Matthew Poole's Commentary
Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;1 Timothy 5:1,2 Directions to Timothy how to admonish persons of different
1 Timothy 5:3-16 Concerning widows.
1 Timothy 5:17,18 Elders, if they do well, are to be doubly honoured,
1 Timothy 5:19-21 and are not to be censured without full proof, and
then openly and impartially,
1 Timothy 5:22 caution not to ordain any one precipitately.
1 Timothy 5:23 Advice respecting Timothy’s health.
1 Timothy 5:24,25 Some men’s characters are more easily discerned that those
Rebuke not an elder; it appeareth by the next verse, that the apostle by elder here understandeth not a church officer, but an ancient man. The word translated rebuke is translated too softly; it should be: Rebuke not too roughly, as appears by the opposite phrase, and indeed the word properly signifies to beat or lash. Rebuke him not but with a decent respect to his age.
But entreat him as a father; so that thy reproofs may look more like counsels and exhortations than rebukes.
And the younger men as brethren; prudence also must be used as to the yonnger men, ministers in rebuking them should remember that they are brethren, and treat them accordingly, not too imperiously.
The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.The elder women as mothers; the same prudence also is to be used to matrons and aged women.
The younger as sisters; yea, and to younger women too, considering our relation and equality in Christ.
With all purity; only as to them, (considering their sex), a further gravity and prudence is to be used, that we give no occasion to lust, or unclean motions.
Honour widows that are widows indeed.Honour widows; give a respect to such as have lost their husbands, with a regard to that honourable estate of marriage in which they have been formerly, and do not only pay them a due respect, but afford them a maintenance, Acts 6:1.
That are widows indeed: who are widows indeed he openeth further, 1 Timothy 5:5; such as are not only pious, but desolate, as the Greek word for a widow implies, according to its derivation.
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.But if any widow have children or nephews: by the widows indeed, mentioned by the apostle, 1 Timothy 5:3, he here showeth that he meant women that not only wanted husbands, but children, or grandchildren or any near kindred that were Christians, and in a capacity to relieve them; but if any widows had any such near relations, the apostle willeth that they should be taught
to shew piety at home; ton idion oikon eusebein, word for word, to worship their own house, or to be religious or godly toward their own house; that is, to show a respect or pagan homage to their own house. For worship is nothing but a respect, honour, or homage paid to another in consideration of his or her excellency and superiority; only the use of this word, which is the Greek word generally used to express religion and godliness by, lets us know that religion and godliness is vainly pretended to any that have of this world’s goods, and relieve not those from whom they are descended, (for the word ekgona signifies persons descended from another, whether in the first generation or not), if they be in want, and stand in need of their assistance.
And to requite their parents: nor is this an act of charity, but justice, a just requital of our parents for their care of us, and pains with us in our education.
For that is good and acceptable before God; and this is good, just, decent, and commanded by God, and acceptable in the sight of God, for the precept:
Honour thy father and mother, is the first commandment with promise, Ephesians 6:2. By the way, that precept is excellently expounded by this text, both as to the act commanded, which this text teacheth is to be extended to maintenance as well as compliments; and as to the object, viz. all those as to whom we are ekgona, descended from, whether immediate parents, yea or no.
Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate: the apostle here opens the term of widow indeed, 1 Timothy 5:3; one that is memonwmenh one that is made alone, destitute of such as ought to help her, a husband, or children; and being so,
trusteth in God; is a believer, reposing her trust and confidence in God;
and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day; spendeth her time religiously in prayer and acts of devotion. Not that other persons that are poor and desolate should not be regarded and taken care for, but the church is not so concerned in them, at least as a church; the magistrate ought to take care of them, and all good Christians, being men as well as Christians, ought to consider them; but in the first place, and principally, they are to take care of such widows, such desolate persons.
But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.H de sqatalwsa, she that is wanton, Jam 5:5, she that spends her money in needless costs, as to meat, drink, or apparel, is spiritually dead, dead in sin, while she liveth a temporary voluptuous life, in vanity, and luxury, and impurity of flesh and spirit.
And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.In the discharge of thy ministry declare these things, that all Christians, women especially, 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.But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house: here is a manifest distinction between his own, idiwn, and his own household, oikeiwn, they are distinguished by terms in the Greek, and as to the care which men and women ought to extend to them. By his own he means his relations, all of a man’s family or stock; by his own household, he seemeth to mean those who cohabit with him. The apostle saith that he who is careless of providing for the former, (so far as he is able), but especially for the latter,
hath denied the Christian faith, that is, in the practice of it, though in words he professeth it; he liveth not up to the rule of the gospel, which directeth other things.
And is worse than an infidel; and is worse than a heathen, that believeth not; because many good-natured heathens do this by the light of nature, and those who do it not, yet are more excusable, being strangers to the obligation of the revealed law of God in the case.
Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man,Let not a widow be taken, into the number under threescore years old; what number he meaneth is very doubtful, whether he means the number of deaconesses, or the number of such as should receive alms from the church. Those who translate katalegesyw here chosen seem to favour the former. They say, that in the primitive church there being a want of hospials and public places for the reception of people deceased in their estates, &c., they chose some old widows to take care of the poorer sort of women when they were sick, and these also were themselves maintained by the church, and served the church in that charitable employment. Whether this number, or the more general number of widows relieved by the church, be meant, the caution of their age was very prudent:
1. Because younger widows could work for their living, and needed not to burden the church.
2. Because under those years they probably might marry again, and so become useless to the church.
3. Because after those years there could be no great fear of scandal from their wantonness and incontinency.
Having been the wife of one man: this condition seems harder to be understood; for though in former times, amongst the Jews and pagans, men were allowed more wives than one at the same time, yet no laws ever allowed the woman liberty of more husbands.
2. To understand it of women that had not been twice married, their first husbands being dead, seems hard, no law of God forbidding the second marriages of men and women successively.
3. Some therefore rather understand it of such widows as were become wives to second husbands, the first not being dead, but parted from them legally, either through their own fault, or through their voluntary desertion.
This the apostle seems to forbid, to avoid reproach and scandal to the church.
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.Well reported of for good works; if she be a person of repute for actions concerning others which are consonant to the will and commandment of God.
If she have brought up children well, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
If she have lodged strangers; if when persons that are Christians have come from other places, either driven from them, or upon their occasion, and could not amongst pagans find a convenient inn, her house have been open to them.
If she have washed the saints’ feet; if she have been ready to do the meanest offices for the servants of God, of which this washing of feet was one in great use in those hot countries, where they had not the benefit of shoes, either to cool, or refresh, or cleanse them.
If she have relieved the afflicted; if to her ability she have relieved such as have been in any kind of distress.
If she have diligently followed every good work; if though it may be she have not had ability, or opportunity, to do all the good works she would, yet she have diligently followed them, doing what she could; —let such a one be put into the catalogue of those whom the church will relieve, and honour, and employ.
But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry;But the younger widows refuse: by the younger widows the apostle seems (by the last words of this verse) not to mean those that were under threescore, but the younger sort of widows, not past child-bearing; he would not have those (that is, being under no extraordinary circumstances of sickness, or lameness, or the want of their senses) be maintained at the charge of the church, because they were able to labour; nor yet to be taken into any employment relating to the church.
For when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ; katastrhniaswsi tou cristou. How the Vulgar Latin comes to translate this, wax wanton in Christ, I neither understand whether with respect to grammar or sense. Erasmus translates the verb, when they have committed whoredom; but Revelation 18:9 confuteth this sense, where we translate it, lived deliciously, (being without the preposition kata), which certainly better expresseth the sense, as also doth our translation, wax wanton; it properly signifies either the lustiness, or the headstrong temper, of beasts, that wax fat.
Against Christ, is against the rule of the gospel, and their profession of Christ; or they disdain the office of serving the saints, as too mean, and laborious, and sin against Christ, in whose name, and for whose glory, and to whose members, the service was to be performed. And then
they will marry, and so put themselves into an incapacity to serve the church in the place of widows.
Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.This sentence is not without its difficulties: here are two questions:
1. What is meant by krima, which we both here and elsewhere translate damnation.
2. How they cast off their first faith.
Many think the Greek word by us translated damnation, ought to have had a softer sense, it being certainly capable of it. Some think it signifies here no more than guilt, or a blot; others, a public infamy; others, the judgment of good men against them. But it may be we cannot so well determine this without understanding what is meant by
their first faith, which they are here said to have cast off: by which some understand their profession of Christianity; others, their promise or engagement to the church, not to marry. The latter sense supposeth that all those widows that were taken into the ministry of the church before mentioned, promised that they would keep themselves unmarried, which is a most groundless supposition. I do rather think that by their first faith, he means their first or former profession of Christianity; which was a crime that did expose them not only to the judgment and censure of sober Christians, but to eternal damnation. I shall offer my own sense of this text thus: it is certain these Christians were lilies among thorns, a small handful amongst a far greater number of pagans; and it is not improbable, that some younger widows, out of a desire to marry, might marry to pagans, and be by them tempted to apostacy from the Christian profession; upon which the apostle orders, that none under sixty years of age should be henceforth taken into the ministry of the church, lest doing such a thing when they were under that character, it should be a greater scandal. This seems the more probable from 1 Timothy 5:15, where the apostle adds, for some are already turned aside after Satan.
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.The apostle here gives some other reasons, why he would not have widows too young taken into the ministry of the church.
And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; they being young, and having no business at home, nor any husbands to conduct and govern them, are subject to be gadding up and down;
and not only idle, but tattlers also; and to be tattling idly and impertinently, and that not only of their own, but others’ concerns;
and busybodies, interesting themselves in the matters of other persons and families;
speaking things which they ought not, and in the multitude of words, folly being never wanting, they are prone to speak things which they ought not: from whence we may deserve, that nothing more becometh Christians than a gravity and composedness of behaviour and speech, a government of their tongues, and considering aforehand well what they speak.
I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.I will therefore that the younger women marry: I will, here, must not be interpreted into an absolute precept, (for the apostle would never have made that necessary by his precept which God had left indifferent), but in a limited sense, viz. if they have not the gift of continency, if they cannot restrain themselves from such scandalous courses, let them marry;
bear children, and not only bring forth children, but take care of their education;
guide the house, and take care of the government of families within doors (which is the woman’s proper province);
give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully; and give no occasion to Jews or pagans (the adversaries of Christian religion) to speak of the church, or any particular members of it, reproachfully, as living beneath the rules of morality and decency.
For some are already turned aside after Satan.Ver. 15,16. We have scandals enough already, we had need take as good heed as we can that we have no more; some young women already are apostatized (and, possibly, for the sake or by the occasion of such marriages) to Judaism or paganism; or, it may be, to a loose and lewd course of life, not suiting the profession of Christianity.
If any man or woman that believeth have widows; if any men or women that are Christians have any widows that are nearly related to them, if themselves be able,
let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; and not turn off that natural duty which they owe to their parents, or near relations, to relieve them, to the church, which hath others enough to look after, and upon which there lies only a moral and Christian obligation.
That it may relieve them that are widows indeed; that so the alms of the church may go to relieve those only who are perfectly desolate, having neither husbands nor any other near relations to provide for them.
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.See Poole on "1 Timothy 5:15"
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.Who these elders are here intended hath been a great question: it is plain they are not such only as are preachers. They are such as are,
worthy of double honour. The learned Mr. Pool, in his Latin Synopsis, giveth us an acconut of the most opinions about it:
1. Some judging them some of the elder sort of the members of the church, joining with the ministers in the government of the church, but not meddling with preaching, or administering sacraments.
2. Some judging by elders here are meant such as had been ministers, but being aged were superannnuated.
3. Others understanding by it the civil magistrates; which seemeth of all other opinions least probable, because at this time there were no such members of the Christian church.
4. Others think that deacons are here by that term understood, who being church officers have the name of elders given to them.
5. Others understand by elders the ordinary pastors of churches, that resided with their flocks, in opposition to apostles and evangelists: this seemeth less probable, because, there were no such in the primitive church but did labour in the word and doctrine.
6. Others think that some such are meant, as were not so fit for preaching, but yet administered the sacraments, prayed with the church, and privately admonished exorbitant members; but we shall want a good proof, either from Scripture or other authority, of any such officers in the primitive church.
I shall not determine which of these opinions is rightest, but leave the reader this own judgment. Whoever are here meant by elders are declared worthy of double honour; by which is understood either abundant honour, or else (as some say) respect and reverence, and also maintenance.
Especially they who labour in the word and doctrine; but especially such as take pains in preaching the gospel.
For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.This verse maketh it evident that maintenance is part of the double honour that is due to such as labour in the word and doctrine in the first place: and not to them alone, but to any such as are employed in the rule and government of the church. The apostle had made use of Deu 25:4 to the same purpose, 1 Corinthians 9:9: neither of these texts conclude the duty of elders to take maintenance, but the duty of those who are members of churches to give it them, which they may refuse, as Paul himself did, if either the people’s or minister’s circumstances call for or will allow such a thing.
Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.Against an elder; whether an elder in years or in office, though the latter being the persons formerly spoken of, seen here principally intended.
Recieve not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses; that is, not to proceed to any judicial inquiry upon it, Deu 17:6. This was a law concerning all elders or younger persons, especially in capital causes, but the apostle willeth this to be more specially observed as to officers in the church, whose faithful discharge of their trusts usually more exposeth them to people’s querulous tongues.
Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.Them that sin; that is, that sin publicly and scandalously, so as others have taken notice of it.
Rebuke before all; rebuke not privately, by a ministerial correption, but by a public ecclesiastical correption before the whole church.
That others also may fear; that the salve may answer the sore, and the plaster be as broad as the wound; and that others may be afraid to do the like. This end of the punishment agreeth with that mentioned Deu 13:11.
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.I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things: by these things may be understood the whole of what went before, or what followeth. I judge it most proper to refer it to all the precepts foregoing in this Epistle, which evidenceth them to be things which he had received from the Lord, not what he directed without any express notice of the will of God as to them. This is evident by his grave and severe charge to Timothy to observe them, for he chargeth him to observe them as in the presence of God and Christ, and calleth the good angels to be witnesses, both of his faithfidness, in giving him this charge, and of Timothy’s faithfulness or unfaithfulness, according as he should observe or neglect the things given him in charge: he calls the angels elect, unquestionably in opposition to the evil and reprobate angels.
Without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality: he requires the doing of them without respect to any persons, rich or poor, friends or foes; partiality no way becoming a judge in any cause, who ought to hold the balance even, not inclining it any way, but judging things and not persons. Some of the things before mentioned may seem of too minute a consideration for the apostle to lay such a stress upon, or God to give him particular direction in; but the things are not so much to be considered as the end of the precepts, which was the upholding the true honour and reputation of the church, which is a very great thing; and supposing the things given in charge to have any tendency of that nature, they must not be judged small.
Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure.By Lay hands suddenly on no man, is certainly, to be understood: Do thou suddenly set no man apart to any ecclesiastical employment. Laying on of hands was but an external ceremony used in blessing, Genesis 48:14,15, and in the conferring of power upon persons. Numbers 27:18 Deu 34:9. In the New Testament, we find this rite used: in prayer upon healing the sick, Mark 16:18 Acts 28:8; in blessing, Mark 10:16; in conferring the gifts of the Holy Ghost, Acts 19:6; in ordination, or setting persons apart to some ecclesiastical employment, 1 Timothy 4:14 Acts 6:6; and being so used, it is sometimes put for the whole action. This the apostle forbids Timothy to do suddenly, that is, without a first proof of the person’s fitness for his work, 1 Timothy 3:10, both with respect to his knowledge, and to his holiness of conversation.
Neither be partaker of other men’s sins: this participation of other men’s sin ought to be taken heed of in the whole course of our conversation, but it seemeth here to be especially forbidden with reference to what was before spoken of, viz. the setting men apart for or putting them into any ecclesiastical employment; he who puts into the ministry any erroneous or ignorant persons, or any persons of a lewd conversation, makes himself guilty of all the harm they do, if he hath not first taken a due and reasonable proof of them, but hath laid hands upon them suddenly. Amongst other ways by which we interest ourselves in others’ guilt, one is, by not hindering it, having power so to do. He, or they, whom it lies upon to admit, or not admit, men into the ministry, have a power to refuse them in case upon proof of them they do not find them apt to teach, or fit for the ministration they are to undertake, or such for holiness of life as God requireth: God by his word declaring what such persons ought to be, and commanding him or them first to prove such persons, and to lay hands on none suddenly, hath invested him or them with such a power, of which man cannot deprive them.
Keep thyself pure: the purity here mentioned, is comprehensive of that chastity which some would have the word here signify, but it is most reasonable to understand it here with relation to what went before, viz. partaking of other men’s sins; If thou canst not keep the church pure, but ignorant or erroneous persons, or sots, will get into the church, yet let them not get in through thy hands,
keep thyself pure.
Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.Drink no longer water; not wholly, as many did in those countries, and Timothy probably did, not because he was not able to buy wine, but religiously, as a piece of discipline to keep under the flesh.
But use a little wine; but mix some wine with the water.
For thy stomach’s sake; to help thy digestion.
And thine often infirmities; in regard of thy weakness and frequent infirmities.
Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.The sense of this verse depends upon the term krisin, which we translate judgment, it being doubtful whether it is to be understood of the judgment of God, or the judgment of men in ecclesiastical judicatories. If we understand the words of the judgment of God, the sense is this: Some men’s sins are punished in this life, before their persons come before God’s judgment-seat; others are more private and concealed, the punishment of which follows after. But this interpretation must suppose Paul here to run into another argument, differing from what he had before spoken upon, which though it be not unusual with the apostle, yet there being no need we should say he doth so in this place, I rather incline to think, that by judgment is in this place meant the judgement of the church, as to persons fit to be trusted with any part of the ministry of it: Some men (saith the apostle) are open, lewd, scandalous persons, whose erroneousness, or sottish life, hath been manifest before they offer themselves to the church’s judgment, to be put into the office of elders or deacons; concerning these thy way is plain, admit them not. Others discover not the erroneousness of their principles, nor the impetuousness of their lusts, before they have obtained what they aim at, and are got into office; for these, they must fall under thy judgment, when they do discover what they are, and turn them out again.
Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.In like manner some men’s holy life and conversation hath been so evident, that there needs little judgment concerning them; and for others, under a due government they cannot be long concealed, but by thy due management of and vigilance in thy office they will soon be discovered, by their publishing their erroneous principles, and the breaking out of their lusts into enormous acts, so as they will soon fall under thy censure. Or else thus: The good works of some whose life hath not been so exemplary, but yet such as in charity thou mayst judge them to have the root of the matter in them, (if thou be not mistaken), cannot be long hid, so as thou shalt soon see what they are, and accordingly know how to behave thyself to them. Thus I should choose rather to interpret this text than concerning the judgment of God, who sometimes rewards good works presently, and always rewards them certainly, either in this life or that which is come.