Paul’s Presence in Colossae
“Though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ” (Col. 2:5).- Colossians 2:4-5
Satan is called the master deceiver in Scripture (Rev. 12:9), largely on account of his skill in persuading by means of clever argumentation. It is a grave error to identify every persuasive speech with the truth, but the Devil works overtime to confuse the two. In the garden of Eden, he persuaded Adam and Eve to believe what was false was actually true — that human beings are better off living by their own rules (Gen. 3). He continues today in his crafty ways, trying to persuade Christians with arguments that sound good at first but are in reality lies from the pit of hell.
Apparently, this was going on when Paul wrote to the Colossians, as he states his reason for writing was to keep his audience from falling for “plausible arguments” (Col. 2:4). The most dangerous false teachings are those that seem plausible, not outright fallacies. It may be tempting to think Christ’s work on our behalf is only needed to get us started in our quest for godliness, that we must move on to a new doctrine, person, or practice to reach advanced spirituality. Paul’s answer to this “plausible” argument, however, is a resounding no! The exalted Christology (a doctrine of Christ that identifies Him with God) presented in 1:3–2:3 has had as its purpose the refutation of all heresies that seem to be right. Believers in Colossae (along with us) were brought to life through the Spirit by this exalted God-man, and it is our continual confirmation of Jesus’ identity and work that enables Christians to discern falsehood, even when it is delivered most persuasively (2:4, 6–7). John Calvin writes, “Those who are not satisfied with Christ are exposed to all fallacies and deceptions.”
Despite the danger of false teaching, Paul’s words in Colossians 2:5 indicate that the Christians there had not yet fallen for it when he wrote to them. The apostle describes the strength of their faith and explains how he has been with them in spirit, rejoicing in them, despite never having met them in person. This presence goes far beyond any sense that his “heart was with them”; rather, it reflects his union with them in the Holy Spirit. Coming to Christ, we are joined to His body through the Spirit and enter into a fellowship with other Christians that transcends the greatest distance (1 Cor. 12:12–26; Heb. 12:1–2, 18–24). In that sense, Paul was in Colossae to encourage the church even though he was geographically far off.
Our mystical union with Christ and His people through the Holy Spirit has profound implications for how we pray for believers in other places. Because we are united to the One who transcends all, our prayers are a profound encouragement to other believers, even if they are unaware of our praying. In prayer we are with them and encouraging them through the Holy Spirit, who closes the distance between us.
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 6:12–20