Honor True Widows: 1 Timothy 5:3-16 With Implications For The Church’s Social Responsibilities1 -- By: Benjamin G. Edwards

Journal: Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal
Volume: DBSJ 021:1 (NA 2016)
Article: Honor True Widows: 1 Timothy 5:3-16 With Implications For The Church’s Social Responsibilities1
Author: Benjamin G. Edwards


Honor True Widows: 1 Timothy 5:3-16 With Implications For The Church’s Social Responsibilities1

Benjamin G. Edwards2

Paul’s instructions in his first epistle to Timothy are an invaluable resource to believers. They serve as a superb foundation for knowing how the church is to be organized and to function. Paul’s guidelines for overseers and deacons in chapter three are familiar to nearly all Christians as they consider who is qualified to serve in that capacity. The exhortations for Timothy’s life and ministry in chapter four have often been used to challenge both new and experienced church leaders to fulfill the responsibility they have received from God. Paul’s discussion concerning prayer in chapter two is a popular passage, both for church life and in discussions of God’s will in regard to salvation. One’s understanding of the role of women in the church depends heavily on the interpretation of Paul’s teaching in 2:11-15. These concerns make certain passages in 1 Timothy well-known among contemporary believers.

One passage that receives less attention today is Paul’s guidelines for widows in 5:3-16. Though not ignored by the church in the past, this section seems easily overlooked in modern culture. Perhaps current believers feel that the issue of widows is not as relevant for the contemporary church. This is especially surprising with the growing focus on social justice. Issues surrounding poverty, human trafficking, abortion, sexuality, and adoption/orphan care garner increasing attention, while issues surrounding widows, a group intricately tied to social justice matters in the Scriptures, are inexplicably missing from the discussion.3

This article will explore Paul’s teaching concerning widows in 1 Timothy 5:3-16, the church’s responsibility in that role, and the reason for his instruction with the goal of gaining insight into modern discussions of the church’s role in social justice issues. In pursuing that goal, the passage will be considered in order to clarify precisely whom Paul is addressing and what his instructions are. Then, two background questions will be briefly discussed: whether or not Paul is establishing the office of widow for the church and what has created the need for Paul to provide this instruction. Finally, some implications for contemporary issues will be presented.

Analysis Of The Passage

To understand Paul’s teaching in

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