Charles Simeon Commentary - Ephesians 2:12 - 2:13

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Ephesians 2:12 - 2:13

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Eph_2:12-13. Ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

THERE is scarcely any thing which has a greater tendency to impress our minds with exalted views of the grace of God, than to compare the guilt and misery of an unconverted state, with the purity and happiness into which we are brought by the Gospel of Christ. As a shipwrecked person, viewing the tempest from a rock on which he has been cast, feels a solemn and grateful sense of the mercy vouchsafed unto him; so surely must every one, who “looks unto the rock whence he has been hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence he has been digged,” stand amazed at the Divine goodness, and be quickened to pour out his soul in grateful adorations. To produce this frame, is the scope of the whole preceding part of this epistle, wherein the Apostle extols and magnifies the grace of God, as manifested to his redeemed people. Having shewn what their state had been previous to conversion, and contrasted it with that to which they are introduced by the Gospel, he exhorts them to bear it in remembrance: “Wherefore remember;” remember what ye were, that ye may be thankful for what ye are [Note: ver. 11. with the text.].

We propose to shew,

I.       The state of unregenerate men—

The state of the Jews and Gentiles represented in a very lively manner the conditions of persons under the Gospel: the external privileges of the Jews, typifying the internal and spiritual privileges of the regenerate; and the abhorred state of the Gentiles marking with equal clearness the ignorance and misery of the unregenerate. In this view, what the Apostle says of the Ephesians, previous to their conversion to Christianity, may be considered as applicable to all at this day, who are not truly and savingly converted:

1.       They are “without Christ”—

[The Gentiles, of course, had no knowledge of, nor any interest in, the Lord Jesus Christ. And thus it is with the unregenerate amongst ourselves: they are without Christ [Note: ÷ ù ñ ò × ñ é ó ô ï . Comp. Joh_15:5.]; they are separated from him as branches cut off from the vine: they do not depend upon him, or receive sap and nutriment from him. They indeed call themselves Christians; but they have no union with Christ, nor any communications from him.]

2.       They are “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel”—

[Israel are called a commonwealth, because they were governed by laws different from all other people, and possessed privileges unknown to the rest of the world. Thus the true Israel at this day may be considered in the same light; because they, and they only, acknowledge Christ as their governor: they alone yield obedience to his laws, and they alone enjoy the privileges of his people. Now as the Gentiles were “aliens” from the commonwealth of the Jews, so are all unconverted men “aliens” from the commonwealth of the converted. They are governed by different laws; following the customs, fashions, and erroneous maxims of the world: they are separated from them in heart and affection; and though, from necessity, they must sometimes have intercourse with the godly, they never unite with them as one people, or desire to have one lot together with them.]

3.       They are “strangers from the covenants of promise”—

[There is, strictly speaking, but one covenant of grace: but the Apostle speaks of it in the plural number; because it was given at different times, and always with increasing fulness and perspicuity. Whether given to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, or to Moses, it was always the same: only the promises annexed to it were more copious and explicit. It is called “the covenant of promise,” to distinguish it from the covenant of works, which consisted only in requirements; whereas this consists chiefly in promises: under the covenant of works, men were to do all; under the covenant of grace they were to receive all.

It is obvious that the Gentiles were “strangers” to this covenant: and though it is not alike obvious, it is equally true, that the unconverted are strangers to it also. We confess they are admitted into the external bond of it in their baptism: but they do not become partakers of the promised blessings till they sue for them in the excercise of faith and prayer. And we will venture to appeal to the generality of baptized persons, Whether they are not as much strangers to the covenant of promise, as if no such covenant existed? Do they rest upon the promises? Do they treasure them up in their minds? Do they plead them in prayer before God? Do they found all their hopes of happiness upon them? Alas! they have little acquaintance with the nature of the covenant, and no submission to its terms: and consequently they are utter strangers to the covenant, and to the promises contained in it.]

4.       They are without hope—

[The Gentile world are always represented as in a hopeless state; and though we presume not to say, that God will not extend uncovenanted mercy to any, yet we have no warrant to affirm that he will. If indeed they perfectly fulfilled the law-written in their hearts, there is reason to think God would have mercy on them [Note: Rom_2:26-27.]: but who amongst them does perfectly fulfil that law? But, waving this, there is an absolute certainty that the state of unconverted men under the Gospel is hopeless: no mercy can possibly be extended to them, if they continue unconverted: they must inevitably and eternally perish. For, how should they have any hope, when they are “without Christ” (who is the Head of all vital influence), and “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel” (to which alone any saving blessings are communicated), and “strangers from the covenant of promise” (which is the only channel by which those blessings are conveyed to us)? From whence then can they derive any hope? or what foundation can they have for it?]

5.       They are “without God in the world”—

[The gods of the heathen were no gods: therefore they to whom the God of Israel was unknown, were “without God in the world.” And thus it is with the unconverted amongst ourselves: for though they acknowledge the being of a God, they know not what a just and holy God he is; nor do they glorify him as God, by a conformity to his revealed will. They love not to hear of him: they endeavour to blot out the remembrance of him from their minds; their whole conduct accords with that of Pharaoh, when he said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go [Note: Exo_5:2.].” In a word, the language of their hearts is like that of the fool whom David speaks of, “No God;” there is no God to controul or punish me; or, if there be, I wish there were none [Note: Psa_14:1.].]

But that all do not continue in that deplorable condition, will appear by considering,

II.      The state to which they are introduced by the Gospel—

Every living man once was in the state above described; but in conversion, men “who were sometimes afar off, are made nigh to God”—

[In what the nearness of converted men to God consists, will appear by the very same considerations as have already been used to illustrate their distance from him in their unconverted state. The Gentiles had no liberty of access to God among the Jews: they had an outer court assigned them; and it would have been at the peril of their lives, if they had presumed to enter the place appropriated to the Jews. But on conversion to Judaism, they were admitted to a participation of all the rights and privileges of the Jews themselves. Thus persons truly converted to God have liberty to approach, the Majesty of heaven; yea, since the vail of the temple was rent in twain, a new and living way is opened for them into the holiest of all: they may go even to the throne of God, and draw nigh to him as their reconciled God and Father. As soon as ever they are “in Christ Jesus,” united to him by faith, and interested in his merits, they have every privilege which the most eminent saints enjoy: their sins are pardoned; they have peace with God; and, though they may not be so full of joy as others, yet they have the same grounds of joy, inasmuch as “their Beloved is theirs, and they are his.”]

To this happy state they are brought “by the blood of Christ”—

[It was the blood of the sacrifice that availed for the restoration of sinners to the Divine favour under the law: and in the same manner it is the blood of Christ, and that only, that can avail for us. But as in the former case, so also in this, two things are necessary: the blood must be shed as an atonement for sin; and it must be sprinkled on the offender himself, to intimate his entire affiance in it. Now the shedding of Christ’s blood was effected on Calvary, many hundred years ago: and that one offering is sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world. Nothing more therefore is wanting to reconcile us to the Deity. But the sprinkling of his blood upon our hearts and consciences must be done by every one for himself: we must, as it were, dip the hyssop in the blood, and apply it to our own souls: or, in other words, we must exercise faith on the atonement of Christ as the only ground of our acceptance before God. In this way, and in this only, are we ever brought to a state of favour with God, and of fellowship with his people.]

This subject being mentioned as that which was deserving of continual remembrance, we would call upon you to “remember” it—

1.       As a criterion whereby to judge of your state—

[It is evident, that, if once we were afar off from God, and now we are nigh to him, there must have been a transition from the one state to the other, or, as the Scripture expresses it, a “passing from death unto life.” Has this transition then ever taken place in your souls? It is not necessary that you should be able to trace the precise time when it began, and the various steps by which it was accomplished: but there is an impossibility for it to have taken place, without your having sought it humbly, and laboured for it diligently. Have you then this evidence at least that it has been accomplished? If not, you can have no reason to think that you have ever yet experienced the change, which characterizes all who are made heirs of salvation.]

2.       As a ground of humiliation—

[If you were the most eminent saint that ever lived, it would be well to bear in mind what you once were, and what you would still have been, if Divine grace had not wrought a change within you. Look then at those who “are afar off;” and, when you see their alienation from God, their enmity against his people, their distance from even a hope of salvation, behold your own image, and be confounded on account of your past abominations: yea, “walk softly also before God all the days of your life,” in the recollection, that, as that once was your state, so it would be again, if the grace that originally interposed to change you, do not continually maintain that change in your souls.]

3.       As a source of gratitude and joy—

[It is scarcely needful to say, that they who have experienced a restoration to God’s favour, should bless and magnify their Benefactor and Redeemer. But have not those also, who are at the greatest distance from God, reason to rejoice and sing? Yes surely; for they may look at those who are now in heaven, and say, “The blood which availed to bring them nigh to God will also avail for me.” O joyful thought! Ponder it in your hearts, ye careless sinners: consider what the Lord Jesus Christ is both able and willing to do for you. Every saint, whether on earth or in heaven, was once in your state; and if you will seek remission through the blood of Christ, you shall be partakers of their privileges, both in this world and in the world to come.]