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1Timothy 5 -Church Relationships

INTRODUCTION: Paul gave some general advice to Timothy for his interaction with men and women in the assembly of believers as their overseer. He also set forth the responsibility for the care of widows, first by their family members, and then by the assembly for those widows without immediate family available to help them. Paul gave some personal advice to Timothy related to his health and the proper use of wine.

NOTE: Bible passages are from the World English Bible.


1Timothy 5 "1 Don't rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father; the younger men as brothers; 2 the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, in all purity. 3 Honour widows who are widows indeed. 4 But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them learn first to show piety towards their own family, and to repay their parents, for this is acceptable in the sight of God. 5 Now she who is a widow indeed, and desolate, has her hope set on God, and continues in petitions and prayers night and day. 6 But she who gives herself to pleasure is dead while she lives. 7 Also command these things, that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone doesn't provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever."

COMMENTS: We do not know the age of Timothy at the time this letter was written to him, but in the previous chapter Paul had already encouraged him not to be intimidated by those who might not respect him because of his youth. Now Paul has told him to be respectful to older men in a manner as he would toward his father, when there is a fault or misdeed that he must confront. The goal should be to encourage, comfort, and instruct them toward correction. Timothy is to treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters always with pure motives. Paul set the tone of the relationships that Timothy should have as the overseer of an assembly of believers in terms that would describe a harmonious family. Timothy had been with Paul at Thessalonica, and he would have been familiar with the type of content Paul used in his letter to those believers. There is a consistent pattern in Paul's advice. 1 Thessalonians 5 "21 Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil."

Paul began his comments about honoring widows in the church family by directing attention first to the responsibilities of their immediate relatives. The children or other close family members of a widow should demonstrate devotion and respect to her by taking care of her needs, which is also a service that pleases God. The widow who has no family to take care of her, but shows that her hope is on God as she continues in petitions and prayers night and day is a widow that should be helped. But the one that gives herself only to pleasure is not spiritually alive as part of the church. This is guidance that Timothy should give to keep the widows from reproach as they dealt with their particular circumstance. It was very important for family members to take proper responsibility for widows, because anyone who does not provide for those who are part of their household has denied the faith by neglecting a matter that many unbelievers would not even fail to do. The care for widows in need can reflect the heart of God's. Psalm 68 "5 A father of the fatherless, and a defender of the widows, is God in his holy habitation." And the law given through Moses gave instructions to those who were well blessed materially to make excess available to those who were in need in the community. Deuteronomy 24 "19 When you reap your harvest in your field, and have forgot a sheaf in the field, you shall not go again to get it: it shall be for the foreigner, for the fatherless, and for the widow; that Yahweh your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the foreigner, for the fatherless, and for the widow. 21 When you harvest your vineyard, you shall not glean it after yourselves: it shall be for the foreigner, for the fatherless, and for the widow."


1Timothy 5 "9 Let no one be enrolled as a widow under sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, 10 being approved by good works, if she has brought up children, if she has been hospitable to strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, and if she has diligently followed every good work. 11 But refuse younger widows, for when they have grown wanton against Christ, they desire to marry; 12 having condemnation, because they have rejected their first pledge. 13 Besides, they also learn to be idle, going about from house to house. Not only idle, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not. 14 I desire therefore that the younger widows marry, bear children, rule the household, and give no occasion to the adversary for insulting. 15 For already some have turned aside after Satan. 16 If any man or woman who believes has widows, let them relieve them, and don't let the assembly be burdened; that it might relieve those who are widows indeed."

COMMENTS: Since Paul wrote to Timothy for the church at Ephesus, their may have been some contributing circumstances at that particular church that influenced the content of his instructions about widows. As he continued his comments he used a very specific age as a parameter for designation, but there may have been situations that could arise that would require a more general application of all the factors that Paul advised. If the woman was not yet sixty, had been married to only one man, had brought up children, and had demonstrated a good reputation in the community and with the saints, then it perhaps would follow that she would have family or other resources to meet her needs. But Paul cautions that the younger widows should not be enrolled as widows in general care by the church. At a younger age they might be much more likely to desire marriage again more than to remain always as a widow in the church, and this could lead them away from the most proper conduct befitting a Christian woman. Having excess energy of their youth, they could become accustomed to frequently visiting other homes, meddling too much in the affairs of those families, and becoming gossips to the harm of all who would be affected. Paul's advice therefore was that the younger widows be forthright about their desires, seek to marry again, bear children, and manage a household. The most important thing they could do would be to avoid giving the adversary of our faith any occasion to damage their reputation. This seems to have been a present problem for the church at Ephesus as Paul said some had already turned aside after Satan. Timothy had ministered with Paul for some time at Corinth, and Paul had given advice to the unmarried and the widows at the church there. 1 Corinthians 7 "8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows, it is good for them if they remain even as I am. 9 But if they don't have self-control, let them marry. For it's better to marry than to burn." Paul concludes this subject by again stating that any man or woman who is a believer and has widows should take the responsibility of meeting their needs so the church would not be unduly burdened and can give general help to those widows who have no other resources.


1Timothy 5 "17 Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in the word and in teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle the ox when it treads out the grain." And, "The labourer is worthy of his wages." 19 Don't receive an accusation against an elder, except at the word of two or three witnesses. 20 Those who sin, reprove in the sight of all, that the rest also may be in fear. 21 I command you in the sight of God, and Christ Jesus, and the chosen angels, that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing by partiality. 22 Lay hands hastily on no one, neither be a participant in other men's sins. Keep yourself pure. 23 Be no longer a drinker of water only, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities. 24 Some men's sins are evident, preceding them to judgment, and some also follow later. 25 In the same way also there are good works that are obvious, and those that are otherwise can't be hidden."

COMMENTS: In a large congregation multiple leaders and teachers can better serve the general assembly of believers. Paul had employed team members even as he traveled around on his journeys to carry the gospel of Christ to many areas, and Timothy had been part of that team. Now Timothy has the responsibility for other leaders as well as for a general congregation. Paul told Timothy that respect was due the leaders, but based on Scripture, compensation should also be made to those who labor in the Word and in teaching. His reference was taken from Deuteronomy 25 "4 You shall not muzzle the ox when he treads out the grain." Paul had used this reference in an earlier letter, but with much more detail. 1 Corinthians 9 "7 What soldier ever serves at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard, and doesn't eat of its fruit? Or who feeds a flock, and doesn't drink from the flock's milk? 8 Do I speak these things according to the ways of men? Or doesn't the law also say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain." Is it for the oxen that God cares, 10 or does he say it assuredly for our sake? Yes, it was written for our sake, because he who ploughs ought to plough in hope, and he who threshes in hope should partake of his hope. 11 If we sowed to you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we reap your fleshly things? 12 If others partake of this right over you, don't we yet more? Nevertheless we did not use this right, but we bear all things, that we may cause no hindrance to the Good News of Christ. 13 Don't you know that those who serve around sacred things eat from the things of the temple, and those who wait on the altar have their portion with the altar? 14 Even so the Lord ordained that those who proclaim the Good News should live from the Good News."

Paul advised caution in dealing with any accusation against an elder as he said there must be two or three persons who have actually witnessed the accused action, and then there should be a formal public censure or reprimand for clear disapproval of the discovered sin. This would also be a reminder to all who are present to be aware that known sin would not be tolerated in the assembly. Paul declared that he did not command these things on his own authority but in the very sight of the Lord Christ Jesus and the chosen angels. Timothy was to observe these things without prejudice, and to be sure to do nothing by partiality, keeping in mind that his service was in the spiritual realm. It was very important not to be hasty in the appointing of anyone to a leadership position, or to participate in the sin of another person in any way, but to concentrate on keeping himself pure.

After making the comment about purity Paul advised Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach's sake and his frequent infirmities. In a time when water could easily be contaminated and wine had been used commonly for centuries among the Jews, Paul seemed to be reassuring Timothy that the proper use of wine was not a problem for a leader in the church. Paul had addressed misuse of wine that lead to drunkenness twice earlier in this letter. 1 Timothy 3 "3 not a drinker, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous;" 1 Timothy 3 "8 Servants, in the same way, must be reverent, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for money;" Time can reveal the true nature of things that may not be apparent at first. Paul said that as some men's sins are apparent and will lead to judgment, other sins may not become apparent until later. In the same way there are good works that are obvious, and works that are not good that cannot be at all hidden.


Lord, your Word is clear in other passages as well as in this letter that we are to give respect to those in authority, even at times when those individuals may be younger. but it is also incumbent upon those in authority to show proper respect to others and to have pure motives in the way they conduct their leadership responsibilities. When a local assembly functions like a larger family than that established through blood line, it is important that the resources of the church be available to relieve some of the basic needs of those who do not have immediate family or other sufficient means. However, these matters of family care are things that non-believers should not show more concern for than believers. Paul did not establish rules for every situation that has potential to develop in the church, but he did want to guard members from falling into sin, or continuing in sin without consequences from the church. He also cautioned about appointing men to positions of leadership without first making a close evaluation of their spiritual maturity. When someone is in leadership in the church, we should not allow accusations to be made against one of them unless there is clear evidence that can be substantiated by two or more witnesses. All of these things are intended to keep any public reproach from members of the assembly since that would result in reproach to the name of Christ. Paul was concerned about Timothy's health, and wanted him to be aware that the use of wine especially for the medical benefit it could have, was not something he needed to avoid because of his position as an overseer. I thank you Lord for the principals I have seen in this portion of Paul's letter, and I pray that I will be more conscious of the need of consistent life in the assembly of believers. I ask that you help me to keep your Word in the forefront of my thoughts to guide my actions that they will not bring any reproach to your name. Amen.

Published 22 June 2013