For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, rejoicing and beholding your order…
I. THE CONDITION ANTICIPATED — "Though I be absent in the body."
1. Whatever may be the number and importance of our relations to our fellows, we are unable to be personally in contact with them in every place. Mercifully we are not permitted to be ubiquitous, and are only suffered to be migratory for self-preservation. This restriction promotes the order, improvement, and happiness of society.
2. But is not it a hindrance to the discharge of our relationships to be absent from them? No, or it would not be made the rule for us by an all-wise God. Observe how it is made the law of Providence in regard to our nearest relations: "A man shall leave father and mother, and cleave to his wife." In how many business necessitates absence in the flesh.
3. God would teach us by this law —
(1) The temporary nature of existing relations in the flesh, so that we are warned not to regard such as our highest ties. Father and mother, husband and wife, are sweet bonds; but the fact that so many circumstances cause absence, and that death will soon close such relations, ought to lead us to seek other and more enduring relations in the spirit. "Who is my mother," said Jesus. "He that doeth the will of God," etc.
(2) The duty of improving our relationships while yet present. Did we realize the law of absence would not a greater spirit of kindness, forbearance, and service be excited?
(3) Not to look to the arm of flesh, but to God. The tendency to make much of the human instrument because he is present is natural to man. Christ declared His absence in the flesh to be expedient for His disciples. Who can doubt that one design of Christ in the changes of spheres appointed to His ministers, e.g., is to elevate His Church's faith and to excite them to rely on His Spirit.
(4) The cultivation of Christian love in its highest exercise. The love exercised when present has to be purified from inferior motives by absence. Absence from his country purifies the fires of a patriot's love. So instead of loving the Colossians less, Paul loved them the more.
II. THE COMMUNION MAINTAINED. Happily we are so constituted that the law which compels our fleshly separations is abundantly compensated by the liberty of the spirit. Paul was with the Colossians in spirit, praying for them wherever he might be, and meeting them around a common mercy seat.
(G. B. Birch.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.