A study of 1 Tim.5:1-25

“When I was a child, my minister father brought home a 12-year-old boy named Roger… There was no one to care for Roger, so my folks decided they’d just raise him as if he were one of their own sons. At first it was quite difficult for Roger to adjust to his new home…… Every day, several times a day, I heard my parents saying to Roger: “No, no. That’s not how we behave in this family.” “No, no. You don’t have to scream or fight or hurt other people to get what you want.” “No, no, Roger, we expect you to show respect in this family.” And in time Roger began to change.

Now, did Roger have to make all those changes in order to become a part of the family? No. He was made a part of the family simply by the grace of my father. But did he then have to do a lot of hard work because he was in the family? You bet he did. It was tough for him to change, and he had to work at it. But he was motivated by gratitude for the incredible love he had received.

Do you have a lot of hard work to do now that the Spirit has adopted you into God’s family? Certainly. But not in order to become a son or a daughter of the heavenly Father. No, you make those changes because you are a son or daughter. And every time you start to revert back to the old addictions to sin, the Holy Spirit will say to you, “No, no. That’s not how we act in this family.”  (Citation: Craig Barnes, author and pastor of National Presbyterian Church; Washington, D.C.; from sermon “The Blessed Trinity” (5-30-99) [from Perfect Illustrations])

There has to be mutual respect among all members of the Church family so that orderliness can be experienced; and if this is not evident there will only be chaos and discontent. Paul first speaks directly to Timothy as a younger believer and as a leader in the church; possibly, he could be aggressive, impatient and resentful of the older men, so Paul cautions him “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father.” <1 Tim.5:1 (NIV)>, he should give advice, caution or encourage older men with the same respect as he would give to his father. He should not display an authoritative attitude toward the younger men, but to treat them as his brothers, or to be like one of them; “Treat younger men as brothers” <1 Tim.5:1 (NIV)>. He should view older women “as mothers” giving them the respect, dignity and love that is due to them. Finally, he should regard younger women as his sisters “with absolute purity”, avoiding any behaviour that could be interpreted as being evil or impure.

Paul recognizes three categories of widows that Timothy is to identify in the Church <1 Tim.5:3-16>. First, he says; “Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.” <1 Tim.5:3 (NIV)>, because “The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help.” <1 Tim.5:5 (NIV)>: these widows should be fully supported. Secondly, those widows that have children and grandchildren, should be supported by their children and grandchildren who should learn first “to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” <1 Tim.5:4 (NIV)>. A third category of widows that Paul addresses: “…the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.” <1 Tim.5:6 (NIV)>. The J.B. Phillips translation records it as: “The widow who plunges into all the pleasures that the world can give her is killing her own soul”; the meaning here is that she is spiritually dead while living physically. Paul does not give a directive to Timothy for such widows but it is evident that no support should be offered.

So that no members of the Church may be open to reproach, Paul instructs: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” <1 Tim.5:8 (NIV)>; when this directive is adhered to, the problem of widow support should be minimal in the Church. He also directs that the younger widows should re-marry rather than getting into the habit of laziness, gossiping and meddling while they are being supported <1 Tim.5:11-14>.  The Church needs unrestricted funds to support those widows that are really in need, and much wisdom is required by those who are responsible for the Church finances <see Acts 6:1-3>.

Paul gives three instructions to Timothy in regards to elders in the church <1 Tim.5:17-20>. First, he says that elders who are responsible for preaching and teaching are worthy of double-honour according to the scriptures: “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” <1 Tim.5:18 (NIV); cf Deut.25:4; 1 Cor.9:9-12>; he applies the teaching of Deuteronomy to the work in which he is involved – the preaching and teaching of scripture. Secondly, he says “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.” <1 Tim.5:19 (NIV); see Matt.18:16; Deut.19:15>; the meaning here suggests that any accusation against an elder must be substantiated by proper witnesses. Paul emphasizes it here because elders occupy a position of responsibility, can become a target of Satan’s attack and are in danger of being unjustly accused. Thirdly, Paul instructs “Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.” <1 Tim.5:20 (NIV)>; this charge to Timothy, although in reference to elders, is applicable to all believers who sin, for it displays the seriousness of sin in Christian service and serves as a deterrent to others in the church.

Paul considers these instructions to be extremely important to the spiritual welfare of the local church, so he instructs Timothy “I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.” <1 Tim. 5:21 (NIV)>. It is always difficult for church leaders to act without partiality and favouritism, but the instruction is comprehensible. We also see a difficulty when elders and deacons are to be appointed; Paul instructs “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands” <1 Tim.5:22 (NIV)> when such appointments become necessary, and he gives the reasons; “The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden.” <1 Tim.5:24-25 (NIV; cf Job 12:22; Eccl.12:14; Isa.29:15; Heb.4:13)>

Paul also gives Timothy the secret to being impartial and not displaying preferential treatment “do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.” <1 Tim.5:22 (NIV)>; the implication here could possibly refer to Timothy joining with others in the church by ignoring or overlooking the wrong-doings of those that are to be appointed as Pastors or Deacons.

“It is computed that only from one-tenth to one-eighth of an iceberg is visible above the water line. A preacher said, “When you are tempted to judge sin from its superficial appearance, and to judge it leniently, remember that sins are like icebergs – the greater part of them is out of sight!”” [Source: Knight’s Master Book of New Illustrations – Moody Monthly]

Paul then gives Timothy a “digression”: “By the way, I should advise you to drink wine in moderation, instead of water; It will do your stomach good and help you to get over your frequent spells of illness.” <1 Tim.5:23 (J.B. Phillips)>: whatever the reason for this counsel, it is not given by Paul.