1 Timothy 5
Benson Commentary
Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;
1 Timothy 5:1-2. Because it is the duty of ministers to reprove such of their people as err in principle or practice, and because the success of reproof depends, in a great measure, upon the manner in which it is given, the apostle here proceeds to direct Timothy in that important branch of his office. Rebuke not — Or rather, rebuke not severely, the phrase, μη επιπληξης, literally signifying, do not strike, and metaphorically, do not sharply reprove; an elder — Or aged man, as the word πρεσβυτερω here evidently signifies, being opposed to νεωτερους, the younger, in the following clause. So that it is not the name of an office, as it is 1 Timothy 5:17; 1 Timothy 5:19, but denotes simply one in advanced age; but entreat him as a father — Or as thou wouldst thy father in the like case; and the younger men — Who sin; as brethren — As if they were thy own brothers; that is, with kindness and affection, and not with a lordly, domineering contempt. The elder women as mothers — With respect and deference; and the younger as sisters, with all purity — With the strictest decorum in thy converse with them, and distance from every thing, in word or deed, that could have the least appearance of levity and wantonness, remembering how many eyes are upon thee, and how fatal any thing in thy conduct, which might bring the least blemish upon thy character, would be to the honour and success of thy ministry, and to the credit of the gospel and its professors.

The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.
Honour widows that are widows indeed.
1 Timothy 5:3-4. Honour — And endeavour honourably to support from the public stock; widows — Whose destitute circumstances recommend them as the certain objects of charity. According to the Greek commentators, the widows of whom the apostle speaks in this passage were aged women appointed by the church to instruct the young of their own sex in the principles of the Christian faith, and who, for that service, were maintained out of the funds of the church. This opinion is rendered probable by the apostle’s order to Timothy, (1 Timothy 5:9,) to admit none into the number of widows without inquiring into their age, circumstances, character, and qualifications, even as in ordaining bishops and deacons; who are widows indeed — Really such; that is, who are desolate, and neither able to maintain themselves, nor have any near relations to provide for them, and who are wholly devoted to God. But if any widow have children — Able to provide for her; or nephews — Rather grand-children, as εκγονα signifies; let them learn — Their children or descendants; first to show piety at home — Before the church be burdened with them; and to requite their parents — For all their former care, trouble, and expense; for that is good — Καλον, decent, fair, and amiable, in the eyes of men; and acceptable before God — Who requires us, out of regard to his honour and favour, to attend carefully to the duties of those relations in which we stand to each other.

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.
Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.
1 Timothy 5:5-7. Now she who is a widow indeed — Deprived of all support from her relations and friends. The apostle seems to allude to the signification of the word χηρα, rendered widow, which comes from χηρος, orbus, desertus, a person destitute, forsaken: and desolate Μεμονωμενη, reduced to solitude, having neither children nor grand- children to relieve her; trusteth in God — Having no one else to trust in; and continueth in supplications and prayers, &c. — Devotes herself wholly to the service of God, spending a great part of her time by day and night in devotion. But she who liveth in pleasure — Delicately, voluptuously, in elegant regular sensuality, though not in the use of any such pleasures as are unlawful in themselves. The original word σπαταλωσα, properly signifies, faring deliciously; is dead while she liveth — Both in respect of God, whom she does not serve, and in respect of her fellow-creatures, whom she does not benefit. She is spiritually dead, dead to true piety and virtue. These things give in charge — For they are things which concern Christians in all circumstances and relations of life, who are too ready to seek happiness in the pursuit of sensual pleasure; that they may be blameless — The gender of the word here rendered blameless shows that the Ephesian brethren, not the widows, were the persons to whom Timothy was to give these things in charge. Probably either the deacons, or Timothy’s hearers in general, were intended. Indeed, in so luxurious a city as Ephesus, widows could not be the only persons who were in danger of failing into such sensualities as the apostle had been warning them against.

But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.
And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.
But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
1 Timothy 5:8. If any provide not — Food and raiment; for his own — Poor relations; and especially those of his own house Των οικειων, his own domestics, those relations who live in his own family, and consequently are under his eye; he hath denied the faith — Namely, by such a practice, which is utterly inconsistent with Christianity, which does not destroy, but perfects natural duties. Here we see, to disobey the precepts of the gospel, is to deny or renounce the faith of the gospel; from whence we infer, that the faith of the gospel includes obedience to its precepts; and is worse than an infidel — Dr. Whitby shows here, by very apposite citations, that the heathen were sensible of the reasonableness and necessity of taking care of their near relations, and especially of their parents, when reduced to poverty and want. But “what has this to do with heaping up money for our children, for which it is often so impertinently alleged? But all men have their reasons for laying up money; one will go to hell for fear of want, another acts like a heathen, lest he should be worse than an infidel!” — Wesley.

Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man,
1 Timothy 5:9-10. Let not a widow be taken into the number Καταλεγεσθω, taken upon the list of those who are to be maintained by the church, and to attend upon the sick poor, and teach the young; under threescore years old — It might, on many accounts, and for very obvious reasons, be proper that this office should be committed only to persons of an advanced age, and such as laid aside all thoughts of marrying again. Having been — Neither a harlot nor a concubine; but the wife of one man — At a time; or having chastely confined herself to one husband while in the married relation, and not divorced him and married another. See note on 1 Timothy 3:2. Well reported of for good works — Of different kinds; if she have brought up children — Religiously and virtuously, her own, or others who had been committed to her care; if, in her more prosperous days, she manifested a generous and hospitable disposition; and lodged Christian strangers — Who were at a loss for necessary accommodations on their journeys; if she have washed the saints’ feet — Has been ready to do the meanest offices for them; if she have relieved the afflicted — This, and some of the other good works mentioned by the apostle, being attended with great expense, the poor widows, who desired to be taken into the number, cannot be supposed to have performed them at their own charges. “I therefore suppose,” says Macknight, “the apostle is speaking of female deacons, who had been employed in the offices here mentioned at the common expense; consequently the meaning of the direction will be, that in choosing widows, Timothy was to prefer those who formerly had been employed by the church as deaconesses, and had discharged that office with faithfulness and propriety. For since these women had spent the prime of their life in the laborious offices of love mentioned by the apostle, without receiving any recompense but maintenance, it was highly reasonable, when grown old in that good service, to promote them to an honourable function, which required knowledge and experience rather than bodily strength, and which was rewarded with a liberal maintenance.”

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.
But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry;
1 Timothy 5:11-13. But the younger widows refuse — Do not choose; for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ — To whose more immediate service they had devoted themselves; they will marry — And, perhaps, to husbands who are strangers to Christianity, or at least not with a single eye to the glory of God, and so withdraw themselves from that service of Christ in the church which they were before engaged in. On the word καταστρηνιασωσι, rendered to wax wanton, Erasmus remarks, that it comes from στερειν, to pull away, and ηνια, reins, and that the metaphor is taken from high-fed brute animals, which, having pulled away the reins, run about at their pleasure. Le Clerc and some others translate the clause, who do not obey the rein. The apostle plainly means, that the younger widows, who had undertaken the office of teaching the young of their own sex, not being willing to continue under that restraint from marriage which they had laid on themselves by devoting themselves to the service of Christ, and which the nature of their office required, would marry, and desert his service. Having damnation — Condemnation rather, both from God and men; because they have cast off their first faith — Have deserted their trust in God, and have acted contrary to their first conviction, namely, that wholly to devote themselves to his service was the most excellent way; for their first faith here means that faithfulness to Christ which they had virtually plighted, when they took on them the office of teaching the younger women; for by marrying they put it out of their power to perform that office with the attention and assiduity which it required. And withal they learn to be idle — Slothful and negligent in the office they have undertaken, and instead of attending to the proper duty of their charge, wandering about, &c.; tattlers also — Greek, φλυαροι, triflers, foolish talkers, or talebearers; a vice to which women, who go about from house to house, are commonly much addicted; busy-bodies — Concerning themselves unnecessarily and impertinently in the affairs of others; speaking things which they ought not — Things very unbecoming.

Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.
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.
I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
1 Timothy 5:14-16. I will therefore that the younger women — Or widows rather, (concerning whom only the apostle is here speaking,) marry — Instead of thinking to intrude themselves into a situation for which they are generally so unfit. From this command it is evident, that under the gospel second marriages are lawful both to men and women, and that abstaining from them is no mark of superior piety. It is true the apostle, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, advised all who had the gift of continency to remain unmarried; not, however, because celibacy is a more holy state than marriage, but because in the then persecuted state of the church, a single life was more free from trouble and temptation. See 1 Corinthians 7:9; 1 Corinthians 7:26; 1 Corinthians 7:32-39. Give no occasion to the adversary, &c. — To reproach the gospel on account of the bad behaviour of those who profess it. For some widows have already turned aside after Satan — Who has drawn them from Christ. He means that some of the widows employed by the church as teachers, had, through the temptations of Satan, deserted their station in the church, and, by marrying, incapacitated themselves for continuing in the excellent office they had engaged in. If any man or woman that believeth have poor widows — Nearly related to them; let them relieve them — If they are able; and let not the church be charged — Or burdened, with maintaining them; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed — That have no friends able to support them, and who, if the church did not grant them aid, would be entirely destitute.

For some are already turned aside after Satan.
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.
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
1 Timothy 5:17-18. Let the elders that rule well — Who approve themselves faithful stewards of all that is committed to their charge; be counted worthy of double honour — A more abundant provision, seeing that such will employ it all to the glory of God. As they were the most laborious and disinterested men who were put into these offices, so, whatever any one had to bestow, in his life or death, was generally lodged in their hands for the poor. By this means the churchmen became very rich in after ages. But as the design of the donors was the general good, there was the highest reason why it should be disposed of according to their pious intent. Especially they who labour — Diligently and painfully; in the word and doctrine — That is, in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture saith, &c. — See on 1 Corinthians 9:9.

For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.
Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
1 Timothy 5:19-20. Against an elder — Or presbyter; do not even receive an accusation — Unless it is offered to be proved by two or three credible witnesses — By the Mosaic law a private person might be cited (though not condemned) on the testimony of one witness. But St. Paul forbids an elder to be even cited on such evidence, his reputation being of more importance than that of others. Them that sin — Namely, openly and scandalously, and are duly convicted; rebuke before all the church, that others also may fear — To commit the like offences.

Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.
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.
1 Timothy 5:21. I charge thee before God, &c. — He refers to the last judgment, in which we shall stand before God, and Christ, and his elect — That is, holy, angels — Who are the witnesses of our conversation. The apostle looks through his own labours, and even through time itself, and seems to stand as one already in eternity; that thou observe these things without preferring, &c. — Προκριματος, prejudging. The word signifies a judgment formed before the matter judged hath been duly examined; doing nothing by partiality — For or against any one; Greek, κατα

προσκλισιν, literally, a leaning to one side, through favour arising from private friendship or affection.

Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure.
1 Timothy 5:22-25. Lay hands suddenly — And rashly; on no man — That is, appoint no man to church offices without full trial and examination: otherwise thou wilt be accessary to, and accountable for, his mis-behaviour in his office. Neither be partaker of other men’s sins — As thou wilt certainly make thyself, if thou be the means of bringing those into the ministry whom thou mightest have discovered to be unfit for that office. Keep thyself pure — Free from all such blameworthy practices, and from the blood of all men. Some men’s sins are open — Or manifest; beforehand — Before any strict inquiry be made; going before to judgment — Leading a person immediately to judge them unworthy of any spiritual office; and some men they — Their sins; follow after inquiry has been made — Or are not discovered perhaps till after their ordination. For which reason no one ought to be appointed to sacred offices hastily. Likewise the good works — And good qualities; of some are manifest beforehand — Before any particular inquiry be made; they are evident to all. Such therefore may he admitted to sacred offices without much examination; and they — Those good works and good qualities; that are otherwise — That remain concealed under the veils that humility spreads over them; cannot be entirely hid long — From thy knowledge, and must recommend such silent and reserved Christians both to thy esteem, and that of those who are intimately acquainted with them.

Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.
Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.
Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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