1 Timothy 5 Commentary

1 Timothy 5, Exposition

Chapter Titles for 1 Timothy

  1. Paul’s philosophy of ministry
  2. Pray for leaders; godly women
  3. Overseers and deacons
  4. Departure from the faith; train for godliness
  5. Respectfully challenge; widows; elders
  6. Slaves and masters, godliness, money

Chapter 5, Respectfully challenge; widows; elders

Paul now instructs Timothy about how to treat people in the church. First, correct older men, younger men, older women, and younger women according to their age and honor due them (1 Timothy 5:1-2). Then, what about widows? Children and grandchildren have the first responsibility to the widows. Godly widows 60 years and older who are alone may be supported by the church. Younger widows should marry or be supported by a related woman believer (1 Timothy 5:3-16). The church elders who do a good job of leading the church deserve to be paid well, especially those who work hard at teaching the Scripture (1 Timothy 5:17-18). And, be careful about any accusations made against elders, and do not appoint men to the ministry who are not ready (1 Timothy 5:19-25).


  1. 1 Timothy 5:1-2. Instructions about how to correct older men, younger men, older women, and younger women according to their age and honor due them.
  2. 1 Timothy 5.3-16. Instructions about widows—who has first responsibility, church support of widows, and young widows.
  3. 1 Timothy 5.17-25. Instructions about church elders—paying them, accusations against them, warning about appointing men to the ministry who are not ready, and their sins and good deeds will become apparent.


  1. 1 Timothy 5:1-2. Instructions about how to correct older men, younger men, older women, and younger women according to their age and honor due them. He is to deal with them all as members of one family. Furthermore, he needs to shepherd and teach them with care, respect, and dignity. Remember that 1 Tim 3.15 calls the church the household of God.
    1. The verb in this section is "appeal" to them. Here appeal is a good translation. This verb goes with each group of people. Appeal to each as group listed. Παρακαλεω to call to one’s side, to strongly appeal, request, instill courage, encourage, comfort. Pres act imv. An ongoing process.
    2. Authority brings responsibility. With that responsibility comes properly dealing with people. Often the use of authority goes either too authoritarian or very weak leadership. Sadly some men think the pastor is a Christian version of General George Patton Jr. That has damaged people and the ministry. Others are weak by having no courage, giving no direction, and not supporting those serving with you. Paul instructs Timothy about how to handle people—especially those who may be problems.
    3. Older man πρεσβθτερος (adj used as noun) for one advanced in age. Same word as for church elder, but different context. Do not sharply rebuke. ἐπιπλήσσω to punish or chastise, especially with words, verbal pounding, aor act subjunctive with μη for a prohibition. It means do not do it. The older man should be respected. He has experience. Do not embarrass him or accuse him. Help him. Treat him as a father.
    4. Younger men. Comparative adj of νεος, new, fresh, young in age. They are not to be treated as inferior. Sometimes they make wrong choices. Sometimes the pride of their age gets in the way. But they often have energy and enthusiasm. Do not damage that. Treat them as brothers.
    5. Older women. Πρεσβθτερας feminine of the word for elder. The Bible says much about the importance of mothers and the respect do them. They at times can be bossy, and picky, and nosey. But treat them with respect and honor.
    6. Younger women as sisters in all purity. Protect them. Paul did not want Timothy to give any cause for sin. 2 Timothy 3.6-7, 5.11 may indicate some potential problem with the younger women.
    7. Summarize. The leader (pastor and teacher, elder, overseer) is to treat people according to their age and honor due them. He is to deal with them all as members of one Christian family. Furthermore, he needs to shepherd and teach them with care, respect, and dignity. He is to be authoritative, not authoritarian.
  2. 1 Timothy 5.3-16. Instructions about widows—who has first responsibility, church support of widows, and young widows. A genuine widow is one in needy circumstances and 2. has a strong spiritual life. 1 Timothy 5.3-16 Outline. Paul gives more detailed instructions for the church about the care of widows.

1 Timothy 5.4-8, the family is to care for widows.

        • Verse 5.4, The family
        • Verse 5, godly widows.
        • Verse 6, indulgent widows
        • Verses 7-8, all widows

1 Timothy 5.9-12, the church is to care for widows.

        • Verses 9-10, the church cares for these widows.
        • Verses 11-13, the church does not care for these widows.

1 Timothy 5.13-16, Paul gives what if? Instructions.

        • Verses 14-15, younger widows should marry.
        • Verse 16, believing women who are good friends of widows should step in and assist them.
    1. 1 Timothy 5.3 gives the general rule for widow care . Honor τιμαω timao, to put a value, show high regard for, revere, honor present active imperative 2nd singular to Timothy) genuine widows. This was what Timothy was to do and therefore teach the church to do. Widow is χηρα chera, is derived from a root that implies one is forsaken and therefore without help. In the ancient world a widow was often cast aside. A genuine widow is one who is 1. in needy circumstances and 2. has a strong spiritual life. Timothy writes that the church is to honor (τιμας pres act impv) widows. See Exodus 20.12 and Deuteronomy 5.16 where the LXX has τιμαω. We can see the problem in Acts 6 where the Hebrew people were not caring for the Hellenistic widows. There was tension between the Hellenist Jews and the native Jews. Acts 9.3, Dorcas (Tabitha, Aramaic) may indicate she was a widow. At the least, there was a group of widows who worked together.

In the Old Testament God gave instructions for the protection and care of widows.

  • Exodus 22.22, Deuteronomy 10.18, Deuteronomy 14.29, Deuteronomy 24.17, Psalm 146.9 are examples.

The New Testament frequently mentions widows.

      • Mark 12.38-44, Luke 2.36, Luke 4.25, Luke 7.11-17,Luke 18.1-8, Acts 9.36-43, 1 Timothy 5.3-16, James 1.27.
    1. 1 Timothy 5.4. The children and grandchildren of widows are to learn (μανθανω manthano in pres act impv 3rd plural) to practice piety or godliness (ευσεβεω eusebeo pres act infin). They learn by being taught, by observation, and by practice. This is giving back to them or paying them back for all the parent and grandparent has done. Should be taught while growing up and through family life. This pleases God (αποδεκτος apodektos, pleasing, acceptable).
      • Family responsibility
      • Learn in family
      • A reimbursement
      • Pleases God
    2. 1 Timothy 5.5. The godly widow. Who is a widow? She is alone and she has a good Christian life.
      • She is alone, a perfect participle as subject describing her. Probably more than just a recent widow.
      • She is focused on God. See Colossians 3.1-2, 1 Corinthians 10.31. Fixed her hope. A perfect tense of ελπιζω elpizo, to expect, hope with confidence (intensive emphasizing the results or present state of a past action). This is her present state and has been for some time. She has proved she is a genuine widow.
      • She is a prayer warrior. She continues in it (προσμενω prosmeno, pres act indic. To remain, to stay with someone or something). She is consistent in her prayer life.
      • 1 Timothy 5.6. The indulgent widow. The wrong way for a widow to act. The verb is σπαταλαω pres act participle nom feminine sing. This is the subject of the sentence. The word means to live beyond what is proper, to indulge oneself. Note the present tense. She is dead (perfect act indic) while she is alive (pres act participle). This widow is physically alive, her spiritual life is dead. See Ephesians 5.14, also Revelation 2.4. This lady, according to 1 Cor 3 is carnal. According to Galatians 5 she is living by her flesh.

1 Timothy 5.7-8. Instructions for families to care for their widows.

    1. 1 Timothy 5.7. Timothy is again told to teach these things to the church. The families are the first line of support. Children and grandchildren are wrong if they do not care for the widows in their family.
    2. 1 Timothy 5.8. The warning and judgment. In the context this is directed to the families of widows. Note the change in tenses. Provide is a present act indicative. Denied is a perfect middle indicative. Those who ignore their responsibilities to family are acting worse than unbelievers. Unbelievers often care for their families. Christians should do at least that good.

1 Timothy 5.9-12, the instructions for whom the church is to provide widow care

        • Verses 9-10, the church cares for these widows.
        • Verses 11-13, the church is not responsible to not care for these widows.
    1. 1 Timothy 5.9. Requirements to be eligible for church care if family does not. 1. At least 60 years old and 2. wife of one man. The age is easy. What about the wife of one man? Let’s think. Does it mean only married once? We know that both the Lord and Paul taught that divorce and remarriage was correct in certain circumstances (adultery, the unbeliever leaving the believer). Here in 1 Timothy 5.14, Paul encourages remarriage for the younger widows. Now is Paul saying that if this person is widowed again at the age of 60 she is not eligible for care? Probably not. Therefore, I conclude that wife of one man refers to a woman who 1. Was faithful to her husband, 2. If divorced and remarried it was under biblical conditions.
    2. 1 Timothy 5.10. The "if" in each is a first condition if. Paul lists activities that further qualify a widow for support. 1. A reputation for good works is probably the summary heading. She 2. cared for children—hers or others. This does not mean she had to have children. 3. Then hospitality, 4. she washed the saints feet indicating humbled service, 5. she assisted those in distress, and 6. She was devoted to every kind of good works.
    • "The qualifications taken together depict one who is clearly past the time one usually remarries and past an age where she is likely to be able to care for herself, who is known for marital and sexual fidelity and purity, for good works, and especially for caring for children, for those in need of hospitality, for those in special need, and finally who devotes herself to not only these but to every kind of good work that God requires of his people. In short, the widow to be put on the list is an elderly, faithful, and godly Christian for whom the church should regularly and faithfully care and to whom the church could entrust, if the need arises, tasks she has already performed." Knight, George W. The Pastoral Epistles: a Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1992. Print. New International Greek Testament Commentary.
    1. 1 Timothy 5.11-13, the church is not responsible to care for younger widows. Paul gives two reasons. 1. These may be guided by sexual desires more than pleasing Christ, and so marriage is upper most in their minds. What is their previous pledge πιστος (accusative sing)? This probably refers to an agreement to stay a widow and serve Christ and so the church provides care for her. Younger widows would be more likely to want to marry, and Paul therefore recommends that the younger women marry and not be provided for by the church. The condemnation could be from the family, from friends, or even from the church. 2. They may also, as younger women, have energy and desire for more social activity. This can result in going from house to house and spread gossip and interfere with people in their lives.
    2. 1 Timothy 5.14-15. Because of the temptations to the younger widows, Paul wants (βουλομαι boulomai, to wish, want, desire) them to marry, have children, keep house, and so not to give any reason for unbelievers to justly criticize them. Some younger women have already been turned aside (εκτρεπω ektrepo, to turn, to turn away, be dislocated; aor pass indic) after Satan. Temptations are too much.
    3. See the doctrine summary for care of widows according to 1 Timothy 5.3-16.
  1. 1 Timothy 5.17-25. Instructions about church elders—paying them, accusations against them, warning about appointing men to the ministry who are not ready, and their sins and good deeds will become apparent. The emphasis in 1 Timothy 3.1-7 was character.
    1. 1 This section may also have the background of the false teachers Paul refers to in 1 Timothy 1.3-7. The mention of accusations and laying on of hands in 1 Tim 5.17, 22 is a practical warning in view of the problems Timothy must correct.
    2. Timothy 5.17. The elders should rule well, and work hard at teaching and preaching (character and job). For this they should be considered worthy of double honor, which refers to payment of some kind. The use of overseer επισκοπος in 1 Tim 3.1 seems to indicate that the term overseer and elder are interchangeable.
  • Elders πρεσβυτερος presbuteros. From other passages the elder is the pastor. The title "elder" (πρεσβθτερος, elder, older man) is an official title emphasizing the rank.
  • The title "overseer" (επισκοπος, guardian, superintendent) is an official title emphasizing the supervisory activity (1 Tim 3.2; Titus 1.7).
  • The title "pastor and teacher" (ποιμην και διδασκαλος) is the working title for the man God gifts to teach, lead, and protect the believers with a particular congregation. Pastor emphasizes leadership, care for, protection, support, correction. Teacher emphasizes communication, instruction of the Word of God. Pastor and teacher emphasizes the spiritual gifts and ministries that result from the gifts. The pastor and teacher is also the overseer and elder (Eph 4.11; Acts 20.17 and 28).
  • Both elder and overseer refer to the pastor and teacher as the leader and both carry authority (1 Tim 5.17; Titus 1.5; 1 Pet 5.1-4).
  • More than one elder? This is possible, but the pastor does have the authority and primary leadership responsibility. The Bible does use elder in the plural, as in this passage, but that does not necessarily mean plural elders in a church or plural leadership. Either way the general tone of leadership in the Bible places one person as the primary authority, whether in the OT or the NT. Today that person is the pastor. See the biblical doctrine pastor and teacher.
  • Rule προΐστημι proistemi perf act participle well refers to those who exercise leadership, those at the head of others, those who care for others. It describes the elders.
  • Double honor in context seems to refer to some kind of pay. See Gal 6.6
    • Paul singles out those who work hard in word (λογος probable emphasis on the speaking), and teaching (διδασκαλια probable emphasis on the content for learning) indicates the communication ministry. See Titus 1.9 and 1 Thessalonians 5.12).
    • Moses selected leaders (Exodus 18.21-23). Jewish leaders at the time of Jesus (Matthew 16.21; Luke 7.3; Acts 4.5).
    1. 1 Tim 5.18. Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25.4 here and in 1 Corinthians 9.9, and also Matthew 10.10 and Luke 10.7 to support his previous statement about double honor. It is interesting that he refers to the OT and NT statements and calls them Scripture. This indicates that Paul understood the concept of the canon and considered both OT and NT statements as Scripture.
      • Here we can review the reasons have for believing the Bible, and the canon. Do this after finishing this section.
    2. 1 Tim 5.19-22. Timothy is to both protect, instruct, and to correct the elders.
    • 1 Tim 5.19. Accusations (κατηγορία kategoria, example John 18.29) against the elder must be supported by 2-3 witnesses (μάρτυς martus, one who testifies in legal matters, a witness).
      • Deut. 19:15; Matt. 18:16; John 8:17; 2 Cor. 13:1 affirm that two or three witnesses are necessary. It seems to be a favorite spectator sport to criticize leaders and especially the pastor.
      • 1 Tim 5.20. Here "those who continue in sin" (`αμαρτανω hamartano is a present active participle, masculine plural) probably indicating an ongoing sin pattern, not just an occasional failure. The plural sets up the principle.
      • "rebuke" ἐλέγχω in the pres act imperative, second singular and refers to Timothy as the one who does the rebuking. Timothy was Paul’s apostolic subordinate. So how much we can carry over to today is in question. If today, the application may be for the elders or pastors in the city or local.
      • "The rest" probably refers to the other elders in the city.
      • 1 Tim 5.21. Paul then solemnly charges Timothy to be fair and impartial when he deals with problem elders. To maintain ( φυλασσω phulasso, to guard, watch, protect, aor act subjunctive second singular) is also directed to Timothy as Paul’s representative in Ephesus.
      • Without bias (πρόκριμα prokrima, to decide beforehand) and without partiality (πρόσκλισις prosklisis). Before God, Jesus Christ, and the elect angels.
      • 1 Tim 5.22. Paul cautions Timothy about "ordination" of men to the ministry. 1. Do not lay hands on too quickly—know whom you are identifying, 2. Otherwise Timothy will be participating in the sins of the others, 3. Timothy is to keep himself pure (ἁγνός hagnos, pure, holy, innocent). Paul again stress Timothy’s life. Stay out of sin.
    1. 1 Timothy 5.23. Timothy has some digestive trouble. Water was often contaminated. Wine was safer to drink (1-4 dilution), and wine was used as medicine at times. The Romans believed that wine could do good and bad. It could help memory loss, depression, grief, bloating, gout, diarrhea, constipation, tapeworms, urinary problems, and vertigo. Rome also knew the dangers of drunkenness.
    2. 1 Timothy 5.24-25. Paul continues advising Timothy.
      • Sins generally become evident after time.
      • Good works also become evident.
      • The point is that it is good to know about those you appoint as leaders.
  1. Main points in chapter 5.
    1. Respect for those in the church body.
    2. The care of widows.
    3. Honor the elders—respect and pay.
    4. Be very careful about crediting accusations against elders. There are guidelines.
    5. Do not "ordain" or publically appointing leaders too quickly and without knowledge of their background, learning, and experience.
    6. Be aware of those you work with. Some can hide sins or a while. Good works will be evident.