For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, rejoicing and beholding your order…
I. THE ORDER OF A GOSPEL CHURCH. It was the constant custom of the apostles to organize their converts into Churches (Acts 15:36, 41). The order may be considered in relation to the whole Church as a body (1 Corinthians 14:40; Titus 1:5), and to its members in their personal behaviour (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 11). Both of these will be taken in ii we consider the order of a Church of Christ.
1. With respect to its constitution.
(1) New Testament Churches consist of such Christians as meet together in a given place for religious worship and discipline. The word Church signifies(a) the catholic invisible Church which consists of all the elect united to Christ their head (Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 5:25):(b) the universal visible Church or kingdom of Christ;
(c) a Christian family all of which are professed believers joining together in the worship of God (Colossians 4:15; Romans 16:3, 5, 10, 15).
(d) But the most common sense is that of particular Churches founded for the celebration of sacred ordinances. Hence we read of the Church at Corinth, at Rome, etc.
(2) These Churches consist of professing believers who, in the judgment of charity, are real saints (Colossians 1:2; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2, etc.)(3) These professing believers are formed into a Church state, by mutual agreement, for walking together in all the ordinances of Christ according to the will of God (Matthew 18:15-20; 2 Corinthians 8:5; Acts 2:41, 42, 46; 2 Corinthians 9:13).
2. With respect to its officers. It cannot be completed without these who ate necessary for the regular adminstration.These are —
1. Bishops or Elders (Philippians 1:1; Acts 20:28), whose office is to feed the flock (Acts 20:17; Jeremiah 3:15), to rule well and labour in word and doctrine (1 Timothy 5:17).
2. Deacons, who have care of the secular affairs of the Church (Acts 6.)
3. With respect to its worship. A particular Church is the seat of all ordinances, and when it is furnished with proper officers it is in due order for the celebration of them. Churches ought to join in the ordinances of general communion, whether they have a pastor or not (Acts 12:5; Matthew 18:19-20). But preaching, blessing in the name of the Lord, and the administration of the sacraments are a proper province of the pastor, with the agreement of the Church as to time and place. As ministers are not to be lords over God's heritage (1 Peter 5:3; 2 Corinthians 1:24), so neither they nor the people are to call any man master (Matthew 23. 8-10).
4. As to its discipline (Matthew 18:17; 2 Corinthians 2:6-8). As any society has the right of including and excluding members, so has the Church. And as for government, Acts 15. shows that even when apostles were presiding the Church had a right of being consulted.
5. With respect to the purity of its manners, and the behaviour of its members towards one another and their pastor. They are saints and should be holy; they are brethren and should be kind and helpful; they are under their pastors (Hebrews 13:17) and should encourage, strengthen, and submit to them.
II. THE STEADFASTNESS OF THEIR FAITH IN CHRIST,
1. Christ is the object of their faith.
2. Faith is the doctrine (Galatians 1:23; Philippians 1:27; Jude 1:3) and the grace of faith. Both are probably meant here (see vers. 7, 8, and ver. 6).
3. Steadfastness signifies —
(1) The substantial solidity of their faith in opposition to flashy notions and corrupt mixtures (1 Corinthians 2:5, and vers. 4, 7, 8.).
(2) Its strength in opposition to weakness (Romans 4:18, 21).
(3) Its constancy m opposition to wavering (Hebrews 6:19; Ephesians 4:14, 15; Colossians 1:23; Hebrews 10:39).
(4) A holy resolution or courage, in opposition to shyness or cowardice in their profession of it (Colossians 1:4; Romans 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 10:23).
III. THE JOY THAT ATTENDS THE BEHOLDING OF THESE.
1. On the part of pastor, people, and other Churches.
2. Because thereby Christ is honoured, the Church edified, religion recommended, the faith confirmed, and other believers encouraged.
(J. Guyse, D. D.)
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.