Translation & Notes

1 Timothy 5:17-25

1 Tim. 5:17 Οἱ καλῶς προεστῶτες πρεσβύτεροι διπλῆς τιμῆς ἀξιούσθωσαν, μάλιστα οἱ κοπιῶντες ἐν λόγῳ καὶ διδασκαλίᾳ.

The elders who lead well must be considered worthy of double honor, that is those who labor in the word and in teaching.

προεστῶτες or “who lead” is functioning as an adjective that describes the elders.

καλῶς or “well” is an adverb describing how they lead.

πρεσβύτεροι or “elders” is an adjective functioning as a noun. The word is occasionally used in the NT as an adjective to refer to someone who is older (see the older brother in Luke 15:25 or older women in 1 Timothy 5:2). But more often the word is used to refer to a specific person or group of people. In the Gospels, the word often refers to the Jewish elders, who were often connected with the Pharisees. In the NT letter, the word is often used to refer to church leaders.

διπλῆς τιμῆς or “double honor” could mean especially high honor, it could refer to both esteem and monetary payment (like an honorarium). The notion that payment is included in the double honor is strengthened by the reference to the worker being worthy of his wages in the next verse.

ἀξιούσθωσαν or “must be considered worthy” is a third person imperative. Since English has no equivalent form, translation is difficult. Some translations render this as “let them be considered worthy.” “They must be considered” seems to carry more of the force of an imperative. So the elders who lead well, by virtue of their sound leadership must be considered worthy of double honor.

μάλιστα or “that is” could have one of two meanings here. Many translations renders this as “especially.” “Especially” would seem to indicate a sub-group within the larger group of elders. The larger group of elders would be those who lead well, and the sub-group would be especially those who labor in the word and teaching. If μάλιστα is to be translated as “that is” or “namely,” the implication would not be a sub-group of elders, but a restatement of what this group of elders was committed to doing, proclamation and teaching.

οἱ κοπιῶντες or “those who labor.” If μάλιστα is to be taken as “that is,” “those who labor” is an adjective further describing these elders.

ἐν λόγῳ καὶ διδασκαλίᾳ or “in the word and in teaching.” “In the word” is often taken to refer to preaching. It most likely refers to the act of speaking or proclamation, hence some translations referring to “speaking” or “preaching.” The entire phrase describes the content of what the elders labor in, proclamation and teaching.

1 Tim. 5:18  λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφή· Βοῦν ἀλοῶντα οὐ φιμώσεις, καί· Ἄξιος ὁ ἐργάτης τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ.

For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is threshing,” and “the laborer is worthy of his wages.”

λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφή or “for the Scripture says” introduces two quotations: the first from Deuteronomy 25:4 and the second from Luke 10:7. The issue of whether Paul was quoting from Luke is complicated, but at least Paul seems to be putting Jesus’ words on par with the OT Scriptures. Both of these quotations are given to support the claim that the elders must be considered worthy of honor.

Βοῦν ἀλοῶντα οὐ φιμώσεις or “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is threshing” is a quotation from Deuteronomy 25:4. Paul is applying a principle from the OT Law, that an ox who is laboring to thresh grain is worthy of eating some of the fruits of his labor. In the style of an argument from lesser to greater, if the ox is worthy to reap some of the fruits of his labor, how much more should this apply to the faithful church leader.

Ἄξιος ὁ ἐργάτης τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ or “the laborer is worthy of his wages” is found in Luke 10:7 in the context of Jesus sending out the 72 to heal and to proclaim that the kingdom of God and had come near (Luke 10:9). When the 72 entered a town, they were to remain in the home that welcomed them, eating what that family provided for them because “the laborer is worthy of his wages.” This quote again supports the idea that church leaders are worthy of material support, just like the 72 were worthy of the support they received.

1 Tim. 5:19 κατὰ πρεσβυτέρου κατηγορίαν μὴ παραδέχου, ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ π δύο τριν μαρτύρων.

Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.

μὴ παραδέχου or “do not receive” is a second person singular command addressed specifically to Timothy. As Paul’s representative in the church at Ephesus, Timothy would have been involved in handling accusations brought against church leaders.

ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ π δύο τριν μαρτύρων or “except on the basis of two or three witnesses.” Deuteronomy 19:15 established the principle that two or three witnesses were necessary to establish criminal charges against someone under the Old Testament Law. Jesus extended this principle to handling sin in the church by requiring two or three witnesses to establish a charge of sin before the matter could be taken before the church (Matthew 18:15-18). In this case, Paul is mandating that a charge of sinful conduct brought against an elder had to be established based on the testimony of two or three witnesses, or the charge was to be dismissed.

1 Tim. 5:20 τοὺς ἁμαρτάνοντας ἐνώπιον πάντων ἔλεγχε, ἵνα καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ φόβον ἔχωσιν.

Rebuke those who sin in the presence of all, so that the rest might be afraid.

τοὺς ἁμαρτάνοντας or “those who sin” most likely refers to the elders against whom changes of sinful conduct can be substantiated based on two or three witnesses.

ἐνώπιον πάντων or “in the presence of all” refers either to the presence of all the elders or to the presence of the whole church. The phrase most likely refers to the whole church. Given the public nature of the elders’ ministry to the church, their sins must be addressed in front of the whole church.

ἔλεγχε or “rebuke” is another second person singular command to Timothy. The sinful conduct of the elder was to be demonstrated before the whole church.

ἵνα καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ φόβον ἔχωσιν or “so that the rest also might be afraid.” In Deuteronomy 21:21, when a rebellious son was stoned to death for being a drunkard and a glutton, the man’s death was to invoke fear in the rest of Israel when they heard about the stoning. In the same way, the public rebuke of an elder found in sin was to invoke an appropriate fear of God among the rest of the church, discouraging them from engaging in similar sinful patterns (see also Deuteronomy 13:11).

1 Tim. 5:21 Διαμαρτύρομαι ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ καὶ τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν ἀγγέλων, ἵνα ταῦτα φυλάξῃς χωρὶς προκρίματος, μηδὲν ποιῶν κατὰ πρόσκλισιν.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and the elect angels that you follow these commands without prejudice, doing nothing on the basis of partiality.

Διαμαρτύρομαι or “I charge you” can refer to a solemn testimony in the sense of Paul testifying to the gospel (Acts 20:24), but here it likely carries the implication of a charge given to Timothy. So here “you” has been supplied for the sake of clarity, indicating that Paul is giving this charge to Timothy. This translation is supported by the many surrounding commands given specifically to Timothy.

ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ καὶ τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν ἀγγέλων or “before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels” indicates the witnesses before whom Paul made this charge to Timothy. The “elect angels” could refer to a certain group of angels, perhaps those specifically tasked with carrying out judgment, or “elect angels” could simply refer to angels as opposed to the fallen angels.

ταῦτα or “these commands” refers to the series of commands Paul is giving Timothy. The word “commands” is not present in the Greek text but has been supplied for the sake of clarity. The commands could refer to the commands in 1 Timothy 5-6, or more broadly to the commands throughout the whole. Whatever the case, the solemness of the charge at least refers to the commands related to church leaders in 1 Timothy 5:17-25.

ἵνα or “that” indicates the content of the charge which follows.

χωρὶς προκρίματος- “or without prejudice” refers to keeping the commands related to elders without prejudging a case. The emphasis is on acting based on the evidence presented and not based on preconceived notions.

μηδὲν ποιῶν κατὰ πρόσκλισιν or “doing nothing on the basis of partiality” demonstrates one way to avoid prejudging. This involves not showing favoritism but judging based on the merits of each case. Paul is again drawing on concepts found in the OT Law, such as Leviticus 19:15 where favoritism should not be shown to the rich or to the poor, but judgments should be rendered justly.

1 Tim. 5:22 Χεῖρας ταχέως μηδενὶ ἐπιτίθει μηδὲ κοινώνει ἁμαρτίαις ἀλλοτρίαις· σεαυτὸν ἁγνὸν τήρει.

Do not lay hands on anyone too hastily, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

Χεῖρας ταχέως μηδενὶ ἐπιτίθει or “do not lay hands on anyone too hastily” is a second person singular command given specifically to Timothy. This is not necessarily to say that Timothy was the only one involved in the laying on off hands, but Paul was specifically warning Timothy about his role in this process. The laying on off hands seems to have symbolized the setting apart of certain men for leadership positions in the church.

μηδὲ κοινώνει ἁμαρτίαις ἀλλοτρίαις or “and do not share in the sins of others” implies that by laying hands on an unqualified elder, Timothy would be sharing some of the responsibility for the sins that such an unqualified elder would later commit.

1 Tim. 5:23 Μηκέτι ὑδροπότει, ἀλλʼ οἴνῳ ὀλίγῳ χρῶ διὰ τὸν στόμαχον καὶ τὰς πυκνάς σου ἀσθενείας.

No longer drink only water, but use a little wine on account of your stomach and your frequent sicknesses.

Μηκέτι ὑδροπότει or “no longer drink only water.” The implication seems to be that Timothy was only drinking water, as Daniel was only drinking water in Daniel 1:12.

ἀλλʼ οἴνῳ ὀλίγῳ χρῶ or “but use a little wine” is another command to Timothy to stop drinking water, but to drink a little wine as well.

διὰ τὸν στόμαχον καὶ τὰς πυκνάς σου ἀσθενείας or “on account of your stomach and your frequent sicknesses” shows that this use of wine was intended for medicinal purposes. The wine was to be used because of Timothy’s stomach troubles and illnesses. Some speculate that Timothy was influenced by the ascetic attitude of some of the false teachers, who abstained from certain foods that God meant to be enjoyed with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:3). Overall, this verse appears to represent a brief divergence from commands related to church leaders perhaps occasioned by Paul’s call for Timothy to keep himself pure at the end of 5:23.

1 Tim. 5:24 Τινῶν ἀνθρώπων αἱ ἁμαρτίαι πρόδηλοί εἰσιν προάγουσαι εἰς κρίσιν, τισὶν δὲ καὶ ἐπακολουθοῦσιν·

The sins of some men are evident, going before them to judgment, but for some, they follow after them.

Τινῶν ἀνθρώπων αἱ ἁμαρτίαι πρόδηλοί εἰσιν or “the sons of some men are evident” resumes the topic of handling the selection of elders. The principle is that some people’s sins are obvious to everyone. These men are immediately disqualified from church leadership because they have sinned in obvious ways.

προάγουσαι εἰς κρίσιν or “going before them to judgment.” The judgment in this case would seem to be the judgment concerning whether this person is qualified for church leadership. Some would suggest the judgment in view here is the final judgment, but this seems unlikely given the reference in the next phrase to some people’s sins following after them.

τισὶν δὲ καὶ ἐπακολουθοῦσιν or “but for some, they follow after them.” There seems to be a deliberate wordplay here between going before and following after. While some people’s sins are obvious, immediately disqualifying them from church leadership, if the church is not careful in selecting leaders, the sins of others will only become obvious after these unqualified men have been appointed to positions of leadership. In this way, 1 Timothy 5:24-25 function as a further explanation of the need to be careful not to lay hands on anyone hastily.

1 Tim. 5:25 ὡσαύτως  καὶ τὰ ἔργα τὰ καλὰ πρόδηλα, καὶ τὰ ἄλλως ἔχοντα κρυβῆναι οὐ δύνανται.

Likewise also good works are evident, and even those that are considered otherwise are not able to remain hidden.

ὡσαύτως or “likewise” demonstrates a connection between 5:24 and 5:25. As 5:24 demonstrated that some sins are not immediately obvious, 5:25 makes the same point concerning some good works.

καὶ τὰ ἄλλως ἔχοντα or “even those considered otherwise” refers to good works that do not seem to be immediately evident. As the next phrase makes clear, even these apparently concealed good works will become evident in due time. So in the context of selecting church leaders, some men might not as obviously display the types of good works required for church leaders. But over times, the less obvious good works of some might become more evident, demonstrating their qualification for church leadership.

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