Charles Simeon Commentary - Ephesians 4:22 - 4:24

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Ephesians 4:22 - 4:24

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Eph_4:22-24. That ye put off concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and trice holiness.

CHRISTIANITY is universally professed amongst us: but many know little more of it than the name. They, who are in some measure acquainted with its principles, have, for the most part, learned it only from books and human instruction. But there are some who have learned it, as it were, from Christ himself. Their understandings have been opened, and their hearts instructed by his good Spirit. These are said to “have heard Christ, and to have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus [Note: ver. 21.].” These may be distinguished from the others by the effects of their knowledge. While the speculative Christian remains willingly ignorant of true holiness, the truly enlightened man labours to attain the highest measure of it that he can. This St. Paul represents as the infallible consequence of divine teaching: and his declarations respecting it set forth the sum and substance of a Christian’s duty.

I.       Put off the old man—

There are many terms peculiar to the Holy Scriptures which need to be explained. Those in the text are of the greatest importance—

“The old man” is that principle of sin which actuates the unregenerate man—

[It is a natural principle. As a man consists of a soul with many faculties, and a body with many members, so does this principle, though but one, consist of many parts: pride, unbelief, &c. &c. constitute that body of sin, which is here denominated “the old man;” and it is called “old,” because it is coeval with our existence, and is derived from our first parents, after whose fallen image we were made. It is a corrupt, principle. It is expressly called so in my text. All its inward “lustings” and desires are vitiated, and invariably discover themselves by the external fruits of a vain “conversation.” It is also a “deceitful” principle, continually representing good as evil, and evil as good: it constantly disappoints our expectations, making that to appear a source of happiness which never yet terminated in any thing but misery.]

This it is our duty to be “putting off”—

[It is indeed no easy matter to effect this work; yet in dependence on God’s aid we may, and must, accomplish it. We must suppress its actings. It will break forth, if not resisted, into all manner of evil [Note: Sec the following context.]: but we must fight against it, and “bring it into subjection [Note: 1Co_9:27.].” Our eternal life and salvation depend on our “mortifying the deeds of the body [Note: Rom_8:13.].” Not contented with a partial victory, we must check its desires. A weight that may be easily stopped when beginning to roll, will prove irresistible when it is running down a steep declivity. We must check evil in its first rising, if we would not be overpowered by it: none can tell how far he shall go when once he begins to fall. We must therefore “crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts [Note: Gal_5:24].” To do this effectually, we must guard against its deceits. We should examine our motives and principles of action. Sin is deceitful; the heart also is deceitful; and Satan helps forward our deceptions. That which is very specious in its outward appearance is often most odious to the heart-searching God. We must therefore bring every thing to the touchstone of God’s word: we must “prove all tilings, and hold fast that which is good [Note: 1Th_5:21.].”]

But we must not be satisfied with resisting sin. We must,

II.      Put on the new man—

“The new man” is that principle which actuates the godly—

[It consists of many parts, as well as the evil principle. Humility, faith, love, &c. are among its most characteristic features. It is divine in its origin. It belongs to no man naturally; but is “new.” It is the gift of God, the work of his good Spirit. It is “created” within us, and is as truly the workmanship of God, as the universe itself is. All who possess it are said to be “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works [Note: Eph_2:10.].” it is moreover holy in its operations: all its motions and tendencies are holy. It works to transform us “after God’s image.” It leads to an unreserved obedience to both tables of the law. It directs to “righteousness” towards man, and “holiness” towards God. Nor will it be satisfied with any semblance of religion, however specious. It labours uniformly to bring us to the experience of “true” holiness both in heart and life.]

This it is our duty to be putting on—

[As the prodigal was not merely pardoned, but clothed in robes suitable to his new condition, so are the children of God to be adorned with virtues suited to the relation which they bear to their heavenly Father. We must be “renewed,” not in our outward actions only, but, “in the spirit of our minds:” the great spring of action within us must be changed, and “the new man” must reign in us now, as “the old man” did in our unregenerate state. Do we ask, How shall this great work be effected? We answer, Encourage its motions, and exert its powers. The new principle of life in us is as water, which seeks continually to extinguish the corrupt principle within us: and if, upon any temptation occurring, we watched carefully the motions of that principle, we should frequently, perhaps invariably, find it directing us to what is right. But it is “a still small voice” that cannot be heard without much attention, and it may be very soon silenced by the clamours of passion or interest: it is the voice of God within us; and, if duly regarded, would never suffer us to err in any great degree. It has also powers, which, like the members of the body, may be strengthened by exertion. Put forth its powers in the exercise of faith and love, and it will be found to grow as well as any other habit. Having indeed the tide of corrupt nature against it, its progress will not be so rapid, nor will it admit of any intermission of our labours: but the more we do for God, the more shall we be disposed, and enabled, to do for him. We must however remember not to address ourselves to this duty in our own strength: of ourselves we can do nothing; but if we rely on the promised grace of Christ, we shall be strengthened by his Spirit, and be “changed into his image from glory to glory.”]

We may improve this subject,

1.       For conviction—

[If this progressive change be the necessary evidence of our being true Christians, alas! how few true Christians are there to be found! Yet nothing less than this will suffice. If we be really “in Christ, we are new creatures; old things are passed away, and, behold, all things are become new [Note: 2Co_5:17.].” It is not an external reformation merely that we must experience, but a new creation. Let all reflect on this. Let all inquire what evidence they have of such a change having passed upon their souls. The voice of Christ to all of us is this; “Ye must be born again; except a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven [Note: Joh_3:3; Joh_3:7.].”]

2.       For consolation—

[Many are ready to despond because of the severe conflicts which they experience between the spiritual and the carnal principle in their souls. They say, If I were a child of God, how could it be thus? We answer, This is rather an evidence that such persons are partakers of a divine nature: if they were not, they would be strangers to these conflicts. Though they might feel some struggles between corruption and conscience, yea, and between reason and conscience, the one attempting to vindicate what the other condemns, they would know nothing of those deeper conflicts between the flesh and spirit, especially in reference to the secret exercises of the soul in its daily converse with God. These evince the existence of a new principle, though they shew that the old man still lives within them [Note: Gal_5:17.]. Let not any then despond because they feel the remains of indwelling corruption, but rather be thankful if they hate it, and if they have grace in some good measure to subdue it. Let them trust in God to “perfect that which concerns them;” and look to him to “fulfil in them all the good pleasure of his goodness:” then shall they in due time “put off their filthy garments [Note: Zec_3:4.]” altogether, and “stand before their God without spot or blemish” to all eternity.]