Question: Does 1 Timothy 5: 1 refer to the elders of the ecclesias or to the older men in general?
Answer: 1 Timothy 5: 1: “Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren.” In discussing “let love be unfeigned” (Romans 12: 9, 10, Diaglott), Bro. Russell wrote this (Reprints 1586, paragraph 14):
The Apostle again indicates the disposition of this pure love among the saints in his letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 5: 1, 3, 5), saying, “Rebuke not an elder [an aged brother, even if he has erred; have respect to his years], but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity [with no semblance of undue familiarity]. Honor widows that are widows indeed” – whose trust is in God, and whose conduct is consistent with that trust.
And under the subheading “Rebuke not an elder,” he wrote this (Reprints 4977, paragraphs 8-10):
When St. Paul instructed Timothy not to rebuke an elder, but to entreat him as a father, the Apostle did not refer to an elder of the congregation, but a person older then one’s self. Do not rebuke a person older than yourself. Treat him as a father; likewise the elder women as mothers; and the younger men as brothers, and the younger women as sisters. In other words, an elder is not appointed in the church to brow-beat or to trample down the liberties of others. The spirit of kindness, gentleness, etc., is the holy Spirit. If an elder rebukes in another spirit than this, he should remember that the person rebuked is not a child and should not be treated as a child – not reprimanded or denounced or told “This is all wrong!” Such an unwise course in administering a rebuke is a fruitful cause of difficulty.
It would not be wise or kind or gentle for a younger person to lose patience with older people whom he feels should know about a matter and to say, “You ought to know all about this. I will give you a lesson.” This kind of spirit has made difficulty in various places. Apparently the Apostle’s remark is to the opposite of this course of conduct, and exhorts to kindness, gentleness, consideration of age and everything that might enter into the matter. It is very evident from different Scriptures that there was a family sympathy in olden times that we do not see exemplified today, as shown in the Apostle’s statement: “Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters” – 1 Timothy 5: 1, 2.
Today it is the custom to be very polite toward strangers and very impolite toward those of one’s own family; and some will be very polite amongst those who are outside and very impolite to those to whom they ought to give kindness and help and sympathy. The same thought seems to be given in connection with the admonition to “love as brethren.” But today, if you want to find true, real friends, you do not often look for them in the same family. In this respect our progress has surely not been of the evolutionary kind. Father, mother, brothers and sisters should be treated with consideration, with kindness, with love. And this principle should be applied to the household of faith.