Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, by Witness Lee


In 5:1-16 we see in the second place that Paul instructed Timothy to exercise wisdom. His word not to upbraid an elderly man, but to entreat him as a father is a word of wisdom. It is a matter of wisdom not to rebuke sharply an elderly man. In dealing with saints of different ages, we need not only love, but also wisdom. We need to realize whom we are contacting. Are we speaking to an elderly brother or sister? Then we must speak to them as a son to a father or mother. Are we contacting a younger brother or sister? Then we must speak to them as a brother to a brother or a brother to a sister. Furthermore, we should speak one way to a father, another way to a mother, and in other ways to brothers and sisters. For example, in our human family we do not speak in the same way to all members of the family. We do not talk to our father in the same way as we do to our mother. If we speak the same way to all members of our family, we are indeed foolish. In all our relationships with saints of different ages we need wisdom.

If we exercise wisdom, we shall speak differently to saints of different ages. The brothers will talk to brothers in a way appropriate to brothers, but they will speak to sisters in a way appropriate to sisters. This is wisdom. We must not speak to a young sister in the same way as we do to an elderly man. Furthermore, one sister may embrace another. But a young sister should not show her love for a brother, young or old, by embracing him. Do not love the saints in a foolish way. Instead, always exercise wisdom, realizing whom you are contacting.


Third, all our dealings with the saints must be “in all purity” (5:2). Every contact with the brothers and sisters in the church life must be pure in every way. We need to be pure in our motive and intention.

In the contact between brothers and sisters there is especially the need for all purity. For this reason, a brother and sister who are close to the same age should not talk privately in a closed room. Either another brother or another sister should be present. Consider the example of the Lord Jesus. He spoke to Nicodemus in a house alone at night, but He talked to the Samaritan woman out in the open during the day. This indicates that the contact between brothers and sisters must be in all purity.

In the church life the traffic in fellowship between brothers and sisters cannot be avoided. If we do not exercise all purity, we may fall into some kind of snare. Many have fallen into a snare because they were careless and failed to exercise purity in their contact with others. Therefore, we would emphasize again and again that the contact between brothers and sisters must be in all purity.

As we have indicated, our contact with all the saints, brothers and sisters, elderly and young, must be pure in every way. In speaking to an elderly sister as a mother, you need to be pure in your motive. It is evil to have impure motives. To have an impure motive means to seek gain for ourselves, to seek some kind of advantage or promotion. In our contact with all the saints in the church life we should have just one motive—to minister Christ to them that they may grow in the Lord.


The fourth point I would bring out in this message is the matter of our duty. We need to be human, we need to exercise wisdom, we need to have all purity, and we need to do our duty. In the church life everyone must have certain duties to perform. No one should be idle or a busybody. In 5:4 Paul says, “But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness toward their own household and to render a return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God.” Return here denotes requital, recompense. To render such a return is to show gratitude to one’s parents.

In verse 13 Paul speaks of those who “learn to be idle, going around from house to house; and not only idle, but also gossips and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.” Some are idle, seemingly having nothing to do. But their idleness causes them to become busybodies. They go around from house to house gossiping and “speaking things which they ought not.” No one in the church should be idle, and no one should be a gossip or a busybody. Instead, everyone should have something to do, some proper duty to perform.

Realizing the need for all the saints to do their duty, Paul tells Timothy not to allow a widow to be enrolled who is under sixty years old (v. 9). He then tells Timothy to refuse younger widows, for they may set aside their first pledge, or faith (vv. 11-12). Setting aside “their first pledge” means to break a pledge or promise. This indicates that some younger widows promised, pledged, to devote themselves in their widowhood to some service of the church.

In verse 14 Paul goes on to say, “I will therefore that younger widows marry, bear children, rule the house, give no occasion to the opposer for reproach.” Childbearing and house affairs are a rescue and safeguard to idle busybodies. This is God’s ordination to restrict and protect women since the fall (Gen. 3:16).

Paul’s word in verse 14 about younger widows marrying is somewhat of a contrast to what he says in 1 Corinthians 7:8. The word in 1 Corinthians was Paul’s wish in his earlier ministry. In 5:14 we have his advice in his later ministry, according to his experiences concerning young widows. The difference here indicates that even in his God-inspired teachings, Paul was not legal. On the contrary, he could be very flexible. This indicates that, in the New Testament, concerning some matters there is no legality. In certain cases, the way we take may vary according to the actual situation.

(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Chapter 9, by Witness Lee)