1 Timothy chapter 5 - Where there are People there are Problems - J Stewart Gillespie 

1 Timothy chapter 5 is perhaps not the highest spiritual ground in 1 Timothy, that place is surely the preserve of 1 Tim 3:16, but this is amongst the most practical sections of the epistle. 

1 Timothy chapter 5 gives us an insight into the PROBLEMS which Timothy faced at Ephesus. 

Not surprisingly we observe that the church at Ephesus was made up of PEOPLE, a diverse group of people: 

Elders (v1) 
Younger men (v1) 
Elder women (v2) 
Widows (v3) 
Young women (v14) 

The assembly is not an: 

place we go 

The assembly is built of living stones – people 

The church is a family. 

We are part of that structure 

The assembly is not a 'them' or 'him' or 'his' 

The assembly is an 'us' 

The assembly becomes very much what we bring to it 

As Timothy came to Ephesus he comes to PROBLEMS; the PROBLEMS are PEOPLE. That brings challenges! 

This means that it could be possible for Timothy to attempt to grapple with the problems at Ephesus and make them much worse! 

To come with a sense of: 

Apostolic authority 
Matter of fact attitude 
Mechanical outlook – here is the problem, let me tell you the solution! 
Pride or arrogance 

All of these approaches or attitudes could add to rather than take away from the problems at Ephesus! Timothy has to deal not only with PROBLEMS but with PEOPLE. 

A friend used to say about DIY; it's not the job that's the problem it's the snags! 

For Timothy it is not simply dealing with the PROBLEMS it is dealing with the PEOPLE behind the PROBLEMS. 

Helping those who 'oppose themselves' to accept the diagnosis and treatment. 

Timothy comes not in his own strength and not with his own inner resources but Timothy comes fitted for the task by his time in the sanctuary (chp 4) – spending time with the 'lamp' of the Spirit of God (4:1-5 – a section beginning with the Spirit of God and concluding in prayer) and the 'loaf,' of the bread of the Word of God (4:6-16 – a section which includes Timothy enjoying the Word (5:15) exemplifying the Word of God, (5:12) expounding, explaining and exhorting on the basis of the Word). 

God makes the PROVISION for Timothy in chapter 5 before Timothy encounters the PROBLEMS of Ephesus detailed for us in chapter 6. This can often be the pattern in the Christian life; that God provides for the problem in His omniscience before the problem actually arises in personal experience! 

Illust: old Vauxhall Chevette and the exhaust story. 

cf. 5 stones provided in the valley of Elah 

cf. 5 loaves of bread provided in John 6 

cf. Widow with a little meal in 1 Kings 17. 

cf. Israel exiting Egypt in Exodus 12:35 and collecting, 'borrowing!' 'gold and silver' from their neighbours! The provision was made ever before the needs of the tabernacle arose! 

Moses did not examine the plans for the tabernacle, employ a quantity surveyor, estimate the costs, ask for quotes, send out the Hebrews to gather the goods from surrounding nations! The provision had already been made. 

The provision was made before the problem arose! 

God knows the end from the beginning! 

Timothy comes equipped for the problems of Ephesus but equipped not by himself, equipped by God! 

For this there are 'rules of engagement': 



'a feeling of deep admiration for someone elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements.' 

v1 'rebuke not an elder' 

v2 'older women as mothers' 

Men and women who have charted a course successfully through life; this is no minor feat. From Egypt to the promised land was no minor journey, let us be cautious of criticism until we too have passed through the journey of our life and set foot on the promised land! 

Some I have heard criticising the generation before, only themselves to stumble at Satan's hurdles, to fall short of possessing all that the Lord had for them. 

These believers of chapter 5 have managed to: 

overcome fear at the crossing of the red sea 
doubt at the taking of Jericho 
moral compromise at Baal Peor 
idolatry with the golden calf 
grumbling / discontentment in wilderness 

They have learned to: 

trust and not fear 
depend upon the manna 
satisfied from the rock 
obedient to the Lord 
led by the cloud 

v3 'honour widows' 

One of the underlying motives for honouring the 'widow indeed' (v5) is not that of pity / charity but out of a sense of their value and worth to the assembly (v5) – a truly valuable resource to the church. 

Consider the value of the widow; it was a widow who: 

Sustained the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 17)! 
Provided for a King – Abigail and David! 
Whose mite provided for the need of the priest! 

Have you ever considered that: 


were dependent upon the widow! 

Here she is a power house of prayer and now she needs our help! 


Responsibility flows from respect. 

Responsibility of parents to a child (v4) is later reflected in the responsibility of the child for the parent cf. V8, v16 

Responsibility towards elders too (v17) 


Take out and put in – taking out only works if we are putting in. 

What the widow has contributed (v10) deserves recompense 

Again the motive for support does not rest on 'charity' 

It rests on 'respect' and 'reciprocity', a sense of what is just and right 

Problems at Ephesus: 

Pleasure (v6) 
Leisure (v13) 
Treasure (6:9) 

All stemming from a lack of affection / appreciation of Christ (v11) 

Some have 'waxed wanton against Christ,' fed up with Christ, dissatisfied with Him, looking for pleasure and entertainment and distraction elsewhere? 

Pleasure (v6) 

'dead while she liveth' 

Not simply the pursuit of pleasure ending in death 

A soul sets his goal as the pursuit / attainment of pleasure, all else is pushed aside in the pursuit of that goal, including the values and standards God gave us – that brings us into a state of death: 

Belshazzar’s feast – defiling the sacred 
Sodom and Gomorrah – disregarding morals 
Samson – compromising holiness 

People pursuing pleasure when the signs are up: 

Road ahead blocked 
slow down 

This is a person who is 'dead while she liveth' 

She is currently dead, presently dead! 

The contrast is with the spiritual life of the widow of verse 5 with the reality and vitality of spiritual life; 'trusting in God' – that faith connection with God, that power that flows. 

That living connection to God and thus life! 

What does it mean to be dead? 

Usually define death in the negative – as the absence of vital signs. 

It is the absence of the signs of life. 

Life is seen in the: 

Decisions we make – morality 
Relationship we enjoy 
Character we display 
Battles that we fight 


Decisions we make – morality 


Response to sin 
Relationship with sin 

Contrast the living and the dead at Sodom; 2 groups – one very large group of the general population of Sodom and a second group of 1 man – Lot (2 Peter 2:8) – His attitude to sin' 'vexed his righteous soul every day.' 

cf. Davids response to his sin in repentance and that of Bathseba (2 Sam 12:16ff) 

cf. Absalom's response / attitude to his sin (2 Sam 16:22ff) 

Relationship we enjoy 

cf. Daniel – a relationship with the true and living God was evident 'I know that the Spirit of the holy gods is in thee' (Dan 4:9) in contrast to Nebuchadnezzar's wise men. 

cf. Samuel – he alone in the tabernacle heard the voice of God 

cf. Elijah and the prophets of Baal – Elijah alone was heard by God in 1 Kings 17 and he alone heard God speak in the still small voice in 1 Kings 19. 

God heard him 
He heard God 

Character we display 

cf. Joseph and his brothers 

cf. Job and his patience 

cf. Moses and his meekness 

One of the most striking features of men of God in the Word of God is their character: 

Abraham – faith 
Noah – righteousness 
Daniel – righteousness 
Ruth – love 

Battles that we fight 

David and Goliath cf. Saul and Goliath! 

Consider the signs of life in the 'man of God' (6:11-12) 

'righteousness' – Decisions that he makes 

'godliness, faith' – Relationship he enjoys 

'love, patience, meekness' – Character he displays 

'Fight the good fight' – Battles that he fights 

Leisure (v13) 

Lack of direction 

Not pursuing anything overtly evil 

Failure to achieve anything of any significance! 

'our problem is not that we aim high for ourselves and miss but that we aim low and hit'! 

To remedy the situation (v14) – no great drama or spiritual power, to remedy the situation is to live the life which God has given me as God would desire me to live it. 

1 Timothy chapter 5 - Dealing with Difficult People - JS Gillespie

1 Timothy chapter 5 - Provision First and Problems after - JS Gillespie

1 Timothy chp 5 - The Jesus Paul Knew - JS Gillespie

1 Timothy chp 5 - Vital Signs - How you Know when a Person is Alive Truly Alive - J Stewart Gillespie

1 Timothy chp5 - When we Get Fed up with Jesus - J Stewart Gillespie


Outline notes from a Bible teaching message in our series of systematic bible studies in 1 Timothy chapter 5, available for free audio download or to listen online,  

Yours by God's grace in Christ  

Dr J Stewart Gillespie