I Timothy 5. Church Discipline.

Key Notes: Widows in the church. Discipline and compensation of elders. Five qualities of good leaders. Care of dependents. Ten aspects of church discipling and discipline.

In Chapter 5, Paul moves on in the sequence of thought that began in chapter 1.

Ch.1 Matters of doctrine
Ch.2 Church decorum
Ch.3 The qualifications of elders and deacons
Ch.4 Timothy's personal training.
Ch.5 Church discipline.

He gives us instruction on the Church, but we also have his valuable advice to Timothy, a young church leader--"...so that...you may know how to behave in the household of God." (ITim.3:14–15)
In chapter 5 Paul takes up several issues in which an elder/pastor must intervene or direct the activities of others: people of different ages, widows, elders and initiates.

5:1–2 How should one address a correction to an older man, or woman, or peer? As one would address a member of one's own family, with care and deference, encouraging rather than denouncing. There are special concerns for a church leader to treat younger women with purity. Job said "I have made a covenant with my eyes. How then could I gaze at a virgin?" (Job 31:1).

5:3–16 In this long section, Paul is concerned for the maintenance of what appears to be a large number of women who have lost their husbands. This implies a large congregation. He defines four categories of widows:

A. those whose families can care for them.
5:4 "If a widow has children or grand-children, let them first learn piety in their own family and make some return to their parents...."
5:8 "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
5:16 "If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her assist them so that the church is not burdened...."

B. young widows who should remarry.
5:11 "Refuse to enroll younger widows, for when they grow wanton against Christ they desire to marry and so they incur condemnation for having violated their first pledge."
5:14 "I would have younger widows marry, bear children, rule their households and give the enemy no occasion to revile us."

C. the merry widow who is happy to be free from constraints.
5:6"... she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives."

D. older, indigent, working widows that the church must care for.
5:9 "Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, wife of one husband, attested in good deeds, having brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the feet of the saints, relieved the afflicted and devoted herself to doing good...."
5:5" She who is a real widow and is left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day...."

T here appears to be an order of widows because Paul mentions qualifications:
age, marriage, service, godliness: 5:9–10),
a pledge to Christ (5:12),
an enrollment (5:9).
Evidently they had enrolled some young widows with a pledge to serve the Lord exclusively, and later had them retract their decision and arrange to marry. Paul says it is unrealistic to expect young widows not to marry; in fact they ought not be enrolled, but should be encouraged to remarry and raise a second family.

Acts 9:39,41 mentions "all the widows" around Dorcas, suggesting an association of widows in Joppa, as well as in Ephesus, where Timothy was working. Our first reference to an order for widows outside of the Bible is from Tertullian (b.160AD). By the time of Jerome (b.342AD) and Basil (b.338AD) monastic orders for both men and women were well established. We don't know if Paul would have affirmed these monastic orders, although they saved civilization in the Dark Ages and prevented secularization of the Church.

5:17–22 Paul now addresses the needs of elders and their compensation. They are entitled to material support based on  Biblical references:

"You shall not muzzle the ox when he treads out the corn." (Deut.25:4). Paul earlier commented on this text: "Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does He not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of a share in the crop." (ICor.9:9–10)
"...you shall give him his hire on the day he earns it, before the sun goes down, for he is poor and sets his heart upon it....(Deut.24:15)
"...for the laborer deserves his wages." (Lk.10:7)
"...give the portion due to the priests and the Levites, that they might give themselves to the law of the Lord." (IIChron.31:4)
Paul denied himself the right to compensation but stoutly defended it for others. ICor.9:12–14

5:19–21 The procedure for dealing with a charge against an elder requires 2–3 witnesses. If the elder persists in wrong-doing, a  public rebuke follows. (See Matt.18:15–20.) Paul demands impartiality in the strongest terms:" I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and the elect angels to keep these rules without favor, doing nothing from partiality."

5:22 Do not be hasty to lay on hands. Two situations have been suggested: the ordination of elders, or receiving back repentant sinners. The ordination is more likely. Paul says we should not be in haste because we may be embarrassed later by sinful conduct or theological error.

5:23 "A little wine for the stomach" is, I think, the use of wine before a meal to stimulate the appetite. It has no other benefit to the stomach although grape products, fresh as well as fermented, are beneficial to the arteries over the long run.

5:24 Wisdom must be used to discern hidden sin and conspicuous good deeds.

In these last verses, Paul gives Timothy five qualities of good leadership which he must master:

appreciation 5:17
fairness 5:19
impartiality 5:21
caution 5:22
discernment 5:24

Of these qualities, it appears that impartiality is the most difficult. We cater to our friends and shun our opponents. We are likely to overlook the little sins of our friends and amplify the misdeeds of others. Paul presses for impartiality in the most commanding terms.

The care of widows is not being addressed by the Church. Government pensions and social services have preempted the Church, as in public welfare in general. However, the Scripture has much to say about aspects of care of the needy other than their financial concerns, especially justice.

Widows, fatherless, and the stranger:
"He (God) executes justice for the fatherless and the widow and loves the sojourner:" (Deut.10:18)
 "You  shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless or take a widow's garment in pledge but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt...." (Deut.24:17–18)
"...seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow." (Isa.1:17)

 "Honor your father and mother...." Ex.20:12
Do not use the excuse that money intended for the parents is  diverted to the church. (Mk.7:9–13)
Jesus provided for his mother. (Jn.19:26)

 "Let the children come to me...." (Matt.19:14)
 "Children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for the children." (IICor.12:14)
 "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Eph.6:4)

"You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his suit." (Ex.23:6)
See Deut.24,25 for a number of economic rules on care of the  poor.

What would God have us do for the afflicted of other nations? What is our response to millions of AIDS orphans in Africa?


In summary of the chapter, Paul advises kindness in rebuke of members, special provision for the destitute widow, reward for the pastor's hard work, impartiality in judgment of elders, caution and discernment in general. The chapter is about church discipline, a subject also covered extensively in I,II Corinthians.

We think of discipline only in terms of rebuking and punishing misdeeds. We need to enlarge our concept to discipling by the Church, a work that involves encouragement and support as well as admonishment. The first five aspects of discipline are spiritual, the last five aspects are material or procedural.

1. making disciples by teaching and preaching (ITim.5:17) and baptizing. Matt.28:18–19 is our mandate. The primary task of the church is the care and birthing of souls.
2. rites of passage:
     baptism, membership (regenerate)
     death and burial
3. protection against doctrinal error. Almost all of Paul's letters deal with one or more heresies.
4. correction of bad behaviors. The active supervision of members' conduct is the Church's obligation.
ICor.5–7 discusses sexual conduct in particular.
5. dealing with disputes, accusation against an individual; adjudication. ITim.5:19; ICor.6; Matt.18:15–20

6. support of pastors and other workers. ITim.5:17
7. support of the indigent, widows and orphans. ITim.5:3–16
8. decorum in church (ITim.2; ICor.11–14): dress, speech.
9. order of service (ICor.14:26–31; 16:2), including communion.(ICor.11:17–34
10.governance as the task of the congregation (Acts 6:5) and elders. ITim.3:5

Finally, church discipline is a personal discipline for Timothy. As he must exercise himself in personal godliness (ITim.5), he must also train himself so that the church is effectively governed.