Who are "all" in 1 Timothy 5:20?

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1 Timothy 5:20 (ESV) reads

“As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all,
so that the rest may stand in fear.”

My readings leads me to believe that “all” represents an entire congregation and “rest” is either other elders or all other congregants. My question is about who the “all” group is.

Commentators tend to disagree on this – with Barnes, JFB, and Poole saying it’s the entire church and Ellicott, Gill, Meyer saying it’s limited to just elders. (It should be noted that more commentators interpret “all” to be the entire church.)

I think the argument is stronger that “all” means the entire congregation, for the following reasons:

  • the difficult nature of the command fits the charge in v21 to be impartial (which I assume would be man’s nature to withhold consequences for a fellow brother and church leader);
  • it is similar to general discipline instructions in Matthew 18;
  • albeit given lesser weight, it is similar to Rabbinic tradition.

Can anyone provide further support for either interpretation?


  • Varnel Watson
    Reply January 10, 2017

    Varnel Watson

    A good question for Peter Christian …

  • Peter Christian
    Reply January 10, 2017

    Peter Christian

    My readings leads me to believe that “all” represents an entire congregation and “…

    I have no reason to see it otherwise Troy.

  • Jim Price
    Reply January 10, 2017

    Jim Price

    This was probably a house church with as few as a dozen people, so to speak to ” all ” would have been appropriate since ” all ” would have known about the situation. Fast forward to a modern church with a 100 or more and then to reveal ” dirty laundry ” would be like pulling tares that might well uproot the young tender sprouts.

  • Reply January 10, 2017

    Scotty Ray Searan

    Even if it is a house church, you would still face the scenario of pulling up tender sprouts.
    I do not believe that the tares necessarily represent someone who persists to sin. I believe tares are those who spread false doctrine.
    Humanity itself is a tare, but these tares are ones that look like the real thing, but they are not.
    I feel the Church of God is being overseeded with tares than the real seed now days.
    One of the facts staring us right in the face in this article. The Church of God has very little disciplinary action and it is part of working of the Holy Spirit.
    2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.
    This doesn’t say put them out of the church, but rebuke (reprimand).

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