1 Timothy 5


Rules to be observed in giving reproofs to the old and to the

young, 1, 2.

Directions concerning widows, 3-16.

Of elders that rule well, 17, 18.

How to proceed against elders when accused, and against

notorious offenders, 10-21.

Directions concerning imposition of hands, 22.

Concerning Timothy's health, 23.

Reasons why no person should be hastily appointed to sacred

offices, 24, 25.


Verse 1. Rebuke not an elder] That is, an elderly person;

for the word πρεσβυτερος is here taken in its natural sense, and

signifies one advanced in years. At 1Ti 5:17, it is taken in what

may be termed its ecclesiastical meaning, and signifies, an

officer in the Church, what we commonly call a presbyter or

bishop; for sometimes these terms were confounded. There are but

few cases in which it at all becomes a young man to reprove an

old man, and especially one who is a father in the Church. If

such a one does wrong, or gets out of the way, he should be

entreated as a father, with great caution and respect. To this

at least his age entitles him. The word επιπληξης signifies, do

not smite; i.e. do not treat them harshly, nor with magisterial


The younger men as brethren] Showing humility, and arrogating

nothing to thyself on account of thy office. Feel for them as

thou oughtest to feel for thy own brethren.

Verse 2. The elder women as mothers] Treating them with the

respect due to their age.

The younger as sisters] Feel for every member of the Church,

old and young, male and female; consider them as fathers,

mothers, brothers, and sisters; treat them all with gentleness;

and labour to keep them in, not to expel them from, the Church.

With all purity.] ενπασηαγνεια. With all chastity.

See Clarke on 1Ti 4:12.

There are some who seem to take a barbarous pleasure in

expelling members from, the Church. They should be continued in

as long as possible; while they are in the Church-under its

ordinances and discipline, there is some hope that their errors

may be corrected; but when once driven out again into the world,

that hope must necessarily become extinct. As judgment is God's

strange work, so excommunication should be the strange, the last,

and the most reluctantly performed work of every Christian


Verse 3. Honour widows that are widows indeed.] One meaning of

the word τιμαω, to honour, is to support, sustain, &c.,

Mt 15:4,5; and here it is most obviously to be taken in this

sense. Provide for those widows especially which are widows

indeed-persons truly destitute, being aged and helpless, and

having neither children nor friends to take care of them, and who

behave as becometh their destitute state.

But See Clarke on 1Ti 5:10.

Verse 4. But if any widow have children or nephews] This shows

that widows indeed are those that have neither children nor

nephews, i.e. no relatives that either will or can help them, or

no near relatives alive.

Let them learn first to show piety at home] Let these children

and nephews provide for their aged or helpless parents or

relatives, and not burden the Church with them while they are

able to support them.

And to requite their parents] καιαμοιβαςαποδιδοναιτοις

πραγονοις. Let them learn to give benefit for benefit. Your

parents supported and nourished you when you were young and

helpless; you ought therefore to support them when they are old

and destitute. This is called showing piety; and there is

doubtless an allusion to the fifth commandment: Honour thy father

and thy mother-provide for them in their old age and afflictions;

God commands this.

Verse 5. And desolate] καιμεμονωμενη. Left entirely

alone-having neither children nor relatives to take care of her.

Trusteth in God] Finding she has no other helper, she

continues in prayer and supplication, that she may derive that

from God which, in the course of his providence, he has deprived

her of among men.

Verse 6. But she that liveth in pleasure] ηδεσπαταλωσα.

She that liveth delicately-voluptuously indulging herself with

dainties; it does not indicate grossly criminal pleasures; but

simply means one who indulges herself in good eating and

drinking, pampering her body at the expense of her mind. The

word is used in reference to what we term petted and spoiled

children; and a remarkable passage, is produced by Kypke, from an

epistle of Theanus to Eubulus, found in Opusc. Myth. Galaei,

page 741, where he says: "What can be done with that boy, who, if

he have not food when and as he pleases, bursts out into weeping;

and, if he eats, must have dainties and sweetmeats? If the

weather be hot he complains of fatigue; if it be cold, he

trembles; if he be reproved, he scolds; if every thing be not

provided for him according to his wish, he is enraged. If he eats

not, he breaks out into fits of anger. He basely indulges

himself in pleasure; and in every respect acts voluptuously and

effeminately. Knowing then, O friend, οτιτασπαταλωντατων


ηδοναςαφαιρει. that boys living thus voluptuously, when they

grow up are wont to become slaves; take away, therefore, such

pleasures from them." I have introduced this long quotation, the

better to fix the meaning of the apostle, and to show that the

life of pleasure mentioned here does not mean prostitution or

uncleanness of any kind, though such a life may naturally lead to

dissolute manners.

Is dead while she liveth.] No purpose of life is answered by

the existence of such a person. Seneca, in Epist. 60, says of

pleasure-takers, and those who live a voluptuous life: Hos itaque

animalium loco numeremus, non hominum: quosdam vero ne animalium

quidem, sed mortuorum-mortem antecesserunt. "We rank such

persons with brutes, not with men; and some of them not even with

brutes, but with dead carcasses. They anticipate their own

death." Such persons are, as the apostle says elsewhere, dead in

trespasses, and dead in sins.

Verse 7. That they may be blameless.] Charge the whole Church

to attend to these things, that they may be blameless. The words

are not spoken of the widows only, but of the Church or its

officers; it cannot be restricted to the widows, for the

adjective ανεπιληπτοι is both of the masculine and feminine


Verse 8. But if any provide not for his own] His own people

or relatives.

Those of his own house] That is, his own family, or a poor

widow or relative that lives under his roof.

Hath denied the faith] The Christian religion, which strongly

inculcates love and benevolence to all mankind.

Is worse than an infidel.] For what are called the dictates of

nature lead men to feel for and provide for their own families.

Heathen writers are full of maxims of this kind; TACITUS says:

Liberos cuique ac propinquos NATURA carissimos esse voluit.

"Nature dictates that to every one his own children and relatives

should be most dear." And Cicero, in Epist. ad Caption: Suos

quisque debet tueri. "Every man should take care of his own


Verse 9. Taken into the number] Let her not be taken into the

list of those for which the Church must provide. But some think

that the apostle means the list of those who were deaconesses in

the Church; and that no widow was to be admitted into that rank

who did not answer to the following character.

See Clarke on 1Ti 5:10.

Under threescore years] As it might be supposed that,

previously to this age, they might be able to do something

towards their own support. See Clarke on 1Ti 5:10.

Having been the wife of one man] Having lived in conjugal

fidelity with her husband; or having had but one husband at a

time; or, according to others, having never been but once

married. But the former is the opinion of some of the most

eminent of the Greek fathers, and appears to be that most

consistent with the scope of the place, and with truth.

Verse 10. Well reported of for good works] Numbers being able

to bear testimony, as the word implies, that she has not only

avoided all sin, but that she has walked according to the

testimony of God.

Brought up children] It was customary among the Gentiles to

expose their children, when so poor that they were not able to

provide for them. Pious and humane people took these up; and

fed, clothed, and educated them. The words brought up may refer

to the children of others, who were educated in the Christian

faith by pious Christian women.

Lodged strangers] If she have been given to hospitality,

freely contributing to the necessitous, when she had it in her


Washed the saints' feet] This was an office of humanity shown

to all strangers and travellers in the eastern countries, who,

either walking barefoot, or having only a sort of sole to defend

the foot, needed washing when they came to their journey's end.

Pious women generally did this act of kindness.

Relieved the afflicted] Visited and ministered to the sick.

Diligently followed every good work] In a word, if she have

been altogether a Christian, living according to the precepts of

the Gospel, and doing the Lord's work with all her heart, soul,

and strength.

From the character given here of the widow indeed, it may be

doubted whether χηρα, widow, was not in some cases the name of an

office, which name it might have from being ordinarily filled by

widows. It can hardly be supposed that any widow, unless she had

considerable property, could have done the things enumerated in

this verse, some of which would occasion no small expense. The

widow indeed may mean a person who was to be employed in some

office in the Church; and Timothy is enjoined not to take any

into that office unless she had been before remarkable for piety

and humanity. Some think that the widows of whom the apostle

speaks had been deaconesses, and wished now to be taken on what

might be termed the superannuated list; and the apostle lays down

rules for the admission of such, the sum of which is: Let none

come on this superannuated list unless she be at least sixty

years of age, and can bring proof of her having conscientiously

discharged the office and duty of a deaconess.

Verse 11. But the younger widows refuse] Do not admit those

into this office who are under sixty years of age. Probably

those who were received into such a list promised to abide in

their widowhood. But as young or comparatively young women might

have both occasion and temptations to remarry, and so break their

engagement to Christ, they should not be admitted. Not that the

apostle condemns their remarrying as a crime in itself, but

because it was contrary to their engagement.

See Clarke on 1Ti 5:14.

Wax wanton] καταστρηνιασωσι. From κατα, intensive, and

στρηνιαω, to act in a luxurious or wanton manner. The word is

supposed to be derived from στερειν, to remove, and ηνια, the

rein; and is a metaphor taken from a pampered horse, from whose

mouth the rein has been removed, so that there is nothing to

check or confine him. The metaphor is plain enough, and the

application easy.

Verse 12. Having damnation] In the sense in which we use this

word I am satisfied the apostle never intended it. It is likely

that he refers here to some promise or engagement which they made

when taken on the list already mentioned, and now they have the

guilt of having violated that promise; this is the κριμα, or

condemnation, of which the apostle speaks.

They have cast off their first faith.] By pledging their

fidelity to a husband they have cast off their fidelity to

Christ, as a married life and their previous engagement are

incompatible. Dr. Macknight translates these two verses thus:

But the younger widows reject, for when they cannot endure

Christ's rein, they will marry; incurring condemnation, because

they have put away their first fidelity.

Verse 13. And withal they learn to be idle] They do not love

work, and they will not work.

Wandering about from house to house] Gadding, gossiping; never

contented with home; always visiting.

And not only idle] If it went no farther, this would be

intolerable; but they are tattlers-tale-bearers; whisperers;

light, trifling persons; all noise and no work.

Busybodies] Persons who meddle with the concerns of others;

who mind every one's business but their own.

Speaking things which they ought not.] Lies, slanders,

calumnies; backbiting their neighbours, and everywhere sowing the

seed of dissension.

Verse 14. I will therefore that the younger women marry] As

the preceding discourse has been about the younger widows, and

this is an inference from it; it is most evident that by the

younger women the apostle means the young widows. These he

considers unfit for the office of the female diaconate, and

therefore wills them to marry, educate children, and give

themselves wholly up to domestic affairs. Here the apostle, so

far from forbidding second marriages, positively enjoins or at

least recommends them. And what man of sense could have done

otherwise in the cases he mentions? It is no sin in any case to

marry, bear children, and take care of a family; but it is a sin

in every case to be idle persons, gadders about, tattlers,

busybodies, sifting out and detailing family secrets, &c., &c.

The good sentiment, put by an able poet and pious divine into the

mouths of little children, cannot be ill applied to multitudes of

women, mothers, and grandmothers:-

"See how the little busy bee

Improves each shining hour,

And gathers honey all the day

From every opening flower!

In works of labour or of skill,

We should be busy too;

For Satan finds some mischief, still,

For idle hands to do." DR. WATTS.

The adversary] Any person, whether Jew or Gentile, who might

be watching for an occasion to reproach, through the misconduct

of its professors, the cause of Christianity.

Verse 15. For some are already turned aside] Some of these

young widows, for he appears to be still treating of them, are

turned aside to idolatry, to follow Satan instead of Christ.

Slight deviations, in the first instance, from a right line, may

lead at last to an infinite distance from Christ.

Verse 16. If any man or woman that believeth] If any

Christian man or woman have poor widows, which are their

relatives, let them relieve them-provide them with the

necessaries of life, and not burden the Church with their

maintenance, that the funds may be spared for the support of

those widows who were employed in its service, teaching children,

visiting the sick, &c., &c. For the performing of such offices

it is very likely that none but widows were employed; and these

were chosen, other things being equal, out of the most indigent

of the widows, and therefore called by the apostle, here and in

1Ti 5:3, αιςοντωςχηραι,

widows indeed-widows desolate, without support, and without

relatives. See Clarke on 1Ti 5:10.

Verse 17. Let the elders that rule well] Elder is probably

here the name of an ecclesiastical officer, similar to what we

now term presbyter. See Clarke on 1Ti 5:1.

Dr. Macknight has remarked that, "in the first age, the name

πρεσβυτερος, elder, was given to all who exercised any sacred

office in the Church, as is plain from Ac 20:28, where the

persons are called επισκοποι, bishops, who, Ac 20:17, were

called πρεσβυτεροι, elders. The same thing appears from

Tit 1:5,

where those are called elders who, Tit 1:7,

are named bishops; and from 1Ti 4:14, where, collectively, all

who held sacred offices in Lystra are called πρεσβυτεριον, the

presbytery or eldership, and are said to have concurred with St.

Paul in setting Timothy apart to the ministry."

Double honour] διπληςτιμης. 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


Especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.] Those who

not only preach publicly, but instruct privately, catechize, &c.

Some think this refers to distinct ecclesiastical orders; but

these technical distinctions were, in my opinion, a work of later


Verse 18. The Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox]

This is a manifest proof that by τιμη, honour, in the preceding

verse, the apostle means salary or wages: "Let the elders that

rule well be accounted worthy of double honour," a larger salary

than any of the official widows mentioned before, for "the

labourer is worthy of his hire." The maintenance of every man in

the Church should be in proportion to his own labour, and the

necessities of his family. He that does no work should have no

wages. In the Church of Christ there never can be a sinecure.

They who minister at the altar should live by the altar; the ox

that treadeth out the corn should not be muzzled; the labourer is

worthy of his hire: but the altar should not support him who does

not minister at it; if the ox won't tread out the corn, let him

go to the common or be muzzled; if the man will not labour, let

him have no hire.

Verse 19. Against an elder] Be very cautious of receiving

evil reports against those whose business it is to preach to

others, and correct their vices. Do not consider an elder as

guilty of any alleged crime, unless it be proved by two or three

witnesses. This the law of Moses required in respect to all.

Among the Romans, a plebeian might be condemned on the deposition

of one credible witness; but it required two to convict a

senator. The reason of this difference is evident: those whose

business it is to correct others will usually have many enemies;

great caution, therefore, should be used in admitting accusations

against such persons.

Verse 20. Them that sin rebuke before all] That is, before

the members of the Church; which was the custom of the Jews in

their synagogues. But, if the words refer to the elders alone,

then the transgressing elder is to be reproved before his

fellows, and be tried by them.

That others also may fear.] This is the grand object of Church

censures, to reclaim the transgressors, and to give warning to


Verse 21. I charge thee before God] The apostle would have

Timothy to consider that all he did should be done as in the

sight of God, the Father of the spirits of all flesh; in the

sight of Christ, the Saviour of sinners, who purchased the Church

with his own blood; and in the sight of the most holy, approved,

and eminent angels, whose office it was to minister to the heirs

of salvation. The word εκλεκτοι, elect, applied to the angels

here, is supposed to distinguish those who stood, when others

fell from their first estate. The former were elect, or

approved; the latter reprobate, or disapproved. This is not an

unfrequent sense of the word εκλεκτος, elect. Perhaps there is

nothing else meant than the angels that are chosen out from among

others, by the Lord himself, to be ministering servants to the


Without preferring one before another] χωριςπροκριματος.

Without prejudice. Promote no man's cause; make not up thy mind

on any case, till thou hast weighed both sides, and heard both

parties, with their respective witnesses; and then act

impartially, as the matter may appear to be proved. Do not treat

any man, in religious matters, according to the rank he holds in

life, or according to any personal attachment thou mayest have

for him. Every man should be dealt with in the Church as he will

be dealt with at the judgment-seat of Christ. A minister of the

Gospel, who, in the exercise of discipline in the Church, is

swayed and warped by secular considerations, will be a curse

rather than a blessing to the people of God. Accepting the

persons of the rich, in ecclesiastical matters, has been a source

of corruption in Christianity. With some ministers the show of

piety in a rich man goes farther than the soundest Christian

experience in the poor. What account can such persons give of

their stewardship?

Verse 22. Lay hands suddenly on no man] Do not hastily

appoint any person to the sacred ministry: let the person be well

proved before he receives the imposition of hands. Some

understand this of laying hands on the sick.

Neither be partaker of other men's sins] It is a sin for any

improper person to thrust himself into the sacred office; and he

partakes of that sin who introduces, helps him forward, or

sanctions him in it. O, what an account will rash, undiscerning,

and prejudiced bishops, presbyters, and others, have to render to

God for their ordinations! Their laying rash or careless hands

"on skulls that cannot teach, and will not learn;" while probably

they refuse inducting others well qualified for the Christian


Keep thyself pure.] From this and every other evil.

Verse 23. Drink no longer water, but use a little wine] The

whole of this verse seems, to several learned critics and

divines, strangely inserted in this place; it might have been,

according to them, a note which the apostle inserted in the

margin of his letter, on recollecting the precarious state of

Timothy's health, and his great abstemiousness and self-denial.

I believe the verse to be in its proper place; and, for reasons

which I shall adduce, not less necessary than the directions

which precede and follow it. But it may be necessary to inquire

a little into the reasons of the advice itself. The priests

under the Mosaic law, while performing sacred rites, were

forbidden to drink wine: Do not drink wine nor strong drink,

thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of

the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever

through your generations; Le 10:9; Eze 44:21. It was the same

with the Egyptian priests. It was forbidden also among the

Romans, and particularly to women and young persons. PLATO, De

Legibus, lib. ii., edit. Bip., vol. viii., page 86, speaks thus:



δηγευεσθαιτουμετριουμεχριτριακονταετων. τετταρακονταδε

επιβαινονταετωνεντοιςξυσσιτιοιςευωχηθεντακτλ "Shall

we not ordain by law, in the first place, that boys shall not, on

any account, taste wine till they are eighteen years old? In the

next place, we should inform them that wine is to be used

moderately till they are thirty years old. But when they have

attained the fortieth year, then they may attend feasts; for

Bacchus has bestowed wine upon men as a remedy against the

austerity of old age, τηςτουγηρωςαυστηροτητοςεδωρησατοτον



σιδηρονεντεθενταγιγνομενον. that through this we might acquire

a second youth, forget sorrow, and the manners of the mind be

rendered softer, as iron is softened by the action of the fire."

But wine, according to the assertions of some, was given to men as

a punishment, that they might be rendered insane: οδενυν



page 100. "But we have now said that it is, on the contrary,

medicine; and was given that the soul might acquire modesty, and

the body health and vigour."

From Athenaeus we learn that the Greeks often mingled their

wine with water; sometimes one part of wine to two of water;

three parts of water to one of wine; and at other times three

parts of water to two of wine. See his Deipnosophistae, lib. ix.

"Among the Locrians, if any one was found to have drunk unmixed

wine, unless prescribed by a physician, he was punished with

death; the laws of Zaleucus so requiring. And among the Romans,

no servant, nor free woman, ουτετωνελευθερωνοιεφηβοιμεχρι

τριακονταετων, nor youths of quality, drank any wine till they

were thirty years of age." Deipnosoph., lib. x. c. 7, p. 429.

And it was a maxim among all, that continued water-drinking

injured the stomach. Thus Libanius, Epist. 1578. πεπτωκεκαι

ημινοστομαχοςταιςσυνεχεσινυδροποσιαις. "Our stomach is

weakened by continual water-drinking."

From 1Ti 4:12, we learn that Timothy was a

young man; but as among the Greeks and Roman the state of youth

or adolescence was extended to thirty years, and no respectable

young men were permitted to drink wine before that time; allowing

that Timothy was about twenty when Paul had him circumcised, which

was, according to Calmet, in the year of our Lord 51, and that

this epistle was written about A. D. 64 or 65, then Timothy must

have been about thirty-five when he received this epistle; and as

that was on the borders of adolescence, and as the Scripture

generally calls that youth that is not old age, Timothy might be

treated as a young man by St. Paul, as in the above text, and

might still feel himself under the custom of his country relative

to drinking wine, (for his father was a Greek, Ac 16:1,) and,

through the influence of his Christian profession, still continue

to abstain from wine, drinking water only; which must have been

very prejudicial to him, his weak state of health considered, the

delicacy of his stomach, and the excess of his ecclesiastical


As Timothy's life was of great consequence to the Church of God

at Ephesus, it was not unworthy of the Spirit of God to give the

direction in the text, and to mingle it immediately with what

some have called more solemn and important advice. 1. It was

necessary that the work should be done in the Church at Ephesus

which the apostle appointed to Timothy. 2. There was no person at

Ephesus fit to do this work but Timothy. 3. Timothy could not

continue to do it if he followed his present mode of

abstemiousness. 4. It was necessary, therefore, that he should

receive direction from Divine authority relative to the

preservation of his life, and consequently the continuation of

his usefulness, as it is not likely that a minor authority would

have weighed with him.

Verse 24. Some men's sins are open beforehand] In appointing

men to sacred offices in the Church, among the candidates Timothy

would find, 1. Some of whom he knew nothing, but only that they

professed Christianity; let such be tried before they are

appointed. 2. Some of whose faith and piety he had the fullest

knowledge, and whose usefulness in the Church was well known. 3.

Some whose lives were not at all or but partially reformed, who

were still unchanged in their hearts, and unholy in their lives.

The sins of these latter were known to all; they go before to

judgment; with them he could have no difficulty. With the first

class he must have more difficulty; there might have been

hypocrites among them, whose sins could not be known till after

they were brought into the sacred office. The characters of all

should be fully investigated. The sins of some, before this

investigation, might be so manifest as to lead at once εις

κρισιν to condemnation. The sins of others might be found out

after, or in consequence of, this investigation; and those that

were otherwise could not be long hid from his knowledge, or the

knowledge of the Church. On all these accounts the exhortation

is necessary: Lay hands suddenly on no man.

Verse 25. Likewise also the good works of some] Though those

who are very holy and very useful in the Church cannot be

unknown, yet there are others not less holy who need to be

brought forward; who do much good in private; and their character

and good works are not fully known till after diligent inquiry.

These are they who do not let their left hand know what their

right doeth.

1. AFTER so long and minute an examination of the subjects in

this chapter, little remains to be said in the way of farther and

more satisfactory explanation. The whole account concerning the

widows, who they were, and what their provision, and what their

occupation, and how supported, are to me questions of

considerable difficulty. In the notes I have given the best

account of the different subjects in my power. If the reader be

satisfied and edified, I have gained my end.

2. On the subject of the imposition of hands, or what is

vulgarly but improperly called ordination, I have not said much

here, having given my views of the subject elsewhere in these

notes. See Clarke on 1Ti 3:1, &c. I must again state my conviction

that what is said on this subject in this chapter, and indeed in

the epistle, is rather to be understood prophetically; and to

have been intended for a much lower age of the Christian Church.

That any person should, from impure or secular motives, desire to

be appointed to the ministerial office at such a time, when

poverty and persecution were the least they would reasonably

expect, to me seems altogether inexplicable. But that many,

after the Church got accredited and established, and an ample

revenue appointed for its ministers by emperors and kings, should

wish to get into the priesthood for its emoluments, is a

melancholy truth, which every year's experience testifies. To

those who have the authority from the state to appoint ministers

for the Church, this chapter reads a solemn and awful lesson.

And not to them only, but to all who have the appointment of

ministers or preachers in every sect and party. How few are

there who would kindle a fire on God's altar were there not

secular emoluments attending it! I am afraid the Scottish poet

spoke the truth who said:-

"'Tis gow'd maks sogers feight the fiercer,

Without it, preaching wad be scarcer."

Gold or money is the primum mobile through every department of

life. Proh dolor!

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