New European Commentary


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5:1 Do not rebuke an elder but exhort him- See on 4:14. Timothy would have had to discipline some of the church elders, and these were the very ones who perhaps had laid their hands on him to grant him the Spirit gift required to be their bishop. We wince as we think of a man so lacking in self-assurance and maturity as Timothy... having to do this. Truly his ministry, like every ministry, was not easy; and he was empowered hugely in order to achieve something which was so against his grain of nature. It could be argued from the list of different groups now mentioned (old men, young men, old women, young women) that in all cases, Timothy was not to rebuke but to exhort. The natural way that a group leader operates is to rebuke when necessary; but in Timothy's case, given his weak personality and persona, this would just not have worked. And so he was advised to not rebuke but to appeal / exhort / come near to folk who needed to change and be changed. Just in fact as the Father and Son have done with us.

As a father- This again was difficult; the young Timothy, who was despised for his youth, had to act as a father to men older than him. Only the psychological strengthening of the Holy Spirit enabled him to achieve this- the gift bestowed by these elders in :14. We too find ourselves in psychologically and emotionally impossible situations as we do the Lord's work, and require the same mental strengthening. Paul uses the same words to describe how he too charged those under his care, as a father does his children (1 Thess. 2:11). The same words are used of the Father exhorting or entreating the hypocritical older son (Lk. 15:28). Perhaps Paul is consciously alluding to this in advising Timothy how to deal with the older ones. The older son clearly speaks the language of the Judaists; perhaps in order to discharge his responsibility to stop false teaching by the Judaists (1:3), Timothy had to deal with older men and older women who were distributing the Jewish "fables". Perhaps these were amongst the earliest converts in Ephesus, who had come to Christ as a result of Paul's initial preaching in the synagogue. Therefore their 'age' may be a reference to how long they had been in Christ relative to others.

The younger men as brothers- Timothy was of their age, and yet he was their spiritual elder. He was to emphasize what he naturally had in common with them, to exhort them as their leader but not as their superior, ever remembering that he was an equal brother in Christ as they were. Here again we see a great psychological and inter-personal challenge; which in the internal strengthening and wisdom of the Lord's Spirit, it seems Timothy achieved.

5:2 The elder women as mothers- I suggested on 4:7 that there were a group of older women teaching Jewish fables in the church, who had to be stopped. And Paul advises him to go about this by exhorting / appealing rather than direct rebuke. How could Timothy, young and despised for his youth, remove older women from their teaching ministry, and keep them within the church? Only by the wisdom of the Spirit.

The younger women as sisters- The younger women who needed rebuking may refer to the former followers of the Diana cult who had to be removed from their positions of influence in chapter 2. How could Timothy, who seems to have had a particular temptation from women, successfully engage with the younger women and get them to accept his position, and remove them from their teaching positions? For the positive outcome to be achieved which the Lord's later letter to Ephesus suggests, Timothy must have been powerfully blessed to achieve what would have appeared to be psychologically, sociologically and spiritually impossible. And that same strengthening of the Spirit is available to us in similar missions apparently impossible.

In all purity- See on 4:12 Purity regarding Timothy's tendency to sexual weakness.

5:3 Honour widows that are indeed widows- This section reveals that there was clearly a problem with a group of widows in the Ephesian church. They were living off the church, and yet instead of praying (:5) were giving themselves to sensual pleasure to the point they were spiritually dead (:6). Some of the widows were young and would be best to remarry and have children (:14), other widows were elderly with adult children and grandchildren (:4). These are the same two groups who were giving false teaching. Chapter 2 speaks of the younger women who were acting still like the prostitute priestesses of the Diana cult, claiming that their sexual services empowered the prayers of the men who used them (see commentary there). it was these women whom Paul urged to get on and have children (2:17); and he gives the same advice here (:14). They were remaining single in order to act as the priestesses of Diana but in a Christian garb. And Paul condemns this and encourages them not to see marriage and bearing children as so dishonourable. The older women represented the Judaist problem in the church; they were teaching Jewish fables (4:7). The simple problem was that these widows were financially supported by the church and had time on their hands. Indeed we could go so far as to say that if indeed [as suggested on chapter 2] they were acting like the Diana cult priestesses, they would have been paid money for their sexual services by the men of the congregation. Effectively they were prostitutes, even if the whole system was justified by having drawn up a register of widows and the claim that they were being supported by charity. This level of immorality in the early church ought not to surprise us when we recall that the Corinthians were getting drunk at the breaking of bread service, and there is the implication in Corinthians that there was sexual misbehaviour going on there too. Jezebel is rebuked for teaching the Lord's people to commit fornication. The letter of James suggests grave abuse and even murder going on in the church. I have seen all this kind of thing happening in churches in the developing world today. So the picture I am painting of Ephesus is not beyond imagination. The fact the Lord doesn't mention this kind of thing in His letter to Ephesus some time later is highly significant; for He does mention such things to other churches. It shows that Timothy's difficult mission did in fact succeed. To reform such an awful situation would seem not at all the mission for a young, insecure, timid man like Timothy. But his success and empowering just shows what can be achieved by the work of the Spirit. Timothy was being asked to differentiate between the genuine widows who really did need support; and these other widows, both young and old, who frankly needed to focus on good works and serving the Lord in family life, rather than the roles they had been adopting. Again we note that it was the content of their teaching, rather than their gender, which was what Paul took issue with.

5:4 But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them learn first to show devotion towards their own family- The presence of the elderly in our lives is in order to teach us something. It is a form of "devotion", the Greek meaning 'worship' (only s.w. Acts 17:23). Again there may be a hint at the idol worship / devotion to Diana- for the word is only elsewhere used about idol worship (Acts 17:23). The Christian equivalent of 'devotion' to idols / Diana was to look after your mum and dad or your granny... and not the grandiose external rituals which passed as 'devotion'. Another track is suggested by the way in which a related word is used about Jewish devotion to Judaism (Acts 10:2,7; 22:12). And again... Christian devotion was not so external and public, it was all about the daily nitty gritty of caring for your elderly relatives. Perhaps Paul chose this word in order to address the two elements of the Ephesian problem- devotion to Diana on one hand, and to Judaism on the other.

And to repay their parents- The Greek seems to suggest an equal, measure for measure repayment. I have been raised by parents and cared for those parents in their old age. And I have raised my own children. I can therefore comment that in no way is the care for aged parents an adequate or equal repayment for the care they gave you. But Paul says that by attempting to do this, we learn. We learn grace, that were it not for parental grace, we would not have survived babyhood and would not be here today. And we seek to reflect that grace in caring for the elderly within our families. And this learning and response to that learning- is pleasing to God.

For this is acceptable in the sight of God- The language of the acceptability of sacrifice before God. Sacrifice was a part of both paganism and Judaism; Paul is saying that the acceptable sacrifice to Him under Christianity is to care for your rellies.

5:5 Now she that is indeed a widow and alone has her hope set on God, and continues in supplications and prayers night and day- The allusion is to Anna in the temple. The elderly are limited in what they can physically do, but Paul seems to envisage here a very serious and organized prayer ministry, made possible by the widow being materially cared for. That care should come from her family, and if not, then the church. And in response, she should use her time and freedom from secular cares to seriously pray "night and day". This is a wonderful idea for all of us whenever or however we find ourselves indisposed. But it obviously has particular relevance to elderly believers. Regarding widows and prayer, see on :3.

5:6 But she that gives herself to pleasure is dead while she lives- See on :3. I have suggested that the younger widows were acting similarly to the priestess 'mediators' of the Diana cult from which they had come out. They were in serious sin, and although they had the name of the living Jesus, they were spiritually dead, in anticipation of the condemnation to death they would receive unless they repented. Eph. 4:17,18 was written to the same Ephesians, and urges them to "No longer walk as the Gentiles walk... alienated from the life of God", that is, dead. Eph. 5:14 makes the same appeal to these Ephesians- to awake spiritually out of the sleep of death.

5:7 These things also command, so that they may be without reproach- The concern seems to be that the surrounding opposition to Christianity in Ephesus, both Jewish and pagan, could so easily use the situation with the widows in order to bring reproach upon the name of Christ and to finally stamp out Christianity in Ephesus. The "things" may be the practical commands regarding how to reform the system of widow support in Ephesus which follow in :8-16. The Greek for "reproach" means literally 'not arrested'. Paul could imagine how the Christians could easily be arrested for things related to what they were doing; they were laying themselves wide open to all manner of accusations and legal problems.

5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own family and specially his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever- This seems rather an extreme thing to say about someone who doesn't care for their elderly relatives as they might do. And it can hardly be true as it stands, because not everyone is able to provide for their elderly relatives, due to economic, health or geographic reasons. But the statement here makes perfect sense if we accept the reconstruction of the scene as suggested in these notes. Instead of looking after parents, money was being paid to a class of 'widows' in the church who were effectively prostitutes, who claimed they could empower the prayers of the men to be better heard by God (see on chapter 2). This indeed merits the kind of condemnation Paul hands out here.

But then the deep error of ignoring care for parents must still be faced. If we selfishly build up our own possessions through ignoring the needs of others, we have denied the Faith- even if we hold on to a clear understanding of the doctrines. Loving money is erring from the Faith- again, even though we may keep our theoretical understanding (1 Tim. 6:10). It is perhaps intentional that three times in the same section in 1 Tim., Paul speaks of those who leave the Faith; once he speaks of this in the context of doctrinal error (1 Tim. 6:21); the other two references (5:8; 6:10) concern leaving the Faith through being materialistic, whilst holding on to true doctrines. The point is, the one is as bad as the other. The fact the Kingdom will be on earth not in Heaven is not just incidental. It means that we now, as we live on this planet which will be our eternal possession, will not strive for present possession of it, neither will be swayed by the pressure groups and political groups who only look at the state of the world as it now is. "The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again [because he dies before he can repay his mortgage?]: but the righteous dealeth graciously, and giveth. For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth" (Ps. 37:21,22 RV). Exactly because we will inherit this planet gives us strength against materialism; it means that we will be generous; we will not focus our lives upon temporarily buying a spot of land which in any case we will eternally inherit.

5:9 Let no one be registered as a widow who is under sixty years old- This is proof enough that the commands being given here were relevant to sorting out the situation in Ephesus and not global commands. We must read the commands about a certain group of women being silenced in chapter 2 in the same way. The fact he recommends some younger widows to remarry (:14) is also proof enough that "widows" doesn't mean 'all widows'. It may be that single and widowed brethren and sisters made open statements of their decision to devote themselves to the Lord Jesus.  1 Tim. 5:9 suggests there was a specific "number" of widows in the Ephesus ecclesia who were financially supported by the ecclesia. But as noted above, this was being abused and turned into what was effectively prostitution.

Only register those who have been the woman of one man and- This confirms our earlier suggestion that the group supported as 'widows' included some who were sexually immoral, acting [as suggested in chapter 2] effectively as church prostitutes, taking money for acting as the Christian equivalent to the priestesses of the Diana cult, in order to supposedly enhance the prayers of the men they slept with. Note that Timothy and other elders in this church are warned to be the man of one woman (3:2,12)- modelling to these church members the kind of life required of a believer. Thinking it through, "the woman of one man" surely cannot mean that over the course of their lives, they must not have been promiscuous. For surely such sins are washed away at baptism and should not be a reason for not supporting such a woman after she has been baptized and is widowed, being over 60 years old. Rather the logic surely requires that she should not now be promiscuous, a woman of many men. This again supports the idea that there was a problem in Ephesus of some female members, even those over 60, being promiscuous. And this is explained by our suggestion on chapter 2 that some of the sisters were offering sexual services supposedly to improve the power of the men's prayers. No wonder Paul tells Timothy to end this system and haul them off the platform.

5:10 Well reported of for good works; if she has brought up children, if she has used hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has helped the afflicted- This is not just a random list of good works for a believing woman. I suggest that each of these works are in conscious contradistinction from the behaviour of the priestess prostitutes of the Diana cult. They did not believe in having or therefore raising children; hence Paul tells the younger widows to have children (:14) and in chapter 2 suggests those particular women save themselves from their immorality by childbearing. The Diana cult was fiercely xenophobic- we recall how the appeal was made to the citizens of Ephesus to destroy Paul and his missionary work on the basis that he was bringing their beloved Ephesus into dishonour. The problematic sisters were clearly influenced by these wrong attitudes although they had left the Diana cult. Hence the requirement for them to show hospitality to strangers; and they were to wash the feet of their brethren rather than take money for having sex with them on the excuse they were assisting in the power of their prayers [according to our reconstruction offered in chapter 2]. "Helped the afflicted" may well refer to how Paul went through awful problems with the mob there (Acts 19); the Greek for "afflicted" means literally 'the thronged', which is how it is translated in Mk. 3:9. 1 Cor. 15:32 suggests he may even have been thrown to the wild beasts in the arena there. Those who had ministered to Paul and other persecuted preachers then were thus qualified to be supported. The hint might be that these Christians who were still so influenced by the Diana cult may not have been so forward in coming to his assistance. It is Onesiphorus and not the local believers who is mentioned as ministering to Paul in his great afflictions in Ephesus (2 Tim. 1:18). Paul mentions this in writing to Timothy there at Ephesus.

If she has diligently followed every good work- Notice the double emphasis in this verse alone on good works; and so often in the letters to Timothy. The fact the Lord later commended Ephesus for their good works in Rev. 2 shows that Timothy's ministry was in that sense successful. He, the weak and unlikely one, took Paul's inspired words at their full weight and implemented them. The same relatively rare Greek word translated "followed [after]" is found soon after, where in :24,25 Paul says that the good works of the faithful follow them to judgment. Whilst salvation is by grace and not works, works will be taken into account in our final judgment and will play a part in forming the nature of the person whom we shall eternally be.

"Good work" is the same phrase as in Eph. 2:10, where we are to do the good works which were "beforehand prepared" for us. "Beforehand prepared" suggests we were prepared for the performing of our good works from a specific beginning point. And that surely was at 'the beginning'. Our entire genetic history, the nature of our early childhood experiences and surrounding family, was prepared so that we would be born with the wiring required to do the works intended. It is often noted of heroes that they were 'born for this hour'; but that is in fact true of us all. To turn away from those works, through disinterest, laziness, wilful lack of perception, self absorption... is to waste so much. We on our side must be prepared unto every good work (2 Tim. 2:21); "be eagerly ready [s.w. prepared] unto every good work" (Tit. 3:1). We are to abound in good works (s.w.) because of God's abounding grace to us (2 Cor. 9:8). The good works are therefore a way of life and not some occasional good charitable deeds. We will be 'established' in this life of good works (2 Thess. 2:17); we are to "follow every good work" (1 Tim. 5:10), a strange phrase until we undertsand that the good works were prepared for us ahead of time, and we are to follow after them. We are to be on the look out, prepared, for those good works. 

5:11 But refuse to register younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry- There is nothing wrong with marrying. Indeed Paul commands it for these women in :14. It would appear that they had entered a voluntary vow to Christ not to remarry- hence the sin. As suggested on chapter 2, actually these young sisters were acting like the prostitute priestesses of the Diana cult, vowing virginity to their god whilst sleeping with the male worshippers and aborting any pregnancies. They had of course left the Diana cult, but were acting in a similar way, instead taking a vow of virginity to Christ- will apparently sleeping with brethren on the pretext of strengthening the acceptability of their prayers, and then receiving money for this from the widows' support fund. This would be a classic example of pagan mentality mixing in with Christianity, and apparent devotion to Christ being mixed with immorality. This kind of thing is far from unknown in the church of today.

5:12 Having condemnation, because they have rejected their first pledge- As there were consequences for breaking the Nazirite vow and other vows under the Mosaic law, so it was and is wrong to vow things to the Lord and then break them. But all the same, the language of condemnation seems rather strong- see on :8. And yet it is understandable if my reconstruction of the situation is correct. To use such a pledge to Christ as an opportunity for immorality, and earning money by effective prostitution in the name of worshipping God and mediating Christian prayers- this is indeed behaviour that has to call for condemnation. If we don't read it this way, we are left with the apparent severity of judging those who pledge singleness to Christ and then feel they want to get married. In 1 Cor. 7, Paul speaks exactly to this situation. He seems to refer to this pledge of singleness when he writes of those who promise to keep their virginity; but Paul says that if even after that, they cannot "contain", then they should marry. Yet here he is saying that such breaking of the pledge warrants condemnation. I therefore feel justified in resolving that contradiction by seeing in the pledge breaking far more than meets the eye if we just read these words without their context.

5:13- see on Lk. 9:4; Acts 20:20.

Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not- The Greek for "idlers" means literally 'not workers'; the compound includes the same word for "works" used in 2:10 about the need for the young sisters to do good "works" rather than dress up as the equivalent of the priestesses of the Diana cult. The antidote to their bad behaviour and immorality was to do works; not that works would save them, but passionate involvement in the Lord's service in practice would preserve them from involvement in immorality. This is actually, reading between the lines, Paul's advice to Timothy regarding his wayward sexual urges. And it is true for all time that the [Biblical] devil finds work for idle hands. One reason why God's purpose operates through human works is that the works are a necessary part of our own spiritual path and development; although the works in themselves are not needed by God nor are they the basis of our salvation per se. "They learn to be idlers" can bear the translation "they give to understand / teach"- as they went from "house to house". This is the very phrase used in Acts 2 about the early brethren going from house to house, i.e. from one home group to another, breaking bread and doing Bible study. We can assume that these women were going around the house groups which comprised the Ephesus church, teaching idleness, teaching against good works. The fact Ephesus are commended for their good works in Rev. 2 shows that all this advice really did work for the church and Timothy managed to obey it all successfully. "Saying what they should not" uses laleo, a word elsewhere translated 'preach' and 'teach'. And they were repeating gossip and busybody material in the name of teaching. No wonder in chapter 2 that Paul says they should no longer be teachers. But we notice that it is the content of their teaching, rather than their being teachers, which is the burden of his difficulty with them.

By publicly getting a bad name for “wandering about from house to house”, these women were giving opportunity to the Jewish adversaries to “rail against” (A.V. margin) the Christians. Jude 9,10 implies that the Judaizers brought “railing accusation” against the Christians. “Speaking things which they ought not”, recalls Jude 10 about the Judaizers: “these speak evil of those things which they know not”. “Wandering” connects with Jude’s description of “wandering stars” (Jude 13). Diotrephes, one of the Judaizers who was trying to discredit the apostle John and the other apostles, (as the Judaizers did to Paul) is described as “prating against us with malicious words” (3 Jn. 10). “Prating” is from the same word translated “tattlers” in 1 Timothy 5:13 concerning these women. The women going from house to house may imply from church to church, as that is how the word “house” is often used in the New Testament (due to the many house churches then in existence). This is what the Jewish false teachers did; 2 John 7 talks about deceivers or seducers that had entered into the Christian world, i.e. the false brethren “unawares brought in” to the church of Galatia. There are many references to these “seducing spirits” (1 Tim. 4:1) – i.e. false teachers (1 Jn. 4:1) – within the church, to which the church was not to give “heed” (1 Tim. 4:1). That these were Jewish false teachers is suggested by other references to “giving heed” in the context of being watchful against Jewish infiltration of Christianity:

– “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” (Mk. 8:15);

– “Not giving heed to Jewish fables” (Titus 1:14);

– “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies’ (1 Tim. 1:4) – the source of which genealogies was probably the Old Testament, over which the Judaizers were encouraging the Christians to argue to no profit.

5:14 I desire therefore that the younger widows marry, bear children- I have repeatedly connected this with the comment that the young women of 2:15 should quit their effective prostitution and teaching within the church, renounce their vow of virginity which they had copied from the Diana cult priestesses, and have children. And by submitting to the spiritual disciplines which come with Christian family life, they would save themselves from a path which was otherwise leading to their condemnation (5:12).

Rule the household, give no occasion to the adversary for slander- These women, as teachers, were clearly capable. Paul encourages these particular women to exercise their abilities in spiritually leading their households. But it could be that Paul is also encouraging them to start their own house groups of believers which they would "rule", instead of going around teaching idleness to the other house groups (see on :13).

The New Testament speaks of households run by women: Mary (Acts 12:12), Lydia (Acts 16:14,40); Nympha (Col. 4:15) and Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11). These women were presumably wealthy widows or divorcees who hadn’t remarried. We are left to speculate whether they were in some way the ‘leaders’ of the house churches which met in their homes. Women are described as ruling households in 1 Tim. 5:14; Tit. 2:4,5. The woman of Prov. 31 clearly had autonomy within the private sphere of the household, even though the husband was the public leader. Seeing Christianity was initially a house-church, household religion, we are left to wonder how much women actually led house churches, especially seeing that the majority of early Christian members appear to have been women. The wall paintings [frescoes] found in the Christian catacombs around Rome are highly significant for our present study. The significant ones for our purposes are the catacombs of Priscilla on the Salaria Nuova, Callixtus on the via Appia Antica, and that of Domitilla on the via Ardeatine. They feature in places scenes of female Christians raising cups, with the inscription agape over them. Some show a woman occupying the central place in the meal, with a large cup in her hand, with the other women looking at it intently. Some of the frescoes [there are many of them] show women dressed as slaves doing this in what appears to be a wealthy home. These frescoes seem to me indicative of how groups of slave women formed house churches, and faithfully kept the breaking of bread. Some frescoes show the women sharing the bread and wine with children around the table; one shows a woman holding a scroll, as if she is reading Scripture to the others. One fresco features a woman holding a cup of wine inscribed ‘nobis’- ‘for us’.  Some frescoes show men in the group, but the woman in the centre, as if she is leading the meeting, or as the host of the household.

Paul encourages younger mothers to “rule their households”, using a word [oikodespoteo] which would usually be used about the man ruling the house. His implication is surely that in Christ, husband and wife together rule the household, notwithstanding the wife being in submission to her husband.

“The adversary” is not the same word as “Satan”, although it may still refer to the Jews seeking opportunity to criticize the. It can mean “an adversary at law” in a legal sense, implying that the Jews could get them in trouble at a Roman court. There’s plenty of historical evidence of this.


5:15 For already some are turned aside after satan- The Greek for "turned aside" is used four times in the letters to Timothy. Paul knew that some would be turned aside by false teaching (1:6; 2 Tim. 4:4), and he didn't want Timothy to be turned aside by it either (6:20). We see here the importance of Timothy's commission to stamp out false teaching- because this is what it leads to. People listen, and they are led aside from the Kingdom path.

Note that the widows turn themselves aside after Satan – Satan is not necessarily seeking the women. Verses 12 and 13 explain that the widows “cast off their first faith” – something they did themselves. “They learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house”. It was by their doing this that they “turned aside after Satan’ – their evil desires, and the Jewish temple cult. Using the tongue in the wrong way is a result of an evil state of the heart – “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mt. 12:34). Their turning aside after Satan involved being “tattlers... and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not” (v. 13). Thus “Satan” refers to their evil heart. Through profitless talking and not keeping hold of the true spirit of the Word of God, some had “turned aside unto vain jangling” (1 Tim. 1:6). Paul is now pointing out that some of the young widows in that ecclesia had also turned aside for the same reason “unto Satan”, or their evil desires, expressed in their idle talking.

The “seducing spirits” of :1 had seared consciences (:2), implying that they were apostate believers. They forbad to marry, “commanding to abstain from meats” (:3), which especially the latter, was the big contention of the Jewish element in the church in the first century. Notice that what is said here about the Judaizers is also true of the Catholics – supporting the idea that 2 Thessalonians 2 is about both Jews and Catholics.

Thus the “seducing spirits” of 1 Timothy 4:1 were the Jewish infiltrators of the church, which were doubtless amongst the “deceivers” of 2 John 7, which 2 John 10 implies were going from house to house (church to church) spreading their doctrine of belittling the person of Christ. These Judaizers “subvert whole houses” (Titus 1:11). Back in 1 Timothy 5:13, the fact that the women also went from house to house is another indication that what they were doing was also what the Judaizers were doing. Thus it is an interesting possibility that when their husbands died, these women lacked spiritual leadership, and therefore turned aside after the Jewish Satan, being influenced by the Jews to undermine the church. Using such apparently innocent members of the church would have been a very effective way of infiltrating. Perhaps there is a reference to this in 2 Timothy 3. This speaks of men within the ecclesia, “having a form of Godliness, but denying the power thereof” (v. 5), unsound judgment in church decisions (v. 8 A.V. margin). “Their folly shall be manifest unto all men” (v. 9) – at the Judgment, where the responsible appear. They are likened to Jannes and Jambres, who, according to Jewish tradition, were apostate Jews. These false teachers (probably Judaizers), “creep into (i.e. subtly infiltrate) houses (churches), and lead captive silly women” (v. 6). Note how the Judaizers are described as capturing Christians to become infiltrators in 2 Timothy 2:26 and in 1 Timothy 3:7. This view of the women is confirmed by the following two points:

i) Acts 13:50 describes the Jews stirring up “the devout and honourable women and (thereby)... raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas”.

ii) There is evidence in profane history that many Gentile women were influenced by the Jews. Thus Josephus (Wars of the Jews, II, 20.2) claims that when the Jews of Damascus were persecuted, the proselyte wives of the Gentiles living there were also attacked. Josephus describes the Gentile wives of the men of Damascus as “almost all of them addicted to the Jewish religion”. William Barclay says that during the first century “the Jewish religion had a special attraction for a woman... round the synagogues were gathered many women, often women of high social position, who found in this (Jewish) teaching just what they so much longed for. Many of these women became proselytes” (William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles (Louisville: Westminster / John Knox, 2003) p. 114). That the women Paul refers to were also wealthy is shown by them having time to go around from house to house, instead of having to work.


5:16 If any woman that believes has widows in her family, let her help them and let not the church be burdened, so that it may help those that are indeed widows- This appears to be a summary of the commands in this section about widows. But in some MSS, such as those followed here by the NEV, it seems specifically addressed to women. In this case, given our previous reconstructions, it would seem these young women were justifying the payment for their sexual services by saying they were being paid not only for their own widowhood but for their widowed mothers too.

5:17- see on Mt. 7:24.

Let the elders that rule well- There were some Ephesian elders that did "rule well", despite all the problems in the church which we have pointed out. And "the angel of the church at Ephesus" was commended by the Lord for stamping out false teaching and excelling in works. Although it was the loss of agape love which was their downfall in the end. We recall Paul's last meeting with the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, where he glumly warned them that of their own selves, men would arise destroying the flock at Ephesus; and urged attention to God's word in view of this. I see that warning in the same way as I see God's inspired message that in 40 day, Nineveh would be destroyed. But these expressions of future doom of themselves invite repentance and spiritual effort, which God rewards and takes deep notice of, to the extent that the threatened catastrophes either don't happen or are delayed. And the existence of an acceptable church in Ephesus by the time of Rev. 2 is a proof case of this. The command to appoint faithful elders and pass on the baton to them (2 Tim. 2:2) was therefore fulfilled well by Timothy.

Be counted worthy of double honour- If this has some financial reference (:18 "wages", and see the parallel in 1 Cor. 9:8-10 which is in a financial context), then we should connect it with the preceding comment that the money spent on the fraudulent widows' welfare fund was a 'burden' on the church (:16). Paul states plainly enough that he is not against a paid ministry although he didn't use it himself. But this verse would appear to be saying that Timothy decided what was paid to whom, and there seems the surprising idea of payment according to spiritual integrity. We would rather have expected payment to be simply according to basic living needs, but he does appear here to go beyond that. Presumably his idea was not to offer a financial carrot towards spirituality, but to demonstrate that good service to the Lord was to be recognized and rewarded by the congregation. I am uncomfortable with that conclusion but I find it hard to see any other consistent interpretation. The only alternative I can think of is that the "double honour" may be referent to the money paid to widows- those elders who ruled well were to get double what they were being given. But still the problem remains that it was because of the 'wellness' of their work that they were to be rewarded; and "honour" is not completely relevant to the widows. And see on :18 The labourer is worthy of his wages.

Especially those who labour in the word and in teaching- A reference to Bible study and then teaching the results of that study. Teaching is therefore not entertainment, re-casting secular stories or wisdom in spiritual terms accessible to the congregation; it is to be preceded by study of the word itself. The idea may be that the labour of the elders was not in secular life, but their work in study and teaching was equal to that of secular employment. The Lord commends the "Angel" at Ephesus, presumably referring to the eldership, for "labouring" (Rev. 2:3 s.w.).

5:18 For the Scripture says- We find a very significant feature in both the New Testament itself, and in the historical, uninspired writings of the early Christians: they speak about the New Testament writings as being inspired Scripture just as they speak of the inspired Old Testament writings. So Peter, writing in A.D. 68, speaks of Paul's letters as being amongst "the other Scriptures" (2 Pet. 3:16), i.e. on the same level of acceptance as the Old Testament Scriptures. Here in 1 Tim. 5:18, Paul combines two quotations, one from the Old Testament and another from the Gospel of Luke, and calls them both “Scripture”: " For the Scripture saith ' 'Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn ' [Dt. 25:4]; and, 'The labourer is worthy of his hire'" (Lk. 10:7). Polycarp, writing in about AD115, combines the Old Testament Psalms and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in a similar manner: "In the sacred books... as it is said in these Scriptures, 'Be ye angry and sin not,' and 'Let not the sun go down upon your wrath’." Some years later, the [uninspired] second letter of Clement (2:4) quotes Isaiah and then adds: "And another Scripture, however, says, 'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners'" -quoting from Matthew. The first epistle of Clement, dating at the latest to AD95, quotes from many of Paul’s letters and from the Gospels; but very significantly, it doesn’t quote from any of the books which later were rejected at the Councils. So, the ‘new’ writings of the New Testament were accepted on an equal footing as the Old Testament Scriptures, from soon after they were first circulated. Notice that this was all before the Councils met to assemble the canon. The books were widely accepted as inspired before them! They didn’t give those books an inspired status. It’s also apparent that the ‘new’ books didn’t go through much of a process of being recognized as inspired. They were accepted as inspired immediately. See on 1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Jn. 4:1.

You shall not muzzle- The word means literally to render speechless. The idea may be that if an elder was not paid, then they would not have time to prepare their talks for the congregation. The Old Testament contains examples of where the Levites failed to teach the people because the tithes for supporting them were not paid.

The ox when he treads out the corn- The stress may be on the word "when"; the elder must do this if he is to be fed. The treading out of the corn represents the labour in the word which is required before teaching it to the church congregation (see on :17). The corn represents God's word and the treading out the processing of it. And yet in this figure, the ox [cp. the elder] eats some of the corn he processes. This has been a theme of Paul in advising Timothy- that the very process of spiritually feeding others leads to the spiritual benefit of the feeder (see on 4:6 Nourished up).

And, The labourer is worthy of his wages- The wages are to be axios the worker, appropriate to the quality and amount of work. Hence those who worked "well" were to receive "double" (:17).

5:19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder, except at the mouth of two or three witnesses- The way Paul commanded Timothy not to even consider a complaint against an elder unless another two or three had been eye-witnesses is proof enough that he expected elders to be slandered from within the ecclesia. The more you read between the lines of Paul's letters, the more evident it is that his very own brethren almost unbelievably slandered him. See on Gal. 5:11; 1 Thess. 2:3. The context is the problematic group of sisters spreading gossip and being busybodies (:13). This kind of thing happens today, with the internet facilitating it. Paul seems to be saying that such gossips should not be 'taken up' or responded to unless there are two or three eye-witnesses.

5:20 Those elders that sin, reprove in the sight of all- The "all" may refer to all the elders; the "rest" who are to take warning from the reproof. I say this because there appears to be a parallel in the next verse, where Timothy is charged before or "in the sight of" "the elect angels", who I suggest refer to the eldership. For the Lord addresses them as the Angel of the church at Ephesus in Rev. 2.

So that the rest may also be in fear- Reproof in the sight of others is shame based, which we may be somewhat uncomfortable with. But shame was a hugely powerful component in first century Mediterranean psychology and sociology. And perhaps the "sin" in view was connected to this whole issue of good appearance in the sight of others- which pride to this day is the root of so many sins.

5:21 I charge you in the sight of God and Christ Jesus- If the elders were to be reproved in the sight of each other (:20), then who was Timothy as the 'boss' to be reproved in the sight of? The answer to that was 'In God's sight and that of Jesus- as well as of the Angels'.

And the elect Angels- The context in 1 Timothy warns against the Jewish obsession with effectively worshipping Angels. Paul wishes to refocus their attention on Angels in the correct sense. I suggested on :20 that this refers to the elders of the church. But they in turn were represented by literal Angels in Heaven. Hence the Angel of the church at Ephesus in Rev. 2 was [in the context] both a literal Angel and the human elder or group of elders in Ephesus which were represented by an Angel in Heaven. Scripture abounds with reference to this 'court of Heaven', in which individuals and situations on earth are reflected in Heaven, and Heaven's structure is reflected on earth. Angels represent the face and presence of God; the fact they are physically present in our lives means that we should live in a sense of awe and humility at the nearness of God to us. Often this presence of the Angel is used as a means of motivating us to higher endeavour for the Lord. Jacob conceived of his guardian Angel as "the fear of my father Isaac". This then is one of the ways we should fear God- to live in constant respect and awareness of the Angel in our lives. Paul uses the idea of charging brethren "before the elect Angels that thou do these things without preferring one before another" (1 Tim. 5:21), as if to say that the physical presence of the ecclesia's representative Angels should inspire humility and obedience in the running of ecclesial affairs. In a judgment context, Paul charges Timothy before the angels of the elect, i.e. our guardian Angels- as if to say 'They are watching over you now, they will be there again at judgment and look back to your present life; so behave as you should as a man under God's judgment'.

The present nature of the judgment ought to powerfully motivate us. "I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things..." (1 Tim. 5:21 AV) is full of judgment language: before God, Christ and the Angels of the elect (i.e. our 'guardian Angels'). 'Before God' is the language of the judgment in Mt. 25:32; Lk. 21:36; Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 2:14; 1 Jn. 2:28; Jude 24; Rev. 14:5. It's as if Paul was reminding Timothy that he was present before the judgment already, and should therefore be obedient. 2 Tim. 4:1 makes the link even more apparent: he charged Timothy to preach as being before (Gk.) both the Father and Son, who will judge the living and dead at His appearing. Because we effectively stand before the judgment seat now, therefore preach now, because preaching is one of those things that will be taken into account at the final judgment day (Lk. 12:8). As men being before the Lord's throne, who will be finally judged just as we are now being judged, therefore act according to the principles which we know will lead to acceptance then.

That you observe these things- The same word is used to Timothy in 2 Tim. 1:14, where he is again told to 'keep / observe these things" "by the Holy Spirit which dwells in us". The Holy Spirit or mind is an internal power, working "within", in order to empower obedience. But like Timothy, we must be exhorted to make full use of it rather than attempting to be obedient in our own strength.

Without prejudice, doing nothing by partiality- This was so hard for Timothy without the spiritual strengthening just alluded to. There were many different interest groups within the church, Jewish and pagan. Timothy the timid and young had to deal with older people who were teaching wrong things and shut them up. Timothy the afflicted with sexual lusts had to tell attractive young women to get married and have children. It would've been so very easy to act with partiality. He needed the psychological Holy Spirit strengthening mentioned under Observe these things in order to achieve this.

5:22 Lay hands hastily on no one- This is in the context of elders, who like Timothy were appointed by laying on of hands. He is being told not to appoint anyone hastily, in chapter 3 he has been warned to give deacons a probationary period before appointing them. We can infer that Timothy was liable to over hasty and naive decision making. Again, the fact his mission succeeded was and is a testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit working within such a weak young man; see on :21 Observe these things.

And do not participate in other's sins. Keep yourself pure- It would be fair to say that the church at Ephesus, including its leadership, was in a very bad moral state. It would've been a big temptation for someone as weak minded as Timothy to justify bad behaviour because the other elders were doing it. Paul has just spoken of the "sin" of elders (:20), and the "others" of :20 would seem to be the other elders. So Timothy, the newly appointed elder, is being told not to participate in the sins of the other elders, but rather reprove them (:20). Koinoneo, "participate", is from the common word family for 'fellowship'. We are not to fellowship the sins of others in the sense of not participating in them by doing them- Timothy was to "Keep yourself pure", with the emphasis on "yourself". Not fellowshipping other's sins clearly here doesn't mean 'cast them out of the church as individuals'. The fact the Lord positively addresses the eldership at Ephesus in Rev. 2 is a testament to the power of Timothy's example; he turned around that church by obedience to Paul's inspired advice and commands, rather than by throwing the offenders out of the church. Significantly, Paul doesn't tell Timothy to do that- despite the errors being serious indeed. As has been witnessed so many times, the problems aren't ultimately resolved by throwing people out and 'breaking fellowship' with them.

5:23 No longer drink only water; instead use a little wine for your stomach's sake- A theme of the Timothy correspondence is that Timothy is indeed obedient to Paul's inspired commands- and therefore ultimately his ministry succeeds. He was clearly aware that Paul was concerned that he might abuse alcohol; for Paul commands Timothy not to be given to much wine (3:3). It seems Timothy took this to the extreme and would not touch any alcohol. Such total abstinence was rare in first century society, so we can assume Timothy adopted this position from purely spiritual reasoning. Seeing alcohol was one of the most commonly available medicines for stomach and other ailments, this meant enduring much suffering. And Paul doesn't believe that stoic suffering for the sake of it is required; rather he wants Timothy to be active and useful in the church. And to that end he had been given the gift of the Spirit within him, i.e. in his mind, within his psychology (2 Tim. 1:14). But he had to allow himself to "be strengthened in the grace [gift- of the Spirit] that is in Christ" (2 Tim. 2:1), to "stir up the gift that is [with]in you" (2 Tim. 1:6). It was only due to doing this that [according to the Lord's later letter to the Ephesians] his ministry succeeded in the areas he was charged with [inspiring good works and shutting down false teachers].

"No longer" may be alluding to the way that in Roman culture, wine was only to be drunk over the age of 30. Adam Clarke quotes ancient writers to this effect, "among the Romans, no servant, nor free woman, nor youths of quality, drank any wine till they were thirty years of age". Timothy is here described as a water drinker- although surely he drunk things apart from water. This is a technical term for a young person, not old enough to be seen as fit to drink wine, or not at the age when wine was considered necessary for the male metabolism. Perhaps Timothy had passed that age, although he is still called a 'young man' (1 Tim. 4:12). This could be a way of telling Timothy to 'grow up'. We get the same impression when Paul tells him to "flee youthful lusts". And in our age, too many adults are living the psychological lives of overgrown adolescents. This command is given at this point because Timothy is being called upon to discipline others and to be a leader of men; and he had to show himself mature to do this. This better fits the context- which is of Paul's personal appeal to Timothy, "keep yourself pure" (:22), lest all the focus upon judging others' spiritual qualifiations led him to ignore personal spirituality. So I suggest in terms of structure that :22-25 is Paul's specific personal advice and comfort to Timothy, although not solely; for the reference to "sins" clearly connects with the previous commands about dealing with and awareness of others' sins.    

And your frequent infirmities- We continue to get the picture of Timothy as weak both physically and in personality. To be given such a demanding, stressful commission, when stomach problems are often connected to nervous strain, means that his obedience and success is the more noteworthy. And it is a testimony to the internal, psychological power of the Holy Spirit within Timothy which empowered him mentally to pull through it.

Consider Timothy's weaknesses, both directly stated and implied:

- He first of all flunked the calling to remain in Ephesus (see on 1 Tim. 1:3)

- The commands concerning bishops were firstly Paul's commands to Timothy (see on 1 Tim. 3:14,15). The suggestion would be that Timothy needed to pay attention to things like not womanizing and being a solid family man

- Liable to be taken in by the Jewish myths pedalled by the old Jewish sisters (1 Tim. 4:7; 6:20)

- Easily discouraged by older people despising his youth, needing encouragement to set a good example (1 Tim. 4:12)

- Liable to neglect his gifts, not using his full spiritual potential (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6,14; 4:5 "make full proof of your ministry")

- Needing to take heed to himself (1 Tim. 4:16)

- Tempted to show partiality (1 Tim. 5:21) and to do the sins he saw other elders doing, being easily led (see on 1 Tim. 5:22)

- Frequently ill with stomach upsets (1 Tim. 5:23). Paul says that he himself had to work as a tentmaker in order to meet the needs of Timothy whilst Timothy was with him; he had to work because of Timothy's weakness, mentally or physically, because he was unable to work to make himself a living (see on Acts 20:34).

- Often in tears (2 Tim. 1:4)

- Being a fearful person rather than a positive one (2 Tim. 1:7)

- Fearful of suffering and having to identify with Paul from fear of persecution, easily embarrassed by association with Christ (2 Tim. 1:8), needing encouragement to "endure hardness" and have a disciplined mind and life (2 Tim. 2:3)

- Weak and needing to be stronger (2 Tim. 2:1)

- Easily caught up in secular things (2 Tim. 2:4) and to try to take spiritual shortcuts around the difficult inevitabilities of the true Christian life (2 Tim. 2:5)

- Needing to flee sexual lusts (2 Tim. 2:22), even though he was a married man with children, according to 1 Tim. 3. He had to be exhorted to "purity" (1 Tim. 4:12), the word carrying the specific idea of sexual purity. Paul commanded Timothy to be a man of one woman in chapter 3, and warns him to deal with the younger sisters "with all purity" (1 Tim. 5:2). Putting all this together, it would be fair to assume that Paul perceived a weakness in Timothy in this area. And yet all the same, Paul put him in to the position of eldership, with all the inter-personal contact with females which this required. But he warned him to beware of his weakness.

- Needing to be constantly reminded to "continue" and not give up, as he was near to doing (e.g. 2 Tim. 3:14).

All these issues could have been the result of being a 'rich kid'. 2 Tim. 3:16 says he was taught to read from the Scriptures by his mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 1:5). He was very blessed to have both a mother and grandmother to raise him; for female mortality was very high in the first century world. And the vast majority of the Roman empire was illiterate. So Timothy had advantages from birth which put him in a favoured minority. But this is no reason to despise him; he was made strong out of the weaknesses associated with his background.

Yet out of all this weakness, Timothy was made strong and according to the Lord's letter to the Ephesian church, he achieved his calling to stamp out false teaching, purify the eldership, and encourage the doing of "good works". Perhaps he did it so zealously that the church ended up lacking the agape love for which finally it was condemned. But so far as his obedience to his particular ministry goes- he succeeded. Out of such weakness.

5:24- see on 1 Cor. 4:5.

Some men's sins are evident, preceding them to judgment- The sins in view are surely those of the elders just mentioned (see on :20 and :22). Paul is saying that although some sins are open and need to be rebuked openly, Timothy should be aware that there are many other secret sinners around whose sins he may never know about in this life. He was not to judge the evident sinners on a basis which assumed everyone else was innocent and had no secret sins. And that is important to be aware of in church life today too. Any church discipline is only dealing with the evident sins. And those evident sins will in any case be dealt with by the Lord's judgment; any rebuke we may give is not therefore to be seen as equivalent to His judgment.

Although the advice in :24,25 is appropriate for dealing with people within a church, it could be that Paul is also encouraging Timothy personally here, as he is in :23. Verse 23 is Paul directly addressing Timothy, and :24,25 may be the same. In which case Paul is encouraging Timothy that one tendency of a pastor is to not admit secret sins. But he must realize that these too would be judged. And another tendency is to feel that good works are never appreciated. And the comfort is that they will be given full weight at the day of judgment. Both sin and good works go before us, as a herald, to judgment. Judgment is not therefore the point at which books are opened and information considered for the first time by the judge. Our behaviour is already 'there'. We live now under judgment. "God is the judge" now. In the light of the cross, we are revealed even now to God and to ourselves, if we allow the cross its intended effect.

But those of others follow them there later- The Greek could equally mean 'Those of others accompany them there'. The idea being that some have sins which they quit, which go before them to judgment; other men are accompanied by their sins to judgment. The idea would be, in the context of open rebuke in :20, that the motive for bringing out another's sins to the light is so that those sins do not follow him to judgment later, but are openly made evident now.

5:25 Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden- The idea may be that in seeking to inculcate a culture of good works, Timothy should be aware that some good works are not "evident" not, but will not be hidden at the day of judgment. For then, according to the Lord's parable, He will openly go through the good deeds of the accepted; their feeding of the hungry, clothing the naked etc. Nothing then will be hidden. Timothy's mission of encouraging good works was recognized as successful by the Lord's letter to the Ephesian church in Rev. 2. But Paul is encouraging Timothy that it would be hard for him to judge his own success, because good works are not always evident. The same phrase is found in Mt. 5:14, to which Paul likely alludes; the good works of the city set on a hill "cannot be hid". But Paul would  then be interpreting this as meaning 'cannot be ultimately hidden because they will be displayed at the day of judgment'. Here we have the final answer to the human desire for recognition of works. They will not be hidden from God and although salvation is by grace alone, our works will also be openly rewarded and will not remain hidden. The hours of silent effort and patience with difficult situations and people will not remain hidden. The times when 'Someone around here has to be the Christian', and that person was us... will all be somehow openly displayed. It is part of our human wiring to want recognition. But we don't get it much in this life, indeed no good deed goes unpunished; those helped so often complain and bite the hand which fed them. Yet we naturally long for recognition. The composer whose music is never performed longs for his work to be appreciated. The housewife and young mother longs to be thanked and valued. Thankless service for others is found to be one of life's cruellest cards. And without faith and the perspective of the judgment and the eternal consequence of the Kingdom, we will live in frustration over this, and will never get that appreciation and recognition. This is an example of where God "has set eternity" in the heart of man, a longing and wiring which which will only find resolution in the life of faith which leads to eternity. Our longing for perfect relationships is another example.

However, the "otherwise" could mean 'bad works'; the comfort being that secretly committed bad works will all the same be judged, and Timothy should not worry unduly about the bad works which he could not detect or find enough evidence to openly rebuke. Again, in this case, we see Timothy's tendency to overly worry.

For the righteous, our acceptability before God now is related to our acceptability with Him at judgment day. Our good works are manifest before we reach the judgment, which will manifest them again (1 Tim. 5:25). Thus David reflected on the experiences of his life: "Thou hast made my judgment; thou satest in the throne judging right... and he shall judge the world (at the second coming, through Christ, Acts 17:11) in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness" (Ps. 9:4,8 This shows the continuity between God's attitude to him in his mortal life, and God's attitude at the coming judgment. If Christ is glorified by us now, we will glorify Him in that day (2 Thess. 1:10,12).