1 Timothy 5:1-16

1 Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;

[Rebuke not an elder] That is, an elderly person; for the word is here taken in it's natural sense, and signifies one advanced in years. There are but few cases in which it at all becomes a young man to reprove an old man, and especially one who is a father in the church. If such a one does wrong, or gets out of the way, he should be entreated as a father, with great caution and respect.

[The younger men as brethren] Showing humility and arrogating nothing to yourself on account of your office. Feel for them as you ought to feel for your own brethren.

2 The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.

[The elder women as mothers] Treating them with the respect due to their age.

[The younger as sisters] Feel for every member of the Church, old and young, male and female; consider them as fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters; treat them all with gentleness and labor to keep them in, not to expel them from, the Church.

[With all purity] With all chastity. See notes on 1 Timothy 4:12.

There are some who seem to take a barbarous pleasure in expelling members from the Church. They should be continued in as long as possible; while they are in the church - under its' ordinances and discipline - there is some hope that their errors may be corrected, but, when once driven out again into the world, that hope must necessarily become extinct. As judgement is God's strange work, so excommunication should be the strange, the last, and most reluctantly performed work of every Christian minister.

3 Honour widows that are widows indeed.

One meaning of the word, to honour, is to support, sustain and so on, and here it is most obviously to be taken in this sense. Provide for those widows, especially those who are widows indeed - persons truly destitute, being aged and helpless, having neither children nor friends to take care of them, and who behave as becometh their destitute state.

4 But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.

[But if any widows have children or nephews] This shows that widows indeed are those that have neither children nor nephews; i.e. no relatives that either will or can help them, or no near relatives alive.

[ Let them learn first to show piety at home] Let these children or nephews provide for their aged or helpless parents or relatives and not burden the church with them while they are able to support them.

[And to requite their parents] Let them learn to give benefit for benefit. Your parents supported and nourished you when you were young and helpless; you ought therefore to support them when they are old and destitute. This is called showing piety; and there is doubtless an allusion to the fifth commandment: Honor your father and your mother - provide for them in their old age and afflictions; God commands this.

5 Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.

Left entirely alone - having neither children nor relatives to take care of her - finding she has no other helper, she continues in prayer and supplication, that she may derive that from God which, in the course of his providence, he has deprived her of among men.

6 But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.

[She that liveth in pleasure] She that liveth delicately - voluptuously, indulging herself with dainties; it does not indicate grosly criminal pleasures but one who simply indulges herself in good eating and drinking, pampering her body at the expense of the mind. The word is used in reference to what we term petted and spoiled children. ...the life of pleasure mentioned here does not mean prostitution or uncleanness of any kind, though such a life may naturally lead to dissolute manners.

[Is dead while she liveth] No purpose of life is answered by the existence of such a person.

7 And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.

[That they may be blameless] Charge the whole church to attend to these things, that they may be blameless. These words are not spoken of the widows only, but of the Church, or its' officers; it cannot be restricted to the widows, for the adjective is both of the masculine and feminine gender.

8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

That is, his own family or poor widow or relative that lives under his roof.

9 Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man.

[Taken into the number] Let her not be taken into the list of those for which the church must provide.

[Under threescore years] As it might be supposed that, previous to this age, they might be able to do something towards their own support.

[Having been the wife of one man] Having lived in conjugal fidelity with her husband; or having had one husband at a time.

10 Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.

[Well reported of for every good work] Numbers being able to bear testimony, as the word implies, that she has not only avoided all sin, but that she has walked according to the testimony of God.

[Brought up children] It was was customary among the gentiles to [put out] their children, when so poor that they were not able to provide for them. Pious and humane people took these up; and fed and clothed and educated them. The words brought up may refer to the children of others who were educated in the Christian faith by pious Christian women.

[Lodged strangers] If she have been given to hospitality, freely contributing to the necessitous when she had it inher power

[Washed the saint's feet] This was an office of humility shown to all strangers and travellers in eastern countries, who, either walking barefoot or having only a sort of sole to defend the foot, needed washing when they came to their journey's end. Pious women generally did this act of kindness.

[Relieved the afflicted] Visited and ministered to the sick.

[Diligently followed every good work] In a word, if she have been altogether a Christian, living according to the precepts of the Gospel and doing the Lord's work with all her heart, soul and strength.

11 But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry;
12 Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.
13 And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.
14 I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
15 For some are already turned aside after Satan.

As introduced in verse 6, the person who has few responsibilities and little purpose in life may be slow to mature. Paul advises that younger widows need to remarry and have a family and responsibilities. They should not be admitted into the group being provided full support until they have had time to develop the character described in verses 9 and 10.

16 If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.

If any Christian man or woman have poor widows, which are their relatives, let them relieve them - provide them with the necessaries of life, and not burden the Church with their maintenance, that the funds may be spared for the support of those who are widows indeed.

Historical information drawn from Adam Clarke's Commentary, 2nd edition published in New York by Lane and Scott, 1850. More recent editions may be purchased from


This page updated 09/12/2008

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