What does 1 Timothy 5:19 mean?
ESV: Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
NIV: Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.
NASB: Do not accept an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.
CSB: Don't accept an accusation against an elder unless it is supported by two or three witnesses.
NLT: Do not listen to an accusation against an elder unless it is confirmed by two or three witnesses.
KJV: Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
NKJV: Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.
Verse Commentary:
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.
Verse Context:
First Timothy 5:17–25 provides guidelines on how a church should honor elders. It also refers to the proper way to discipline them, if this becomes necessary. Those who devote themselves to serving the church should be supported, meaning paid, so they can fully focus on the needs of the congregation. Accusations should only be taken seriously when there is sufficient evidence. And elders who are found in sin should be publicly rebuked. Paul also warns Timothy not to be too hasty in assigning elders, since some men's sins are hidden and hard to detect.
Chapter Summary:
First Timothy chapter 5 focuses on Timothy's supervision of those within the church. This includes a respectful attitude towards both men and women, young and old. A large portion of the chapter deals with how to care for widows. The theme of Paul's instruction is prioritizing those who are truly in need, and not enabling those who are merely lazy. Timothy is also instructed on how to screen out baseless accusations against an elder, and how to properly discipline them if they are found in sin. With that in mind, Timothy is also warned not to be reckless in who he appoints as an elder.
Chapter Context:
Prior passages explained the burden placed on Timothy and other church leaders. In this chapter, the emphasis is on how Timothy is to treat others in the congregation. A large portion of this refers to prioritizing charity for widows. This passage will more or less complete Paul's specific instructions to Timothy in this letter. The next (final) chapter will build on all of these themes with a command for Timothy to make the most of his spiritual service.
Book Summary:
First Timothy is one of Paul's three ''Pastoral Epistles.'' Paul's other letters, such as Romans, Ephesians, and Colossians, are meant for a broader audience. First Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are written to specific people whom Paul is advising on how to best lead their local churches. These three letters present a close look at the form and function of church leadership. First Timothy, like 2 Timothy and Titus, is less formal and systematic, and more personal. This gives great insight into the way pastors, deacons, and elders ought to prioritize their time and energy.
Accessed 5/26/2024 5:23:46 PM
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