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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 5

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-16

Directions in reference to the Management of the Community
A.—How Timothy must conduct himself toward aged and young persons of both sexes in the community, and especially toward the widows

1 Timothy 5:1-16

1Rebuke not an elder [an aged man], but entreat him as a father; [,] and the younger men as brethren; [,] 2The elder women as mothers; [,] the younger 3as sisters, with [in] all purity.1 Honor widows that are widows indeed. 4But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that2 is good and acceptable before God. 5Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God,3 and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. 6But she that liveth in pleasure, is dead while she liveth.4 7And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless. 8But if any provide5 not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. 9Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, 10Well reported of for good works; [,] if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet [feet of saints], if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. 11But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton6 against Christ, they will marry; [,] 12Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith [have laid aside = turned away from their first fidelity]. 13And 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. 14I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. 15For some are already turned aside after Satan.7 16If any man or woman that believeth8 have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; [,] that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.


1 Timothy 5:1. An elder. After the Apostle, at the close of the previous chapter, has given Timothy his general exhortation and counsel as to the conduct of his high office, he passes to a more exact view of his duty in the guidance of the church, with special reference to persons of differing positions, age, and sex. Melanchthon: “Addit admonitiones particulares aliquot de negotiis forensibus et æconomicis, et insigne testimonium est, quod Deo placeant officia debita cognatis.”—An elder, πρεσβυτέρῳ; not an elder in the official sense, as is plain from the contrast with the νεωτέροι, but a member of the church, provectioris ætatis.—Rebuke not; that is, in case he has been guilty of some offence, reprove him not with violence and severity, noli eum inerepare. Youthful zeal and impulse might easily mislead Timothy in this, since many sins are really more offensive when committed by the aged.—But entreat him as a father. Act toward him as a right-minded son would to a father whom he perceives to have fallen into wrong.—The younger men as brethren, sc., παρακάλει, without any self-exaltation over them. Timothy must thus exhort all, without distinction; but the tone and manner and spirit of his words must be modified according to the differing circumstances of those whom he addressed.

1 Timothy 5:2. The elder women purity. He must keep toward the elder women the same conduct as toward the elder men. In respect to the younger women of the church, he is reminded most emphatically of the duty of ἁγνείᾳ. Grammatically, this requirement may be referred to all the preceding clauses, but logically it belongs only to νεωτέρας. Although the ἁγνείᾳ here urged consists first in chastity, its whole force is not thus exhausted (comp. 1 Timothy 4:12). The conduct of Timothy must be morally pure in its fullest sense, so as to guard himself not only from evil, but from the appearance of evil.—As sisters. Bengel well says: “Hic respectus egregie adjuvat castitatem.”

1 Timothy 5:3. Honor widows. χήρας is entirely general, although afterward different classes among widows are spoken of.—Hold in honor, τίμα; not merely by care and support from the treasury of the church (De Wette), but again quite general: show them the honor and respect that belong to a widow, as well as help in their necessities.—That are widows indeed, τὰς ὄντως χήρας; a more exact description of those widows whom Paul specially commends to Timothy. The following more fully explains his meaning. Those who still have children, or other near kindred, who can and ought to maintain them, are not χήραι in the free sense of the word. That the Apostle chiefly speaks of the outward condition, not of the personal character of widows (Schleiermacher), clearly follows from 1 Timothy 5:4 (comp. also 1 Timothy 5:16). In 1 Timothy 5:5 the Apostle first alludes to the spirit and demeanor of the widow who really deserves the name. In all that concerns the local and temporal view of this subject, the following verse is of special importance; for it is the fullest passage in the whole New Testament, treating of the character, the rights, and the duties of a Christian widow. In 1 Timothy 5:4-8 the Apostle names the widows who can justly claim support from the church; then, in 1 Timothy 5:9-16, the widows who should be or should not be chosen for the service of the church.

1 Timothy 5:4. But if any widow have children or nephews. According to Acts 6:1, widows were almost the first objects of Christian beneficence; and from various evidences in Justin, Ignatius, Eusebius and others, it appears that they were very early regarded with special affection. This beneficence seems, however, to have been soon abused by the indolence of some who had widows among their near relatives, but sought to escape their own duty by giving them to the charge of the church. The church was thus burdened beyond its powers, and Christian love exercised at the cost of natural relationship. Against this wrong condition the precept of the Apostle was directed, and the community was freed from the obligation of sustaining those who had near relatives.—The children or nephews [grandchildren] must learn (μανθανέτωσαν)—not the widows themselves (Matthies)—to shew piety at home. By home is here designated the whole family, inclusive of the widowed mother or grandmother; and the εὐσεβεῖν which Paul sets forth for them, does not mean godly rule (Luther), but the exhibition of a childlike, pious spirit, as becomes the children and grandchildren of such widows. Thus they should requite their parents, especially the widowed, ἀμοιβὰς�; that is, show thankfulness, by caring for their physical support.—Acceptable before God; who has promised a special blessing on the true fulfilment of filial duty (Ephesians 6:12; comp. Mark 7:10-11). The connection of this precept is thus quite necessary; and it is a riddle to us how Huther, in his commentary on this passage, otherwise so able, explains these last words not of the duties of the children, but of the widows themselves; i. e., that the widows were to take care of the children and grandchildren, and thereby requite the love which had been shown them by the deceased parents. Even if, as we doubt, no verbal difficulties prevented this exposition—which is defended by Matthies likewise, and many older commentators—it would still be quite unnatural and forced; while, on the other hand, the connection favors our view; and this, too, is in the main also the view of De Wette. Theodoret had already given the correct sense, when he wrote: μανθανέτωσαν τὰ ἔκγονα τιμᾷν τὴν οἰκείαν μητέρα ή̀ μάμμην. That by οἶκος is denoted all the persons belonging to a house, including even the servants, is clear, among several passages, from John 4:53; Acts 16:31.

1 Timothy 5:5. Now she that is a widow indeed, &c. “Viduæ, liberos habenti, opponitur ver.5, vidua, cui non sunt, a quibus mutuam vicem accipit, quæ spes unice in Deo collocatas habet;” Bengel.—A widow indeed, ὄντως χήρα (comp. 1 Timothy 5:3). The word χήρα expresses loneliness; and this idea is now strengthened by the addition to it, and desolate, καὶ μεμονωμένη; i. e., utterly without children or grandchildren who could care for her. It follows of necessity that the church must support such widows; and it is called to their remembrance in 1 Timothy 5:16. But here the Apostle gives a description of the personal disposition of a widow, which contains a like exhortation and comfort. He sketches the character of those whom Timothy should honor (1 Timothy 5:3), that he may counsel him as to his own duty as teacher, and as to the requirements which he is carefully to urge on such poor women. “The idea of the true widow is not expressed abstractly, but in concrete, by supposing a real person; and hence instead of the imperative or the optative, the indicative is used (ἤλπικεν and προσμένει), as if some individual widow were described as the representative of all;” Matthies. Of the two traits here mentioned, trusteth in God is indirectly contrasted with trust in children or grandchildren; while the following, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day, is the precise opposite of that disposition which, just afterward, is condemned (1 Timothy 5:6) in a word. (On δέησις and προσευχή, see note on 1 Timothy 2:1.) We can scarcely escape the thought that the Apostle, in sketching this character, had before his mind a real person, perhaps the prophetess Anna (Luke 2:36-38), who, although at the close of the Old Covenant, may be called in many respects the type of the Christian widow.

1 Timothy 5:6. But she that liveth in pleasure, is dead. A true Pauline thought (comp. Romans 8:13), and a fine contrast to the picture of the “widow indeed,” who, while dead to the world and its pleasures, in a higher sense was living. Σπαταλῶσα (comp. James 5:5), according to Hesychius; ἀναλίσκειν�.—Is dead while she liveth (comp. Matthew 8:22); spoken of a widow with double fitness, “quippe quæ nec naturaliter jam, nec spiritualiter frugi sit;” Bengel. That it is to be understood in this sense, that she has no further support to expect from the church-treasury, is neither directly nor indirectly involved in the words of the Apostle. The entire dissolution of the moral life is here represented as a warning, while it is left to the wisdom of Timothy to make the best provision for such cases. As to the expression itself, comp. Revelation 3:1, and the beautiful words of Seneca, Epist. 1Tim 71: “Vita mors est et quidem turpis, inter fœda versantibus.”

1 Timothy 5:7. And these things be blameless. Ταῦτα may be in various ways connected with the preceding, either only with 1 Timothy 5:6, or with 1 Timothy 5:3 et sqq., or even with 1 Timothy 5:5-6. The latter seems certainly to deserve the preference; and thus the following words, that they may be blameless, definitely refer to the widows. For children, or other relations who forget their duties to the widows, the Apostle has a much more severe rebuke (1 Timothy 5:8). Beyond his careful attention to the physical comfort of widows, he wishes them to strive, as befits Christians, after moral blamelessness, and reflect on his words of encouragement and warning as they concern their personal character. Apart from the question of their claim to support, it is only thus they can be blameless according to the will of the Lord, and ornaments of His Church on earth.

1 Timothy 5:8. But if any provide not for his own. The Epistle turns now from the widows, to those on whom first (πρῶτον, 1 Timothy 5:4) rests the duty of their support, and who, if they perversely refuse this sacred debt, deserve a sharp censure. It is, indeed, quite indefinite; εἰ δέ τις, κ.τ.λ., and therefore it may rightly be taken as a general exhortation, implying the duty of each to care for his own kindred. In this connection, however, it does not apparently refer to the duty of widows to their children (Heinrichs, Planck), but to any relatives who are under high and sacred obligations to support widows (comp. 1 Timothy 5:16). The Apostle would prick the conscience of those who seek a pretext to escape this duty.—Those of his own house, are not associates in the faith (Galatians 6:10), but those of his family in the natural sense of the word.—Provide not (comp. 1 Timothy 5:4).—He hath denied the faith, τὴν πίστιν ἤρνηται; the Christian faith, which is active in love and inseparable from love, and releases no man from the fulfilment of natural duties, but imposes them on all.—Is worse than an infidel. Many of the heathen recognized and performed the duty of caring for their needy parents; and thus the Christian who refuses it is below the very idolater. Calvin: “Quod duabus de causis verum est, nam quo plus quisque in cognitione Dei profecit, eo minus habet excusationes. Ergo in fidelibus sunt pejores, qui in clara Dei luce cæcutiunt. Deinde hoc genus officii est, quod natura ipsa dictat, sunt enimστοργαὶ φυσικαί. Quod si natura duce infideles ultro propensi sunt ad suos amandos, quid de iis sentiendum, qui nullo tali affectu tanguntur? Nonne impios ipsos ferocitate superant?

1 Timothy 5:9. Let not a widow be taken, Χήρα καταλεγέσθω. The Apostle passes now to the second point, of which he would remind them in respect to widows; and the only question is, what is meant by καταλέγειν. The word itself presents no difficulty; it is to choose, to note or register in a list (in catalogum referre), as, e.g., citizens, soldiers, taxpayers, are classed together, and thus publicly distinguished from others. As to its real meaning here, we must decide whether it denotes a place on the list of those publicly supported, or an enrolment in the order of church-deaconesses. Almost all the older commentators are of the first opinion; nearly all the recent ones of the latter. (On the literature of the subject, compare De Wette in loco.) We think, too, that there are almost insurmountable difficulties in the way of the first view. For if only the maintenance of widows is here spoken of, why, then, the rule that no widow under sixty years of age should be admitted, while yet younger widows without near relatives had an undoubted right to such support? Why the requirement that they must have the evidence of good works, that they must have brought up children, lodged strangers, washed the saints’ feet, relieved the afflicted, followed diligently every good work? Should those, who perhaps had not once had an opportunity for the exercise of such good deeds, remain excluded from the charity of the church? Why, further, must a widow, in order to be put on a list of the poor, have had but one husband? Chrysostom, therefore, Homil. 31, De diversis N. T. locis, has justly expressed himself against this view; and it is indeed only apparently favored by 1 Timothy 5:16. See further below. All the evidence shows that the Apostle designs here a selection for a distinct service in the church—a service in the nature of things confined to women, and therefore the office of deaconess (comp. 1 Timothy 3:11), of which we have a pattern in Phœbe (Romans 16:1-2); and it seems that only those invested with such an office were to be maintained by the church. This last circumstance explains probably why the Apostle speaks fully in this place of the female ministers of the church, and not before in chap. 3, where otherwise it would have agreed better with the whole connection.—As love to the Lord had before impelled some women to serve Him and His (Luke 8:2-3), so in the apostolic age it had probably led believing sisters to undertake the office of deaconess. The fact that adult women were baptized made this arrangement necessary; and again, the maintenance of the invalid poor, the training up of orphan children, and other works of love, were best entrusted to such hands. When the church had become accustomed to such a service, it could not well dispense with it; and in the place of those retiring or dying, new fellow-workers—the first Sisters of Charity, so to speak—would be chosen and set apart. For this, definite instructions were necessary, which the Apostle in this passage gives to Timothy. It is to some degree apparent, from the requirements here made, in what their office consisted—duties of hospitality, of training children, &c. It cannot be proved that only widows were inducted into this office of deaconess. As to Phœbe (Romans 16:1), it is not known whether she was virgin, wife, or widow; and from 1 Timothy 3:11 it seems to follow that the wives of deacons performed like services of love. Yet it lay in the nature of the case that widows of a certain age must be specially allotted to such a service, both because they were free from other duties, which else might have had a prior claim (see 1 Timothy 5:8), and because their love to the Lord and to the church could not repay more fitly the charity bestowed on them. It is of such a church-widowhood, a τάγμα χηρεῖον, Tertullian (De virgin. veland., cap. 9) says: “Ad quam sedem (viduarum) præter annos LX. non tantum univiræ, i. e., nuptæ aliquando eliguntur, sed et matres, ed quidem educatrices filiorum;” while Jerome speaks of it as a standing custom of the church in his days; ad Nepot:Multas anus alit Ecclesia, quæ officium ægrotanti præstant et beneficium accipiunt ministrando.” Compare the thorough essay of Mosheim on this passage, whose view has been followed also by Böttcher and Mack. Such widows, called presbyteresses, seem to have had the same relation toward their own sex as the presbyters toward the men; and the later office of deaconess which we find in the ancient church, and which was first established by Canon XI. of the Synod of Laodicea, was only, with certain modifications, the carrying out of the outline here drawn. True, we find no further trace of such an institution in the apostolic letters; but this one is quite sufficient, and the oldest church-fathers also call it an apostolic tradition. Meanwhile, we must observe that the later solemn rites accompanying their institution do not date from the apostolic age; and without doubt it was then marked by the greatest simplicity. When De Wette, e.g., says that the widows sat in a specific place, next to the presbyters in the assembly, with their heads uncovered; that they had an oversight over the women of the church, especially over widows and orphans; that they were invested with the vestis vidualis, and consecrated by the laying on of hands: all this belongs, in the main, to a later period. Baur, however, is in worse error, when, on the strength of this passage, he opposes the genuineness of the Pastoral Epistles, because he thinks such an institution inconceivable in the apostolic age. He understands by widows, χήρας in the ecclesiastical use of the word; by which, on the ground of Ignat., Epist. ad Smyrn., cap.3, παρθένοι are intended. But, granted even that there were in the second century virgins who remained unmarried from ascetic motives, and were therefore named χήραι, it does not follow that these women named in the Epistle to Timothy were other than real widows. We conclude, rather, that it was the early custom to choose church-deaconesses from the class of widows; so that widows and deaconesses were almost synonymous terms. The Apostle does not once touch this subject in connection with his remarks on church offices and ministerial duties, but in an entirely different place. The young χήραι, whom Timothy (according to 1 Timothy 5:11) must reject, are not unmarried women, but such as had early lost their husbands, and would be in danger, by a second marriage, of renouncing the service which they had already entered for the benefit of the church. “No ascetic antagonism between a married life and fidelity to Christ is here in the least intended (see 1 Timothy 2:15; 1 Timothy 5:14), but an unfaithfulness towards Christ, which consisted in making the office of the deaconess a stepping-stone to marriage;” Lange, Apost. Zeitalt. i. p. 142.

[Our author has ingeniously sought to combine the two more probable of the three explanations. He accepts the view set forth by Mosheim, and defended by the best of recent English expositors, as well as by De Wette, Wiesinger, and Huther, yet he supposes that the order of deaconess was afterwards developed out of this earlier one of female presbyters. Such a view, however, is open to grave objection. There can be little doubt that the deaconess was a recognized officer of the church before Canon XI. of Laodicea formally established the order. See Schaff, “Apost. Church,” B. 3, 1 Timothy 3:0, p. 135, for a thorough summary of the facts and the several hypotheses. The truth seems to be, that such exact distinctions of class and name do not suit the character of the primitive age. The order doubtless existed before the title was established. We can easily understand that such a χηρῶν χορὸς, or church-widowhood, had its official duty and honor; and as the ranks of church authority became more settled, as the deacon became at last the assistant of the presbyter, so the deaconess, hitherto a general phrase for such ministering women, became an order next to that of the female presbyter. The subject of the primitive deaconess has of late been viewed with special interest. We refer the reader especially to the essay of Howson, “Deaconesses,” and a recent volume by J. M. Ludlow, “Woman’s Work in the Church.” It is clear that in the Greek Church of the second century it was a most active and useful ministry. It aided the clergy in many duties—in baptizing women, in the care of the church-edifice, and in messages of charity. Undoubtedly this order differed in many features from the germ of the primitive day. It had become a semi-clerical office, and had its vow of ordination. No trace of this can be found in the simpler deaconess of the Pastoral Epistles. But it is not to be confounded with the later type of female celibates in the Latin Church; on the contrary, it is a striking feature, that, with the change from the healthy, social life of a Christian womanhood in the church to the conventual life, the order of deaconess passed away. The just abhorrence of the Romish abuse has led the Protestant to lose sight too often of the good which may be wrought by such organized womanly charity, after the pattern not of the convent, but of St. Paul’s ἐκκλησία κατ’ οἶκον.—W.]

1 Timothy 5:10. Under threescore years old. Having thus fixed the point of view from which this rule of the Apostle must be regarded, the wisdom of the following instructions becomes clear.—Not under sixty years of age. The participle γεγονυῖα belongs to the preceding, not the following words. (The contrary in the Vulgata: Quæ fuerit unius viri uxor; and so Luther also.) It denotes the advanced time of life which these widows must have reached. Such persons would with reason be expected not to marry again, but might with undivided hearts dedicate themselves to the service of the church. In accordance with this, Theodosius the Great afterwards established the law: “Nulla, nisi emensis 60 annis, secundum præceptum Apostoli ad Diaconissarum consortium transferatur.”—The wife of one man (see on 1 Timothy 3:2), who had been once married, but not again; although Paul, in 1 Timothy 5:14, advised second marriage for the younger widows. “It cannot mean that Timothy should not choose a widow who had had several husbands at the same time; for polyandry did not exist among the Greeks, or Jews, or Romans; and even if such a woman had desired church-office, she would have been so marked by public opinion, that a Christian bishop could never have thought of giving her such a charge;” Mack. The cause of this rule was, without doubt, the same as in the case of the presbyter and deacon (see above).—Well reported of for good works. The Apostle briefly names many and weighty things required of the χήρα. She must have a good report for good works. Not only must she be beyond objection, but she must be a woman of known moral and devout character. Those good works which are not exclusively works of charity, are regarded as the living sphere (ἐν) in which she has won this good testimony. What works the Apostle chiefly refers to, is plain from the following clauses.—If she have brought up children, ἐτεκνοτρόφησεν; whether her own, or the children of a stranger. The idea of a devout, godly training, is not strictly expressed by this word, but an education complete, and so far successful.—If she have lodged strangers (comp. 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8; Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2). As hospitality was in all ages an Oriental virtue, it must be a Christian one.—If she have washed the saints’ feet (comp. John 13:15; Luke 7:44). That which the Lord did in a symbolic way, is here meant in its literal sense, following the common Oriental custom, which the gospel had not abolished.—If she have relieved the afflicted, ἐπαρκεῖν (in the New Testament found only here, and in 1 Timothy 5:16). Afflicted, not exclusively paupertate, Bengel; but afflicted by the manifold evils and accidents of life.—If she have diligently followed every good work. A general proposition, in which all before is embraced. The expression, every good work, is still stronger than the reference to ἔργοις καλοῖς at the beginning of the verse. It is therefore not to be restricted to charity alone, but has a wider sense. To follow, does not stand here in contrast to præire, which is an obligation of men (Bengel), but has the sense of imitate, or pursue (Luther).

1 Timothy 5:11. But the younger widows refuse, &c., νεωτέρας; not, strictly, all those who have not yet reached the full sixty years; but all, in general, who, in contrast with the aged, belong to the category of the young. Refuse, παραιτοῦ; whenever they apply for admission among the deaconesses, in order to enjoy the honor and privilege of the older widows.—For, when they have begun to wax wanton, καταστρηνιάσωσι τοῦ Χρ. The word denotes a voluptuous desire, a pruritus libidinosus, which leads them into open opposition to Christ, to whom their fidelity was pledged. A formal vow of chastity, like that of the later orders of nuns, was naturally not required of them; and Melanchthon says truly: “Etiam si tunc consuetudo fuisset faciendi vota, quod non dicit Paulus, tamen ea vota dissimillima fuissent votis monasticis, quæ sine ulladubitatione idolatria.” Since the Apostle, however, had directed that the widows mentioned should be married but once, this desire was an inward infidelity to Christ, for whose Church they were now and always to live with undivided hearts.—They will marry [again]; an evidence that their purpose was not the indulgence of sensual sin, but a second marriage; and hence the exposition of Jerome is too strong—quæ fornicatæ sunt. This, indeed, made them less culpable, yet none the less unfit for the spiritual office.

1 Timothy 5:12. Having damnation. This design of second marriage has brought condemnation on the young widows (κριμα = κατάκρισις); not only a deserved reproach from others, but the judgment of God, who is faithful, on all who are unfaithful to their covenant with Him. [This interpretation seems too strong. It is by no means to be supposed, had St. Paul thought second marriage in any case worthy of such Divine judgment, that he would have advised and even urged it in 1 Timothy 5:14. It is enough to read, having condemnation, being worthy of blame. Our commentator seems in this, and all passages relating to women, to have some-what the tone of a later ascetic like Jerome. We may say the same of the criticism of Calvin on the sex, given with approval by our author, in 1 Timothy 5:13. This harsh spirit must not be made the expositor of the loving, social law of the first Christian family.—W.]—They have cast off their first faith.Augustin, on Psalms 75:0 : “Voverunt et non reddiderunt.” According to Calvin, the vow of fidelity made at baptism is here meant; but it is difficult to see why a second marriage should be irreconcilable with this vow. It seems better to suppose, with most expositors, that the allusion is to the vow, which was implicite, included in their reception into the common order of widows. They have thereby dedicated themselves exclusively to the service of Christ and His Church; and as they had freely chosen this work, knowing its duties and its restrictions, a second marriage was in this view a breach of troth to Christ.

1 Timothy 5:13. And withal they learn, &c. The Apostle sees a yet greater evil in the employment of young widows. Not only they have this desire of marriage, but they are withal idle, ἀργαὶ; thus neglect their duties, and do what they should avoid.—Wandering about from house to house;i. e., they are wont to go without good cause. Μανθάνουσι is best connected with περιερχόμεναι. Matthies says rightly: “Μανθάν. with the participle expresses a disposition which has become a habit; they have the wont of idle gadding about.”—Tattlers also, and busybodies. They become gossips (φλύαροι; Chrysostom, λάλοι), persons who pry, without being asked, into the business of others, περίεργοι (comp. 2 Thessalonians 3:11), speaking things which they ought not; in opposition to all before (comp. ὄ μὴ δεῖ, Titus 1:11). The very character of the duties belonging to the office of deaconess, bringing them in close contact with many persons and social relations, made this temptation doubly perilous. Calvin: “Istis viduis, honoris prætextu, quod veluti publicam personam gerebant, facilior quovis aditus patebat. Hanc opportunitatem nactæ beneficio Ecclesiæ abutebantur ad desidiam: deinda (ut fieri solet) ex otio nascebatur curiositas, quæ ipsa garrulitatis est mater. Verissimum enim est illud Horatii: percontatorem fugito, ram garrulus idem est. Omni enim fide curiosos, ut ait Plutarchus, carere æquum cst, qui simulatque aliquid hauserunt, nunquam cessant, donec effutiverint. Præsertim mulieribus hoc contingit, quæ natura jam propensæ sunt ad loquacitatem nulliusque arcani capaces. Ergo non abs re hæc tria simul conjuncta sunt a Paulo, otium, curiositas et garrulitas.”

1 Timothy 5:14. I will therefore, &c. Paul silently assumes that Timothy will ask how he shall check this evil, and make the young widows, instead of a shame, an honor to the church. Hence, he suggests the wisest course. As, however, compliance with his rule would not, even with the best intentions, depend merely on the widows themselves (Schleier-macher), the apodicticβούλομαι οὖν is to be understood not in an absolute, but in a limited sense. If there were nothing to prevent, the young widows (such as are described in 1 Timothy 5:11-13) are counselled to marry—γαμεῖν, a word used in 1 Corinthians 7:39 likewise of second marriage.—Bear children, τεκνογονεῖν; a word in which, as in 1 Timothy 2:15, not only the actus parturiendi, but the training of the children by the mother, should be included.—Guide the house, οἰκοδεσποτεῖν; mistress of the house—that is, household affairs. Bengel: “Nubere, liberos gignere, familiam regere—tres gradus societatis domesticæ. Sic habebunt quod agant, citra otium et curiositatem.” [It is to be noticed how the domestic and social spirit of Christianity appears here in contrast with the conventual morality of later times. St. Paul speaks severely of the conduct of the younger widows; but he must be understood as referring to certain positive cases under his eye of immodest and gossiping women. He does not forbid second marriage, but, 1 Timothy 5:12, their specific transgression of a former promise to devote their lives to church-duty. On the contrary, he urges marriage, true household life, as the best cure for such abuses. It is curious to read in Roman writers—e.g., A. Lapide—the attempt to make out of St. Paul’s reasoning an implicit argument for the single state. The same false ascetic tendency may be already traced in Tertullian and Augustin, which led to the exalting of virginity as a higher state of Christian piety.—W.]—Give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully, τῷ�; perhaps the devil, which 1 Timothy 5:15 does not conflict with; or else in general an adversary, whether in the heathen or the Jewish world; since it must be remarked that Paul viewed the world as under Satanic influences. Should the young widows follow the wrong course, they would give occasion, ἀφορμήν, to what? As the final words, λοιδορίας χάριν, do not depend on this, but stand by themselves, it seems best here to supply, occasionem sc. ipsas seducendi; Huther. The young widows remain idle, curious, and tattling, and the sure consequence is, that the ἀντικειμένος finds many opportunities to catch them in his snares; and this would bring reproach on the church, as well as on themselves. Λοιδορίας χάριν; properly, to the advantage of reproach; a singular and hard construction (De Wette), yet not more singular than many others which mark the style of the Pastoral Epistles. The adversary is represented as watching his occasion to revile the Church of Christ, and overjoyed at even the appearance of it. There was, indeed, already in the church more than the mere appearance of evil.

1 Timothy 5:15. For some are already turned aside after Satan. It is plain that τινες refers distinctly to some young widows at Ephesus, of whom unfavorable reports must have reached the ears of the Apostle, although we need not deny that his complaint might have had a wider application. The mention of this was to enforce on Timothy the need of following expressly the counsel given him in 1 Timothy 5:14, since there would else be periculum in morâ. Ἐξετρ. ὀπίσω τοῦ σατανᾶ does not necessarily mean a complete defection from Christianity, but certainly a walking in paths of error, whether it be heresy or an immoral life. It is possible that some had united themselves in a second marriage with unbelievers, and had thus really severed themselves from the church.

1 Timothy 5:16. If any man or woman that believeth, πιστὸς ἢ πιστή. Griesbach and Lachmann have, without good reason, omitted the words πιστὸς ἤ (see De Wette and Tischendorf). The Apostle, while he sums here all his remarks on this point, is not content with a mere repetition, but goes still further. The duty which, in 1 Timothy 5:4, he has imposed solely on the relatives of the widows, he now enjoins, so far as circumstances admit, on every believer without, distinction. If any have widows, not only in his own household, but in the larger circle of friends or relatives, whose maintenance comes at all within his ability or duty, he should give it, and thus lighten the burden of the church. To explain it of others, of widows wholly deserted, has too narrow a meaning. It would seem that the Apostle especially refers to younger widows, who from selfish economy sought the service of the church; and from whom he could be best relieved (1 Timothy 5:11) by thus providing for their support.


1. It is not only among the requisites, but the weightiest obligations of a pastor of the church, to mingle with every rank and age, as each may need; yet at the same time he should see that the holiness of his office is not endangered, and that the adversary find no occasion for reproach. Paul could without self-boasting, in his exhortation to Timothy, allude to his own excellent example. The highest example, however, is always that of the Chief Shepherd, the Lord of the Church, in the days of His earthly life.
2. As the gospel is an inestimable good for the poor, and pauperism appears in a wholly different form in Christian lands than in those still in darkness and the shadow of death, so it is in regard to the condition of the widow. Widowhood has special cause of gratitude to Christ, in whom the words, “He is a Father of the fatherless, and a Judge of the widow,” have had so noble a fulfilment. How vast a difference between the fate of the widow of the Brahmin of highest rank, and the widow of the poorest disciple of the Lord! [A significant illustration of the influence of the Church in this respect may be found in Maine’s “Ancient Law,” p. 1Tim 218: “The provision for the widow was attributable to the exertions of the Church, which never relaxed its solicitude for the interest of widows surviving their husbands; winning, perhaps, one of the most arduous of its triumphs, when, after exacting for two or three centuries an express promise from the husband, at marriage, to endow his wife, it at length succeeded in engrafting the principle of dower on the customary law of all western Europe.”]

3. Christianity does not overturn the original order, or free any from the obligations which natural relationship has imposed. Nothing, indeed, is more honored by it than the natural στοργή, the neglect of which is most positively condemned (2 Timothy 3:3). How holy and indissoluble the tie of children and parents, is first clearly known when we have found in it the true though earthly type of the per feet unity between the Eternal Son and the Holy Father.

4. The office of deaconess in the early church came from the deep craving of Christian women to serve the Lord among their poor associates. It is to the honor of the Romish Church that it encourages its Sisters of Charity to give themselves with noble self-denial to so rare a work; nor can it be denied that Protestantism has too often, in condemning such works of love, rejected alike the good and the evil. We may rejoice that the evangelical Church in our day has come back from this narrow one-sidedness; and the associations of deaconesses already established in many places, with their hospitals and nurseries, are worthy proofs of it.

5. The apparent contradiction in the Apostle’s advice to young widows to marry again, and that in 1 Corinthians 7:32 et seq., where he speaks of marriage in an entirely different way, is satisfactorily explained when we recal the difference in times and circumstances. In Corinth, there was a youthful church in possession of manifold gifts, whom the Apostle desired to see dedicated, as far as possible, to the service of the Lord; here, on the contrary, was a disturbance, indeed a retrograde, in a long-established church, for which, therefore, rules of order and discipline were necessary as a step toward a high Christian ideal, wholly above many in the church. In this very difference we have cause to admire the wisdom of the Apostle.

6. It is important, in our church provision for the poor, that the limit which the Apostle here advises be remembered, as well as the enlargement of our charity. The vocation of the deacon is not to entirely support the poor, but to relieve their wants, and to confine the constantly increasing stream of pauperism, as far as possible, within its natural bounds.
7. “Melius est, cum severitate diligere, quam cum lenitate decipere;” Augustin.

8. “Apud templum Hierosolymæ fuerunt mulieres, quæ serviebant coquendo, lavando, sarciendis vestibus, medicatione Levitis et pauperibus. Hunc morem Apostoli imitati transtulerunt et ad Ecclesiam jusserunt eligi grandes natu matronos, quæ ægrotis aut peregrinis servirent, et hæ mercedes habebant ex eleëmosynis, quas Ecclesia tunc liberaliter conferebat. De hoc more loquitur Paulus, tunc de votis monasticis;” Melanchthon.


A seemly conduct in the ministerial office.—The censure of wrong-doers must sometimes be public, but always within due bounds.—The peril of gross and of refined sensuality in the ministry.—Christianity and the state of widowhood: (1) What Christianity is to the widow; (2) what widows should be for Christianity.—Children the natural helpers of their needy parents.—The ideal of a Christian widow.—The mirror of the Christian widow.—Alone, yet not alone; John 16:32.—What special causes a Christian widow has above others to place her trust in God.—Promises of God to devout widows, and examples of their support and rescue, especially recorded in the Old Testament.—Every man who provides not for his own household, is worse than a heathen. How this saying is (1) misused by those who work only for the bread that perisheth; (2) is forgotten by those who work only for the bread of eternal life, and neglect the care of their nearest kindred.—What is the cause that so many who labor in a larger sphere often overlook the duties which lie nearest to them?—Fidelity in small things and fidelity in great things must ever go hand in hand.—The task and the blessing of a Christian old age.—How even in the garments of sorrow and widowhood we may serve the Lord in His Church.—The widow spiritually dead, and spiritually alive.—The danger of idleness and the blessing of labor.—Better an active vocation for the earth, than pampering the flesh, under pretence of living for heaven.—He is no believer who entirely neglects the care of the poor.—Every Christian man and woman is called within the social circle to be in a measure a deacon or a deaconess.

Starke: Cramer: If we censure wrong-doers, we must consider the age and the persons, that we may make them better, not worse through exasperation, and may avoid all scandal.—Lange’s Opus: It is as shameful as it is sinful, to give aged women names of ridicule and scorn.—Happy they who grow old in honor (Sir 8:7; Proverbs 16:31).—Cramer: Widows must be honored, not oppressed; for they are privileged persons in the sight of God (Exodus 22:22; Psalms 68:6; Sir 35:17).—Anton: An inferior in his right sphere will be really honored by his superior.—Hedinger: It is a shameful wrong when children, by neglect and extravagance, become so poor that they cannot support their parents (Genesis 45:11; Genesis 45:23).—The more the widow is forsaken of men, the nearer she is to God (1 Kings 17:12 et seq.).—The church is a guild, not of the high and worldly, but of the wretched and suffering who hope in Christ.—Widows may easily fall, and should therefore walk circumspectly, and avoid every appearance of evil, that they may escape calumny (Ephesians 5:15).—Hedinger: To call ourselves believers, and do no works of faith, is hypocrisy. Hast thou faith? then show it in Christian duties (James 2:18).—No church is bound to maintain widows who can earn their bread with their own hands (2Th 3:12; 1 Kings 17:10; 1 Kings 17:15; Luke 4:26; Luke 4:25).—The poor can also help the poor, if not in deeds, yet in wise counsel (Acts 27:8).—When widows marry again, they do not sin (1 Timothy 5:14; Romans 7:3).—Those who have charge of the poor should give good heed how they bestow their alms.—It is a most unchristian scandal, when those who are well-to-do neglect their needy kindred (Isaiah 58:7).

Heubner: Christianity honors age; it is a sign of decay in a people when age is despised.—A life of pleasure is death to the soul. Compare the excellent exposition by Chrysostom on this passage.—The greatest unkindness is that toward near kindred.—Hereafter, too, Christians will be put to shame by Gentiles (Matthew 12:41-42).—We must test the love, before we entrust an office to love.—Widowhood is tempting by its freedom.—Indolence leads to other vices.—The perils of social intercourse.—From Christian families grows the well-being of the Church.—The Christian who receives alms, should ask himself whether they are not needed more by others.

Lisco: How the welfare of a Christian church can be promoted: (1) By a watchful discipline; (2) by the conscientious and careful aid of the poor.—The helping women of the church.

Van Oosterzee: Christian women of the apostolic age exhibited as (1) precursors worthy of love; (2) examples worthy to be followed; (a) in their true Christian, (b) their true womanly action; Bonn, 1859.

Von Gerlach: Love expresses itself in various ways, according to the object which it seeks. It is full of zeal for the kingdom of God in its relation to the children, whom it trains up for the Lord; it is generous toward strangers; lowly and obliging toward believers; hopeful toward the suffering; it is all in all.

Baxter: Our way of teaching should be as simple and clear as possible, for it leads a preacher straightest to his mark. Whoso will be understood, must speak to the capacity of his hearers. Truth loves the light, and is most beautiful when it is unveiled. An envious enemy conceals the truth; a hypocrite does it under pretence of teaching it; overwrought, obscure sermons (like painted windows which keep out the light), are often a sign of over-daubed hypocrisy.


1 Timothy 5:2; 1 Timothy 5:2.—[In contrast with the common form, the Sinaiticus has αγυιᾳ.—E. H.]

1 Timothy 5:4; 1 Timothy 5:4.—Received text: “That is good and acceptable.” The words καλὸν καὶ are, after A. C. D. F. G., Sinaiticus, and other witnesses, to be stricken out.

1 Timothy 5:5; 1 Timothy 5:5.—[Lachmann brackets the article τὸν, before Θεὸν; and the Sinaiticus, instead of Θεὸν, has κύριον, without the article.—E. H.]

1 Timothy 5:6; 1 Timothy 5:6.—[Vulg., vivens mortua est.—E. H.]

1 Timothy 5:8; 1 Timothy 5:8.—[προνοεῖ; Sinaiticus, προνοεῖται.—E. H.]

1 Timothy 5:11; 1 Timothy 5:11.—[καταστρηνιάσωσιν; Lachmann has, in the margin, καταστρηνιάσουσιν.—E. H.]

1 Timothy 5:15; 1 Timothy 5:15.—[Instead of the common order, ἐξητράπησαν τινες, the Sinaiticus has τινες ἐξητράπ.; also Lachmann, in margin.—E. H.]

1 Timothy 5:16; 1 Timothy 5:16.—[The received text, and, among the recent editors, Tischendorf, have εἴ τις πιστὸς ἤ πιστὴ. The Vulg. reads: si quis fidelis. Lachmann omits τις πιστὸς ἢ. Nor are these words in the Sinaiticus.—E. H.]

Verses 17-25

B.—Directions touching the Presbyters of the Congregation.—Weighty suggestions for Timothy

1 Timothy 5:17-25

17Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the [omit “the”] word and doctrine. 18For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn.9 And, The laborer is worthy of his reward.10 19Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. 20Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also [the21rest also] may fear. I charge thee before God, and the Lord [omit “the Lord”] Jesus Christ11 [Christ Jesus], and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.12 22Lay hands suddenly [hastily] on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure. 23Drink no longer water [only], but use a little wine for thy stomach’s13 sake and thine often [thy frequent] infirmities. 24Some men’s sins are open before hand [openly manifest], going before to judgment; [,] and some men they follow after. 25Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand [openly manifest]; [,] and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.


1 Timothy 5:17. Let the elders. With these words the Apostle passes to a new precept, closely connected, however, with the preceding. If the poor of the church be supported in the right way, then it is of importance that they be instructed in the right way; but this is impossible so long as worthy ministers are not honored, and unworthy ones not removed from among them. Accordingly Paul takes this opportunity to give some wise suggestions on the subject, from which it is most obvious with what ample power Timothy was invested in the church. Bengel says with reason on 1 Timothy 5:19 : “Habebat ergo Timotheus potestatem judicandi in Ecclesia.” It lies, moreover, in the nature of the case, that such instructions, although given directly to Timothy himself, must in part at least be put in practice in the church as the occasion should arise.—That rule well. The elders who exercise their office well (καλῶς) are not contrasted with those who grossly neglect it, but only with those who distinguish themselves less. Among the ministers, as among the members of the church, eminent men were associated with those of moderate ability. It is of the first the Apostle enjoins, that they be counted worthy of double honor. The τιμή which he claims for them is not merely a pecuniary support, a maintenance in general, to which they have a right, although this is not overlooked (see 1 Timothy 5:18), but the esteem due to them; which is called double, not because it is literally twofold (thus, e.g., Melanchthon: Duplici honore, i.e., victu et reverentia; others differently, see De Wette), but because it should be shown to them in greater measure than to others (thus Chrysostom, διπλῆς = πολλῆς τιμῆς). Paul would have them esteemed worthy (ἀξιούσθωσαν) by the church, which can show its gratitude to them in no other way. “Upon a casual misinterpretation of this verse was founded the disgusting practice, which prevailed in the third century, of setting a double portion of meat before the presbyters in the feasts of love;” Conybeare and Howson, vol. ii. p. 472.—Especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. The emphasis is on this description of the elders as laboring (κοπιῶντες). No easy post of honor, but a large task was entrusted to them. As laboring in word and doctrine (ἐν here refers to the sphere in which the labor is performed), they have especial claim, from the severity and the dignity of their work. By λόγος we are to understand a discourse, either prophetic or hortatory, while διδασκαλία refers specially to teaching. It has often been attempted, from this μάλιστα of Paul, to draw a marked distinction between the ruling and the teaching presbyters. The fact was simply this, that in the large field of labor assigned to the Christian presbyters, one felt himself drawn more to this, another to that portion, since the revelation of the Spirit was given to each πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον. But we have seen clearly that Paul honored more those elders who, together with other duties, were engaged especially in the instruction and comfort of believers; because the capacity for this highest gift of the presbyterial office was not found in all.

[No footsteps are to be found in any Christian church of lay elders, nor were there for many hundred, years. St. Paul, prescribing Timothy (1 Timothy 3:0.) how he should stablish the church, passeth immediately from bishops and ministers of the word and sacraments to deacons, omitting these lay elders, that are supposed to lie in the midst between them. The places of Scripture brought to prove this kind of government are three: 1 Timothy 5:17; Rom 12:7-8; 1 Corinthians 12:28. The two latter are too weak to prove the thing in question. Touching the first, some interpret it as noting two parts or duties of the presbyterial office, not two sorts of presbyters; some, that amongst the elders some labored principally in governing, others in teaching and preaching. Thus these words may have a very good and true sense, without pressing the late conceit touching lay elders. Field, “Of the Church,” B. 5, 1Tim 26. “The offices of πρεσβύτερος and διδάσκαλος were united, at the date of the Pastoral Epistles, in the same persons; which is shown by διδακτικός being a qualification required in a presbyter; 1 Timothy 3:2. But though this union must in all cases have been desirable, we find, from this passage, that there were still some πρεσβύτεροι who were not διδάσκαλοι; i.e., who did not perform the office of public instruction in the congregation. This is another strong proof of the early date of the Epistle.” Conybeare and Howson, ii. 472. It must be allowed, however, while this notion of lay eldership has but slight warrant, if any, in Scripture, that the idea which prompted it is not to be lightly passed by. The whole tendency of the later Church was to forget the distribution of the χάριοματα, which was the most living feature of the primitive body, and to identify the Church with the clergy. It would be a great blessing to our modern Christianity, if we could have preacher, pastor, and teacher each in his own sphere. We have lost the flexibility of the apostolic age.—W.]

1 Timothy 5:18. For the Scripture saith, &c. The Apostle illustrates and confirms his doctrine by Deuteronomy 25:4. Comp. 1 Corinthians 9:9, where he has with great emphasis set forth the same argument still more minutely. In our text he cites the words of the Old Testament merely as an instructive parallel, and leaves to the reader the inference a minori ad majus in regard to a human laborer. This idea, at first suggested, is now clearly expressed: And the laborer is worthy of his hire. If the phrase λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφή be connected with these words, the criticism is right which finds here a proof that the composition of the Epistle was of a later date. The Old Testament contains no passage which could have occurred here to the Apostle (Leviticus 19:33; Exodus 24:14, cannot be meant); and that the saying of the Lord (Luke 10:10; comp. Matthew 10:10) should already be cited here by Paul as γραφή, is as groundless a supposition (comp., however, Wordsworth, in loco). But it is wholly unnecessary to refer the words, λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφή, to both parts of the verse. The last clause, ἄξιος, κ.τ.λ., seems simply a proverbial expression, which had been used before by the Lord. (Thus also Calvin.) This whole passage shows that the Apostle requires such a τιμή for the presbyters as should be shown in a due provision for their temporal necessities (comp. Galatians 6:6).

1 Timothy 5:19. Against an elder receive not an accusation. After Paul has shown how to act toward presbyters who are worthy of honor, he proceeds more exactly to define the conduct of Timothy toward the unworthy. It is obvious that the Apostle does not mean here, by πρεσβύτερος, an old man in the general sense (Chrysostom), but distinctly a presbyter of the church, against whom any accusation might be brought. Timothy must receive no complaint in such cases, except (ἐκτὸς εἰ μή, a well-known pleonasm) before two or three witnesses. This number was required by the Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 17:6; Hebrews 10:28), and by the Lord Himself in a similar case (Matthew 18:16). This decision may have occurred, perhaps, to the mind of the Apostle. Timothy was not to be disturbed by unproved private complaints, but to give due weight to the rights of the presbyterial office, and to condemn no innocent man unheard. “It might easily happen, in a church so large and mixed as the Ephesian, that one or another, from wounded feelings of honor, from mere partisanship, or some selfish motive, would seek to injure a presbyter, and drag him down from his influential position; and against this the precept of the Apostle was the best safeguard” (Matthies). It is noticeable that we have here not ἐπὶ στόματ. δύο μαρτ., but simply ἐπὶ δύο μαρτ. If the preposition be here understood in the sense of coram, as ἐπὶ μαρτ. was often used by classical writers in the sense of before witnesses (Huther), we have here the rule that the personal presence of the definite number of witnesses must in each case be held necessary; a rule probably designed to save Timothy from the appearance of partiality. But we regard it as more probable that only the testimony of two or three men is here required (De Wette); and there is surely no ground to refer this exclusively (Huther) to complaints affecting the office of a presbyter, but to anything by which the character, public or private, might be in the least degree injured.

1 Timothy 5:20. Them that sin rebuke before all, &c. According to some, this denotes, in general, sinful members of the church; according to others, sinful presbyters. The last, however, is here the more probable, and the nature of the case itself requires that ἁμαρτάνοντας should be specially understood of grosser crimes; indeed, of those which justly create scandal. The sinful persons are represented as still at the time living in sin, whence the present is used where otherwise the perfect would be expected. The question, again, is whether the following words, rebuke before all, that others also may fear, mean the other presbyters, or all the other members of the church. Grammatically, one is as allowable as the other, and both expositions have a sound sense. Since, however, a censure of the guilty presbyter in the hearing of the assembled church was not necessary, and might easily lead to a depreciation of the clerical office, it is perhaps better to suppose a censure coram consensu presbyterorum; a rule of unquestionable value, since the associates of the guilty man, who perhaps might be inclined to wrong, would thus be moved by a wholesome fear.

1 Timothy 5:21. I charge thee before God (comp. 2 Timothy 4:1). With this solemn attestation the just and faithful execution of all these precepts is impressed on Timothy. Perhaps the mention of the μάρτυρες (1 Timothy 5:19) led the Apostle naturally to point his friend and scholar to the highest μάρτυς of his life and work. The subject was certainly weighty enough to justify the most solemn charge. Should Timothy forget it, the injury to the church might be incalculable. The cumulative style of the words also proves how heavily this lay on Paul’s heart. Bengel says well: “Repræsentat Timotheo suo judicium extremum, in quo Deus revelabitur et Christus cum angelis coram conspicietur.” He charges him not alone before God and Jesus Christ (κυρίου is not genuine; see the critical note), but before God and the elect angels. Manifold expositions have been given of this verse, especially in regard to the striking ἐκλεκτῶν. Not to criticise the almost forgotten notion of those who thought this an allusion to distinguished preachers of Christianity, or to the presbyters of the church, we name only the view (Baur) which explains it by the Gnostic fancy of certain angels, who stand in special connection with the Redeemer; a view which would again give internal evidence of the later origin of the Epistle. This argument, however, proves too much, since this conception of elect angels, standing in a special relation to the Lord of the Church, is of genuine New Testament origin (comp. 1 Peter 3:22; Hebrews 1:6, and other places). For our part, we hold it most probable that the Old Testament idea of different ranks and orders of angels passed before the mind of the Apostle, and that he here refers to the highest among them. Conybeare and Howson: “By the chosen angels, are probably meant those especially selected by God as His messengers to the human race, such as Gabriel.” The interpretation of the passage as only an epitheton ornans (Huther) seems to us somewhat tame. For other views, see De Wette in loco.—That thou observe these things. Ταῦτα refers to the exhortation immediately before; that is, respecting the presbyters deserving blame (as well as to those worthy of honor?)—Without preferring one before another, χωρὶς προκρίματος; without hasty judgment, especially of an unfavorable kind.—Doing nothing by partiality, κατὰ πρόσκλισιν. The unjust disposition is meant, which may easily lead us to look on the virtues or faults of others through a magnifying glass or a microscope. If πρόσκλησιν be the true reading (as Lachmann thinks, on the authority of A. D., and other MSS.), then we must infer that the Apostle exhorts Timothy to do nothing coram judice Romano, ethnico (Bretschneider), which would give but a very forced sense; and it is therefore simpler to regard this reading as a lapsus calami, and to adhere to the common one.

1 Timothy 5:22. Lay hands suddenly on no man. “Timothei erat, manus imponere presbyteris;” Bengel. But the question is, to what laying on of hands the Apostle here refers. According to De Wette, he means the admission of such as had been excluded from church fellowship. Without doubt the connection favors this opinion; and already at an early day the laying on of hands was practised as a sign of absolution for excommunicated or heretical persons restored into the pale of the church. It is, however, not capable of proof that this was customary in the apostolic age; and as the Apostle here, without further definition, speaks of the laying on of hands as a custom already existing, it is more natural to refer it to the ordination of a presbyter or deacon; an exposition which is also favored by 1 Timothy 5:24-25 (comp. 1 Timothy 4:14; Acts 6:6). The laying on of hands was not merely the mode of communicating spiritual gifts, but a recognition from those who did it, a declaration that they would be accountable for those ordained. If the latter were unworthy, the former shared the guilt. For this reason the clause was added, neither make thyself partaker of other men’s sins. Timothy gave to each man, in the laying on of hands, evidence of his own esteem; and should it appear afterward that he was, through haste, deceived in the person, then he would reproach himself as in some measure answerable for the consequences of others’ sins. In the words, Keep thyself pure, the opposite conduct was recommended to him. The meaning of ἁγνόν is too much contracted, if referred merely to chastity and modesty (comp. 1 Timothy 4:12); yet it is too extended, if moral purity in its full extent is included in it. In this connection, purity in respect to the sins of others is here especially impressed upon Timothy. As to this whole precept (1 Timothy 5:22), Melanchthon’s words deserve citation: “Complectitur utilem doctrinam. Primum confirmat vocationem et ordinationem, quæ fit per homines in Ecclesia, quia approbat ordinationem, quam Timotheus faciebat imponens manus iis, quos Ecclesia vel ipse elegerat; altera admonitio hæc est, quod vult fieri explorationem doctrinæ et morum, etc.

1 Timothy 5:23. Drink no longer water. It may seem, in a superficial view, that this counsel of Paul is of trivial value, and, in this connection, strange and without purpose. As to the last point, much must undoubtedly be allowed to the free, artless style of this letter to his friend and pupil; while again the words just before, Keep thyself pure, would give the Apostle a fit occasion, from the close union of soul and body, to prescribe to Timothy this change in his previous course of life. That Timothy in this respect may have been under the fetters of a false asceticism (Wiesinger), can hardly be supposed; and as little (Otto) that he was in danger of being warped in his judgment by the Gnostics, who forbade the use of wine, or at least required abstinence from it as necessary for progress in the Gnosis. It is more probable that the effort to check the excess of others by his own example, had led him gradually to too rigid a diet. But those who followed Gnostic or Essenian views might meanwhile make a misuse of his example, while his own health, apparently not very firm, was liable to injury. Hence the exhortation, Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake; literally, be no longer a water-drinker. According to Winer, Gramm., 6th ed., p. 442, ὑδροποτεῖν means, to use water as a customary and exclusive drink. Whoever drinks a little wine, of course ceases to be a water-drinker in this sense; and therefore μόνοι need not be connected in thought with these words. The reason of this friendly advice is added in the clause, for thy stomach’s sake and thine after infirmities. Chrysostom: ὅσον πρὸς ὑγίειαν, οἀ πρὸς τρυφήν. If this, however, be the only ground of this whole injunction, then there is not, indeed, the slightest connection between it and what precedes or follows. It is still possible that his fear lest Timothy might too strictly understand his command to keep himself pure, drew this advice from the Apostle. The conjecture (Heydenreich) is a desperate one, that this is an interpolation, to be thus explained: that the parchment was finished, and, for the rest of the letter, a new leaf was added at 1 Timothy 5:24. After all was done, this remark, contained in 1 Timothy 5:23, occurred to the Apostle; but there was no room on the last leaf, and therefore be wrote it on the parchment, closing with 1 Timothy 5:22, at the end of which a little space may have been left. “So might I have done, had I been Paul!” Better be content to read in this verse a clear proof of the genuineness of the Epistle, since surely it could never have entered the mind of any romancer for any conceivable purpose to have written it. [Paley has urged this keenly, as a proof of the genuineness of the Epistle. “Imagine an impostor sitting down to forge an epistle in the name of St. Paul. Is it credible that it should come into his head to give such a direction as this—so remote from everything of doctrine or discipline, of public concern to the religion or the church, or to any sect, order, or party in it? Nothing but reality, the real valetudinary situation of a real person, could have suggested it. … The direction stands between two sentences, as wide from the subject as possible. Now, when does this happen? It happens when a man writes as he remembers. In actual letters, in the negligence of a real correspondence, such examples frequently take place; seldom in any other production.” Horæ Paulinæ, 1Tim 12, No. 4.—W.]

1 Timothy 5:24. Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment, &c. A general observation (1 Timothy 5:24-25), with which this part of the Epistle closes, and one which as truly proves Paul’s wisdom, and knowledge of human nature, as it was fitted for the wants of Timothy in church discipline, and especially in the appointment of the ministry. It would lead him to forethought, since a hasty judgment, whether favorable or not, would be followed by such frequent deception (comp. 1 Corinthians 4:5).—Are open beforehand, πρόδηλοι; not strictly, are manifest beforehand, but, before the eyes of all (comp. Hebrews 7:14, where the same word is used, not in relation to time, but place).—Going before to judgment, εἰς κρίσιν; in other words, they go as heralds before them (as an evil report outstrips a man) to a judgment, which therefore is beyond all doubt. The Apostle would say, that with such men no special foresight is requisite; they constantly condemn themselves; but it is not so with others.—Some men they follow, &c, sc.εἰς κρίσιν; i.e., their sins are first known after and by the judgment, not known beforehand, like the first-named. In regard to those whose character is not yet clear, circumspection in our judgment cannot be too strongly urged.—They follow after, ἐπακολουθοῦσιν. “Interim patienter exspectandum, dum res se aperiat, nec inquirendum morosius. Fidelem servum tamen regit Deus, ut opportuna agat et dicat. Præpositioἐπὶdicit intervallum non longum;” Bengel. This verse has indeed the character, of a common proverb (Huther); but it does not follow that κρίσις is to be understood in a merely general sense, much less that it signifies exclusively a moral tribunal (De Wette). We must rather believe that the Apostle means the judgment at the advent of Christ, as the goal toward which all sins and all good works proceed; some before their possessors, others after them; some before the eyes of the world, others hidden from men, until at the last judgment, whether known before or not, they are brought fully into the light.

1 Timothy 5:25. Likewise also the good works. What the Apostle has said above in regard to particular sins, he applies now to good works. Likewise also the good works are manifest beforehand. Some have been for a long time known, and there could be no doubt of them. It was not so, however, with all good works, and therefore he continues: and they that are otherwise, i.e., those good works which are not yet manifest, cannot be hid; they come earlier or later by their own true nature to the light. This is said as a consolation to Timothy, in case he should be troubled by the thought that the doers of many good works would remain perhaps unknown to him, and might thus be overlooked in the choice of presbyters in the church. If we interpret they that are otherwise as meaning evil works, the parallel fails, and we have only a weak repetition of 1 Timothy 5:24. The harmony demands that 1 Timothy 5:25 be explained as referring wholly to good works; 1 Timothy 5:24 to evil works. According to De Wette, both observations mean very little; according to Bengel, we have here, on the contrary, an insigne dictum et hodie observandum. We agree with the latter.


1. It is a duty which the church should hold dear, to provide amply for the support of its teachers. The neglect or disregard of this duty leads to an injury which falls back on itself. The minister must always remember the word of the Lord: “Freely ye have received, freely give;” but the church, for its own interest, should not wish this rule applied too literally. It cannot be denied, too, that a certain independence of the minister of the gospel, in his individual relation to the members of the church, is greatly to be desired.
2. In respect to the proper discipline which, according to God’s word, must be exercised over the ministers of the church, there are two perils equally to be avoided. The maxims of espionage, of intimidation, of suspicion, of censure in regard to the most trivial things, have at all times borne bitter fruit. But there can be as little good from that moral latitudinarianism, that false indulgence which is so often seen on the other side. The best discipline for the spiritual office is, however, that which the pastor, by the light of the word and the Spirit of God, exercises over himself.

3. Even if t the word be purely preached and the sacraments duly administered, yet the church remains unfaithful to its calling if it has no desire or power to remove bad men from its midst (comp. 1 Corinthians 5:13). But, On the other side, those who rightly mourn over the decay of church discipline, often forget that the chief ministers of the church cannot judge upon reports without evidence; that they must have substantial proof; and that all things must be sustained by the word of two or three witnesses, who, when the trial comes, are usually missing.

4. The doctrine of various ranks and orders in the angelic world is no fruit of Jewish superstition or heathen theosophy, but of the Divine revelation (see the book of Daniel, and the different suggestions in Luke 1:19; Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16). The error of the speculative gnosticism here lay in its results and its method, but not, however, in its ground-ideas. Even sound reason must find it probable, à priori, that the spiritual world, the realm of freedom, must be the scene of the richest variety. It cannot, then, surprise us that Paul in this place charges Timothy by the elect angels, when we reflect that, according to the Apostle’s own teaching, the heavenly powers have the most lively sympathy with the weal and woe of the Church of Christ (Ephesians 3:10; comp. 1 Peter 1:12).

5. Christianity is as far removed from a sensual and epicurean view of life, as from a stoical and ascetic one.

6. He who, from the precept of Paul in respect to drinking water and wine, doubts the inspiration of this Epistle, must have the most superficial idea of inspiration. If, indeed, we suppose the Apostle moved by the Spirit to write mechanically and passively what it dictated, then sentences like the preceding are strange indeed (comp. 2 Timothy 4:18). But he who holds that the whole personality of the Apostle was filled and interpenetrated by the Spirit, so as to be guided by it as well in a word of advice to a friend as in the weightiest rules for the welfare of the church, or in revealing the mysteries of the future, will not even in such seemingly slight things deny the presence of that Spirit, to whom, because He is divine, nothing can be too great, nothing too insignificant. On this whole verse, compare further the seventeenth Homily of Chrysostom (De Statuis, ad populum Antioch.)

[7. The reading, “Be no longer a water-drinker,” brings out more fully the Pauline view of temperance. Indeed, this trivial allusion, like almost all the sayings of the Apostle, involves an ethical principle. Christianity commands temperance: but it plants the law of it in the character, and so makes the man able to judge between use and abuse. To put instead of this a law of total abstinence, is not gospel ethics, but the very asceticism which Paul rebukes in the false teachers of his time.—W.].


Among the rulers of the church, we meet with men of mediocrity more often than of high ability; but we must despise neither of them, although the latter have the greatest honor.—The laborer is worthy of his hire: (1) No work without reward; (2) no reward without work; (3) no work and reward except according to the rule of Scripture.—No man can be condemned unheard with less justice than the minister of the word.—The object of church discipline is not only corrective, but prohibitive.—With God there is no respect of persons; it should be even so with men.—How must a Christian act in judging the faults of another? (1) Cautious in condemning a brother; (2) Strictly watchful over him self.—The union of love and earnestness which we should show toward the offences of others (comp. Mark 3:5).—The Christian and the false Gnostic asceticism.—Even Timothy had a thorn in the flesh.—Care for the body is necessary even for the minister of the Lord.—Not too hasty prepossessions in our intercourse with men, yet no unloving distrust.—The day brings everything to light (1 Corinthians 3:13).

Starke: Osiander: The weaknesses of a minister of the church should indeed be so far kept from publicity, that the worthiness of his office of preacher may not be despised; yet great and manifest sins must not go unpunished, that the church may know that what is rebuked in the hearers, cannot be right in their ministers.—Hedinger: The holy angels are also in the assembly of the Lord, and hence we should be blameless (1 Corinthians 11:10).—Thou flatterest thyself thou hast not committed this or that sin; but if thou hast in any way helped it on, it is the same as if thou thyself hast done it (Romans 1:32).—Be comforted by this example, ye servants of God who are weak and sickly in body. Ye can nevertheless be useful to the Church of God.—Anton: There is no web so fine-spun, but at last it comes out in the sunlight.—Osiander: The church does not judge private and hidden things. What is manifest, we must reform; but what is hidden, we must leave to God, the righteous Judge (1 Corinthians 4:5).

Heubner: A moderate, scanty salary should be a school of discipline for the true, pure, heavenly spirit.—Church discipline is essentially different from civil or temporal.—An evil ground in the heart cannot long remain undiscovered.—A Christian judgment of the character of others.—Christianity throws light on the knowledge of men.—The worth of a good reputation.—Von Gerlach: It does not show regard for the ministerial office, when the offences of the pastor are concealed and gilded over, but when they are specially punished.—Lisco (on 1 Timothy 5:17-21). The love which should be shown to the ministers of the church: (1) Generous; (2) forbearing love.—The discipline which pastors should exercise over one another.—(Synodal Sermon) on 1 Timothy 5:22-25 : On true prudence in the appointment of the ministry: (1) In what it consists; (2) Why it is necessary.—A timely exhortation and a sure foresight.


1 Timothy 5:18; 1 Timothy 5:18.—[The commonly received order of these words is Βοῦν�. Lachmann, after A. C., reverses it, thus: ὀν φιμ. βοῦν ὰλοῶν.—E. H.]

1 Timothy 5:18; 1 Timothy 5:18.—[Instead of μισθοῦ—Recepta, Tischendorf, Lachmann—the Sinaiticus has τροφἢς.—E. H.]

1 Timothy 5:21; 1 Timothy 5:21.—Received text: And the Lord Jesus Christ. Κυρίου to be rejected, beyond question. See Tischendorf on the place.

1 Timothy 5:21; 1 Timothy 5:21.—[πρόσκλισιν; see Tischendorf’s note. Lachmann has πρόσκλισιν. Cf. Huther.—E. H.]

1 Timothy 5:23; 1 Timothy 5:23.—[Lachmann omits σου after στόμαχόν; so also the Sinaiticus.—E. H.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/1-timothy-5.html. 1857-84.
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