1 Timothy 5-6 • Seven Kinds of People


It’s not unusual for the average Western church to be organized around the needs of the main demographic groups its particular congregation is composed of. Are there a lot of children present? The “children’s ministry” is one of the highest priorities. A lot of seniors? Then perhaps the “senior ministry” and so forth. Paul identifies for Timothy the main groups within the Early Church and outlines not only the proper approach for ministering to them, but how to properly prioritize their greater needs from the perspective of the working of the Gospel. This could be valuable in helping us decide how to approach such things in our own churches today and how to decide what’s biblically important and what is not.

Read verses 1-2

Q: What is the common relationship among all the examples presented?

A: They’re all family members: father, mother, sister.

Q: What is the significance of relating to others “in all purity”? How is that accomplished?

A: “Purity” is another way of stating “without being polluted by sin”. It’s the biblical way of stating that sin needs to be conspicuously absent from the pursuit of personal relationships.

Point: Paul is first and foremost describing for Timothy to treat the family of God like a real family with one’s behavior in submission to God’s Word and ways.

Read verses 3-16

Q: What are the three groups of people listed here?

  1. Older widows
  2. Younger widows
  3. Family members of widows

Q: What is the greater goal set for addressing the needs of all widows, young and old alike? Is it to meet their physical needs?

A: Meeting their physical needs is actually the secondary goal. The first and foremost goal is spiritual that both older widows’ lives “may be above reproach” (v.7) and younger widows’ lives “give the enemy no occasion for reproach”. (v.14)

Q: What does the word “reproach” mean?

A: It’s incurring scorn and rebuke from others for sin and is connected with being personally shamed for what we’ve allowed sin to do in our life. Christ is often said to have born our reproach, meaning that on the cross He bore the shame of our sin.

Point: Paul is pointing out that the first and foremost priority is to avoid becoming a visible example of allowing sin a hold in our life and to first and foremost choose to live faithfully. Physical needs are always secondary to the spiritual.

Q: How does the requirement for existing family members to take care of each other meet the greater conditions of Christ?

A: Our foremost commandment is to love one another. Family members are fulfilling Christ’s commandment to love by taking care of immediate family members.

Point: While one’s earthly family is still available they’re to take primary responsibility, but in their absence the family of God meets the same commitment to love others in their earthly family’s place.

Q: What is the greater requirement provided here for widows? Are they defined exclusively according to their physical needs?

A: The greater requirement is that they are found to be pursuing faithful and godly lives. (v.10) In fact, ungodly behavior is actually a reason for disqualifying them from receiving support. (v.13-15)

Application: The church’s resources are supposed to be viewed as a spiritual investment not just on the part of the giver, but the receiver. Accountability is a key requirement for whom the church chooses to support, even to whom it’s actually obligated.

Read verses 17-25

Q: What is the similarity between what is most highly prized in a widow and again here in an elder?

A: Spiritual faithfulness. (Have the group pick out examples of this from these verses.)

Q: Who selects elders?

A: The inference in v.22 to “not lay hands upon anyone too hastily” seems to confirm that in this case, at least, it was Timothy in the role of pastor who made the selection.

Q: In the average Western church today, the leadership structure is set up so that its board members or elders are charged with primarily being the ones holding the pastor accountable. How is that confirmed here?

A: It’s not, and in fact is stated as being the opposite case, that the pastor is charged with selection of the elders and also in holding THEM accountable.

Q: What is Paul’s greater meaning in v.22 & 24-25? What is he trying to teach Timothy when it comes to selecting and holding leadership accountable?

A: Pastors can make mistakes. These can be mitigated by not acting too hastily and by careful examination of the spiritual fruit of leaders’ lives in advance of appointing them.

Application: The issues of compensating and taking care of the physical needs of full-time staff are secondary to the greater care of their spiritual condition. The work of discipleship continues even at the highest levels of leadership within the church.

Read 6:1-2

Q: What would you say is the greater concern where being a slave is concerned?

A: Like all the examples leading up to this, it’s spiritual faithfulness.

Q: How is a slave’s physical situation secondary to their spiritual condition?

A: Although spiritually they are freed, their earthly status is to remain unchanged for the sake of the Gospel.

Application: We’re supposed to have a greater concern for sharing the Gospel and being a living, visible witness of it than for our own personal comfort, gain, or stature.

Read verses 3-5

Q: What issue did this directly address in the Early Church which is still a recurring issue for the church to this very day?

A: The false teaching that for the sake of unity to not worry about or place an importance on doctrine.

Q: What is inferred as the true cause of disunity in the church?

A: Persons who don’t really believe and put into practice the Word of God.

Q: Paul drew parallels to each previous groups’ greater spiritual needs over the material. How does he do that here?

A: Having rejected sound doctrine, they make themselves spiritually sick. Instead of feeding on the truth of God’s Word, they feed on empty questions and the meanings of words which leads to all kinds of “envy, strife” and spiritual turmoil – they become the exact opposite of “godliness”.

Q: What is their ultimate goal?

A: Personal profit. They’re not truly concerned for their own (or others’) spiritual needs but only in meeting present physical desires.

Q: How did Paul instruct Titus to deal with such troublemakers?

A: They were to be denied membership in the church after being warned two times.

Reject a factious man after a first and second warning,

— Titus 3:10

Application: Doctrine matters to such a degree that it is one of only two things, sin being the other, that can justify a permanent break in fellowship and personal relationships.

Read verses 6-19

Q: What is the main thought connecting this group with the previous?

A: In v.5 troublemakers are identified as those who “suppose that godliness is a means of gain” which is contrasted here with the statement that “godliness is actually a great gain when accompanied by contentment”.

Q: So is the problem wealth?

A: The problem is one’s spiritual health, a weak one leading to discontent and the pursuit of personal gain, a strong one continuing to embrace the faithfulness that yields contentment in all situations.

Q: So is Paul talking about all rich people here?

A: No, it clearly states in v.9 “those who WANT to get rich”. He’s speaking about priorities that lead to choices and actions.

Q: So how does “the love of money” adversely affect someone?

A: Their desire causes them to “fall into temptation” which begins a greater spiral downward eventually plunging them “into ruin and destruction”. (v.9) The end result is actually the worst spiritual result possible where they find that they’ve “wandered away from the faith”. (v.10)

Point: Once again the spiritual outweighs the physical in terms of not only the benefits but the consequences.

Q: How does Paul say a “man of God” should deal with this?

  1. Flee (v.11). “…flee from these things…”
  2. Follow (v.11). “…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness”.
  3. Fight (v.12) “Fight the good fight of faith…” “Faith” also being able to be translated as “faithfulness”.

Q: What does it mean when Paul says we should do these things “without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ”?

A: It’s another way of commanding personal faithfulness, the conscious choice to deny sin and its offerings in favor of God’s Word and ways.

Q: What is the difference between Paul’s teaching in v.6-15 versus this last paragraph in v.17-19?

A: The first teaching is a general teaching about the dangers of placing undue desire on obtaining wealth, the second is teaching how to handle wealth if one is blessed with it.

Point: There are those who have been granted wealth who have not compromised their faith in order to get it. In all cases, the attitude of the heart is the most important consideration.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

— Matthew 6:19-21

Read verses 20-21

Q: How does Paul’s reference to a false knowledge speak to a specific problem in the Early Church?

A: By this time one of the big problems were Gnostics, people who claimed to have “full knowledge” of spiritual things who were trying to influence the church with their false teachings and alternative ideas.

Point: Every generation of the church seems to have to deal with a self-styled “intelligentsia” class of people who believe they can supplement or outright replace the literal Word of God with worldly ideas and concepts.

Q: How does Paul describe the activities of the so-called “educated”?

A: “…worldly and empty chatter”. This is clearly something working against the greater good of the church because it’s further defined as actually being “opposing arguments”. In other words, it’s actually working against the truth of the Gospel.

Q: What was Timothy’s responsibility?

A: “…guard what has been entrusted to you”. Another way of translating this is to “guard the deposit”, to keep safe and intact what had been committed to him through Paul. It’s the picture of a guard on a bank vault.

Q: What had been committed to Timothy through Paul?

A: God had given the Gospel message, the deposit of truth, to Paul.

according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.

— 1 Timothy 1:11

Paul in turn committed it to Timothy.

This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. 1

— Timothy 1:18-19

And now Timothy was to “guard what has been entrusted you”.

Application: This is the task of the church today, that we may be faithful to guard the deposit and pass it on to others. The commandment to love one another is inextricable from our duty to teach, uphold, and instill the truth.

Overall Application

Q: What is the greater issue in 5:1-2 where personal relationships are concerned?

A: The spiritual issue. Relationships should be pursued “with all purity”, free from the pollutive effects of sin.

Q: What is the greater issue in 5:3-16 where the treatment of widows is highlighted?

A: The spiritual issue. The goal of support is to be beyond “reproach”, the shame experienced for having others point to sin in our life. Being faithful in spiritual things takes priority over being faithful in material things.

Q: What is the greater issue in 5:17-25 where church leadership is concerned?

A: The spiritual issue. They are to be examined both before selection and while serving, held accountable according to the quality of their personal faithfulness.

Q: What is the greater issue in 6:1-2 where slaves are concerned?

A: The spiritual issue. They are to be more concerned about their witness and testimony for the Gospel than for their own personal status or comfort. In fact, earthly circumstances may not change in order to obtain a stronger spiritual witness.

Q: What is the greater issue in 6:3-5 where troublemakers are concerned?

A: The spiritual issue. The rejection of sound doctrine leads to factions and disunity ultimately having to be removed from the body of Christ.

Q: What is the greater issue in 6:6-19 where the rich are concerned?

A: The spiritual issue. We’re to remain content no matter what our financial situation, pursuing personal faithfulness first and foremost. Those blessed with material wealth have the responsibility to use it wisely for the kingdom. The spiritual always outweighs the physical not only for the benefits but the consequences as well.

Q: What is the greater issue in 6:20-21 where the educated are concerned?

A: The spiritual issue. We’re to preserve the preaching of the truth as an obligation not just to this generation but all future ones. It’s part and parcel of fulfilling the commandment to love one another.

In the end, no matter which demographic group one belongs, the first and foremost need is maintaining spiritual faithfulness regardless of the circumstances or life-situation in which we find our self. There is an obligation to meet physical needs, but it’s always secondary to the spiritual. It’s heart-breaking that so many ministries are predicate on the reverse, hoping to meet a physical need in order to get an opportunity to address the spiritual.