1 Timothy
by Francis Foulkes ©


'Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor participate in another man's sins; keep yourself pure. No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. The sins of some men are conspicuous, pointing to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. So also good deeds are conspicuous; and even when they are not, they cannot remain hidden' (5:22-25)

Timothy not only had the responsibility of seeing to the support of the elders, the responsibility sometimes of hearing accusations against them, and perhaps rebuking and disciplining them. He had a great part also in the responsibility of choosing men for God's work. These are wise words for any of us who have similar responsibilities.

a. Do not act hastily

We have found (see notes on 4:14) that men were set apart for the ministry in New Testament times by the laying on of hands. When Paul says to Timothy, 'Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands', he means that it is unwise to make a sudden choice of a man for the ministry. In Timothy's own case, Paul did not take him until he knew that he had a good report from the elders of' the church in Lystra (Acts 16: 2). Perhaps through haste he made an unwise choice in taking John Mark to work with him in his first missionary journey (Acts 13:5,13; 15:38). In 3:10 he says concerning those who might become deacons, 'let them also be tested first'. If we make a wrong choice of one to do God's work, if we overlook weakness and failures in the person whom we choose, then we may be responsible for bringing much trouble into the life of the church. 'When you set a bad man to some important work, you must share the blame for any mischief he may do' (Scott).

b. Keep yourself pure

These words take us back again to the exhortation of purity in his life. There must be no compromise to please men, In others he must approve what is good and true, and correct what is wrong. Above all he must do this in his own life. It is as if Paul is saying to Timothy, 'Choose good men to help you, but be certain above all that you are a good man yourself' (Scott). The meaning of verse 23 seems to be that though he was to be pure, he was not to have a wrong sense of purity. Like many in his days, and also in our time, Timothy felt that purity of life meant that he was wise to do completely without intoxicating drink. Doubtless he felt that he did not want to cause a weaker brother to stumble (see Romans 14:13). Like Paul, he saw that strong drink could be a temptation even to those in positions of leadership in the church (3:2). But this meant that he refused the use of wine even as medicine. The apostle said that he need not think m this way; if a little wine helped his weak stomach, he should take it; if his body, as the temple of God, was made more fit for God's service by taking a little wine as medicine, he was wise to do so.

c. Remember that man does not see as God sees

God sees to the very depths of the hearts of all men. Whatever we do or say or even think, He knows it straight away. But we do not have that unfailing insight. We need to realize, in our dealings with people, the truth of verses 24,25. In the case of some people, their sins are seen immediately. In the lives of others they may be hidden at first, though they will surely come to light in time. So also the good that some men do is obvious. In others, though finally it will be seen clearly, it is hidden for a time. All this only emphasizes that great care is needed in the choice of those who are to be set aside for special work for God. The clear guidance of God is necessary. As Solomon prayed (I Kings 3: 9), we need to pray for 'an understanding mind'. It is better to wait to be sure, than to act quickly. And to each of us, whoever we are, these verses say, 'You may hide things that you do wrong from men, but never from God.' The Lord Jesus has said, 'Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known' (see Luke 12: 2,3)


Almighty God, the God of all wisdom, guide us in all our choices, especially in those that affect the lives of other people. Help us to live in all purity. May we not through shame want to hide anything that we do. So may we walk in the light, in true fellowship with Thee and with other Christians, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. AMEN.

Note. Some have understood verse 22 to refer to the laying of hands on one who has been disciplined by the church, as an act of restoration. We do not know, however, that this custom was in the church as early as this, and the whole context makes it more likely that the verse refers to the ordination of elders.

Further Study. 1. Follow in the Bible what is said about abstaining from wine and strong drink: (a) God intends some to abstain completely (see Leviticus 10:9; Numbers 6,1-4 ; Judges 13:4,7,14; Jeremiah 35:1-7; Luke 1:15). All need to realize the danger of wine, and to exercise self-control (see Proverbs 20:1; 23:29-35; Isaiah 5:11,12,22; Ephesians 5:18; and 1 Timothy 3:3, 8). (Note that it cannot be argued from the Bible that the 'wine' spoken of there was not intoxicating.)

2. Consider other Bible passages which support the teaching in verses 24,25. See in particular Matthew 7:15-20; 10: 26 ; 13: 35-37; Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17 and 12: 2,3.