Absent in Body, But Present in Spirit
1 Corinthians 5:3
For I truly, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present…

Much as Paul loved his converts in the city of Corinth, he could not, at the period when he wrote this Epistle, think of visiting them. Their conduct in the matter treated in this chapter so distressed his pure and affectionate heart, so disappointed his expectations, that he felt constrained to remain absent from them. But in so doing he was not showing any lack of interest in their Christian life or their Church proceedings. Quite the contrary; he was content to stay away because, as the text makes evident, he knew there was a sense in which he was really with them.

I. THE SPECIAL INSTANCE OF THIS PRINCIPLE FURNISHED IN THE CASE OF PAUL AND THE CORINTHIANS. In what senses could the apostle deem himself to be with these Corinthian Christians "in spirit"?

1. By his teaching. He had long laboured in word and doctrine in this great centre of Greek commerce and literature, and amongst this company, of whom not many were wise or noble, but many were called and washed and sanctified by the gospel of Christ and by the Spirit of God. His teaching laid the foundation upon which Apollos and others had built. And we know enough of that teaching to be sure that it included many precepts and motives to holiness. This instruction had sunk into the hearts of the spiritually susceptible, and by it the apostle yet spake of this society, summoning them to a holy life, and bidding them maintain a standard of social purity.

2. By his authority. Paul never forgot that he was an inspired apostle of the Lord. He spake by the Spirit of the Lord, and his counsels were not those of human wisdom merely, but of celestial authority. What the Corinthians were directed to do they were to do in his name, and with the assurance that their action would be sanctioned by the Divine Head of the Church. In vindicating the purity of Christian communion, in cleansing the Bride of Christ from any stain of the world that had fallen upon her white robe, the Corinthians were to feel that the apostle was with them, inspiring and corroborating their lawful necessary action.


1. The great Saviour and Founder of the Church is absent in body, but present in spirit. He himself assured his disciples that it was good for them that he should go away, for that thus the Comforter should come. And the spiritual and universal and perpetual presence of the great Head of the Church is thus delightfully and graciously secured.

2. The action of Christ's Church, when in accordance with the express and plain instructions of our Lord and of his inspired apostles, must be recognized as prompted by his Spirit and sanctioned by his authority. In the application of this principle there are and will be many differences among the people of Christ, but with regard to the principle itself there should be no diversity or hesitation. We do not see his form or hear his voice; but we cannot question his spiritual presence. And he is at hand, not only to teach the disciple, to comfort the sufferer, to counsel those perplexed but to impart a Divine authority to the actions and to the discipline of who rely upon his Word and do his will. - T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,

WEB: For I most certainly, as being absent in body but present in spirit, have already, as though I were present, judged him who has done this thing.

Right Feeling Towards Erring Brethren
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