Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;
1Ti 5:1-25. General Directions as to How Timothy Should Deal with Different Classes in the Church.
1. an elder—in age; probably not an elder in the ministry; these latter are not mentioned till 1Ti 5:17, "the elders that rule." Compare Ac 2:17, "your old men," literally, "elders." Contrasted with "the younger men." As Timothy was admonished so to conduct himself as to give no man reason to despise his youth (1Ti 4:12); so here he is told to bear in mind his youth, and to behave with the modesty which becomes a young man in relation to his elders.
Rebuke not—literally, "Strike not hard upon"; Rebuke not sharply: a different word from "rebuke" in 2Ti 4:2.
as brethren—and therefore equals; not lording it over them (1Pe 5:1-3).
The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.
2. with all purity—respectful treatment of the other sex will promote "purity."
Honour widows that are widows indeed.
3. Honour—by setting on the church roll, as fit objects of charitable sustenance (1Ti 5:9, 17, 18; Ac 6:1). So "honor" is used for support with necessaries (Mt 15:4, 6; Ac 28:10).
widows indeed—(1Ti 5:16). Those really desolate; not like those (1Ti 5:4) having children or relations answerable for their support, nor like those (in 1Ti 5:6) "who live in pleasure"; but such as, from their earthly desolation as to friends, are most likely to trust wholly in God, persevere in continual prayers, and carry out the religious duties assigned to Church widows (1Ti 5:5). Care for widows was transferred from the Jewish economy to the Christian (De 14:29; 16:11; 24:17, 19).
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.
4. if any widow have children—not "a widow indeed," as having children who ought to support her.
nephews—rather, as Greek, "descendants," or "grandchildren" [Hesychius]. "Nephews" in old English meant "grandchildren" [Hooker, Ecclesiastical Polity, 5.20].
let them—the children and descendants.
learn first—ere it falls to the Church to support them.
to show piety at home—filial piety towards their widowed mother or grandmother, by giving her sustenance. Literally, "to show piety towards their own house." "Piety is applied to the reverential discharge of filial duties; as the parental relation is the earthly representation of God our heavenly Father's relation to us. "Their own" stands in opposition to the Church, in relation to which the widow is comparatively a stranger. She has a claim on her own children, prior to her claim on the Church; let them fulfil this prior claim which she has on them, by sustaining her and not burdening the Church.
parents—Greek, (living) "progenitors," that is, their mother or grandmother, as the case may be. "Let them learn," implies that abuses of this kind had crept into the Church, widows claiming Church support though they had children or grandchildren able to support them.
good and—The oldest manuscripts omit. The words are probably inserted by a transcriber from 1Ti 2:3.
Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.
5. widow indeed, and desolate—contrasted with her who has children or grandchildren to support her (1Ti 5:4).
trusteth in God—perfect tense in Greek, "hath rested, and doth rest her hope in God." 1Ti 5:5 adds another qualification in a widow for Church maintenance, besides her being" desolate" or destitute of children to support her. She must be not one "that liveth in pleasure" (1Ti 5:6), but one making God her main hope (the accusative in Greek expresses that God is the ultimate aim whereto her hope is directed; whereas, 1Ti 4:10, dative expresses hope resting on God as her present stay [Wiesinger]), and continuing constantly in prayers. Her destitution of children and of all ties to earth would leave her more unencumbered for devoting the rest of her days to God and the Church (1Co 7:33, 34). Compare also "Anna a widow," who remained unmarried after her husband's death and "departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers day and night" (Lu 2:36, 37). Such a one, Paul implies, would be the fittest object for the Church's help (1Ti 5:3); for such a one is promoting the cause of Christ's Church by her prayers for it. "Ardor in prayers flows from hoping confidence in God" [Leo].
in supplications and prayers—Greek, "in her supplications and prayers"; the former signifies asking under a sense of need, the latter, prayer (see on 1Ti 2:1; Php 4:6).
night and day—another coincidence with Luke (Lu 18:7, "cry day and night"); contrast Satan's accusations "day and night" (Re 12:10).
But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.
6. she that liveth in pleasure—the opposite of such a widow as is described in 1Ti 5:5, and therefore one utterly undeserving of Church charity. The Greek expresses wanton prodigality and excess [Tittmann]. The root expresses weaving at a fast rate, and so lavish excess (see on Jas 5:5).
dead while she liveth—dead in the Spirit while alive in the flesh (Mt 8:22; Eph 5:14).
And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.
7. these things—just now spoken (1Ti 5:5, 6).
that they may be blameless—namely, the widows supported by the Church.
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.
8. But—reverting to 1Ti 5:4, "If any (a general proposition; therefore including in its application the widow's children or grandchildren) provide not for his own (relations in general), and especially for those of his own house (in particular), he hath (practically) denied the faith." Faith without love and its works is dead; "for the subject matter of faith is not mere opinion, but the grace and truth of God, to which he that believes gives up his spirit, as he that loves gives up his heart" [Mack]. If in any case a duty of love is plain, it is in relation to one's own relatives; to fail in so plain an obligation is a plain proof of want of love, and therefore of want of faith. "Faith does not set aside natural duties, but strengthens them" [Bengel].
worse than an infidel—because even an infidel (or unbeliever) is taught by nature to provide for his own relatives, and generally recognizes the duty; the Christian who does not so, is worse (Mt 5:46, 47). He has less excuse with his greater light than the infidel who may break the laws of nature.
Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man,
9. Translate, "As a widow (that is, of the ecclesiastical order of widowhood; a kind of female presbytery), let none be enrolled (in the catalogue) who is less than sixty years old." These were not deaconesses, who were chosen at a younger age (forty was the age fixed at the Council of Chalcedon), and who had virgins (in a later age called widows) as well as widows among them, but a band of widows set apart, though not yet formally and finally, to the service of God and the Church. Traces of such a class appear in Ac 9:41. Dorcas herself was such a one. As it was expedient (see on 1Ti 3:2; Tit 1:6) that the presbyter or bishop should have been but once married, so also in her case. There is a transition here to a new subject. The reference here cannot be, as in 1Ti 5:3, to providing Church sustenance for them. For the restriction to widows above sixty would then be needless and harsh, since many widows might be in need of help at a much earlier age; as also the rule that the widow must not have been twice married, especially since he himself, below (1Ti 5:14) enjoins the younger widows to marry again; as also that she must have brought up children. Moreover, 1Ti 5:10 presupposes some competence, at least in past times, and so poor widows would be excluded, the very class requiring charity. Also, 1Ti 5:11 would then be senseless, for then their remarrying would be a benefit, not an injury, to the Church, as relieving it of the burden of their sustenance. Tertullian [On the Veiling of Virgins, 9], Hermas [Shepherd, 1.2], and Chrysostom [Homily, 31], mention such an order of ecclesiastical widowhood, each one not less than sixty years old, and resembling the presbyters in the respect paid to them, and in some of their duties; they ministered with sympathizing counsel to other widows and to orphans, a ministry to which their own experimental knowledge of the feelings and sufferings of the bereaved adapted them, and had a general supervision of their sex. Age was doubtless a requisite in presbyters, as it is here stated to have been in presbyteresses, with a view to their influence on the younger persons of their sex They were supported by the Church, but not the only widows so supported (1Ti 5:3, 4).
wife of one man—in order not to throw a stumbling-block in the way of Jews and heathen, who regarded with disfavor second marriages (see on 1Ti 3:2; Tit 1:6). This is the force of "blameless," giving no offense, even in matters indifferent.
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.
10. for good works—Greek, "IN honourable (excellent) works"; the sphere or element in which the good report of her had place (Tit 2:7). This answers to 1Ti 3:7, as to the bishop or presbyter, "He must have a good report of them which are without."
if—if, in addition to being "well reported of."
she … brought up children—either her own (1Ti 3:4, 12), or those of others, which is one of the "good works"; a qualification adapting her for ministry to orphan children, and to mothers of families.
lodged strangers—1Ti 3:2, "given to hospitality" (Tit 1:8); in the case of presbyters.
washed … saints' feet—after the example of the Lord (Joh 13:14); a specimen of the universal spirit of humbly "by love serving one another," which actuated the early Christians.
relieved the afflicted—whether by pecuniary or other relief.
followed … good—(1Th 5:15; compare instances in Mt 25:35, 36).
But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry;
11. younger—than sixty years old (1Ti 5:9).
refuse—to take on the roll of presbyteress widows.
wax wanton—literally, "over-strong" (2Ch 26:16).
against Christ—rebelling against Christ, their proper Bridegroom [Jerome].
they will—Greek, "they wish"; their desire is to marry again.
Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.
12. Having—Bringing on themselves, and so having to bear as a burden (Ga 5:10) judgment from God (compare 1Ti 3:6), weighing like a load on them.
cast off their first faith—namely, pledged to Christ and the service of the Church. There could be no hardship at the age of sixty or upwards in not marrying again (end of 1Ti 5:9), for the sake of serving better the cause of Christ as presbyteresses; though, to ordinary widows, no barrier existed against remarriage (1Co 7:39). This is altogether distinct from Rome's unnatural vows of celibacy in the case of young marriageable women. The widow-presbyteresses, moreover, engaged to remain single, not as though single life were holier than married life (according to Rome's teaching), but because the interests of Christ's cause made it desirable (see on 1Ti 3:2). They had pledged "their first faith" to Christ as presbyteress widows; they now wish to transfer their faith to a husband (compare 1Co 7:32, 34).
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.
13. withal—"at the same time, moreover."
learn—usually in a good sense. But these women's "learning" is idleness, trifling, and busybodies' tattle.
wandering—Greek, "going about."
from house to house—of the members of the Church (2Ti 3:6). "They carry the affairs of this house to that, and of that to this; they tell the affairs of all to all" [Theophylact].
tattlers—literally "trifling talkers." In 3Jo 10, translated "prating."
busybodies—mischievously busy; inconsiderately curious (2Th 3:11). Ac 19:19, "curious," the same Greek. Curiosity usually springs from idleness, which is itself the mother of garrulity [Calvin].
speaking—not merely "saying." The subject-matter, as well as the form, is involved in the Greek word [Alford].
which they ought not—(Tit 1:11).
I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
14. younger women—rather, as ellipsis ought to be supplied, "the younger widows," namely younger widows in general, as distinguished from the older widows taken on the roll of presbyteresses (1Ti 5:9). The "therefore" means seeing that young widows are exposed to such temptations, "I will," or "desire," &c. (1Ti 5:11-13). The precept here that they should marry again is not inconsistent with 1Co 7:40; for the circumstances of the two cases were distinct (compare 1Co 7:26). Here remarriage is recommended as an antidote to sexual passion, idleness, and the other evils noted in 1Ti 5:11-13. Of course, where there was no tendency to these evils, marriage again would not be so requisite; Paul speaks of what is generally desirable, and supposing there should be danger of such evils, as was likely. "He does not impose a law, but points out a remedy, to younger widows" [Chrysostom].
bear children—(1Ti 2:15); thus gaining one of the qualifications (1Ti 5:10) for being afterwards a presbyteress widow, should Providence so ordain it.
guide—Greek, "rule the house" in the woman's due place; not usurping authority over the man (1Ti 2:12).
give none occasion—literally, "starting-point": handle of reproach through the loose conduct of nominal Christians.
the adversary—of Christianity, Jew or Gentile. Php 1:28; Tit 2:8, "He that is of the contrary part." Not Satan, who is introduced in a different relation (1Ti 5:15).
to speak reproachfully—literally, "for the sake of reproach" (1Ti 3:7; 6:1; Tit 2:5, 10). If the handle were given, the adversary would use it for the sake of reproach. The adversary is eager to exaggerate the faults of a few, and to lay the blame on the whole Church and its doctrines [Bengel].
For some are already turned aside after Satan.
15. For—For in the case of some this result has already ensued; "Some (widows) are already turned aside after Satan," the seducer (not by falling away from the faith in general, but) by such errors as are stigmatized in 1Ti 5:11-13, sexual passion, idleness, &c., and so have given occasion of reproach (1Ti 5:14). "Satan finds some mischief still for the idle hands to do."
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.
16. If any … have widows—of his family, however related to him. Most of the oldest manuscripts and versions omit "man or," and read, "If any woman that believeth." But the Received text seems preferable. If, however, the weightiest authorities are to prevail, the sense will be: He was speaking of younger widows; He now says, If any believing young widow have widows related to her needing support, let her relieve them, thereby casing the Church of the burden, 1Ti 5:3, 4 (there it was the children and grandchildren; here it is the young widow, who, in order to avoid the evils of idleness and wantonness, the result of idleness, 1Ti 5:11, 13; Eze 16:49, is to be diligent in good works, such as "relieving the afflicted," 1Ti 5:10, thus qualifying herself for being afterwards a widow-presbyteress).
let them—rather as Greek, "let him," or "her"; "let such a one" (1Ti 5:10).
be charged—literally, "be burdened" with their support.
widows indeed—really helpless and friendless (1Ti 5:3, 4).
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
17. The transition from the widow presbyteresses (1Ti 5:9) to the presbyters here, is natural.
rule well—literally, "preside well," with wisdom, ability, and loving faithfulness, over the flock assigned to them.
be counted worthy of double honour—that is, the honor which is expressed by gifts (1Ti 5:3, 18) and otherwise. If a presbyter as such, in virtue of his office, is already worthy of honor, he who rules well is doubly so [Wiesinger] (1Co 9:14; Ga 6:6; 1Th 5:12). Not literally that a presbyter who rules well should get double the salary of one who does not rule well [Alford], or of a presbyteress widow, or of the deacons [Chrysostom]. "Double" is used for large in general (Re 18:6).
specially they who labour in the word and doctrine—Greek, "teaching"; preaching of the word, and instruction, catechetical or otherwise. This implies that of the ruling presbyters there were two kinds, those who labored in the word and teaching, and those who did not. Lay presbyters, so called merely because of their age, have no place here; for both classes mentioned here alike are ruling presbyters. A college of presbyters is implied as existing in each large congregation. As in 1Ti 3:1-16 their qualifications are spoken of, so here the acknowledgments due to them for their services.
For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.
18. the scripture—(De 25:4; quoted before in 1Co 9:9).
the ox that treadeth out—Greek, An ox while treading.
The labourer is worthy of his reward—or "hire"; quoted from Lu 10:7, whereas Mt 10:10 has "his meat," or "food." If Paul extends the phrase, "Scripture saith," to this second clause, as well as to the first, he will be hereby recognizing the Gospel of Luke, his own helper (whence appears the undesigned appositeness of the quotation), as inspired Scripture. This I think the correct view. The Gospel according to Luke was probably in circulation then about eight or nine years. However, it is possible "Scripture saith" applies only to the passage quoted from De 25:4; and then his quotation will be that of a common proverb, quoted also by the Lord, which commends itself to the approval of all, and is approved by the Lord and His apostle.
Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
19. Against an elder—a presbyter of the Church.
receive not—"entertain not" [Alford].
but before two or three witnesses—A judicial conviction was not permitted in De 17:6; 19:15, except on the testimony of at least two or three witnesses (compare Mt 18:16; Joh 8:17; 2Co 13:1; 1Jo 5:6, 7). But Timothy's entertaining an accusation against anyone is a different case, where the object was not judicially to punish, but to admonish: here he might ordinarily entertain it without the need of two or three witnesses; but not in the case of an elder, since the more earnest an elder was to convince gainsayers (Tit 1:9), the more exposed would he be to vexatious and false accusations. How important then was it that Timothy should not, without strong testimony, entertain a charge against presbyters, who should, in order to be efficient, be "blameless" (1Ti 3:2; Tit 1:6). 1Ti 5:21, 24 imply that Timothy had the power of judging in the Church. Doubtless he would not condemn any save on the testimony of two or three witnesses, but in ordinary cases he would cite them, as the law of Moses also allowed, though there were only one witness. But in the case of elders, he would require two or three witnesses before even citing them; for their character for innocence stands higher, and they are exposed to envy and calumny more than others "Receive" does not, as Alford thinks, include both citation and conviction, but means only the former.
Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.
20. Them that sin—whether presbyters or laymen.
rebuke before all—publicly before the Church (Mt 18:15-17; 1Co 5:9-13; Eph 5:11). Not until this "rebuke" was disregarded was the offender to be excommunicated.
others … fear—that other members of the Church may have a wholesome fear of offending (De 13:11; Ac 5:11).
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.
21. I charge thee—rather as Greek, "I adjure thee"; so it ought to be translated (2Ti 4:1).
before—"in the presence of God."
Lord—omitted in the oldest manuscripts God the Father, and Christ the Son, will testify against thee, if thou disregardest my injunction. He vividly sets before Timothy the last judgment, in which God shall be revealed, and Christ seen face to face with His angels
elect angels—an epithet of reverence. The objects of divine electing love (1Pe 2:6). Not only "elect" (according to the everlasting purpose of God) in contradistinction to the reprobate angels (2Pe 2:4), but also to mark the excellence of the angels in general (as God's chosen ministers, "holy angels," "angels of light"), and so to give more solemnity to their testimony [Calvin] as witnesses to Paul's adjuration. Angels take part by action and sympathy in the affairs of the earth (Lu 15:10; 1Co 4:9).
these things—the injunctions, 1Ti 5:19, 20.
without preferring one before another—rather as Greek, "prejudice"; "judging before" hearing all the facts of a case. There ought to be judgment, but not prejudging. Compare "suddenly," 1Ti 5:22, also 1Ti 5:24.
partiality—in favor of a man, as "prejudice" is bias against a man. Some of the oldest manuscripts read, "in the way of summoning (brethren) before a (heathen) judge." But Vulgate and other good authorities favor the more probable reading in English Version.
Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure.
22. Lay hands—that is, ordain (1Ti 4:14; 2Ti 1:6; Tit 1:5). The connection is with 1Ti 5:19. The way to guard against scandals occurring in the case of presbyters is, be cautious as to the character of the candidate before ordaining him; this will apply to other Church officers so ordained, as well as to presbyters. Thus, this clause refers to 1Ti 5:19, as next clause, "neither be partaker of other men's sins," refers to 1Ti 5:20. Ellicott and Wiesinger understand it of receiving back into Church fellowship or absolution, by laying hands on those who had been "rebuked" (1Ti 5:20) and then excommunicated (Mt 18:17); 1Ti 5:20 favors this. But as in 1Ti 4:14, and Ac 6:6; 13:3; 2Ti 1:6, the laying on of hands is used of ordination (compare however as to confirmation, Ac 8:17), it seems better to take it so here.
suddenly—hastily: 1Ti 5:24, 25 show that waiting for a time is salutary.
neither be partaker of other men's sins—by negligence in ordaining ungodly candidates, and so becoming in some degree responsible for their sins. Or, there is the same transition from the elders to all in general who may sin, as in 1Ti 5:19, 20. Be not a partaker in other men's sins by not "rebuking them that sin before all," as well as those that are candidates for the presbytery, as also all "that sin."
keep thyself pure—"thyself' is emphatic. "Keep THYSELF" clear of participation in OTHER men's sin by not failing to rebuke them that sin (1Ti 5:20). Thus the transition is easy to 1Ti 5:23, which is concerning Timothy personally; compare also 1Ti 5:24.
Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.
23. no longer—as a habit. This injunction to drink wine occasionally is a modification of the preceding "keep thyself pure." The presbyter and deacon were enjoined to be "not given to wine" (1Ti 3:3, 8). Timothy seems to have had a tendency to undue ascetical strictness on this point (compare Note, see on 1Ti 4:8; compare the Nazarene vow, Nu 6:1-4; John the Baptist, Lu 1:15; Ro 14). Paul therefore modifies the preceding words, "keep thyself pure," virtually saying, "Not that I mean to enjoin that kind of purity which consists in asceticism, nay, be no longer a water-drinker," that is, no longer drink only water, but use a little wine, as much as is needed for thy health. So Ellicott and Wiesinger. Alford thus: Timothy was of a feeble frame (see on 1Co 16:10, 11), and prone to timidity in his duties as overseer where vigorous action was needed; hence Paul exhorts him to take all proper means to raise his bodily condition above these infirmities. God hereby commands believers to use all due means for preserving health, and condemns by anticipation the human traditions which among various sects have denied the use of wine to the faithful.
Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.
24. Two kinds of sins are specified: those palpably manifest (so the Greek for "open beforehand" ought to be translated; so in Heb 7:14, it is translated "evident"; literally, "before" the eyes, that is, notorious), further explained as "going before to judgment"; and those which follow after the men ("some men they, that is, their sins, follow after"), namely, not going beforehand, loudly accusing, but hidden till they come to the judgment: so 1Ti 5:25, the good works are of two classes: those palpably manifest (translate so, instead of "manifest beforehand") and "those that are otherwise," that is, not palpably manifest. Both alike "cannot be hid"; the former class in the case of bad and good are manifest already; the latter class in the case of both are not manifest now, but shall be so at the final judgment.
going before to judgment—as heralds; crying sins which accuse their perpetrator. The connection seems to me this: He had enjoined Timothy, 1Ti 5:20, "Rebuke them that sin before all": and in 1Ti 5:22, "Neither be partaker of other men's sins," by ordaining ungodly men; having then by a digression at the clause, "keep thyself pure," guarded against an ascetical error of Timothy in fancying purity consisted in asceticism, and having exhorted him to use wine for strengthening him in his work, he returns to the subject of his being vigorous as an overseer in rebuking sin, whether in presbyters or people, and in avoiding participation in men's sins by ordaining ungodly candidates. He says, therefore, there are two classes of sins, as there are two classes of good works: those palpably manifest, and those not so; the former are those on which thou shouldest act decidedly at once when called on, whether to rebuke in general, or to ordain ministers in particular; as to the latter, the final judgment alone can decide; however hidden now they "cannot be hid" then. This could only be said of the final judgment (1Co 4:5; therefore, Alford's reference of this verse to Timothy's judgment in choosing elders must be wrong); all judgments before then are fallible. Thus he implies that Timothy can only be responsible if he connive at manifest, or evident sins; not that those that are otherwise shall escape judgment at last: just as in the case of good works, he can only be responsible for taking into account in his judgments those which are patent to all, not those secret good works which nevertheless will not remain hidden at the final judgment.
Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.