1 Timothy 5

Chapter five returns to instructions about certain groups in the church, specifically widows and elders. The church is to be a family of families, meaning that we should relate to each other as fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters (1 Timothy 5:1-16). Like one would take care of an aging grandparent, Paul said that the congregation is responsible for widows in their church family, under certain conditions. First, if the widow has family, they are responsible for her, not the church. Second, only older widows are included in this care program. Paul specified “sixty years old” (1 Timothy 5:9), but this could be considered descriptive rather than prescriptive, due to cultural life expectancies. Third, she was to be “the wife of one husband” (1 Timothy 5:9). This phrase is the exact opposite of an elder’s “husband of one wife,” meaning that she was “characterized by being a one-man type of woman.” Fourth, she was to be an example of godliness.

Paul specifically commanded that younger widows not be accepted “on the list” (1 Timothy 5:11-15). Rather they should remarry and fulfill their roles as described in 1 Timothy 2:9-15. In a statement that could have been written today, Paul noted that younger women with no responsibilities and full provision “learn to be lazy, and…also gossips and busybodies.” Although this may seem harsh or unfair, every civilization can verify its accuracy.

Another reason Paul wanted them to remarry had to do with a “former pledge.” In context, it seems that this complete provision for widows was a kind of remuneration for devoted service to the congregation. Because these widows had no families and were characteristically godly servants, it is possible that they pledged themselves to their congregation. Early church history shows that this is where the Catholic practice of nuns derived. However, it also may refer to the “women” or “wives” in 1 Timothy 3:11. If this is so, this group of widows probably served with the elders and deacons, possibly in ministry toward women. 1

In 1 Timothy 5:17-25 Paul came back to the elders, this time concerning congregational support for them. Some have argued that elders should not be financially supported, but this passage clearly disputes that notion. First, Paul quoted from both Deuteronomy 25:4 (Moses) and Luke 10:7 (Jesus) to prove that the one who works should receive payment for his work. Even animals get that much. Second, Paul used the same Greek word (τιμή, timē) to describe how the congregation treated both widows (1 Timothy 5:3) and elders (1 Timothy 5:17). Because this word means both “honor” and “compensation,” some argue that elders should only be honored. However, since the word obviously means compensation for widows, and the immediate context is payment for work, it must mean compensation for elders as well. Elders should be taken care of by those they serve, especially those “who work hard in speaking and teaching,” because it does not allow as much time for another form of work to provide for his family.

However, lest anyone think that this elevates elders to a level of “untouchable” clergy, Paul told Timothy that elders were still subject to discipline for sin, just like any other congregation member, and that their discipline should be public within the congregation, “as a warning to the rest” of the seriousness of sin. Thus, elders will be held up as examples, for both good or bad. For this reason, elders should be appointed carefully and slowly. Paul’s mention of Timothy’s stomach ailments may indicate that choosing elders is a stressful and difficult process.

Notes:

  1. Church history shows that once the role of deaconess was established, they helped prepare women for baptism, childbirth, etc.

Zechariah 12

Chapter twelve begins the final message of the ultimate deliverance and restoration God would bring to Israel. At least 17 times these last three chapters contain the phrase “in/on that day,” showing the end times nature of this message. Zechariah 12:1 points back to God as Creator, declaring that, if he could create the heavens, earth, and humans, he could fulfill what he was about to promise. On the coming day of battle, Jerusalem and Judah would become a weight for any who would try to move it (Zechariah 12:2-6). During the battle on Jerusalem at Jesus’ Second Coming, he will strike the enemies’ horses with confusion and blindness, and their riders with madness. This will embolden the future Jewish leaders in their fight against “all the surrounding nations right and left.” Christ will “will set out to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem,” then restore Judah and Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:7-9).

In another prophecy setting up in his first coming, all of Israel will look on their Messiah, “the one they have pierced” (Zechariah 12:10-14). This recognition will cause a great lamentation in Israel by all the clans of Israel. Three clans are specifically mentioned – Nathan, Levi, and Shimei. The Shimeites were part of the tribe of Levi (Exodus 6:16-17), so they and the Levites represent the priestly class in the kingdom. Nathan was the son of David whose descendant was Mary and, biologically, Jesus (Luke 3:23-31). Thus, Nathan and David refer to the royal class of the kingdom, generically, and to Jesus Messiah, specifically.

Mark 16

Chapter sixteen requires some examination. Due to a series of variants between Greek manuscripts, this chapter could end with verse eight, verse eight plus a closing tag, or include all twenty verses. Most conservative scholarship agrees that Mark 16:9-20 were not included in Mark’s original writing. This causes concern for some, though, because, while the first eight verses do record Jesus’ resurrection and the angelic appearance, none of the detail in the other gospels is included, and verse eight ends in fear, not what the resurrection was meant to convey.

However, that is not to say that the other verses are not authentic. The writing style does not match the rest of Mark, but it is possible that Mark wrote the ending later. This would account for some manuscripts having the ending. However, another explanation is possible as well. It may be that someone, with or without Mark’s approval, compiled a few “good” events to finish the story with a happier ending.

Although the final verses were definitely not written at the same time as the rest, and it is impossible to know for sure if they are authentic, a quick look over them reveals nothing that contradicts the rest of Scripture. Mark 16:9-11 records the unbelief of the disciples upon receiving word of Jesus’ resurrection, as attested in the other gospels. Mark 16:12-14 match Luke’s account (24:13-43) of Jesus’ appearance on the road to Emmaus and his subsequent appearance to the Eleven. The commission in Mark 16:15 is similar to Matthew 28:19. Mark 16:19-20 records his ascension and the disciples’ obedience in preaching the gospel.

Only Mark 16:16-18 is specifically unaccounted for, and they have caused a great deal of debate over the centuries. However, if we approach them in their context, without the need to build entire doctrines out of them, they still do not contradict clear Scripture. In Mark 16:16 it sounds as if baptism is necessary for salvation along with belief. However, even the verse itself singles out faith alone in the second half. Additionally, the apostles preached the importance of baptism alongside salvation (though not for salvation) throughout the early years of the Church, especially to the Jewish people. A comparison of Mark 16:16 with Acts 2:38-41 could show Peter’s influence on the later addition.

Even Mark 16:17-18 does not contradict other revealed Scripture. The fact that we do not have record of Jesus saying these things elsewhere does not mean that he did not. In fact, in the Upper Room he told the Eleven that they would continue to perform miracles (John 14:12), and throughout the Apostolic Age of the Church, some people did do miracles under the direction of the apostles. Although these verses should not be used to say that these miracles would continue indefinitely, it is true that they did happen for several decades.

The final point of note in this chapter is the singular mention of one apostle, Peter (Mark 16:7). Mark alone records the angel saying, “Go, tell his disciples, even Peter.” It is impossible to know if the women told him this privately, but Peter certainly held dearly the knowledge that Jesus called him back by name. That the Holy Spirit allowed Peter’s apprentice, Mark, to record this forever was an act of extraordinary grace.