Charles Simeon Commentary - Ephesians 4:30 - 4:30

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Ephesians 4:30 - 4:30

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Eph_4:30. Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

THE Holy Scriptures are not written after the manner of human systems, but often blend warnings with promises, and duties with privileges, in a way that by some would be thought to involve them in inconsistency. The Apostle, cautioning the Ephesians against various evils which he had observed amongst them, adds, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God;” in which expression he seems eventually to refer to those who had “grieved the Lord in the wilderness,” and had therefore been excluded from the promised land [Note: Heb_3:10; Heb_3:17.], and to those who “by rebelling against God had provoked his Holy Spirit, so that he was turned to be their enemy [Note: Isa_63:10.]” Yet at the same time he informs them, that the Holy Spirit had sealed them, as the Lord’s property, unto the day of redemption, when he would claim them as his own. The advocates of human systems love not such apparent contrarieties: they would rather say, if they be sealed unto the day of redemption, how can they be in any danger of so grieving the Lord, as to be finally excluded from the heavenly Canaan? or, if they be in danger of such a calamity, how can it be that they should ever have been sealed unto the day of redemption? But we may safely leave these matters to God, who will clear up all such difficulties in the last day. That we may grieve the Holy Spirit, and that believers are sealed by him unto the day of redemption, is equally certain: nor is there any great difficulty in reconciling the two, to a mind that is truly humble and contrite; because the liberty of man is not at all affected by the decrees of God: man never loses his proneness to fall, notwithstanding God’s counsel shall ultimately stand: and therefore he needs at all times the caution in our text, whilst the encouragement afforded in it is at all times proper to animate his exertions.

But,—not to enter into nice disquisitions about difficulties, which, after all that can be said upon them, can never be entirely removed,—we shall proceed, with a view to practical improvement, to notice,

I.       The inestimable benefit conferred upon believers—

Many are the offices which the Holy Spirit executes in the great work of redemption. He is the one Agent, by whom redemption is applied in all its parts. By him is life imparted to those who were dead in trespasses and sins: “he convinces the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment;” and “glorifies Christ” in the sight of all who are so instructed. But there is one office in particular of which we are now called to speak, namely, his sealing of believers unto the day of redemption. This is more especially dwelt upon by the Apostle, in the first chapter of this epistle, where he says that the Ephesian converts, “after they had believed in Christ, had been sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, as the earnest of their inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession [Note: Eph_1:13-14.].” This office he executes upon all true believers;

1.       By an eternal designation of them to God’s service—

[Such a seal most assuredly exists, and was made use of by Almighty God from all eternity. It was made use of in the consecration of his only dear Son to his mediatorial office; “for him hath God the Father sealed [Note: Joh_6:27.]:” it was made use of also in the setting apart his chosen people to be his own peculiar treasure above all the people upon the face of the earth [Note: Deu_7:6.]:” “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his [Note: 2Ti_2:19.].” In the appointment of Abraham and his posterity to be a holy nation and a peculiar people, we all see and acknowledge the exercise of sovereign grace; though we find it difficult to acquiesce in this idea in reference to the eternal states of men. But where shall we draw the line? or how shall we justify the dispensations of God towards the Jewish people, if we deny his right to exercise the same sovereignty towards all the sinners of mankind? The truth is, that fallen man has no claim upon his God: in that respect he is exactly on a footing with the fallen angels: and, it God be pleased to shew mercy to any, he may do so in any way, and to any extent that he shall see fit: and if he select any as objects of his mercy in preference to others, he does no more injury to the rest, than he would to the great mass of the fallen angels, if he were at this moment, for the display of his own glorious perfections, to liberate any number of them from the chains of darkness in which they are bound. He “has a right to do what he will with his own: nor ought our eye to be evil because he is good [Note: Mat_20:15.].” It is certain that the Lord hath from eternity “set apart him that is godly for himself [Note: Psa_4:3.];” and not because he was godly, or would be so, but because God of his own sovereign will and pleasure ordained him unto life: as St. Paul expressly tells us; “Whom God did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified: their call in this world, and their glorification in the next, originating altogether in the predestination of God from all eternity [Note: Rom_8:29-30.].]

2.       By the sanctification of their hearts and lives—

[This, if I may so speak, is the broad seal of heaven: “By their fruits ye shall know them:” “He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.” By this seal the Thessalonian converts were so distinguished, that St. Paul did not hesitate to infer, from what he saw in them, that they were God’s chosen people: when he called to mind “their works of faith, and labours of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, he knew from it their election of God [Note: 1Th_1:3-4.].” And on all true believers this seal is found: God’s “peculiar people are invariably found to be holy and zealous of good works [Note: Tit_2:14.].”

Now this consideration may well reconcile us to the exercise of God’s sovereign grace: for, if the idea of God’s choice being altogether uninfluenced by holiness, either seen or foreseen in the objects of his choice, appear to militate against the interests of morality, the circumstance of God’s having inseparably united this seal with the foregoing, sufficiently removes all fear on that head. In God’s mind, our sanctification is as much ordained as our final salvation: “We are chosen, that we may be holy [Note: Eph_1:4.]” and “elect unto obedience [Note: 1Pe_1:2.]” and predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son [Note: Rom_8:29.]: and in this way alone will any one finally attain the salvation of his soul; since it is only in, and by, and through the means, that God has ordained the end: “He has from the beginning chosen us to salvation; but it is through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth [Note: 2Th_2:13.].”]

3.       By the manifestation of God’s love to their souls—

[The Holy Spirit is a “Spirit of adoption” in the hearts of God’s people [Note: Rom_8:15.]: he is also a “Witness testifying of their adoption [Note: Rom_8:16.]:” yea, he is to them, and within them, an earnest of their everlasting inheritance [Note: Eph_1:13. 2Co_5:5.]; “shedding abroad in their hearts that love of God,” which will constitute their happiness through eternal ages [Note: Rom_5:5.]. In this also he operates as a seal, as St. Paul has said in reference to all true Christians: “Now he who established us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts [Note: 2Co_1:21-22.].”

By the first of these seals we are known to God alone: by the second, we are discoverable to those around us: by the last, an assurance of our happiness is imparted to our own souls. And though the impression of the two last is not at all times equally clear and strong, yet is it the privilege of all to possess them; and in proportion only as these last exist, will the first be ascertained.]

In connexion with the privileges of believers, we may well consider,

II.      Their duty towards their gracious Benefactor—

The Holy Spirit is here represented as a parent, who, from his tender solicitude for the welfare of his children, is deeply “grieved” when they defeat in any respect the purposes of his love towards them. Now we may grieve the Holy Spirit,

1.       By departing from the truth in our principles—

[The particular office assigned to the Holy Spirit in the economy of redemption, is, to “glorify Christ,” by receiving of the things that are his, and “shewing them unto us [Note: Joh_16:14.]” Now in this office he delights: and when we duly appreciate the excellencies of Christ, and “behold his glory as the glory of the only—begotten of the Father,” then is the Holy Spirit delighted to dwell with us, and to carry on the whole work of grace in our souls. But when we suffer the wily “serpent to beguile us, and to turn us from the simplicity that is in Christ,” then is the Spirit grieved: for he is a jealous God, and especially jealous for the honour of that Saviour, whose cause he has espoused. Against two things then in particular we have to guard, namely, against philosophical subtilties on the one hand, and Jewish superstitious on the other. By both the one and the other of these was the Church of God rent, in the very first ages of Christianity; and thousands of souls were subverted by them. By the same are we also endangered. Our natural pride and self-conceit are ever at work, to add something to what God has revealed or to detract somewhat from it. Perhaps the simplicity of the Gospel is that which most offends the carnal mind. A simple life of faith upon the Son of God, as having loved us and given himself for us, is most difficult to be maintained. We want to be something; or to do something, that so we may share the glory of Christ, and ascribe some part of his honour to ourselves: but he is all, and must be all; and “all who glory, must glory in him alone [Note: Here reference may be made to any “questions and strifes of words” which may be agitated in the Church; for they all, when unduly insisted on, grieve the Holy Spirit.]” — — — By retaining in constant exercise this humble and childlike spirit, we shall obtain frequent tokens of God’s favourable acceptance: but by departing from it, we shall provoke him to hide his face from us.]

2.       By dishonouring it in our practice—

[To this more especially does the Apostle refer, both in the preceding and following context. Unhallowed tempers and dispositions are most offensive to the Spirit of God. O that all the professors of religion throughout the world were made duly sensible of this truth! But, whether they consider it or not, God will not dwell where there is bitterness and wrath, and anger and clamour, and evil-speaking and malice, or an habitual want of a forbearing and forgiving spirit. Falsehood too in our words, and dishonesty in our dealings, and impurity in our hearts, will assuredly drive him from us, and bring down upon us the tokens of his displeasure: “If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy [Note: 1Co_3:17.].” It is no uncommon thing to find those who profess religion low and miserable in their minds. But we should not wonder at it, if we knew what abominations are harboured in their hearts: we should rather wonder that God bears so long with them, and that his wrath does not break forth to consume them in an instant. Let us never forget this, that as well may light have fellowship with darkness, and Christ with Belial, as the Spirit of God abide with those who yield not to his sanctifying operations. If, instead of conforming ourselves to the mind that was in Christ, we rebel against him, we shall “vex his Holy Spirit, and provoke him to become our enemy [Note: Isa_63:10.].”]


1.       Those who comply not with the written word—

[The word which is recorded in the Scriptures of truth is God’s word: it is altogether given by inspiration from the Holy Ghost. If therefore we comply not with that, we resist the Holy Ghost, and “do despite to him.” Consider this, ye who receive not the word with all humility of mind, or labour not to conform to it in your life and conversation: think, whom it is that ye resist and rebel against; even Him, who, if he depart from you, will leave you in a bondage from which you can never be delivered, and in misery from which you can never be redeemed [Note: Hos_4:17; Hos_9:12.]. O learn to tremble at the word of God, and beg that your whole souls may be so melted and poured into its mould, as to assume its every feature, and be formed into the perfect image of your God.]

2.       Those who rest in a mere formal compliance with it—

[You cannot deceive that blessed Spirit whose province it is to search the heart and try the reins. He requires “truth in our inward parts:” he requires that your heart be right with him; that you “walk in the Spirit,” and “pray in the Spirit,” and “live in the Spirit,” and give yourselves up altogether to his godly motions. Do not therefore dissemble with him, lest he give you up to your own delusions, and seal you up in utter impenitence to the day of final retribution. Of those who held the truth in unrighteousness, we are told that he gave them up to a reprobate mind. I pray you, bring not upon yourselves this heaviest of all judgments: but to-day, while it is called to-day, surrender up yourselves entirely to his guidance, that he may “make you perfect in every good work, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight through Christ Jesus [Note: Heb_13:20-21.].”]

3.       Those who are endeavouring to please him in all things—

[The day of redemption is near at hand. O blessed day, when all the remains of sin and sorrow shall be for ever banished from the soul! Look forward to it; and order your every action, word, and thought, in reference to it. Pray to the Holy Spirit to work yet more and more powerfully upon you, in order to prepare you for your appearance before the judgment-seat of Christ. Guard against any sloth in the ways of God, lest, like the Church of old, you cause him to suspend the communications of his love [Note: Son_5:2-6.]. Pray to him to give you that white stone, which none but he who has it can appreciate, and which has on it the name written, which none but he who possesses it can read [Note: Rev_2:17.]. Then shall you already even now enjoy a foretaste of your heavenly inheritance, and in due season “have an abundant entrance ministered unto you into the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”]