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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 5

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;

An elder - in age; probably not in the ministry; these latter are not mentioned until 1 Timothy 5:17. Compare Acts 2:17, "your old men:" contrasted with "the younger men." As Timothy was admonished to give no man reason to despise his youth (1 Timothy 4:12), so he is told to behave with the modesty which becomes a young man toward his elders. "Rebuke" [ Epipleexees (G1969)] - 'Strike hard upon:' Rebuke not sharply; a different word [ epitimeeson (G2008)] (2 Timothy 4:2).

Entreat, [ parakalei (G3870)] - exhort.

As brethren - therefore equals: not lording it over them (1 Peter 5:1-3).

Verse 2

The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.

With all purity. Respectful treatment of the other sex promotes "purity."

Verse 3

Honour widows that are widows indeed.

Honour - by setting on the church roll as fit objects of charity (1 Timothy 5:9; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; Acts 6:1). So "honour" is used for support, Matthew 15:4; Matthew 15:6; Acts 28:10.

Widows indeed (1 Timothy 5:16) - really desolate: not like those (1 Timothy 5:4) having children or relations answerable for their support, nor like those (1 Timothy 5:6) 'who live in pleasure;' but such as, from earthly friendlessness, trust wholly in God, persevere in prayers, and carry out the duties assigned to church widows (1 Timothy 5:5). Care for widows was transferred from the Jewish economy to the Christian (Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 24:17; Deuteronomy 24:19).

Verse 4

But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.

If any widow - not "a widow indeed," as having children who ought to support her.

Nephews, [ ekgona (G1549)] - 'descendants,' or 'grandchildren.' Nephews in old English meant grandchildren (Hooker, 'Ecclesiastical Polity,' 5: 20).

Let them - the children and descendants.

Learn first - before calling the church to support them.

To show piety at home - by sustaining their widowed mother or grandmother. [ Ton (G3588) idion (G2398) oikon (G3624) ' ... toward their own house.'] "Piety means reverential dutifulness; the parental relation representing our heavenly Fathers relation to us. 'Their own' is opposed to the church, to which the widow is comparatively a stranger. She has a claim on her own, prior to her claim on the church; let them fulfill this prior claim by sustaining her, and not burdening the church.

Parents, [ progonois (G4269)] - (living) 'progenitors;' i:e., their mother or grandmother. "Let them learn" implies that some widows had claimed church support, though having children or grandchildren able to support them.

Good and 'Aleph (') A C Delta G f g, Vulgate, omit: probably inserted from 1 Timothy 2:3.

Verse 5

Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.

Widow indeed, and (left) desolate - contrasted with her who has children to support her (1 Timothy 5:4).

Trusteth in God - Greek, 'hath rested, and doth rest, her hope in God.' This 1 Timothy 5:5 adds another qualification for church maintenance, besides her being "desolate," or without children to support her. She must be not one "that liveth in pleasure" (1 Timothy 5:6), but one making God her hope [ epi (G1909) ton (G3588) Theon (G2316): note, 1 Timothy 4:10: God is the aim whereto her hope is directed; whereas, 1 Timothy 4:10, dative expresses hope resting on God as her present stay (Wiesinger)], and continuing instantly in prayers. Her destitution of earthly ties leaves her more unencumbered for devoting her days to God (1 Corinthians 7:33-34). Compare 'Anna, a widow,' who remained unmarried after her husband's death, and "departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day" (Luke 2:36-37). Such a one is the fittest object for the church's help (1 Timothy 5:3); for such a one is helping Christ's Church by her prayers for it. 'Ardour in prayers flows from hoping confidence in God' (Leo).

In [her: tais (G3588 )] supplications and prayers (notes, Philippians 4:6 ; 1 Timothy 2:1 ) night and day - another coincidence with Luke 18:7: contrast Satan's accusations "day and night" (Revelation 12:10).

Verse 6

But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.

She that liveth in pleasure - the opposite of the self-denying widow, 1 Timothy 5:5; therefore one undeserving of church charity. [ Hee (G3588) ... spataloosa (G4684) expresses wanton prodigality.] The root expresses [spathaoo] weaving at a fast rate: so lavish excess (note, James 5:5).

Dead while she liveth - dead in the Spirit while alive in the flesh (Matthew 8:22; Ephesians 4:18; Ephesians 5:14; Revelation 3:1).

Verse 7

And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.

These things (1 Timothy 5:5-6).

That they may be blameless - namely, the widows supported by the church.

Verse 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.

But - reverting to 1 Timothy 5:4, 'if any (a general proposition, therefore including the widow's children or grandchildren) provide not for his own (relations), and especially for those of his own family, he hath (practically) denied the faith.' Faith without love and its works is dead. If in any case a duty of love is plain, it is toward one's own relatives. 'Faith does not set aside, but strengthens natural duties.'

Worse than an infidel - because even an infidel is taught by nature to provide for his own relatives, and generally recognizes the duty: the Christian who does not so is worse (Matthew 5:46-47). He has less excuse with his greater light than the infidel who breaks the laws of nature. The Essenes were forbidden to relieve relatives without leave of their superiors (Josephus, Jewish Wars, 2: 8. 6).

Verse 9

Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man,

'As a widow (i:e., of the ecclesiastical order of widowhood: a female presbytery), let none be enrolled (in the catalogue) who is less than sixty years old. These were not deaconesses, who were chosen at a younger age (forty was fixed at the council of Chalcedon), and who had virgins (in a later age called widows) as well as widows among them, but a band of widows set apart, though not yet formally and finally, to the service of the church. Traces of such a class appear in Acts 9:41. So Dorcas herself. As it was expedient (note, 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6) that the presbyter or bishop should have been but once married, so also she. There is a transition to a new subject. The reference cannot be, as in 1 Timothy 5:3, to providing church sustenance for them, for the restriction to widows above sixty would then be harsh, since many might need help at a much earlier age; also the rule that the widow must not have been twice married, especially since he himself (1 Timothy 5:14) enjoins the younger widows to marry again; also that she must have brought up children.

Moreover, 1 Timothy 5:10 pre-supposes some competence, at least in past times; so poor widows would be excluded, the very class requiring charity. Also 1 Timothy 5:11 would then be senseless, for their re-marrying would be a benefit, not an injury, to the church, as relieving it of their sustenance. Tertullian, 'De velandis Virginibus,' 100: 9; Hermas, 'Shepherd,' b. 1: 2; and Chrysostom, 'Homily' 31, mention such an order of ecclesiastical widowhood, each not less than 60 years old, resembling the presbyters in the respect paid to them, and in some of their duties: they ministered with sympathizing counsel to other widows and to orphans-a ministry to which their experimental knowledge of the feelings and sufferings of the bereaved adapted them-and had a general supervision of their sex. Age was a requisite in presbyters, as it is here stated to have been in presbyteresses, with a view to their influence on the younger of their sex. They were supported by the church, but not the only widows so supported (1 Timothy 5:3-4). Three classes of widows occur:

(1) The ordinary widow; (2) The widow indeed - i:e., destitute;

(3) The presbyteral widow.

Wife of one man - in order not to throw a stumblingblock in the way of Jews and pagan, who regarded with disfavour second marriages (note, 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). This is the force of "blameless," giving no offence, even in matters indifferent.

Verse 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.

For good works - Greek, 'IN honourable works:' the sphere in which the good report of her had place (Titus 2:7). This answers to 1 Timothy 3:7, as to the bishop or presbyter.

If - if, in addition to being "well reported of," etc.

She have brought up children - piously, either her own (1 Timothy 3:4; 1 Timothy 3:12) or those of others, one of the "good works:" a qualification adapting her for ministry to orphan children and to mothers of families.

Lodged strangers (1 Timothy 3:2, end; Titus 1:8) - in the case of presbyters.

Washes the saints' feet - after Jesus' example (John 13:14): a specimen of humbly 'by love serving one another' (Luke 7:38; Galatians 5:13).

Relieved the afflicted - by pecuniary or other relief.

Followed every good (1 Thessalonians 5:15: cf. instances in Matthew 25:35-36.)

Verse 11

But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry;

Younger - than 60 years (1 Timothy 5:9).

Refuse - to take on the roll of presbyteress widows. Wax wanton - `over-strong' (2 Chronicles 26:16). [ Katastreeniasoosin (G2691), akin to the Latin strenuus like beasts waxing restive with over-feeding (Deuteronomy 32:15).]

Against Christ - their proper bridegroom.

They will - Greek, wish: their desire is to marry again.

Verse 12

Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.

Having - Having to bear (Galatians 5:10) judgment from God (cf. 1 Timothy 3:6), weighing like a load on them; namely,

Because - rather, that (Ellicott).

Cast off their first faith - namely, pledged to Christ and the Church. There could be no hardship at 60 or upwards in not marrying again (end of 1 Timothy 5:9), for the sake of serving better the cause of Christ as presbyteresses; though, to ordinary widows, no barrier existed against re-marriage (1 Corinthians 7:39). This is distinct from Rome's unnatural vows of celibacy in young marriageable women. The widow-presbyteresses engaged to remain single, not as though single were holier than married life (Rome's teaching), but because the interests of Christ made it desirable (note, 1 Timothy 3:2). They had pledged "their first faith" to His service as presbyteress widows: they now wish to transfer their faith to a husband (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:32; 1 Corinthians 7:34).

Verse 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.

Withal - `at the same time, moreover.'

Learn - usually in a good sense. But these women's 'learning' is idleness, trifling, and busybodies' tattle.

Wandering, [ perierchomenai (G4022)] - 'going about' ostensibly on church duties.

From house to house - of the church members (2 Timothy 3:6). 'They carry the affairs of this house to that, and of that to this: they tell the affairs of all to all' (Theophylact). Tattlers, [ fluaroi (G5397), akin to fluere; fluent] - 'trifling talkers.' In 3 John 1:10, "prating."

Busybodies, [ periergoi (G4021), meddlers] - mischievously busy; inconsiderately curious (2 Thessalonians 3:11). Acts 19:19, "curious." Curiosity springs from idleness, the mother of garrulity (Calvin).

Speaking, [ lalousai (G2980)] - not merely 'saying.'

Which they ought not - (Titus 1:11.)

Verse 14

I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

Younger (women) - rather 'the younger widows,' as distinguished from the older widows taken on the roll of presbyteresses (1 Timothy 5:9). The "therefore" means, seeing that young widows are exposed to such temptations, 'I desire,' etc. Paul here desires re-marriage: above, it was the widows whose will it was to re-marry (1 Timothy 5:11-13). The precept that they should marry again is not inconsistent with 1 Corinthians 7:26; 1 Corinthians 7:40; for the circumstances were distinct. Here re-marriage is recommended as an antidote to sexual passion, idleness, and the other evils (1 Timothy 5:11-13). Where there was no tendency to these, marriage again would not be as requisite: Paul speaks of what is generally desirable when there is danger of such evils. 'He does not impose a law, but points out a remedy' (Chrysostom).

Bear children (1 Timothy 2:15) - gaining one of the qualifications (1 Timothy 5:10) for being afterward a presbyteress widow, should Providence ordain it.

Guide, [ oikodespotein (G3616)] - 'rule the house in the woman's due place: not usurping authority over the man (1 Timothy 2:12).

Give none occasion, [ aformeen (G874)] - 'starting-point:' handle of reproach through inconsistent conduct.

The adversary - of Christianity, Jew or Gentile (Philippians 1:28; Titus 2:8). Not Satan, introduced in a different relation (1 Timothy 5:15).

To speak reproachfully - literally, 'for the sake of reproach' (1 Timothy 3:7; 1 Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:5; Titus 2:10). If the handle were given, the adversary would use it for the sake of reproach: he is eager to exaggerate the faults of a few, and lay the blame on the whole Church and its doctrines (Bengel).

Verse 15

For some are already turned aside after Satan.

For - For in some this result has already ensued: 'some (widows) are already turned asides from Christ, the spouse (2 Timothy 4:4), after Satan,' the seducer (1 Timothy 5:11-13), by sexual passion, idleness, etc., and so have given occasion of reproach (1 Timothy 5:14).

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.

If any ... have widows - of his family, however related to him. 'Aleph (') A C G g omit "man or," and read, 'If any woman that believeth.' Delta f support received text. He was speaking of younger widows: he now says, If any believing young widow have widows related to her needing support, let her relieve them, thereby easing the church of the burden (1 Timothy 5:3-4) (there it was the children and grandchildren; here it is the young widow, who, in order to avoid idleness and wantonness (Ezekiel 16:49; 1 Timothy 5:11; 1 Timothy 5:13), is to be diligent in 'relieving the afflicted,' especially relatives, widows like herself (1 Timothy 5:10): thus qualifying herself for being afterward a widow-presbyteress).

Let them - rather 'let him,' or 'her.'

Be charged, [ bareisthoo (G916)] - 'be burdened' with their support.

Widows indeed - really friendless (1 Timothy 5:3-4).

Verse 17

Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

The transition from the widow-presbyteresses (1 Timothy 5:9) to the presbyters is natural.

Rule well, [ proestootes (G4291)] - 'preside well,' with wisdom, ability, and loving faithfulness, over the flock, in contradistinction to non-ruling presbyters.

Be counted worthy of double honour - "honour" expressed by gifts (1 Timothy 5:3; 1 Timothy 5:18), and otherwise. If a presbyter, in virtue of his office, is worthy of honour, he who rules well is doubly so (1 Corinthians 9:14; Galatians 6:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:12). "Double" is used for large, much more (Revelation 18:6).

Especially they who labour in the word and doctrine - `teaching.' Preaching the Word, and instruction, catechetical or otherwise. This implies, that of the ruling presbyters there were two kinds-those who laboured in the Word and teaching, and those who did not. Lay presbyters have no place here; for both classes mentioned are ruling presbyters. A college of presbyters is implied as existing in Ephesus. In 1 Timothy 3:1-16 their qualifications are mentioned: here the acknowledgments due to them for their services.

Verse 18

For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.

The Scripture (Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Corinthians 9:9). The Spirit often designs a fuller meaning under literal precepts.

The ox that treadeth out - Greek, 'an ox while treading,' etc. Threshing was performed by oxen either by treading or by being attached to a threshing-wain.

The labourer is worthy of his reward - or "hire" (Luke 10:7; whereas Matthew 10:10 has "his meat," or 'food.' Paul, if, as seems natural, "the Scripture" apply to the second quotation as well as the first, hereby recognizes the gospel of Luke, his own helper (whence appears the undesigned appositeness of the quotation), as inspired "Scripture." That gospel was probably in circulation then eight or nine years.

Verse 19

Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.

Against an elder - a presbyter of the church.

But before two or three witnesses. A judicial conviction was not permitted in Deuteronomy 19:15, except on the testimony of at least two or three witnesses (cf. Matthew 18:16; John 8:17; 2 Corinthians 13:1). But Timothy's entertaining an accusation against anyone is a different case, where the object was not judicially to punish, but to admonish (1 Timothy 5:21; 1 Timothy 5:24). Here he might ordinarily entertain it without the need of more than one witness, as also Moses' law allowed; but not in the case of an elder, since the more earnest an elder was to convince gainsayers (Titus 1:9), the more exposed would he be to vexations accusations. How important, then, was it, that Timothy should not, without strong testimony, entertain a charge against presbyters, who should, in order to be efficient, be "blameless!" (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6.) "Receive" does not include both citation and conviction, but only the former.

Verse 20

Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

Them that sin - habitually (present participle), whether presbyters or laymen.

Rebuke before all - by ecclesiastical authority, publicly before the church, it being a case not of mere individual offence, but a public scandal (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; Ephesians 5:11). Not until this "rebuke" was disregarded was the offender excommunicated.

That others also may fear - offending (Deuteronomy 13:11; Acts 5:11).

Verse 21

I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.

I (solemnly) charge thee, [ diamarturomai (G1263)] (2 Timothy 4:1).

Before - `in the presence of God.'

Lord. Omitted in 'Aleph (') A Delta G f g, Vulgate. God the Father, and Christ the Son, who will be revealed with His angels at the last judgment, will testify against thee, if thou disregardest my injunction.

Elect angels - the objects of divine electing love, in contrast to the reprobate angels, "who kept not their first estate" (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6). "Elect" also marks the excellence of the angels (as God's chosen ministers, 'holy angels,' 'angels of light'), and so gives more solemnity to their testimony (Calvin) to Paul's adjuration. Angels take part, by action and sympathy, in our affairs (Luke 15:10; 1 Corinthians 4:9), and will hereafter witness the judgment.

These things - the injunctions (1 Timothy 5:19-20).

Without preferring one before another, [ prokrimatos (G4299)] - 'without prejudice:' 'judging before' hearing all the facts. There ought to be judgment, but not pre-judging. (Compare "suddenly," 1 Timothy 5:22; also 1 Timothy 5:24).

Partiality - in favour of one, as 'prejudice' is bias against one. A Delta read [proskleesin] 'in the way of summoning (brethren) before a (pagan) judge.' But 'Aleph (') G f g, Vulgate, Lucifer, favour [ prosklisin (G4346)] "partiality."

Verse 22

Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure.

Lay hands - i:e., ordain (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; Titus 1:5). The connection is with 1 Timothy 5:19. The way to guard against scandals in presbyters is, be cautious as to the character of the candidate before ordaining him. This will apply to other church officers also. Thus, this clause refers to 1 Timothy 5:19, as next clause, "neither be partaker of other men's sins," refers to 1 Timothy 5:20. Ellicott understands it of receiving back into church fellowship, absolving, by laying hands on those who had been 'rebuked' (1 Timothy 5:20) and excommunicated (Matthew 18:17). But as in Acts 6:6; Acts 13:3; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6, the laying on of hands is used of ordination, and there is no express reference to excommunication and absolution in the context, the ancient interpretation is best.

Suddenly - hastily. 1 Timothy 5:24-25 show that waiting is salutary.

Neither be partaker of other men's sins - by negligence in ordaining ungodly candidates; so becoming, in some degree, responsible for their sins. Or, there is the same transition from elders to all who sin, as in 1 Timothy 5:19-20. Be not a partaker in other men's sins by not 'rebuking them that sin before all:' alike those that are candidates for the presbytery, also all "that sin."

Keep thyself pure - "keep THYSELF." (emphatic) clear of OTHER men's sin, by not failing to rebuke them (1 Tim. 5:29 ). The transition is easy to 1 Timothy 5:23, concerning Timothy personally (cf. also 1 Timothy 5:24).

Verse 23

Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.

No longer - as a habit. This injunction to drink wine occasionally modifies "keep thyself pure." The presbyter and deacon were to be "not given to wine" (1 Timothy 3:3; 1 Timothy 3:8). Timothy perhaps had a tendency to ascetical strictness (cf. note, 1 Timothy 4:8: cf. the Nazarene vow, Numbers 6:1-4; John Baptist, Luke 1:15; Romans 14:21). Paul modifies the preceding "keep thyself pure." 'Not that I enjoin that purity which consists in asceticism; nay, no longer drink only water, but use a little wine, as is needed for thy health' (Ellicott). The Essenes avoided wine, especially in their weekly festival. Alford thus: Timothy was of a feeble frame (note, 1 Corinthians 16:10-11), timid as overseer, where vigorous action was needed: Hence, Paul exhorts him to take means to raise his bodily condition. God commands believers to use all due means for preserving health, and condemns, by anticipation, the human traditions which among various sects have denied wine to the faithful.

Verse 24

Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.

Two kinds of sins:

(1) Those palpably notorious (so prodeeloi (G4271), "open beforehand;" Hebrews 7:14, "evident;" literally, 'before' the eyes) further explained as "going before to judgment;" and

(2) Those which follow after the men ("some men they (i:e., their sins) follow after," as a shadow following the body) - namely, not going beforehand, lowly accusing, but hidden until the judgment: so 1 Timothy 5:25, the good works are of two classes: those palpably manifest ('manifest beforehand'), and those "that are otherwise" - i:e., not palpably manifest.

Both alike "cannot be hid" the former class, the bad and good, are manifest already; the latter, in the case of both, are not manifest now, but shall be so at the last judgment.

Going before to judgment - as heralds: crying sins, which accuse their perpetrator. The connection is: He had enjoined Timothy (1 Timothy 5:20), 'rebuke them that sin before all;' and (1 Timothy 5:22), "neither be partaker of other men's sins," by ordaining ungodly men; having, by a digression at "keep thyself pure," guarded against an error of Timothy in fancying purity consisted in asceticism, and having exhorted him to use wine for strengthening him, he returns to his being vigorous as an overseer in rebuking sin, whether in presbyters or people, and in avoiding participation in men's sins by ordaining ungodly candidates. He says, therefore, there are two classes of sins, as thee are two classes of good works: those palpably manifest and those not so; the former are those on which thou shouldest act decidedly at once, when it is needful to rebuke in general, or to ordain ministers in particular: as to the latter, the final judgment alone can decide; however hidden now, they "cannot be hid" then. This could only be said of the final judgment (1 Corinthians 4:5 therefore, Alford's reference to Timothy's judgment in choosing elders is wrong): all judgments before then are fallible. Timothy can only be responsible if he connive at manifest sins; not that those that are otherwise shall escape judgment at last: just as in good works, he can only be responsible for taking into account in his judgments those patent to all; not those secret good works which nevertheless will not remain hidden at the final judgment.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/1-timothy-5.html. 1871-8.
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