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.


There comes in the life of all individuals a time to reflect on living; what the past has been like, what the present is, and what the future holds; and so it was with Moses and the Israelites. It is now three months since they left Egypt and they are now camped in front of Mount Sinai in the desert of Sinai <Ex.19:1>, and Moses’ father-in-law Jethro visits Moses, bringing Moses’ wife and children. Moses had apparently sent his wife and children to Jethro to let him know that they were camped at Sinai <Ex.18:1-5>. As the custom was, they sit in the Tent and exchange their greetings and recall the events of the past; “They greeted each other and then went into the tent. Moses told his father-in-law about everything the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the Lord had saved them.” <Ex.18:7-8 (NIV)>; Jethro was delighted to hear of all that God had done and praised God for all His goodness and mercy and confessed “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods” <Ex.18:11 (NIV)>. As they, and all individuals today, recognize God for who He is, lead to worship of God as Moses and Jethro offer sacrifices, we too need to offer our sacrifice of praise <Ex.18:12; Heb.13:15; Rom 12:1>. It is beneficial to reflect upon the past,

As Moses and Jethro contemplate the past, they must also look at the present, for the next day we see Moses taking his seat as judge for all the people, a job that took all day for he did this all by himself causing Jethro to comment and offer suggestions to simplify the process, for what he was doing and the way he was doing it was not the best for the people <Ex.18:13-19>. First, Moses should be aware of his position and what was required of him, “You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform.” <Ex.18:19-20 (NIV)>. This is the equivalent to the office of Bishop or Elder in the Church today, for there has to be someone who is capable of teaching the people the doctrine of the Scriptures, and this is a responsible and important office in the Church and one that is accountable directly to God, for there are many today that introduce and teach false doctrine. This was expressed by Paul as he wrote his instructions to Titus <Titus 1:6-9>. Like Moses, today all Bishops or Elders are faced with similar difficulties in attempting to lead people who are rebellious and stiff-necked, refusing to be obedient to the commands of God. Jethro also makes another suggestion; “select capable men from all the people — men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain — and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times” <Ex.18:21-22 (NIV)>; then only the more difficult cases would be brought to Moses, making the job much easier and the people’s problems would be handled much faster. This is also the office of deacons in the church today and was introduced for the same reasons <see Acts 6:1-4>.

Now the future should also be contemplated. What would the coming days and years bring for Moses and all the people who were on this wilderness journey? It would all begin here at Sinai, for that was God’s purpose in bringing them to this encampment; here would begin another important lesson in wilderness journeys, as God gives Moses a thought for further contemplation: “’You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’” <Ex.19:4-6 (NIV)>. God reminds them of all His goodness and mercy to them in the past, He now tells them what the future will bring for them and the condition that is attached. Full obedience to God’s covenant is required and they will be God’s treasured possession. God has done the same for us today; He has redeemed us from the condemnation of sin and the judgment that we were to face and made us His children <see Eph.2:4-5; 1 Pet.2:9-10>, and we, like the Israelites are called to be fully obedient to God’s commands. As a follower of Christ, we need to be conscious of this requirement, for although we will never loose our salvation, we will suffer the consequences of our disobedience to God’s commands.

Moses goes back to the people and delivers God’s message and they respond by saying “We will do everything the Lord has said.” <Ex.19:8 (NIV)>; little did they understand the difficulty they faced, and little do we understand the difficulty that we face today <see Rom.7:21-25>; the war with “Amalek” is a constant conflict and we face that battle on a daily basis!