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1 Timothy 5:1

ESV Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers,
NIV Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers,
NASB Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, and to the younger men as brothers,
CSB Don’t rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers,
NLT Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers.
KJV Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;
NKJV Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers,

What does 1 Timothy 5:1 mean?

Chapter 5 begins a new section focused on how Timothy is to treat different groups of people within the church. Verses 1 and 2 deal with men, addressing both those who are old and those who are young. Timothy is not to "rebuke" or speak harshly to older men, but to treat them as a father. We should note that there are times where Christians are called on to "rebuke" those who teach or practice certain things (1 Timothy 5:20; 2 Timothy 4:2). However, in most cases, and especially when dealing with a fellow believer, the best tactic is gentleness and respect. This goes a long way towards improving our impact on non-believers, as well(1 Peter 3:15–16). Treating older men as "fathers," in that culture, was no minor thing: a father was to be treated with respect and honor (Exodus 20:12).

Younger men are to be treated "as brothers." This means considering them as family, not as a club member, employee, or slave. In this verse, Timothy is given advice similar to what Peter told elders of the church: "shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:2–3). Paul called all male church members "brothers," including slaves (1 Timothy 6:2), reminding the reader of their equality in Christ.

The specific context of this command is from the end of chapter 4: Timothy's role as a teacher and church leader. Paul is not telling Timothy (or us) to treat every man in the church identically to our actual brothers or fathers. Rather, this is the attitude Timothy is to convey as their spiritual leader.
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