Colossians 2:5
For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, rejoicing and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) Absent in the flesh.—Comp. 1Corinthians 5:3, “I as absent in body and present in spirit.”

Your order, and the stedfastness.—The word “order” is used in 1Corinthians 14:40; the word “stedfastness,” or solidity, is not found elsewhere in the New Testament, though the verb from which it is derived is found in Acts 3:7; Acts 3:16; Acts 16:5, and the original adjective, from which the verb is derived, in 1Peter 5:9, “stedfast in the faith.” From the days of the ancient Greek interpreters downwards, it has been noted that both words have military associations—the one being used for discipline generally, and the other for the firm compact solidity of the phalanx; and (as in Ephesians 6:11-17) that the use of them may have been suggested by St. Paul’s captivity under military guard. If both words be referred to their “faith,” the Apostle obviously characterises it as having right “order” (or, harmony) in its various parts, and a strong “solidity” against all trials.

2:1-7 The soul prospers when we have clear knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. When we not only believe with the heart, but are ready, when called, to make confession with the mouth. Knowledge and faith make a soul rich. The stronger our faith, and the warmer our love, the more will our comfort be. The treasures of wisdom are hid, not from us, but for us, in Christ. These were hid from proud unbelievers, but displayed in the person and redemption of Christ. See the danger of enticing words; how many are ruined by the false disguises and fair appearances of evil principles and wicked practices! Be aware and afraid of those who would entice to any evil; for they aim to spoil you. All Christians have, in profession at least, received Jesus Christ the Lord, consented to him, and taken him for theirs. We cannot be built up in Christ, or grow in him, unless we are first rooted in him, or founded upon him. Being established in the faith, we must abound therein, and improve in it more and more. God justly withdraws this benefit from those who do not receive it with thanksgiving; and gratitude for his mercies is justly required by God.For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit - That is, I seem to see you; I feel as if I were there, and were looking upon you; and I have the same solicitude as if I were there, and saw all the danger which exists that your beautiful order and harmony should be disturbed by the influence of false philosophy; see the notes at 1 Corinthians 5:3. The word "spirit," here, does not refer to the Holy Spirit, or to any inspiration by which the apostle was enabled to see them; but it is equivalent to what we mean when we say, "My heart is with you." He seemed to be beholding them.

Joying and beholding your order - That is, I rejoice as if I saw your order. He had such confidence that everything would be done among them as became Christians, that he could rejoice as if he actually saw it.

5. For—argument against their suffering themselves to be beguiled, drawn from a regard to his personal authority as though he were present.

joying and beholding—beholding with joy.

order—your good order; answering to "knit together" (Col 2:2) as a well-organized body; the same Greek as that for knit together, is used of the body" of the Church compacted," in Eph 4:16. Compare 1Co 14:33, 40.

steadfastness—Greek, "the firm (or 'solid') foundation." As "order" expresses the outward aspect of the Church; so "steadfastness" expresses the inner basis on which their Church rested. The Greek literally implies not an abstract quality, but the thing in the concrete; thus their "faith" here is the solid thing which constituted the basis of their Church.

For though I be absent in in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit: to prevent any surmise that his distance at Rome might take him off from minding of them at Colosse, he shows that the great affection he bare to them did oblige him to interest himself in all their concerns, (the care of all the churches being incumbent on him, 2 Corinthians 11:28), and therefore that his bodily confinement at Rome did not hinder his presence with them in spirit. Not that we can conclude, that by some extraordinary operation of the Holy Ghost God gave him now and then a clear prospect of what they did, as he did to Elisha of Gehazi’s behavior, 2 Kings 5:26; and to Ezekiel in Babylon of the secret actions of the Jews in Jerusalem; but that he was with them as with the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 5:3, when distant in body his thoughts and affections were exercised about them.

Joying and beholding your order; as it follows there is moving of fears lest they shonld be insnared, so of joy understanding their

order, i.e. their good estate, constitution, and consent in orderly walking and discipline, 1 Corinthians 14:10 1 Thessalonians 4:1 5:14.

And the stedfastness of your faith in Christ; and the firmament of their faith in Christ, it being (if genuine) as firm as the firmament itself; stable as the heavens and heavenly bodies, keeping their constant stations and regular courses, and admitting nothing heterogeneous into them: all heavenly truths are as fixed stars in this orb. Seeing all grace, because Divine, hath an establishing proverty; so faith coming from the eternal mountains, all graces being connected in faith, which is a kind of firmament to them all, it comes to pass that faith, in actuating any true grace, gives a strength and further growth to every other grace. For though I be absent in the flesh,.... Or body, as the Ethiopic version reads it, and as it is expressed in 1 Corinthians 5:3; here the apostle anticipates an objection which might be made, how he could have such a conflict and concern for them, and express so much affection for them, and know so much of their affairs, in what condition and situation they were, and how liable to be deceived by false teachers, when he was absent from them, and had never been among them. That he had never been corporeally present with them, nor was he then, he owns; but this did not hinder but that he might be in another sense present with them, and so have cognizance of them and their state, and be affected towards them, and concerned for them:

yet am I with you in the spirit; as he was with the Corinthians in the place above cited, judging the incestuous person, determining concerning his case, and delivering him up to Satan, and so he was with these Colossians; for as he was a member of the same body with them, he was actuated by the same spirit; and by virtue of their union to each other in their common head, his spirit went out towards them, his heart was knit unto them; he had the same affection for them, and care of them, though he had never seen them with his bodily eyes, as he had for those whom he had seen: moreover, this may regard that extraordinary discerning and presence of his spirit which he had; and which was of the same kind with that of Elisha, when his servant Gehazi went after Naaman the Syrian, and took a present of him, to whom on his return he said, upon his denying that he had been anywhere, "went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee?" 2 Kings 5:26. Elisha's spirit went, and was present with him, and saw and knew all that passed, being under the impulse and inspiration of the Spirit of God, who made all known unto him: so the spirit of the Apostle Paul was at the church at Colosse, and saw: and discerned their whole estate; this being made known by the Spirit of God, under whose inspiration he wrote this letter, suitable to their case:

joying and beholding your order; or as the Syriac version renders it, "I rejoice that I can see your order": that is, with pleasure observe, consider it, and contemplate on it; and that partly from the relation of Epaphras, and chiefly from the intimations of the Spirit of God in an extraordinary way: by their "order" is meant, either their orderly walk and conversation, which being as becomes the Gospel of Christ, was very pleasing and delightful to the apostle; or rather the order of their church discipline, they having regular officers, pastors, and deacons, ordained among them; who rightly performed their offices, and had respect and subjection yielded to them; the ordinances of the Gospel were duly administered, and constantly attended on; the members of the church were watched over, admonitions given, and censures laid where they were necessary, and everything was done decently and in order; which was a beautiful sight, and gave the apostle an uncommon pleasure. The word used signifies a military order, such as is observed in armies, in battle array; suggesting, that these Christians were good soldiers of Christ, were enlisted under his banners, and kept in due order, in rank and file; stood fast in one spirit, contended and strove together for the faith of the Gospel, fought the good fight of faith, nor could any hardship move them from their station; so that they were, in the apostle's eye, beautiful as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, and terrible as an army with banners, Sol 6:4; and so may denote their attachment to the Gospel, and to one another; they were united to, and abode by each other; they served the Lord with one consent, and kept the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace, Ephesians 4:3, which is a pleasant thing to behold, as well as what follows,

and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ; either in the grace of faith, and the exercise of it on Christ, in opposition to doubtings and unbelief; whereby God is honoured, and with which he is well pleased; souls are filled with peace and joy; Satan is resisted and overcome; and the hearts of others, particularly ministers of the Gospel, are comforted: or in the doctrine of faith respecting Christ, in which they stood fast; notwithstanding there was a majority against it, the wise and learned, the rich and mighty, did not receive it; and though it was opposed by false teachers, persecuted by profane men, and loaded with reproach and obloquy; and also in the profession of it, which they held without wavering: now to see a set of Christians, a church of Christ walking together in Gospel order, steady in their faith on Christ, abiding by the doctrine of faith, and maintaining an honourable profession, how beautiful and delightful is it!

For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your {f} order, and the stedfastness of your {g} faith in Christ.

(f) The manner of your ecclesiastical discipline.

(g) Doctrine.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Colossians 2:5. A special reason, having reference to his bodily absence, by which his readers are encouraged not to allow themselves to be deceived.

τῇ σαρκί] with respect to the flesh, i.e. bodily. Comp. 1 Corinthians 5:3.

ἁλλά] at, yet am I on the other hand, beginning the apodosis; see on Romans 6:5 and 1 Corinthians 4:15.

τῷ πνεύματι] with respect to the spirit, i.e. mentally; my spirit, translating itself in thought into your midst, is along with you. Erroneously Grotius: “Deus Paulo revelat, quae Colossis fierent,” so that πνεῦμα would be meant of the Holy Spirit. According to Wiggers, in the Stud. u. Krit. 1838, p. 181, and Vaihinger, in Herzog’s Encyklop. IV. p. 79, ἄπειμι takes for granted the apostle’s having been there previously. A quite groundless assumption; the verb expresses (ἀπό) the being away from, but does not indicate whether a person had been previously present or not, which can only be gathered from the connection or other circumstances of the case. In this case the context directly indicates, by Colossians 2:1, that a bodily παρεῖναι had not occurred. It is otherwise in 1 Corinthians 5:3; 2 Corinthians 10:1; 2 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Corinthians 13:2; 2 Corinthians 13:10; Php 1:27. Prom the similar expression in 1 Corinthians 5:3. Theodoret nevertheless infers that Paul ὡς θεασάμενος αὐτοὺς ἔγραψεν τὴν ἐπιστολήν.

σύν ὑμὶν] in your society, among you. Comp. Luke 8:38; Luke 22:56; Php 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; 2 Peter 1:18, et al.

χαίρων κ. βλέπων] There is here no illogical prefixing of the χαίρων in the lively feeling of joy (Huther, comp. de Wette); χαίρων rather expresses joy at the fact that he is with them spiritually, and καὶ βλέπων ὑμ. τὴν τάξιν κ.τ.λ. then adds what at this joyful being with the Colossians he sees in them, so that the description thus advances with κ. βλέπ.: in spirit I am along with you, rejoicing in this mental presence, and therewith seeing, etc. Comp. also Hofmann, who, however, imports into βλέπων the pregnant meaning not conveyed by the simple verb; it is as plainly present to my soul, as if I saw it with my eyes. This would be κ. ὡς βλέπων, or κ. ὡς ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖς βλ. Renderings blending the ideas, such as gaudeo videns (Grotius, Wolf, Bähr, Baumgarten-Crusius, Bleek, and others), or beholding with joy (Bengel, Heinrichs, Flatt), are at variance with the words as they stand. Some erroneously cite Josephus, Bell. iii. 10. 2, where χαίρω καὶ βλέπων (not βλέπω) means: I rejoice, when I even see it. Winer, p. 438 [E. T. 589], and Fritzsche, ad Rom. II. p. 425, supply with χαίρων the words: concerning you. But the supplying of ἐφʼ ὑμῖν is not justified by the context, which naturally suggests joy at the being together with the readers, for χαίρ. stands alongside of this as an accompanying relation without any other definition of object. And according to this view there is no ground at all for an explicative rendering of καί, which Winer still admits (so also Böhmer and Olshausen).

The testimony, moreover, which is given to the readers by βλέπων κ.τ.λ. is not inconsistent with the anxious conflict in Colossians 2:1; but, on the contrary, makes the latter, in a psychological point of view, all the more conceivable, when the dangers which threatened a state of things still even now so good are considered.

ὑμῶν τ. τάξιν] The prefixed pronoun owes this position to the favourable expectation which the Colossians, more than many others, have awakened in the apostle. The τάξις is order, orderly condition. Its antithesis is ἀταξία, Plato, Tim. p. 30 A. For the idea see Plato, Gorg. p. 504 A: τάξεωςκαὶ κόσμου τυχοῦσα οἰκία, Polyb. i. 4. 6: ἡ σύμπασα σχέσις κ. τάξις τῆς οἰκουμένης, iii. 36. 6: διαίρεσις κ. τάξις. It is often used of the organized condition of the state, Dem. 200. 4, Plat. Crit. p. 109 D; elsewhere also (see Sturz, Lex. Xen. IV. p. 245) of the army, sometimes to designate a section of it (a company of two λόχοι), and sometimes to express its regular arrangement in rank and file (Thuc. iii. 87. 2, iv. 72. 2, 126. 4, viii. 69. 1). Hofmann[83] takes both ΤΆΞ. and ΣΤΕΡΈΩΜΑ in a military sense. But the two words have not in and of themselves the military sense; they would receive it from the context, which is not the case here. Moreover, the meaning fortress, military bulwark, is expressed not by στερέωμα generally, but by ἜΡΥΜΑ or ὈΧΎΡΩΝΑ, 2 Corinthians 10:4. Hence, if we would avoid arbitrariness, we can only abide by the view that here ΤΆΞΙς means the orderly state of the Christian church, which has hitherto not been disturbed by sectarian divisions or forsaken by the readers. Comp. 1 Corinthians 14:40. To this outward condition Paul then subjoins the inner one, by which the former is conditioned: and the solid hold of your faith in Christ. στερέωμα, firmamentum, that which has been made firm (Arist. partt. an. ii. 9; Theophr. H. pl. v. 7. 3), a late word, often found in LXX., Aquila, Theodotion, Symmachus, and Apocrypha (see Schleusner, Thes. V. p. 102 f.), represents the stedfastness and immoveableness of faith in such a way, that the latter appears as protected by a strong work (with solid foundation, masonry, etc.) from injury (Ezekiel 13:5; Psalm 18:2; Psalms 3 Esdr. 8:81). On the subject-matter, comp. Acts 16:5 : ἐστερεοῦντο τῇ πίστει, 1 Peter 5:9 : ἈΝΤΊΣΤΗΤΕ ΣΤΕΡΕΟῚ Τῇ ΠΊΣΤΕΙ. The abstract firmness, however (Huther, de Wette, Baumgarten-Crusius, Bleek, and older expositors), which would be στερεότης, is never designated by the word. Chrysostom explains rightly: ὍΤΕ ΠΟΛΛᾺ ΣΥΝΑΓΑΓῺΝ ΣΥΓΚΟΛΛΉΣΕΙς ΠΥΚΝῶς ΚΑῚ ἈΔΙΑΣΠΑΣΤῶς, ΤΌΤΕ ΣΤΕΡΈΩΜΑ ΓΊΝΕΤΑΙ. The genitive τῆς πίστεως, finally, is not to be taken in such a way as to make faith the στερέωμα (Hofmann), which protects the readers, as if it were ΤῸ ὙΜῶΝ ΣΤΕΡΈΩΜΑ; but as the genitive of the subject, in such a way that their faith has the στερέωμα securing it, which Paul spiritually sees.

To call in question the unseducedness here attested (Baumgarten-Crusius, who leaves it a question whether the sense is not merely: “if it is so”), or to refer it to only a part of the church (Flatt), is a quite arbitrary result of unduly pressing the general utterance of commendation.

[83] Whom Holtzmann, p. 177, has too rashly followed.Colossians 2:5. γὰρ is difficult. Meyer thinks that the fact of his spiritual presence is mentioned, in contrast to his bodily absence, as a reason why they should not let themselves be deceived. Ellicott (after Chrysostom) thinks that he is explaining why he can advise them, it is because he thus knows their need. Lightfoot, Soden, Findlay and Haupt think he explains his warning by his personal interest in them.—καὶ goes closely with τῇ σαρκὶ. The dative is one of reference, and τῇ σαρκὶ is equivalent to “in the body”. There is not the least ground for the inference that Paul had ever been to Colossæ.—τῷ πνεύματι: not “by the Holy Spirit,” but “in spirit”. Paul’s own spirit is meant as in 1 Corinthians 5:3-4.—σῦν ὑμῖν εἰμί: not simply among you, but “united with you through the warmest community of interest” (Sod.).—χαίρων καὶ βλέπων. Many take this as if it were equivalent to “rejoicing to see,” but it is questionable if the words can mean this. If the object of his joy is the condition of the Church, we should have expected an inversion of the order, first seeing and then rejoicing at what he saw. Lightfoot explains the order as indicating that he looked because it gave him joy to look. Ellicott assumes a continuation of the words σῦν ὑμῖν, “rejoicing with you and beholding”. Meyer thinks χαίρων means rejoicing to be thus present with you in spirit. It is very difficult to decide as to the meaning, possibly Ellicott’s view is best.—τὴν τάξιν καὶ τὸ στερέωμα. A military sense is often found in both of these nouns, though sometimes (as by Ol.) it is restricted to the latter. Meyer and Abbott deny the military reference altogether. Both words are used in a military sense, but this is suggested by the context, and it is said that “here the context suggests nothing of the kind” (Abb.). Haupt decides for it on the ground of the connexion. If the terms had been general, Paul would not have placed his joy over their order before his mention of their faith. But in representing them as a well-ordered army, and then expressing the same idea under the image of a bulwark which consists in their faith, the order is correct. It is, however, very questionable if an argument from order of this kind is to be pressed. Lightfoot translates στερέωμα “solid front”. It may have simply the sense of firm foundation. Whatever the precise force of the words, it is clear that the Church as a whole remained true to the doctrine it had been taught.—πίστεως: cf. Acts 16:5, 1 Peter 5:9.5. For] He means that he knows the need of such warning, though he is so far away. He is close to them “in spirit.”

in the spirit] Is this the human spirit or the Divine? 1 Corinthians 5:4 (with 3) appears to decide for the former. It is scarcely enough to say (as Lightfoot) that this is “the common antithesis of flesh and spirit, or body and spirit;” for in many important passages (e.g. Galatians 5:16-18) the antithesis to “the flesh” is precisely the Divine Spirit dwelling in the man. And here the meaning might well be (cp. 2 Corinthians 12:2-3) that in some way supernatural the Holy Spirit gave him, in spite of bodily absence, a mysterious presence of intuitive consciousness. But the tone of the context is in favour of a simpler meaning; and “flesh,” here used evidently in its most literal sense, points the same way. And so the words “my spirit” (1 Corinthians 5:4) present a true parallel and explanation; though even there a certain mystery seems to be indicated. He is present in the sense of spiritual love and influence.—Jerome compares Elisha and Gehazi (2 Kings 5:26).

joying and beholding] The “joy” of what he hears of them leads him more vividly to “behold” them, as if in actual view.—Observe his loving wish to dwell even here on their brighter side.

order … stedfastness] Both words are military; Lightfoot renders them orderly array and solid front respectively. “The enforced companionship of St Paul with the soldiers of the Prætorian Guard at this time (Php 1:13) might have suggested this image. At all events in the contemporary Epistle (Ephesians 6:14 sq.) we have an elaborate metaphor from the armour of a soldier” (Lightfoot).

Stedfastness (solidity) of your faith:—cp. Acts 16:5 (lit., “grew solid in (or by) their faith”); 1 Peter 5:9 (lit., “whom resist, solid in (or by) your faith”).—The “solidity” in all these places implies at once the compact spiritual steadiness of the community and (the true and necessary condition to such steadiness) the simplicity and thoroughness of the individual as a believer.Colossians 2:5. Χαίρων καὶ Βλέπων, joying and beholding) i.e. beholding with joy.—τάξιν, order) lest anything should be out of joint (‘lame’), Hebrews 12:13. Both individuals and those who are joined together should maintain order. Paul looks to those joined together, that they be knit together, συμβιβασθέντες, Colossians 2:2.—στερέωμα, stedfastness) that it may not easily lose order. Stedfast faith does not permit anything to be removed out of its order. This stedfastness is required in individuals, as the full assurance in Colossians 2:2. Order is understood to belong to love Faith is stedfastness when it is itself stedfast.Verse 5. - For if indeed I am absent in the flesh, yet in the spirit I am with you (1 Thessalonians 2:17; 1 Corinthians 5:3, 4). The connection of this verse with the last is not obvious. Ellicott, following Chrysostom, makes St. Paul's spiritual presence the reason for his being able to give the Colossians this warning; Meyer, his bodily absence the reason for their needing it. It is better, with Lightfoot, to see here a general explanatory reference to the previous context, a renewed declaration (ver. 1) of watchful interest in these distant brethren and a hearty acknowledgment of their Christian loyalty. The tone of authoritative warning just assumed (ver. 4) is thus justified, and yet softened (compare the apologetic tone of Romans 15:14, 15). The phrase, "if I am absent," does not imply a previous presence (see note, ver. 1). Rejoicing and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ (Philippians 1:4-8, 27; 1 Corinthians 1:5-8; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:4). St. Paul dos not say, "rejoicing in beholding." The consciousness of union with brethren far away, whom he has never seen (ver. 1), is itself a joy; and this joy is heightened by what he sees through the eyes of Epaphras (Colossians 1:4, 6-8: comp. 2 Corinthians 7:7) of the condition of this Church. Τάξις and στερέωμα are military terms, denoting the "ordered array" and "solid front" of an army prepared for battle (Lightfoot, Hofmann): comp. Ephesians 6:11, etc.; Philippians 1:27. Others find the figure of a building underlying the second word - Vulgate, firmamentum ("solid basis") - and this is its more usual meaning, and agrees with ver. 7 and Colossians 1:23 (comp. 2 Timothy 2:19; 1 Peter 5:9; Acts 16:5; also Psalm 18:2, LXX, for the noun, not found, elsewhere in the New Testament). The precise expression, "faith in Christ" (literally, into - εἰς, not ἐν, as in Colossians 1:4, see note) occurs only here in the New Testament; in Acts 24:24 read "in Christ Jesus." In such passages as Romans 3:22, 26 (where πίστις is followed by the genitive), Christ appears as object of faith; in such as Colossians 1:4 and Colossians 2:5 he is its ground or substratum, that in which it rests and dwells, into which it roots itself. Order (τάξιν)

Or orderly array. A military metaphor, quite possibly suggested by Paul's intercourse with the soldiers in his confinement. See on Philippians 1:13.

Steadfastness (στερέωμα)

Only here in the New Testament. See on 1 Peter 5:9. The kindred adjective στερεός solid, occurs 2 Timothy 2:19; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 5:9; and the verb στερεόω to make solid, Acts 3:7; Acts 16:5. The military metaphor is continued. Faith is represented as a host solidly drawn up: your solid front, close phalanx. The verb is found in this sense in the Apocrypha, 1 Macc. 10:50, "ἐστερέωσε τὸν πόλεμον, he solidified the battle; massed his lines. Compare Ezekiel 13:5, where the noun has the sense of stronghold: "They stood not ἐν στερέωματι in the stronghold." So Psalm 17:2, "The Lord is my strength;" stronghold or bulwark. The firmament, Genesis 1:6; Ezekiel 1:22. In Esther 9:22, of the confirmation of a letter.

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