1 Timothy Chapter 5
1 Tim. 5:1 Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;
Chapter 5 continues the theme of practical advice for Christian living. From one standpoint, the “elder” of verse 1 can be an older brother, chronologically speaking, for “elder” (age) is contrasted with “younger” (youth). The older brothers are to be entreated as a father, and the younger men are to be entreated as brothers.
As a general rule, an “elder” should not be rebuked but should be entreated as a father. Does this instruction mean that in no instance should an elder be rebuked? No, because verses 19 and 20 give an exception; namely, an elder is to be rebuked if he commits a sin of a serious and grievous nature. Thus there are rare occasions when an elder should be rebuked. Generally speaking, a younger person should consider the age of an older person. Perhaps the “elder” has been longer in the way, and he is older and more experienced with life’s affairs. Accordingly, he should be given some due respect. One of the Ten Commandments is to “honour thy father and thy mother” (Exod. 20:12). Likewise, we should honor those in the truth who are more fatherly or more motherly because of their age experience (verse 2).
What is the difference between rebuking and entreating? To rebuke is to reprove in a harsh manner such as, “No, brother, you are wrong!” In the context of verse 1, the entreating is a rebuke but done in a softer manner that appeals to the individual’s reason and tries to get him to reconsider the matter. The question form is always proper for an entreaty.
There are tactful ways of speaking. When we see something that is definitely wrong and the party is strong in his opinion, we can say something like, “Do I understand you to say such and such?” Right away the individual has to think twice about what he just said.
Another approach is, “How do you harmonize that reasoning with the statement that...?” In contrast, a rebuke is more personal; for example, “You are wrong. You do not have the right idea at all.” Hence a rebuke is blunt and more direct, whereas an entreaty is more in a question form but pointedly so. In other words, the entreaty replaces the rebuke. “Rebuke not ... but entreat.” Because a person is disturbed by something that has happened or has been said, he takes action to try to correct the matter or situation.
Paul was also saying, “Rebuke not ... younger men [but entreat them] as brethren.” With an older man, the technique is to entreat him as a father, being gentler but pointed. However, a younger man should be entreated as a brother.
In a disagreement, we could say to the younger brother, “Have you thought about such-and-such a Scripture?” We would be dealing on a more equal basis, realizing that both are devoted believers.
We should have the thought in mind that the brother is also consecrated and not be questioning where he stands with the Lord. The insinuation, implied or verbalized, should not be that he is going out of the truth, that he is not straight in the truth, or that he is not close to the Lord. When we disagree on the interpretation of a Scripture, we should not give the impression that a person’s entire thinking is wrong, that he does not know what he is talking about, that he is immature, or that he is going out of the truth. To the contrary, the discussion should be on a brotherly basis where we feel that brother is just as consecrated as we are. Then the disagreement, even though strong, will be on a particular text or point of view. The issue of where one stands with the Lord should not be in the conversation at all.
There is public rebuke, and there is also private rebuke. Sometimes a public rebuke is necessary because the effect of that which is being done wrong is very pervasive or because a wrong expression or deed was publicly manifested. There are cases where the meeting is a one-time occasion, so if nothing is done, we may never see the party again. In such cases, where perhaps the brother has to catch a plane and will be leaving immediately after the meeting, the situation must be utilized right away, rather than trying to do something later on a private basis. In other words, one is forced to act right then and there because of circumstances, even though he would prefer to do so later in private. Therefore, both private and public rebuke have their place. The nature of the entreating would depend upon age and gender, although one has a little more liberty with a private rebuke. A public rebuke must be worded more carefully. Incidentally, two elderly brothers would treat each other as equals.
Although the epistle was originally addressed to Timothy, it contains good pragmatic lessons for all Christians. One lesson is that the young ones in the truth are as much in the family of God as the older ones. Those in a teaching capacity should think of a brother who recently consecrated, and thus has been in the truth for only a short time, as being just as vital a Christian and should not regard him as a babe. Even if we think the Spirit-begotten in other churches are babes in understanding, who are we to judge, for we do not know all of the facts? We should consider as bona fide Christians all who take the scriptural steps of consecration. All Christians—young and old, male and female, elders and non-elders—are part of a family relationship in Christ. Age does make some difference but not family-wise.
1 Tim. 5:2 The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.
Verse 2, with regard to the age category of sisters, expresses the same principle as verse 1. If an older sister is involved in a lot of class activities or if she has had a lot of responsibilities in the past, she may be regarded on a higher level. The thought is, “Rebuke not an elder woman but entreat her as a mother and a younger woman as a sister.” Since older sisters should have more wisdom and experience because of longevity of consecration, they should be shown deference and respect.
The same principle applies to older men, but with them is included the thought that they might be elected elders of an ecclesia. Although sisters are not elders, they might be considered in stature as having wisdom and giving good advice. If we notice, over a period of time, that a certain sister has excellent common sense, we might want to go to that party for advice on a problem or a trial more than to a brother or an elder. In such cases, we might not improperly regard that sister as almost on a par with an elder. If, in connection with their deeds, certain sisters have manifested over time that they are experienced warriors in the faith, we should appreciate their service for the Lord and their counsel.
Why is “purity” mentioned only in verse 2? Does it also apply to verse 1?
Note from Barnes: He knew the danger which would beset a youthful minister of the gospel when it was his duty to admonish and entreat a youthful female; he knew, too, the scandal to which he might be exposed if, in the performance of the necessary duties of his office, there should be the slightest departure from purity and propriety. He was therefore to guard his heart with more than common vigilance in such circumstances, and was to indulge in no word, or look, or action, which could by any possibility be construed as manifesting an improper state of feeling. On nothing else do the fair character and usefulness of a youthful minister more depend, than on the observance of this precept. Nowhere else does he more need the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the exercise of prudence, and the manifestation of incorruptible integrity, than in the performance of this duty. A youthful minister who fails here, can never recover the perfect purity of an unsullied reputation, and never in subsequent life be wholly free from suspicion
Verses 1 and 2 beautifully emphasize the family relationship in Christ. We should view all of the consecrated as family in the Lord—brother, sister, father, or mother—with all purity, having neither excessive familiarity nor any intention of malice. Even though verses 1 and 2 are in the context of conducting ourselves with respect and honor one for another, the thought of curbing undue familiarity is included as a safeguard, limitation, or qualifying factor.
1 Tim. 5:3 Honour widows that are widows indeed.
(CEV) Take care of any widow who is really in need.
(GNB) Show respect for widows who really are all alone.
(GW) Honor widows who have no families.
(ISV) Honor widows who have no other family members to care for them.
Now the discussion, covering verses 3-10, centers on the category of older widows. A widow “indeed” had no family or children to take care of her. Thus, upon the death of her husband, she was cut off from all means of support and was destitute and should be cared for by the Church at large under some arrangement.
Naomi is a scriptural example of a widow indeed (Ruth 1:1-5). When both her husband and her two sons died, she left Moab and returned to Israel, where for a while she was dependent for her sustenance on Ruth, who gleaned wheat in the field of Boaz.
Unfortunately, fallen human nature being what it is, we have seen situations where individuals, because of their impoverished situation, which may have been mostly their own fault, thought they could take financial advantage of the brethren. They felt the class had a responsibility to support them. Paul was saying to Timothy, “Be careful and consider these factors before making financial arrangements with others.”
1 Tim. 5:4 But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.
(CEV) But if a widow has children or grandchildren, they should learn to serve God by taking care of her, as she once took care of them. This is what God wants them to do.
(ERV) But if a widow has children or grandchildren, the first thing they need to learn is this: to show their devotion to God by taking care of their own family. They will be repaying their parents, and this pleases God.
In apostolic days, a widow was deprived of a livelihood, but if she had a family—nephews, children, or grandchildren, particularly males, who provided the financial support for the family—it was their Christian duty to care for her. The younger ones were to support their mother or grandmother in her need as a widow. They were to show respect for the one(s) who had done much for them in times past. In other words, to see their widowed mother or grandmother in poverty and not take her into their home and care for her was an impious act. By supporting her in her need, they would be showing a kindness, and they would also be pleasing God, “for ... [this practice] is good and acceptable before God.”
Depending on the health of an individual and the circumstances of the family, a nursing home would be permissible.
The term “to requite their parents” indicates that the same requirement applied to fathers, although the problem was not as acute with a father, because his trade usually continued after his wife died. Thus he had a means of support and was not brought in as a widower. To “requite” means to pay back or take into consideration what one’s parents had done for him.
In regard to the Law, Moses gave several examples of what to do under certain circumstances. Although not every situation was covered, the test examples were sufficient to help one know how to deal with problems in various fields. When a person had an experience, he looked to see which example most closely fit the experience. He looked for something comparable in Scripture as a clue. Likewise, Paul gave examples of how to handle certain situations, and these examples serve as guidelines for many other situations. It becomes incumbent upon us to read and meditate on the whole Word of God. The Bereans were commended for searching “the scriptures daily, [to see] whether those things [Paul told them] were so,” and we should do the same (Acts 17:11).
1 Tim. 5:5 Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.
A widow had to meet several qualifications in order for the church to support her. To receive financial support, she had to be (1) a widow indeed (with no family), (2) in want, (3) trusting in God (consecrated), and (4) continuing in supplications and prayers night and day. To support a widow for the rest of her life, the brethren in the early Church could be making a long-term commitment and arrangement. If widows took advantage of this provision, the Church could get bogged down with welfare. Therefore, the brethren were to screen a widow to see if she met the qualifications for financial support. An additional qualification, as we will find out, was her age, for she had to be at least 60 years old (verse 9). Incidentally, if a widow had means at her disposal, she was to use that means and not be supported until it was depleted.
We would assume that some of the “supplications and prayers night and day” were because of the urgency of the situation in which the consecrated widow found herself. In earlier days, part of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” meant a lot along temporal lines, whereas in the United States, we now give it only a spiritual application. Living in a land of plenty, we do not implore for food, but Christians in some other countries still have temporal needs. Being “desolate” along this line, they pray for literal as well as spiritual daily bread.
1 Tim. 5:6 But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.
What is the thought of verse 6? Does it refer to an unconsecrated widow or to a consecrated widow who became worldly? The thought is that an unconsecrated widow was not to be supported by the Church, for she had not given up the world but lived in pleasure. Thus the brethren as a whole were not responsible for her care. However, family members were responsible for their mother whether or not she was a consecrated (devoted) Christian.
From another standpoint, verses 5 and 6 give a guiding principle or rule for ascertaining the Lord’s mind on this subject. Verse 6 is slanted to the unconsecrated, but a principle is included, based on what was previously said; namely, if a consecrated (devoted to God) widow did not indicate a sincerity and depth in her consecration and manifest activity in the Lord’s service, she was not to be supported by the Church—even though she met the other qualifications and was not “dead” in the sense of verse 6.
The screening process for financially supporting widows required serious thought. Paul was thinking of the long-term burden that would be assumed and wanted it to be on the proper grounds. If the screen had too many holes, it would produce an almost intolerable situation—which would bankrupt the congregation because of abuse.
1 Tim. 5:7 And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.
All who were involved (both supporters and those being supported) were to be informed of the qualifications so that all would be blameless. Timothy was to give Paul’s advice to congregations, elders, and brethren and to any others who might inquire. He had the responsibility of giving advice to widows who were desolate indeed, as well as to those who were left with substance.
1 Tim. 5:8 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.
What is the distinction between providing “not for his own” and providing not “for those of his own house”? Providing “for his own” is an ecclesia or congregational responsibility. Providing “for those of his own house” is a family responsibility. Thus there is a double responsibility. If an individual shirks family and ecclesia responsibilities, he is “worse than an infidel [an unbeliever, one who does not have faith and fidelity].”
1 Tim. 5:9 Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man,
To be “taken into the number”—that is, to receive financial support from the Church—a widow had to be (1) at least 60 years of age and (2) “the wife of one man.”
Q: Was a widow permitted to remarry?
A: Yes, because Paul advised younger widows to remarry (see verse 14), but here in verse 9, he was discussing older widows. However, more was involved. Some of the men who consecrated in the days of the early Church already had more than one wife. If a brother had, say, three wives, he was not to divorce them but was to continue to support them. However, he could not become an elder in the church. In other words, a brother could not use Christianity as an excuse to unburden his responsibility as a husband—and especially he could not do this in order to be the husband of one wife and thus be eligible for eldership. Because the brother showed the proclivity for multiple wives before consecration and thus had the additional responsibility of their upkeep, these factors would detract from his service as an elder, even if he were wholly sincere and got rid of the weakness. In other words, his ministry would be impaired.
Incidentally, it was not the custom for one woman to have several husbands simultaneously, but it was the custom for a husband to have several wives.
What does the expression “having been the wife of one man” mean? Suppose a young married sister was faithful, and her husband died. Paul’s advice was for her to remarry. But if, as the years went by and she got older, her second husband died, leaving her a widow indeed and destitute with no means of support, was she to be barred from financial support? No, only the older widows who remarried could not receive support.
Also, if the older widows had scripturally married two or more times in the past, they were more likely to have a means of support because now at least two family relationships were involved, resulting in children and/or stepchildren. We can see how carefully the screening process had to be done—from the standpoint of not just the currently deceased husband but also the previous family relationship. However, if the widow was destitute and had two or more husbands in her earlier life and under the proper contingencies, she would be just as qualified for receiving support as the widow who had only one husband.
Sometimes older widows showed wantonness, not just the younger ones. Paul wanted to screen out this category, as well as those who might have family support from several marriages. Paul stated the rules so pithily and concisely that we use them as guiding principles, even though they were slanted more particularly to one category. In other words, from that category, we can draw certain lessons and thus discern what the Lord’s mind might be in another matter.
Paul gave this advice to help an ecclesia determine bona fide widows who should be supported by a family or an ecclesia. He was concerned lest an unwarranted, undue long-range financial burden be placed on the brethren as a whole. Therefore, he drew the lines of responsibility for the class and for the family. From these guidelines, we have to judge the in-between matters that are not specifically stated.
The Word of God is as silver refined seven times, so we can read many of these verses from different perspectives and gain a lot of lessons. In fact, it seems almost impossible to fully cover the subject in one reading or one study.
1 Tim. 5:10 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.
Verse 10 concludes the category of older widows by giving an additional qualification for receiving financial assistance; namely, she had to be “well reported of for good works.” There follows a partial listing of examples of good works, which serve as practical guidelines on how to properly judge the situation. Perhaps someone “washed the saints’ feet,” that being her only capability. In other words, she assisted brethren in various ways. Of course back there people wore sandals, and their feet needed washing at the end of the day, so a sign of hospitality was to literally wash the feet of guests.
The point is that to receive support, a widow was to have shown her willingness to work, even though she might not have fulfilled every qualification. Paul stated the principle that if a man would not work, he should not eat (2 Thess. 3:10). The guiding principle is that we should not encourage brethren in wrongdoing. Unfortunately, there are people who sponge on and take advantage of others. We do not please the Lord by catering to such individuals—the generosity is misplaced.
A woman who brings up children has other responsibilities. She cannot be as active in the Lord’s work, for her earthly mortgages tie her down and consume her time. We should not take in an older widow or agree to support her unless we can judge the situation and see that it merits support. For example, a consecrated widow may have been lazy with her free time. The question is, What did she do with her free time? If she did nothing, she does not deserve financial support. However, if when afforded an opportunity of service, she was alert to help, allowing for her family responsibilities, she should be supported, all things being equal.
Another qualifying example is that a woman has “lodged strangers.” That terminology is another way of saying she has provided hospitality. Past good works can also include relieving the afflicted. In short, she was to have “diligently followed every good work.”
Paul’s counsel is excellent. We do not see how it could have been given any better in such a condensed form. If we had to give the same advice in our own words, it would probably require many pages instead of a few verses.
1 Tim. 5:11 But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry;
1 Tim. 5:12 Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.
Now Paul showed the danger of taking younger widows—that is, those under 60—”into the number.” His advice was to refuse to give them ecclesia financial assistance on a regular basis.
He was not condemning younger widows and saying they would all begin to “wax wanton against Christ.” Rather, he was condemning the practice of subsidizing them. Apparently, the early ecclesias supported younger widows indiscriminately. The brethren gladly gave support without making a distinction between older and younger widows, but that practice had inherent dangers. Now Paul, toward the end of his life, was trying to correct the situation that had been unfavorable in the past.
See the CEV translation:
1Ti 5:11 Don't put young widows on the list. They may later have a strong desire to get married. Then they will turn away from Christ 12 and become guilty of breaking their promise to him.
Q: Since the younger widow did not know she would eventually meet someone, was it fair to deprive her of support in a time of need just because of her age? Why was she sinning against Christ if she found someone for a remarriage?
A: Paul’s point was not to accept the younger widows into a permanent endowment situation. He said, “Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old.” In other words, widows were not to be supported unless they were at least 60 years old. For that reason, Paul advised younger widows to remarry (verse 14).
If a younger widow was financially destitute, she could be given a little lump sum to sustain her through, perhaps, a six-month period of grief until she could get on her feet and earn some money. If financially destitute, a young widow could be given a temporary, conditional allotment until she could get a job and support herself and/or remarry eventually. However, for a young widow to accept a contractual permanent financial arrangement, saying she would just serve the Lord and not remarry, and then marry later, would be waxing “wanton against Christ” and casting off her “first faith.” We have to read into Paul’s advice the situation that made it necessary in the first place. Evidently, several young widows had been supported in this fashion and later left the arrangement. The advice given here does not conflict with Paul’s other advice telling young widows to remarry.
It seems the young widows would have had the understanding before accepting permanent financial assistance that they would not remarry because of wanting to serve the Lord more fully. Then, subsequently, they did remarry. That would certainly make Paul’s advice more meaningful in the sense that they had broken the contract, of which we do not know the specifics.
1 Tim. 5:13 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.
CEV: 1Ti 5:13 Besides, they will become lazy and get into the habit of going from house to house. Next, they will start gossiping and become busybodies, talking about things that are none of their business.
To accept younger widows into this permanent endowment arrangement led to their learning to be “idle and lazy and getting themselves into trouble. In other words, it led to condemnation for leaving their “first pledge” (RSV). By not working and then having so much free time and money, the younger widows visited others and gossiped, spoke evil, and were busybodies. A “tattler” tells tales about others and their affairs; the individual is a tale bearer. To “busybody” in this context was for the young widows to butt into the affairs of those they were visiting. “Speaking things which they ought not” means they gave unwanted or improper advice.
The implication is that if the brotherhood relieved the younger widows of financial burdens, thus giving them more free time, their fallen nature would lead them into these wrong avenues.
Based on what Paul observed happening, he found it necessary to give this advice.
1 Tim. 5:14 I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
1 Tim. 5:15 For some are already turned aside after Satan.
CEV: 1Ti 5:14 I would prefer that young widows get married, have children, and look after their families. Then the enemy won't have any reason to say insulting things about us. 15 Look what's already happened to some of the young widows! They have turned away to follow Satan.
Notice how Paul brought “the adversary” into verses 14 and 15. How might Satan “speak reproachfully”? If a young widow turned aside by being an idler, a tattler, and a busybody, she was really following Satan’s leadings by getting into this trap, yet he railed against her through other people who knew she was doing wrong. Onlookers would say, “What kind of Christian is she?” The world watches the Christian closely. If they think a Christian’s actions are not compatible with the profession, they say, “And you call yourself a Christian?” In addition, Satan and the fallen angels gloat on the sidelines, for they try to cause trouble for the consecrated. Not wanting to see the Church develop, they feel a Satanic glee and amusement when they can cause problems.
Incidentally, those who “turned aside after Satan” probably did not think they were doing so, but they were going off on a dangerous and strange path. It is interesting that Paul had some knowledge of and experience with what was going on in the brotherhood in various locations.
1 Tim. 5:16 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.
If any of the consecrated had a widow in their own family and in the Church, the family (and not the Church) was to support her. The responsibility of the Church was to relieve “widows indeed,” that is, widows who had no family or children to take care of them, were age 60 or older, had washed the saints’ feet, etc.
1 Tim. 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
The term “elders” in the context of verse 17 is restricted to elected elders (teachers) of an ecclesia—to those who “rule well ... especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” All congregation (ecclessia) elders should be respected, but those who perform well in word and doctrine should get special respect. Just because one is elected elder does not mean he is properly performing as an elder, but because he is in that position, he is not to be despised or disregarded but is to be respected. However, those who are elected and perform the office well by laboring in word and doctrine are to get “double honour”; that is, they are to be respected in a more personalized sense.
Russell: Double honor -- So long as teachers were recognized as having been God-provided, and so long as they approved themselves by their conduct and the Word of God, to the congregation, they had more honor than others, and their opinions were given proportionately more weight.
Clarke: Almost every critic of note allows that τιμη here signifies reward, stipend, wages. Let him have a double or a larger salary who rules well; and why? Because in the discharge of his office he must be at expense, in proportion to his diligence, in visiting and relieving the sick, in lodging and providing for strangers; in a word, in his being given to hospitality, which was required of every bishop or presbyter.
1 Tim. 5:18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.
Paul quoted the Law with regard to animals and applied it to persons, which is really the intent of the Law. In other words, the facets of the Law in regard to clean and unclean food, leprosy, etc., are all to be spiritualized in their primary sense. Deuteronomy 25:4 reads, “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.” The “ox” represents those who labor in word and in doctrine, and the “corn” pictures the wheat, that is, the truth, the Word of God. “The labourer is worthy of his reward.”
The principle of the Law is not to muzzle the ox while it is working. When oxen are pulling the plow or working in the field, they should be allowed to reach out and grab a bite of grass, for example. Of course this liberty should not be permitted to the extent that the oxen neglect their work. The point is that they should be left unmuzzled so that they get some compensation for their work. Spiritually speaking, if an elder is faithful is word and doctrine, it is not wrong for him to receive some earthly reward or compensation.
Q: Is this verse used to support the thought of a paid ministry?
A: Yes, but verse 18 is not referring to weekly salaries with support throughout the year. The other extreme is to reason that an elder should have no earthly compensation, since he has dedicated everything to the Lord. Paul was saying that temporal compensation of a dinner, travel expenses, or something along these lines is not out of order when given from time to time. It is not inappropriate to reward an elder who is dealing in spiritual matters with a gift or some compensation along an earthly line, but permanent, regular support, such as is given in paid ministries, is not authorized.
1 Tim. 5:19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
1 Tim. 5:20 Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.
CEV: 1Ti 5:19 Don't listen to any charge against a church leader, unless at least two or three people bring the same charges. 20 But if any of the leaders should keep on sinning, they must be corrected in front of the whole group, as a warning to everyone else.
What is the thought of verse 19? Who should not receive, or accept, an accusation against an elder unless there are two or three witnesses? How would an accusation not be accepted? To understand verse 19, we must couple it with verse 20. The accusation pertains to a sin of a more serious nature—either doctrinal or moral—that would affect the ministry of the elder.
Why are two or three witnesses required? Let us assume, hypothetically, that the accusation is made by one individual. The problem is that most accusations are word-of-mouth innuendos which are not searched out and given specific definition. We can assume that, to be elected, the elder was previously received and accepted. Now a new circumstance arises whereby an accusation is made against him. We are not to receive that accusation unless it can be authenticated by more than the accuser, who is only one witness. A second or third witness—that is, one or two more individuals—has to confirm the accusation before it can be accepted.
However, the matter does not end there, for two or three people might think along the same line and thus make a wrong accusation. Nevertheless, the two or three witnesses at least confirm the accusation. The accusation should be substantiated either by talking to the elder in person or by hearing his reasoning on tape or seeing it in a printed sermon, but even though it is authenticated, the judgment on that issue might be incorrect, for the accusation might be false or not worthy of class action. But for a class to even receive an accusation, two or three witnesses are needed. In other words, if the matter is serious enough, it should be procedurally followed through and not left vague, nebulous, and indefinite. As to whether the accusation is viable as a proper basis for fellowship or disfellowship is a separate matter.
Verse 20 says, “Them that sin rebuke before all,” but who does the rebuking? The class would be responsible for doing the rebuking, but Timothy, as an elder, was responsible for teaching the proper perspective in regard to any of the matters enumerated in this epistle. Now we can see why Paul said to Timothy, “Let no man despise thy youth,” for the latter was being instructed to act with scriptural authority (1 Tim. 4:12).
Q: Does the pronoun “them” in verse 20 refer just to elders or to anyone? Is the sin of a grievous nature?
A: The sin must be of a serious nature in order to demand such a rebuke. Although the sin could involve another brother or sister in the class, it is more weighty when pertaining to an elder, for if the accusation is true, it would adversely affect his ministry. Elders have more responsibility.
Jesus gave the same advice in Matthew 18:15-17, but here Paul was showing that elders are not excluded from that procedure.
The duty of those who hear an accusatory or evil remark about another is that they should go to the accused one and ask if it is true.
Just as the elder who serves well is worthy of double honor, so one should give double consideration to making sure a charge or accusation against an elder is true. Because the individual was elected to the office of elder by the consecrated believers of the congregation (or at least this is how it should be), the accuser should tread even more carefully to be sure the charge is valid and not a rumor or a false charge put forth by one who has an ax to grind. When a rebuke is necessary, it has to be done by a leading spirit in the class. Then the class should support the rebuke.
The purpose of the rebuke is so that others in the class will “fear” and not do likewise. If the sin is not rebuked, then the brethren in the class under that elder’s tutelage might be emboldened to commit the same sin.
Under the Law, any who gave a false witness suffered the same fate as the guilty party. From a scriptural standpoint, the same is true in principle in the Gospel Age. By faith, we can say that it is just as dangerous and serious today to give a false testimony or witness against another.
1 Tim. 5:21 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.
CEV: 1Ti 5:21 In the presence of God and Christ Jesus and their chosen angels, I order you to follow my instructions! Be fair with everyone, and don't have any favorites.
Paul charged Timothy (and inferentially the Church) before God, Jesus, and the “elect angels” (elected elders) to observe and obey these instructions without partiality with regard to personalities (importance, following, or friendship). In other words, we should not allow personalities to influence our judgment but should obey, as far as possible, the advice given in the Word. We should judge matters by the simple facts, for sin is sin whether committed by an elder or someone else in the brotherhood.
Of course elders are the elected servants or messengers of God, but in addition, when we reason on many Scriptures in the New Testament, we can see that others who have been long consecrated (devoted) and are known for true piety—even though not elected—could be considered “angels,” man or woman. As far as possible, all of the consecrated have a responsibility for keeping the brotherhood in line with the holy calling and making sure it does not degenerate into a social club. All kinds of promiscuity are winked at in the some churches, but such false love is the last thing we would want to happen in the brotherhood itself.
Tim. 5:22 Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.
Timothy (and secondarily the Church) was not to “lay hands suddenly” on another. How was the laying on of hands practiced back there? What did it signify? Responsibility was incurred by the laying on of hands, for it showed endorsement, sympathy, and/or support for the individual and the ministry he performed. If the Lord’s blessing was being wished on the Apostle Paul, for example, the laying on of hands would properly show appreciation for his work and ministry. However, if the individual did not have God’s favor, those who laid hands on him incurred responsibility. Likewise, to elect someone to an office who is unqualified from God’s standpoint also incurs responsibility. However, to support someone God favors brings a proportionate blessing. The point is not to lay hands on someone too quickly or prematurely.
The matter should be prayerfully and unemotionally considered first. Then if one endorses a brother and the brother subsequently is unfaithful or strays, the party does not incur responsibility, for he tried to do what was right and followed the manner the Lord suggests in Scripture by not acting hastily.
In effect, Paul “laid hands” on a sister named Phebe by endorsing her. He said, “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also” (Rom. 16:1,2).
The Apostle John cautioned against hastily or improperly bidding someone “God speed.” “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 10,11).
One can also become a “partaker” of another man’s sins by not rebuking him when such action is scripturally required.
1 Tim. 5:23 Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.
Paul gave Timothy this personal advice. All need liquid but not necessarily only water. Wine could replace the water in this case because of Timothy’s stomach and other infirmities. When Paul said, “Do not drink water any longer,” he meant, “Do not drink only water, but drink wine in its stead.” But rather than drink a full glass of wine, Timothy could drink a little wine at each meal or whenever he felt the need of liquid; that is, he could drink wine in moderation.
Q: This advice about Timothy’s health seems out of place. Why did Paul insert it here?
A: Actually, the advice was not out of place, for Paul had been personally giving Timothy advice so that he could, in turn, advise others under similar circumstances. The apostle first instructed Timothy so that if Timothy got the gist of the Lord’s mind and will on all these subjects, he could likewise impart that knowledge to others. However, verse 23 was restricted to Timothy, for he had chronic dyspepsia, and wine was a medicinal remedy. In addition, Timothy could, of course, advise other brethren who had distressing stomach problems. Since his conscience had been relieved in this matter of his health, he could then advise others who had a similar ailment.
Paul, who sent handkerchiefs and napkins to the sick, sent no napkin or handkerchief, or anointing oil to Timothy, but advised the use of wine medicinally. There is no record of any faith-healing or miracle for the recovery of physical afflictions of the saints, who have been treated physically, much as other men. There is no record of any faith-healing or miracle for the recovery of physical afflictions of the saints, who have been treated physically, much as other men.
1 Tim. 5:24 Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.
1 Tim. 5:25 Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.
Why did Paul say in verse 24 that “some men’s sins are open beforehand [before they die], going before to judgment; and [with] some men they follow after,” and then in the next verse say the opposite—that some men’s “good works ... are manifest beforehand,” for “good deeds ... cannot remain hidden” (see RSV)? Some sins are secret, yet they might be revealed beforehand and receive judgment. Other sins are openly manifest but will not be judged until the Kingdom. The same is true of good works. But why did Paul make these statements at the conclusion of this particular chapter?
Paul had just said, “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure” (verse 22). The point is that it takes time for a person’s character to become apparent, good or bad. Time is a revealer either at the present time or in the future. For example, if someone new comes in, we should wait a while before endorsing him for an office or service.
Paul had been writing for several chapters and obviously knew that if Timothy obeyed the counsel as well as he could, he would be misunderstood, have mixed experiences, and receive persecution. Therefore, what Paul said in verses 24 and 25 was consolation for Timothy (or for any faithful Christian). In other words, we are not to worry in the present life, for in due time all deeds, good or bad, will be viewed properly. Sooner or later all willful disobedience will receive judgment, and all good deeds will be manifested.
Both comments above are applicable. Time and patience would reveal either Timothy’s sound judgment or the advisability of not laying hands suddenly on another individual. If time is not a revealer in the present life, it will be in the future life.
Of the sins that are not revealed beforehand, some are revealed after the person’s death, and others will be revealed when the person is raised from the tomb in the Kingdom. With regard to the consecrated in the future, there will be happy surprises for some who are honored by God and unhappy surprises for others who do not attain the Little Flock or even life in the Great Multitude, but the explanation of why a particular judgment was received will become “open.” According to the Apostle John, a negative judgment is sometimes open beforehand, for we are not to pray for a brother who sins “a sin unto death” (1 John 5:16).