1 Timothy 5:19 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

1 Timothy 5:19, NIV: Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.

1 Timothy 5:19, ESV: Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.

1 Timothy 5:19, KJV: Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.

1 Timothy 5:19, NASB: Do not accept an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.

1 Timothy 5:19, NLT: Do not listen to an accusation against an elder unless it is confirmed by two or three witnesses.

1 Timothy 5:19, CSB: Don't accept an accusation against an elder unless it is supported by two or three witnesses.

What does 1 Timothy 5:19 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

This verse continues Paul's teaching about the treatment of elders. Here, he transitions from honoring elders to how to properly handle accusations against them. According to Paul, an accusation was not to be taken seriously unless it came with the "evidence of two or three witnesses." This is almost identical to the teachings of the Torah for legal cases (Deuteronomy 19:15; John 8:17), as well the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 18:15–20. In the case of Jesus, He spoke regarding personal sins or offenses instead of misconduct of elders. In those situations, the individual was to be confronted privately first, then by one or two others if this did not resolve the problem (Matthew 18:15–16) before taking the matter before the church (or "assembly" at that time in Matthew). Paul wrote elsewhere about dealing with accusations in 2 Corinthians 13:1. His teaching to Timothy on this topic appears to be common practice among the churches Paul influenced.

Paul expected church leaders to be subject to accusations, as Paul himself often was. Persons in authority, or who speak on controversial topics, are prime targets for criticism, slander, and gossip. For this reason, only accusations involving two or more people with evidence are to be evaluated. Paul appeared particularly concerned with accusations related to elder qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1–7).

As the next verse will show, Paul is hardly assuming elders are incapable of sin. Rather, his concern is over avoiding the distraction of false claims. Those who truly are falling short are subject to public rebuke.