James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;1 timothy 5:1-6:21
MATTERS ECCLESIASTICAL & SOCIAL
Chapter 5 gives directions concerning Timothy’s management of church affairs, first, as to his behavior towards the older and younger members of the flock, of both sexes (1 Timothy 5:1-2). Secondly, as touching widows (1 Timothy 5:3-16). By “widows indeed,” 1 Timothy 5:3, Paul means those who had no near relatives to support them (see v. 4-5), and who were trusting in God (1 Timothy 5:6). At this point the apostle turns from the widows themselves to the persons whose duty it was to support them (1 Timothy 5:8), returning to the widows again, for the purpose of treating the subject from a different point of view, namely: that of the church deaconess, as many expositors believe (1 Timothy 5:9-10). The younger widows were not to be inducted into this office from the likelihood that, desiring to marry again, they should thus become unfaithful to their covenant (1 Timothy 5:11-12), and also for the reason named in 1 Timothy 5:13.
Of course, Paul does not mean that it was sinful for young widows to marry a second time, or he would not have recommended it in 1 Timothy 5:14, but that it was a breach of their faith to Christ after having betrothed themselves to Him, so to speak, for this service. 1 Timothy 5:16 recurs to 1 Timothy 5:4, about the pecuniary support of widows by their relatives that the church may be relieved of the burden.
Third, he speaks of Timothy’s relation to the elders (i.e., the presbyters of the church (1 Timothy 5:17-22). The Greek word for elders here is the same as in 1 Timothy 5:1, but while in that case elder men merely were intended, here the context shows an official distinction. The directions concern the pecuniary provision for these church ministers (1 Timothy 5:17-18), the esteem in which they should be held (1 Timothy 5:19), and yet the impartiality with which they should be treated in the event of wrongdoing (1 Timothy 5:20-21). In the same connection, Timothy receives a caution about the selection of men for that office (1 Timothy 5:22). The chapter draws to an end with advice to Timothy in regard to his health. It seems quite irrelevant to the main subject and yet was suggested doubtless by the command at the end of the preceding verse. The irrelevancy affords a strong incidental proof of the genuineness of the epistle. It is incredible that an imposter forging the name of Paul should give a direction like this, so remote from everything else discussed. Nothing but reality, the real valetudinary situation of a real person, could have suggested it. Two other verses follow, perhaps intended to restrain Timothy from hasty judgments, referred to in 1 Timothy 5:22, in the selection of men for the ministerial office. There are some men whose faults are very apparent, but others who can be known only by an after judgment. With reference to the latter great circumspection on the part of Timothy is urged. The same facts, however, apply to good works as well as evil, so that Timothy might be consoled in the thought that if he had unwittingly overlooked some of the latter class, they would sooner or later come to the light.
In the final chapter ecclesiastical matters give place to those of a different character. The servants in 1 Timothy 6:1-2, are bond-servants. After laying down the law in relation to them, Paul digresses into a criticism of those who teach otherwise concerning them (1 Timothy 6:3-5). It surprises us to learn of the hypocrisy of these false teachers even in those early days, since the apostle speaks of them as using godliness for a way of gain. A show of Christian life for them was a lucrative business (compare Titus 1:11). This digression leads to another, for the reference to godliness and gain brings up the whole question of earthly riches in the life of the disciple (1 Timothy 6:6-10). There is a sense in which true godliness does bring gain, if it be mingled with contentment, but contentment takes wings in the case of those whose condition is outlined in the verses following. The warning against this sin associated with the love of money leads to an earnest exhortation to Timothy personally, and a doxology springing out of it, when the theme is returned to again for a charge concerning the rich (1 Timothy 6:17-19). The epistle concludes with another personal address to Timothy to keep the trust committed to him avoiding the errors before enumerated.
There is much in this epistle of deep practical value today, and especially applicable to ministers, Sunday school teachers, Christian workers and church leaders of every kind. May the Holy Spirit Himself apply it to us!
1. What three classes of directions are given Timothy in chapter 5?
2. Who are meant by “widows indeed”?
3. What is the instruction about elders?
4. What incidental proof of genuineness does chapter 5 afford?
5. To what depth did the hypocrisy of the false teachers go?
6. How is the question of earthly riches treated?
7. To whom is this epistle of practical value?