requiring. And among the Romans, no servant, nor free woman, ουτε των ελευθερων οἱ εφηβοι μεχρι τριακοντα ετων, nor youths of quality, drank any wine till they were thirty years of age." Deipnosoph., lib. x. c. 7, p. 429. And it was a maxim among all, that continued water-drinking injured the stomach. Thus Libanius, Epist. 1578. Πεπτωκε και ἡμιν ὁ στομαχος ταις συνεχεσιν ὑδροποσιαις· "Our stomach is weakened by continual water-drinking."

From 1 Timothy 4:12, we learn that Timothy was a young man; but as among the Greeks and Roman the state of youth or adolescence was extended to thirty years, and no respectable young men were permitted to drink wine before that time; allowing that Timothy was about twenty when Paul had him circumcised, which was, according to Calmet, in the year of our Lord 51, and that this epistle was written about A. D. 64 or 65, then Timothy must have been about thirty-five when he received this epistle; and as that was on the borders of adolescence, and as the Scripture generally calls that youth that is not old age, Timothy might be treated as a young man by St. Paul, as in the above text, and might still feel himself under the custom of his country relative to drinking wine, (for his father was a Greek, Acts 16:1,) and, through the influence of his Christian profession, still continue to abstain from wine, drinking water only; which must have been very prejudicial to him, his weak state of health considered, the delicacy of his stomach, and the excess of his ecclesiastical labours.

As Timothy's life was of great consequence to the Church of God at Ephesus, it was not unworthy of the Spirit of God to give the direction in the text, and to mingle it immediately with what some have called more solemn and important advice.

1. It was necessary that the work should be done in the Church at Ephesus which the apostle appointed to Timothy.

2. There was no person at Ephesus fit to do this work but Timothy.

3. Timothy could not continue to do it if he followed his present mode of abstemiousness.

4. It was necessary, therefore, that he should receive direction from Divine authority relative to the preservation of his life, and consequently the continuation of his usefulness, as it is not likely that a minor authority would have weighed with him.

Verse 24

Verse 24. Some men's sins are open beforehand — In appointing men to sacred offices in the Church, among the candidates Timothy would find,

1. Some of whom he knew nothing, but only that they professed Christianity; let such be tried before they are appointed.

2. Some of whose faith and piety he had the fullest knowledge, and whose usefulness in the Church was well known.

3. Some whose lives were not at all or but partially reformed, who were still unchanged in their hearts, and unholy in their lives.

The sins of these latter were known to all; they go before to judgment; with them he could have no difficulty. With the first class he must have more difficulty; there might have been hypocrites among them, whose sins could not be known till after they were brought into the sacred office. The characters of all should be fully investigated. The sins of some, before this investigation, might be so manifest as to lead at once εις κρισιν to condemnation. The sins of others might be found out after, or in consequence of, this investigation; and those that were otherwise could not be long hid from his knowledge, or the knowledge of the Church. On all these accounts the exhortation is necessary: Lay hands suddenly on no man.

Verse 25

Verse 1 Timothy 5:25. Likewise also the good works of some] Though those who are very holy and very useful in the Church cannot be unknown, yet there are others not less holy who need to be brought forward; who do much good in private; and their character and good works are not fully known till after diligent inquiry. These are they who do not let their left hand know what their right doeth.

1. AFTER so long and minute an examination of the subjects in this chapter, little remains to be said in the way of farther and more satisfactory explanation. The whole account concerning the widows, who they were, and what their provision, and what their occupation, and how supported, are to me questions of considerable difficulty. In the notes I have given the best account of the different subjects in my power. If the reader be satisfied and edified, I have gained my end.

2. On the subject of the imposition of hands, or what is vulgarly but improperly called ordination, I have not said much here, having given my views of the subject elsewhere in these notes. See note on 1 Timothy 3:1, c. I must again state my conviction that what is said on this subject in this chapter, and indeed in the epistle, is rather to be understood prophetically and to have been intended for a much lower age of the Christian Church. That any person should, from impure or secular motives, desire to be appointed to the ministerial office at such a time, when poverty and persecution were the least they would reasonably expect, to me seems altogether inexplicable. But that many, after the Church got accredited and established, and an ample revenue appointed for its ministers by emperors and kings, should wish to get into the priesthood for its emoluments, is a melancholy truth, which every year's experience testifies. To those who have the authority from the state to appoint ministers for the Church, this chapter reads a solemn and awful lesson. And not to them only, but to all who have the appointment of ministers or preachers in every sect and party. How few are there who would kindle a fire on God's altar were there not secular emoluments attending it! I am afraid the Scottish poet spoke the truth who said: -

"'Tis gow'd maks sogers feight the fiercer,

Without it, preaching wad be scarcer."

Gold or money is the primum mobile through every department of life. Proh dolor!

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