Study Notes

1Timothy 5:1-25


Paul is continuing to tell young pastor Timothy his job description. In this chapter, he will talk about the necessity and method of rebuking, overseeing the church's benevolence towards widows, and his relationship to the elders in the church.

5:1-2 Rebukes

Quite simply, rebuking is confronting someone about their sin, pointing it out, bringing correction.

Part of the pastor's job description is to bring rebuke where it is needed. Doesn't always make him the most popular guy in church, but it is necessary. After all, Jesus said,

Luke 17:3 "...If your brother sins, rebuke him..."

And Paul told Timothy,

2Tim. 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season {and} out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

It's part of the job. However, some pastors want to be people pleasers. They neglect rebuke, wanting to make sure that everyone in the church is happy, so they can be popular and keep their job. But in doing so, they miss the real blessing, because the Scripture says,

Prov. 28:23 He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with the tongue.

I have found this to be true. Over my years in ministry, far more people have thanked me for having the boldness to tell them the truth than have people been offended and blown out. I firmly believe,

Prov. 27:5 Better is open rebuke Than love that is concealed.

Now, there are a lot of Greek words that get translated as "rebuke" in English. The word used here literally means "to pound on someone." Paul is saying, "Timothy, when you rebuke people, don't beat up on them. Yes, as a pastor, you need to rebuke people, but don't pound them. Love them. Show them respect. If an older man needs to be rebuked, appeal to him like a father. If a younger man needs to be rebuked, talk to him like a brother. If an older woman, rebuke her with the same respect you'd show your mother, and if a younger woman, talk to her like a sister."

Too many pastors have missed these verses. They verbally beat up people. We had one family in church whose last pastor came to their house and literally screamed and yelled at them for having a Christmas tree in their home. Another woman told me that when her last pastor got angry at her for not volunteering for something, he approached her angrily on a Sunday morning and hissed, "Listen closely to today's sermon, because there's something in it just for you!"

If you are in sin, there will be times that you must be rebuked by leadership in the church. But it must be in keeping with these standards.

5:3-16 Caring For Widows

This section of Scripture sounds strange to our 21st century ears. Let me set the scene for you. It was very difficult for a woman to be gainfully employed in that era of history. There were some jobs to be found, or made, but by and large it was the father or husband that provided for a woman.

If a woman's husband died, there was no retirement fund, welfare, or life insurance to depend on. She would be forced to immediately find a job (nearly impossible), move back in with her father, or be supported by her grown children or other relatives until she was married again.

But of course, some women had no father or other living relatives. What were they to do?

The early church knew the importance of ministering Christ-like love and support to those in need, and thus they had established financial and practical support ministries for widows. In Acts 6 we read of the daily distribution of food that the church gave to widows. The church maintained a list of these widows that they were feeding and supporting.

As with the administration of any church funds, there had to be standards for who was benefiting, otherwise the church would quickly go broke. Paul's instruction to Timothy is to give him the standards and qualifications that a woman must meet in order to be put on this list.

1) Family Support

First of all, they had to be "widows indeed." In other words, they had to have no family to support them. It should always fall first to the family to support those in the family. Paul says,

1Tim. 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.

Supporting your family is not only acceptable in the sight of God, it is a requirement. The church office receives many calls from women in town who need money for groceries, bills, house payments, etc. We too have standards for the distribution of benevolence. One thing that we ask is about the husband, if there is one. I can't tell you how many times women have told me, "Oh, my husband is planning on getting another job. He's planning on filling out some applications next week." These men are actually WORSE than unbelievers in God's eyes, for they have neglected to care for the people that God has entrusted to them.

2) Hope Fixed On God

The second requirement of the early church for placing a widow on the list was that she had to have devoted her life to serving the Lord. I think of Anna, in the days that Jesus was born.

Luke 2:36-37 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Fan-oo-ALE, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with a husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. And she never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.

After becoming a widow, she had become a full-time prayer warrior. Widows who were added to the church's list had to have devoted their lives to the Lord, making a vow to serve God alone, to continue in prayer and ministry. If they were living lives of "wanton pleasure" (in other words, living luxuriously for their own pleasure), they were not to be added. They were really dead while they were alive. Of course, the same is true for us - if we're living for pleasure, we're really just walking dead. So these widows had to be living exclusively for the Lord.

3) Not Less Than Sixty

The widows on the list had to be at least 60 years old. The life span of people in that age was not usually much past 60. These were women that didn't have many years left.

4) The Wife Of One Man

There was also the prerequisite that the woman had been married to only one man. Just like the prerequisites of elders and deacons being "husbands of one wife," this has been interpreted many different ways.

5) Good Reputation

Finally, a widow had to have a reputation for good works. A good reputation as a mom, as hospitable, service-oriented, assisting those in need, living a life of good works.


Paul also lists those who were not qualified to be on the list. A younger widow would likely marry again, and thus nullify her vow, her pledge, to serve God for the rest of her life. Also, the younger women tended to get bored of the ministry of prayer. They would begin to occupy their days by socializing, which usually led to gossip and interference in other's lives.

5:17-25 Elders

In these six verses, Paul instructs Timothy about how he as the pastor should act towards the ministry of elders in the church.

As you may recall, elders were spiritual, godly men that had been appointed in the church to serve as the spiritual ministers and leaders in the congregation. Their prerequisites for this office were detailed in chapter three.

Paul points out the value of the elders, especially those in the preaching and teaching ministries. He says to let them...

1Tim. 5:17 considered worthy of double honor...

Now this doesn't mean that their pay should be doubled. It means that they should be thought of in the minds of the pastor and congregation as being worth twice what they are paid.


Here again, the Scripture points out the opportunity of people being paid for the ministry that they perform. Deuteronomy 25 is quoted,

Deut. 25:4 "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing."

In other words, while the ox is working on the threshing floor, he should be allowed to eat some of what he is threshing. The ministry should be the same way. 1Corinthians 9 says,

1Cor. 9:14 ...the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.

There is nothing wrong with making your living in ministry, if that's what God has called you to. The Levites were supported by Israel's tithes and offerings. Jesus and the apostles lived on the generosity of the people that they were ministering to. Today, pastors are paid to preach the word to their congregations.


Also in regards to elders, there is a tendency on the part of the devil to want to destroy their ministries. The devil can easily raise up accusers to say, "This elder stole that money! I saw him at the bar! He propositioned me!"

Because they are in a place of such high-frequency attack, Paul reminds Timothy not to jump to judgment at the accusation of one person. Of course, this isn't just a rule for elders, but for anyone. The law of God specifically stated that a matter had to be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

Deut. 19:15 "A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.

It is a good rule to live by, seeing as how easily our opinions of a person can turn around when we hear gossip or accusations.

Public Rebuke

However, if is is established that an elder is in unrepentant, continuing sin, he is to be rebuked in front of the church. This is in line with the outline for confrontation that Jesus gave us in Matthew 18. There is to be no partiality on the part of the pastor, refusing to obey this command because he's "best buddies" with the guy. A pastor is supposed to be God's ambassador in the church, making decisions as God would. There is no room for a pastor to compromise because of bias or partiality.

Too Hastily

When appointing an elder, the pastor lays hands on him and imparts his spiritual authority to him. That is a huge responsibility that I do not take lightly. This Scripture tells me that if I lay hands on someone without proper prayer, fasting, and discernment, and they fall into sin, I share in the responsibility for it.

And we have to be careful, because while some sins are obvious, others are beneath the surface, remaining concealed, not having yet reared their ugly heads. We need to carefully inquire of the Spirit of God to reveal to us that may be in a candidate's heart and mind.

Wine For Ailments

And finally, as we talked about in chapter 3, pastors and elders were forbidden to partake of any alcohol. Here, an exception is made for Timothy, because of his medical condition.

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