Now in chapter five of First Timothy we will consider our relationships within the church. In the opening words of chapter four Paul warned Timothy that the Holy Spirit clearly states in the latter days "some will depart from the faith" (4:1). Paul spoke of instructing the brethren about this. But how does a pastor or any Christian interact with other Christians when they need to be corrected? Chapter five will consider this. It will tell us how to interact with fellow believers in the church.
1 Timothy 5 (NKJV)
The Overriding Relational Principle: Communicate in Love
Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.
The term "rebuke" (Greek epiplesso) means to sharply, harshly rebuke. It literally means to strike or beat upon. A pastor or fellow believer is never to beat the sheep, either verbally or physically. Instead we are to "exhort" (Greek parakaleo) or call to someone, summon a friend to attend court together, call to witness, exhort to action, encourage, comfort or console. Contrasting these two terms results in the principle of communication.
When a person rebukes another communication is limited because the conversation is one way. The nature of a rebuke usually involves an accusation, maybe a pointed finger, often anger, even wrath. The Bible says human wrath doesn't achieve God's righteous purposes (James 1:19-20).
The word exhort implies two way communication. There is the calling one to your side as a friend to consider the facts of a circumstance like going to court and hearing both sides of an issue. There are questions asked, "These are the facts and reality. What do you think about that?" And the interaction is meant to spur the offender to resolve problems, make corrections, get right with the Lord and an offer to help to that end. There is more of a "Hey, I have something I want to discuss with you. The Bible says this. I've noticed something in your life that is out of step with what the Bible says. What do you think?" Communication is not compromise with sin, it is considering sin together and working through and processing God's word in life in a way that leads to resolution and restoration. That is what Paul encourages Timothy to practice.
Paul uses the imagery of family relationships as a backdrop on how to interact with those in the Family of God; the church. In family relationships there is love. Family members want to continue in their relationships. They don't want to be estranged from one another. There is a family bond of the highest value. Family members are treasured and valuable. Resolution of problems and restoration to loving peaceful relationships is mutually desired by family members. Families want to stick together, be close, love one another. There is a bond in family that is biological. There should be a bond in the Family of God that is spiritual.
Biological bonds are temporal. Spiritual bonds are eternal. That is why the Bible says, "There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24). The "friend" that you will spend eternity with becomes closer than the biological tie to an earthly family member that may only last this life. The ideal is biological family that are also spiritual family.
Jesus said, "'Who is My mother and who are My brothers?' And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, 'Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother" (Matthew 12:48-50). But He also spoke of the conflict amongst family that would result from those who receive the gospel and those who do not. Jesus said that the gospel would at times split earthly families between those who accept it and those who do not accept the gospel (Matthew 10:34-39). When this happens our love for Jesus must be our overriding loyalty. We need to take up our cross and follow Jesus no matter what; even if it costs us family.
"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" (Proverbs 17:17). When we go through the trials of life or pain together it knits our hearts together. At the cross Jesus creates eternal family relationships. While on the cross Jesus looked down at His mother Mary and disciple John and said to them, "Woman, behold your son!' Then He said to the disciple, 'Behold your mother!'" (John 19:26-27). To be born again of the Spirit is to be adopted into the family of God (Romans 8:12-17). The cross of Christ and His resurrection united the 120 disciples in the Upper Room in prayer for their personal Pentecost and the birth of the church (Acts 1-2). The church needs to be the Family of God built in faith at the cross and continued in hope of the resurrection. Relationships in the church are treasured eternal relationships and should be treated as such.
We are to treat those in the body of Christ as family. We see this in his exhorting Timothy to treat the people of his flock as "fathers. . . brothers. . . mothers. . . sisters." Family is the place where the love of Christ is learned. Family is where the sacrificial love of Christ is taught through discipleship. This is a love that takes the initiative and loves those who wrong them (Romans 5:8). This is a love that is from the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22-24). This is a love that is patient, kind, selfless, polite, humble, pure and rooted in the truth of God's word (1 Cor. 13:4-8).
In the family of God, like in our biological family older men are to be treated "as a father." That implies with loving respect and appreciation for their experience, knowledge and wisdom. Younger men are to be treated "as brothers." That implies with patience, camaraderie, and love. Older women are to be treated "as mothers." That means with tenderness, respect, appreciating what they have to say. And younger women are to be treated "as sisters, with all purity." Paul adds "with all purity" recognizing to Timothy the particular dangerous temptations between the sexes.
"Purity" (Greek hagneia) refers to sinlessness of life, sexual purity, chastity. As Paul speaks about relationships in the Family of God the church one of the things he emphasizes is purity. Sexual purity, not indulging in sexual contact or intimate physical arousal outside of the marriage covenant, is the standard for opposite sex relationships. (Homosexuality or lesbianism are sexual sins that go without saying here - cf. Romans 1; 1 Cor. 6:9-11, 18-20). Living a sanctified (separated and obedient to God) sexual life is God's will for those in the body of Christ (cf. 1 Thess. 4:1-8). Such purity is God's call and order for the single Christian as well as the re-singled Christian.
Family today is broken and divided. Sinful selfishness has infiltrated the family so that family members are easily discarded and separated from. A sinful worldly worldview has led to seeing family members as objects that are valued only as much as they can serve a purpose or meet need. Once they no longer serve a purpose or meet a need they are discarded.
Family members sometimes and even often show a lack of respect and harshness to one another. Familiarity breeds contempt. But that should not be. Christians are to be known by their love for one another (John 13:34-35) and this should be especially the case in Christian families. Paul instructs Timothy to treat those in the flock of God like family in the best of terms.
Paul now turns to discussing the role of the Family of God as it relates to those in need in the church.
Relations with those in Need in the Family of God the Church
3 Honor widows who are really widows.
Real widows are widows who have no children or family to turn to for support. These are to be held in "honor" (Greek timao) or value, regarded, respected. Those who were truly destitute were to be valued and assisted.
4 But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.
Children and grandchildren were responsible for caring for their parents. Children are to "show piety at home and repay their parents" for the years of care their parents provided. The Bible stipulates children are to honor their parents (Exodus 20:12). This honor is not dependant on whether or not parents have been "good." This honor is to be given in love which means even if the one being loved doesn't deserve such love. That is the way of Jesus. Such an arrangement was and is "good and acceptable before God." "Grandchildren" (Greek ekgonos) refers first to children's children but is broader than just grandchildren and extends to descendants or family relatives. Family relationships are the prime means for caring for family members in need.
5 Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day.
The widow who is all alone without family to help her "trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day." The true widow is to be helped by the Family of God but her responsibility is to live a life of trust in God and prayer ministry. The true widow is to live by faith in God to provide for her. The church, the pastor, church leaders and church ministry is to be upheld in prayer by such widowed persons.
6 But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. 7 And these things command, that they may be blameless.
"Pleasure"(Greek spatalao) refers to living for self gratification, living luxuriously, living wantonly, living in self-indulgence and sensual pleasures. Some background for Ephesus is helpful here. One commentary states:
In Ephesus and elsewhere in the First Century, many single women resorted to immoral living as a means of support. Paul might have had this kind of widow in mind when he said, "But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth." Because these widows had chosen to support themselves in this unchristian manner, they were outside the sphere of the Church's responsibility and care. The phrase "is dead while she liveth" indicates a condition when though the body's physical life is maintained, its spiritual life is dead.
Sometimes people who suffer loss, like a widow, rather than turning to the Lord for comfort turns sinful or carnal things to fulfill her inner needs. That never works and as Paul comments such a person is "dead while she lives," Eating, sex, and any other thing is not going to meet the inner needs we have when we suffer loss. Jesus, prayer and His word and in particular the Family of God are the means for those in need, like real widows, to find help. This is what Paul means when he says, "And these things command, that they may be blameless."
8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Caring for family members is of utmost important. Paul says when we fail to care for our family members and abandon them "has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." "Denied" (Greek arneomai) means deny, renounce, disown, refuse. If you don't care for family you demonstrate you've rejected "the faith," or all Jesus died and stands for. Children, grandchildren and extended family members are to support one another. That is true for the biological Christian family as well as for the biological unbelieving family; it is a universal principle. "Worse than an unbeliever" implies that even non-believing families share this universal responsibility to care for family members in need. Family is responsible for its family members.
9 Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, 10 well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.
Apparently the church took in real widows (who had no other means of support) and cared for them. The qualifications for a real widow to be eligible for being taken in and supported by the church was that she was not "under sixty years old," and had been "the wife of one man." A wife of more than one man would likely have family to support her. She needed to be "well reported for good works." She had to have a good reputation as one who was diligent and involved in the "good works" ministry of the church. She had to be willing to be involved in ministry. She had to be mother who "has brought up children." Perhaps she would be helpful in the children's ministry. She furthermore needed to be described as one who "has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work." She needed to be hospitable, have a servant's heart, have a heart of mercy for those "afflicted" in some way, and she just needed to be open to be used and work however the Lord chose to apply her. Such a "widow" would be supported but she would also serve as an important cog in the workings of the church.
11 But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, 12 having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith.
Paul instructs Pastor Timothy to "refuse" (Greek paraiteomai) or decline, beg off, refuse, reject as eligible for support. Paul will now go on to explain and give reasons for why such younger widows are not to be accepted into the support program of the church. It bears repeating that what Paul says here is true not only for a re-singled person but for any single non-married person. There are principles for the single non-married person contained in these verses.
"Younger widows" would be those who were "under sixty years old." Those under sixty would be more likely to remarry. Paul points out such younger widows may "grow wanton against Christ," and "desire to marry." "Grow wanton against" (Greek katastreniao) means a lack of discipline particularly in controlling sensual lustful temptations which turns them against their relationship with Jesus. Paul is speaking of young widowed women who are carried away by temptation to fulfill sexual desires that were once fulfilled in their marriage. If fulfilling sexual desires outside of marriage was true of "younger widows" it would also be true of anyone. Sexual intimacy in any form outside of a marriage covenant is sinful and "wanton."
Fulfilling sexual desires outside of marriage for "younger widows" and for anyone results in "condemnation" (Greek krima) which means to separate or a sentence of condemnation that separates us from "their first faith" or saving faith in Jesus. Such "wanton" behavior is consequently an act where a widow "cast off" (Greek atheteo) or nullifies, rejects, ignores, disregards or makes void "their first faith." The nature of sin is to separate the sinner from God (cf. Isaiah 59:1-2). While no one can snatch a Christian out of the grasp of Jesus (John 10:28), what Paul says here is that a person who had put their faith in Jesus can themselves choose to "cast off" such faith and turn from Jesus to follow instead their sinful lusts. No one can steal our faith; not the devil; not demons; not any person. But there is evidence that a person can willfully choose to forsake the Lord. Surely Jesus prays for us like He did for Peter who was being hotly pursued by Satan (cf. Luke 22:31-32). But the deciding factor is Peter's willful decision to reject or follow Jesus. Peter faltered, but Jesus was there to restore him. Judas faltered, but he chose to commit suicide and was eternally condemned as "the son of perdition" (John 17:12). God has sovereignly determined to include human free will decisions in His redemptive plan. Free will is part of His image in us. How we choose is integral to our eternal destiny.
Paul isn't saying its sinful for a young widow to remarry. He had taught elsewhere that when a spouse dies or an unbelieving spouse leaves the widow or one left is free to remarry (cf. 1 Cor. 7:9). What Paul is speaking of here is the danger that a young widow would remarry an unbeliever and in so doing betray their first love Jesus. Interestingly Jesus corrected the Ephesian church for having left her first love (Rev. 2:4).
13 And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not.
Such "younger widows" "learn to be idle" (Greek argos) or idle, lazy, useless, careless, inactive. They live a purposeless life like a lounging couch potato. When they do move they are "wandering from house to house," (Greek perierchomai) to stroll aimlessly, act like a vagabond, walk around. They then act as "gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not". Gossiping is one of the things the Lord hates (cf. Proverbs 6:16-19). "Gossips" (Greek phlyaros) are those who are tattlers, speaking silly or foolish things, talking without meaning. "Busybodies" (Greek periergos) are those who those neglectful of important matters, living in the superficial, prying into other people's affairs.
William Barclay comments: "Because a woman had not enough to do, she might become one of those creatures who drift from house to house in an empty social round. It was almost inevitable that such a woman would become a gossip; because she had nothing important to talk about, she would tend to talk scandal, repeating tales from house to house, each time with a little more embroidery and a little more malice.... She would be very apt to be over-interested and over-interfering in the affairs of others" (The Daily Study Bible, The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, p. 114). A busybody pays attention to affairs of others and is meddlesome. A tattler ("talebearer") betrays private confidences.
14 Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. 15 For some have already turned aside after Satan.
What is the solution for such scattered superficial living of the young widows? Paul says it would be best for them to remarry (and of course to remarry one in the faith). She should "bear children, manage the house." She should seek to be a mother and devote herself to family pursuits.
This would go far in preventing "the adversary to speak reproachfully." Paul isn't speaking of just any adversary. He is speaking of "the adversary," "Satan." Satan is the one preying on and using the gossipy busybodies to divide God's people. Paul says, "Some have already turned aside to Satan." Jesus said Satan is a deceiver who has no truth in himself. He is a murderer and a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He is the one behind gossip and the busybody lifestyle. That is one reason God our Father hates gossip and bearing false witness. When we lie or twist the truth or present it in a twisted way to fulfill our own desires against another we are doing the devil's bidding. Remember that. Our standard is to speak God's truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Whenever we lie or even use the "truth" about someone in a way that harms them we are doing the devil's bidding. Watch out for that! Gossip and such divisive behavior divides the people of God and God hates such behavior. DON'T GOSSIP AND DON'T LIVE A PURPOSELESS BUSYBODY WAY OF LIFE.
16 If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.
Christian family members are to look out for one another. There should not be undue material burdens put on the church. Families need to look out for their members.
Relations with Pastors
17 Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.
Paul now speaks of the relationship between the church congregation and its "elder" (Greek prebyteros) or senior pastor. Those who "rule" (Greek proistemi) govern, rule, manage, attend to "well" (Greek kalos) or good, well, full well, excellently, rightly are "worthy" (Greek axioo) or are entitled to, fit for, deserving of, "double" (Greek diplous) two-fold "honor" (Greek time) or value, money paid, price, honor, seeing as precious. The pastor who is a good overseer of the church is deserving of being seen as and actually being remunerated double or twice as usually given. This is "especially" (Greek malista) or particularly, chiefly, mostly, especially true of the pastor who is devoted to "labor" (Greek kopiao) works hard, toils in, labors to the point of exhaustion, "in the word and doctrine" or in God's word and its teaching.
The Family of God is to support their pastor. The Flock of God is to support their shepherd and that is especially true if they have been blessed with a pastor or shepherd who is devoted to labor in the scriptures and teaching of God's word. This doesn't mean pastors should be living in the lap of luxury. It does mean the material needs of the pastor (which would include his family) would be met by the local congregation so that meeting such needs would not be a distraction from his labor in the word and teaching.
18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
Paul substantiates his instruction to the local church to support her pastor by quoting Deuteronomy 25:4 (cf. also 1 Cor. 9:9). As a final piece of authority he quotes Jesus to substantiate his instruction "The laborer is worthy of his wages" (Luke 10:7; cf. also Matthew 10:10). What is interesting is that Paul is likely quoting from Luke's gospel account which had been written by the time of Paul's First epistle to Timothy. Therefore Paul, in quoting Jesus' words as written by Luke is showing already he viewed Luke's gospel account as having equal authority to "the Scripture" of the Torah and Old Testament. Financial and monetary support of the local pastor by the church he oversees is established by the Old and New Testament.
19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.
Paul now speaks instruction to safeguard the reputation of the pastor. Paul instructs Timothy to not receive an "accusation" (Greek katagoria) or complaint, criminal charge, accusation against an "elder" or pastor unless there was the corroboration of "two or three witnesses." Deuteronomy 19:15 clearly states there needed to be a minimum of two or three witnesses who would corroborate charges made in court. Nothing less should be expected or accepted when brought against a pastor. People who gossip about the pastor or slander him as well as those who listen to such uncorroborated slander should take this verse to heart.
20 Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.
Paul speaks of church discipline. The context would be focused on how to discipline the pastor who is guilty of sin. Publically rebuking such a pastor would serve as a deterrent to others. When pastors see local pastors or media preachers fall into sin, it should serve as a wakeup call to guard against following in their same waywardly sinful ways.
There is an application for Christians in general here too. There is a deterrent effect of rebuking sinners publically in the church. When the rest of the congregation sees such rebuke it should give them an incentive to not follow in the sinful ways of the one rebuked. Acts 5 is probably the strongest example of public rebuke. In that case Ananias and Sapphire's hypocritical actions were publically rebuked and the Spirit sentenced them to death on the spot. There is a place for public rebuke when private attempts to correct have fallen on deaf ears (e.g. Matthew 18:15-17).
21 I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.
Paul charges Timothy in the strongest terms; "before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things." For Paul the greatest incentive and reason to abide obediently by ministerial instruction is that we are "before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels." And observing these words of disciplinary instruction needed to be done "without prejudice" (Greek prokrima) or without prejudging. There should be no ulterior motives behind church discipline. What is decided needs to be based on evidence and sound unbiased judgment. And the standard is "doing nothing with partiality." "Partiality" (Greek proklisis) partiality, preinclination. The idea is Paul is saying when such discipline is imposed there should not be any judging before the cases for both sides have been made. Carrying out such discipline was to be fairly and righteously done.
22 Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure.
In other words, before as pastor you symbolize your agreement on someone for a position, wait until there is ample evidence to warrant and justify such agreement. To lay hands on someone was a symbol of uniting and agreeing with God that they were called to ministry or a position. Paul warns against laying your hands on someone perhaps for expediency or because of a need and not also because there is evident fruit to show such a person is indeed called to ministry.
Paul warns, "nor share in other people's sins." If a pastor lays hands and joins in agreement with a person to go into ministry without seeing evidence of their call, then when time reveals sin or no evidentiary fruit of calling, the pastor ends up sharing in such sin by having prematurely approving it or glancing over it.
Instead, the pastor should not lay hands on anyone "hastily" (Greek tacheos) or quickly, shortly, or before the time needed to verify such a call. The pastor needs to "keep yourself pure" (Greek hagnos) holy, pure, chaste, pure from every fault in this regard.
23 No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.
Timothy was apparently a water only drinker. In Biblical times and even today water in the Middle East is not purified and can cause stomach upset. This is true even today in some areas. Paul is producing a remedy. He tells Timothy to drink "a little wine for your stomach's sake." Observe Paul says, "a little" (Greek oligos) or a small amount, short amount. And Paul's instruction is medicinal. There is no basis for justifying consumption of wine or alcoholic beverages based on this personal instruction of Paul to Timothy.
24 Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. 25 Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden.
Paul ends the chapter to Timothy with some words of wisdom as it pertains to choosing pastors and leaders. He comments that the sin of some people is clear to see and leads them to judgment. But some men's sins are hidden or not evident now but are nonetheless real. The same is true with the good works of some, they are clearly seen now, but others good works are not so readily apparent, yet they "cannot be hidden" in the end.
The meaning of these contrasts is clear. Obvious sins lead the way to judgment. Hidden sins follow men to judgment. Obvious good works are noticed, applauded, and appreciated. Hidden good works are known to God and will be rewarded. God will deal with men in a fair and equitable manner.
"These parallel observations, viewing human potentialities both negatively and positively, bring out forcibly the complexities involved in selecting suitable candidates for God's work. Hasty action relies on first impressions, but these impressions are often deceptive. Unworthy men might be chosen, whose moral culpability lies deeper than the surface; and worthy men, whose good actions are not in the limelight, might easily be overlooked. The whole situation demands extreme caution" (Guthrie, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 14:109).
The church is a Family of God. Such a Family is networked with human relations that pose both blessing and potential problems. Such a network is to be held together by Christlike love. It is to be overseen by the local pastor. This is no small task and the local pastor needs the support of his flock both spiritually and materially. Choosing others to serve in ministry is not something to be done carelessly. It requires patience and an observing eye. The pastor who is worthy of double honor in such a calling is the one who labors with all his heart "in the word and doctrine." Such a pastor is worthy and deserving of double honor and practical support.