Timothy had been entrusted with special responsibilities both as
to teaching and as to order in the church. Consequently if he kept
right and in a state of happy deliverance from these dangers he would
be a minister of deliverance to many others. But then this might bring
him into a measure of conflict with some. An elder even might need
admonition as verse 1 of chapter 5 shows us, and Timothy must be
careful not to set himself wrong in attempting to set him right. The
truth teaches us to render to all our fellow-believers their due,
whether men or women, whether old or young.
In verse 3 the question of the treatment of widows comes up and
the subject is continued to verse 16. We might be tempted to wonder
that so much space is given to the matter did we not remember that it
was this very question which first brought the spirit of contention
into the church of God, as recorded in Acts 6:1-7.
The general instruction of the passage is quite plain. Widows 60
years old and upwards without relations to support them were to be
“taken into the number,” or “put on the list,” as receiving their
support from the church if they had been marked by godliness and good
works. The church is to relieve those who are “widows indeed” but not
others. How wise is this ordering!
Other instructions come in by the way. Notice how clearly it is
taught that children and descendants (the word is “descendants” rather
than “nephews”) are responsible for the support of their parents. Thus
they shew godliness or piety at home. Let us emphasize this in our
minds for it is easily forgotten in these days of “doles” and other
forms of public support. The denunciation in verse 8 of the man who
avoids or neglects this duty is very severe, showing how serious a sin
it is in God's sight. There may be men quite renowned for piety in
public who are nevertheless branded as worse than an infidel for lack
of this piety at home.
The characteristics of a “widow indeed” as given in verse 5 are
worthy of note. The Christian who in the days of her prosperity gave
herself to such good works as are enumerated in verse 10, would have
recognized that after all it was just God Himself ministering to the
afflicted through her hands. He was the Giver and she but the channel.
Now the position is reversed but she knows well that she must not look
to the channels but to the mighty Source of all. Hence her trust is in
God and upon Him she waits in prayer. She too is marked by that trust
in the living God which is so large an element in practical godliness.
Contrasted with this is the widow living “in pleasure” or “in
habits of self-indulgence.” Such an one would be seeing life according
to the ideas of the world, but she is here declared to be dead while
living – practically dead, that is, to the things of God.
Sometimes worldly-minded believers ask rather plaintively why it
is that they do not make spiritual progress or have much spiritual joy?
Verse 6 supplies us with an answer. There is nothing more deadening
than selfindulgence in pleasure. The pleasure may be life of a worldly
sort but it is death spiritually, for the soul is thereby deadened
towards God and His things.
The bad effects of idleness come strongly before us in this
passage. The younger widows were not to be supported at the expense of
the church lest having no very definite occupation they should decline
in heart from Christ and come under judgment – not “damnation” which is
too strong a word. Their idleness then would assuredly produce a course
of tale-bearing and general interference in other people's affairs
which is most disastrous to the testimony of God. Idleness in the
twentieth century produces exactly the same crop of evil fruit as it
did in the first century.
Further instruction as to elders is given in verses 17 to 19. An
elder was not necessarily a recognized teacher of the word, though he
was to be “apt to teach” (3:2). Those who did “labour in the word and
doctrine” were to be counted worthy of double honour, and that honour
was to be expressed in a practical way as might be needful. If any of
them lacked in material things they were to be supplied as the
Scripture indicated. The first quotation of verse 18 is from the Old
Testament but the second is from the New, Luke 10:7. This is
interesting evidence that Luke's gospel was already in circulation and
recognized as the inspired Word of God equally with the Old Testament.
Above all, Timothy was to be moved by a care for the glory of God
in His house. Those who sinned were to be rebuked publicly so that all
the believers might be admonished and sobered thereby, only the
greatest possible care was to be taken lest anything like partiality
should creep in. Nothing is more common in the world than favouritism,
and we all of us so easily form prejudices either for or against our
brethren in Christ. Hence this solemn charge laid upon Timothy “before
God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels.”
Connected with the solemn charge of verse 21 against partiality comes the injunction, “Lay hands suddenly on no man.”
The laying on of hands is expressive of fellowship and
identification, as Acts 13:3 shows us. Barnabas and Saul were already
prophets and teachers when the Spirit called them to launch forth in
the evangelization of the Gentile world. There was therefore no thought
of “consecrating” them when their fellow-workers laid hands upon them,
but rather of showing full fellowship and identification with their
Timothy was to avoid haste in giving his sanction to any man lest
later he should have to discover that he had accredited one who was
unworthy, and thereby he might find himself in the unhappy position of
having a share in his misdeeds. The believer is to be careful not only
as to purity of a personal sort but also as to his associations.
Paul evidently knew how careful Timothy was as to personal
purity, hence the instruction of verse 23. This verse has been much
quoted in arguments as to the “temperance” question. It shows without a
doubt that Scripture does not warrant the propaganda of extreme
reformers. It shows however with equal clearness that a really godly
Christian, such as Timothy was, kept so clear of wine that he had to be
exhorted to take some medicinally, and then he was only told to take
Verse 24 is connected with the earlier part of verse 22. Many
things whether evil or good are not at all open and manifest and we may
therefore be easily deceived in our judgments. Ultimately however all
will be manifested for nothing can be permanently hid. A solemn thought