Charles Simeon Commentary - Ephesians 6:14 - 6:15

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Ephesians 6:14 - 6:15

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Eph_6:14-15. Stand having your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace.

THERE are many things which the art of war has rendered necessary for the success of an army, besides those rude weapons which an untaught savage would employ: and though they may be of inferior and subordinate use, still the want of them may prove as fatal as the want of things that are of primary importance. It would have been to little purpose, in some situations, for soldiers to have their vital parts covered with armour, if they had not also shoes, or greaves, to protect their legs and feet against the sharp stakes, that were fixed in the ground to obstruct their progress. That this was a part of armour in the days of old, the sacred history informs us. Goliath had “greaves of brass upon his legs, as well as a target of brass between his shoulders [Note: 1Sa_17:6.].” And, when the irresistible success of the Chaldeans was foretold, it was particularly said, that “the lachet of their shoes should not be broken [Note: Isa_5:27.].” In reference to this part of a soldier’s accoutrements, the Apostle exhorts us to have our feet guarded; and intimates, that as the military shoes gave to him who wore them a readiness to march over any obstacles that might lie in his way, so “the Gospel of peace” gives to the Christian soldier a “preparation,” or readiness, to prosecute his warfare without halting. This it does,

I.       As bringing peace into the conscience; and

II.      As producing a peaceful disposition in the soul.

I.       The Gospel of peace gives us a readiness to march, in that it brings peace into the conscience

The Gospel is the one source of peace to sinful man. If he obtain peace from any other source, he “heals his wounds slightly, and says, Peace, peace, when there is no peace [Note: Jer_6:14.].” It is in the Gospel only that a Saviour is revealed. But there we are informed, that God’s only dear Son became our surety, and our substitute. There we behold our adorable Emmanuel bearing our sins in his own sacred body upon the tree, and effecting by the blood of his cross our reconciliation with God. Through him peace is proclaimed to a guilty world [Note: Act_10:36.]: and all who receive into their hearts the record concerning him, have their iniquities blotted out as a morning cloud: their burthens are from that time removed; they have “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness [Note: Isa_61:3.].

Without a measure of this peace, a person finds but little ability to exert himself in his Christian calling. The more difficult duties will be considered as irksome, and impracticable. And this arises from the natural constitution of the human mind: for, what readiness can he have to forego the pleasures of time, who cannot look forward with a comfortable hope to the eternal world? Will not his “hands hang down, his knees be feeble, and his heart be faint?” Yea, will not Satan take advantage of his weak state to make him weary of well-doing; and to “turn him utterly out of the way [Note: Heb_12:12-13.];” and to make him say in despondency, “There is no hope: I have loved idols; and after them will I go [Note: Jer_2:25.]?” To what a degree the boldest champion may be enervated by apprehensions of God’s displeasure, we may see in the conduct of Joshua. There was but one found in all the thousands of Israel so intrepid as he: yet when he had reason to think that God had withdrawn his favour from him, “he rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark, and put dust upon his head, and said, Alas, O Lord God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us? Would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of Jordan [Note: Jos_7:6-7.]. Thus will “our spirit fail,” and our progress be stopped, if “the peace of God keep not our hearts and minds [Note: Isa_57:16.].”

But let “the love of God be shed abroad in the heart,” and instantly “the rough places become plain, and the crooked, straight [Note: Isa_40:4.]:” the “paths of religion become paths of pleasantness and peace.” The most self-denying precepts are not then regarded as “hard sayings [Note: Joh_6:60.];” “nor are any of the commandments grievous [Note: 1Jn_5:3.].” And though affliction cannot, in itself, be joyous, yet, as endured for the sake of Christ, it becomes a ground of joy: “having peace with God,” says the Apostle, “we glory in tribulations also [Note: Rom_5:1-3.].”

Let us look into the Scriptures and see how prompt for obedience the saints were made by a sense of God’s pardoning love. No sooner had a live coal from off the altar been applied to the lips of the Prophet Isaiah, in token of his acceptance with God, than he was willing, yea desirous, to undertake the most difficult and self-denying services [Note: Isa_6:6-8.]. The Thessalonian converts were inferior to none in their attachment to Christ; and, if we inquire what was the source of their distinguished zeal, we shall find that “the Gospel had come to them, not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance;” and from that moment they became the most eminent followers of Christ, and his Apostle [Note: 1Th_1:5-7.]. It was no easy service which Mary Magdalen performed in washing the Saviour’s feet with her tears; especially in the presence of such a company: yet, “much having been forgiven her, she loved much;” and therefore testified her love in the best manner she was able, notwithstanding she was likely to meet with nothing but derision and contempt from the proud Pharisee, in whose house she was [Note: Luk_7:44-47.]. But on this subject we naturally turn our eyes to the Apostle Paul, who “laboured more abundantly than all the Apostles [Note: 1Co_15:10.].” What the main-spring was of his activity, we are at no loss to determine: it was “the love of Christ that constrained him:” he had been redeemed from death by the death of Christ; and therefore to Christ he consecrated all his time, and all his powers [Note: 2Co_5:14-15.].

A readiness for suffering also arises from the same source. The “peace” which Moses enjoyed “through believing,” rendered him so superior to all the pleasures of sense, that “he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt; and chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season [Note: Heb_11:24-26.].” St. Paul is yet a more illustrious example, as indeed might well be expected, considering how exceeding abundant had been the mercy shewn towards him [Note: 1Ti_1:14.].” He had already endured far more than any other Apostle for the sake of Christ; yet when the Spirit testified that bonds and afflictions still awaited him where he was going, and the Christians besought him not to proceed on his intended journey to Jerusalem; he replied, “What mean ye to weep and to break my heart? for I am willing not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus [Note: Act_21:13.].” And is it not thus also with ourselves? If our souls be animated with faith and love, we shall “count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations [Note: Jam_1:2.];” yea, we shall “rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer shame for the sake of Christ [Note: Act_5:41.]:” and the very things which were intended by our enemies for the destruction of the spiritual life, will tend rather to its furtherance and establishment [Note: Php_1:12.].

The same preparation for prosecuting our warfare is imparted to us by the Gospel,

II.      In that it produces a peaceful disposition in the soul

The soul of man is naturally proud, irritable, vindictive [Note: Tit_3:3.]. An injurious act, or an insulting word, is sufficient to call forth all our angry passions, and, in many instances, creates within us a resentment, that can be pacified with nothing less than the blood of the delinquent. Behold David, when Nabal refused to administer to his wants! This one act of churlish ingratitude must be expiated by the life of the offender, and not of the offender only, but of all the males belonging to him; and David himself goes forth to execute the murderous sentence [Note: 1Sa_25:21-22.]. What an awful picture of human nature does this exhibit! But the Gospel lays the axe to this “root of bitterness,” and, by shewing us how much we have been forgiven, inclines us to exercise forgiveness. It teaches us to “turn the left cheek to him who has smitten us on the right [Note: Mat_5:39-41.]:” and “in no wise to render evil for evil [Note: Rom_12:17.].” It enjoins us rather to love our enemies; and, instead of retaliating their injuries, to relieve their wants [Note: Rom_12:19-20 and Mat_5:44.].

Without this disposition we are but ill prepared to surmount the obstacles which our subtle adversary will place in our way. The scorn and contempt that we shall meet with, will dismay us. Our feelings will be wounded every step we take: and we shall soon be weary of well-doing. In order to judge of the consequences that will ensue, if we be destitute of this part of Christian armour, let us only look at the most eminent saints, when, through haste and inadvertence, they had neglected to fasten on their greaves aright: Moses, the meekest of mankind, was inflamed with wrath; and, by his angry, unadvised words, provoked God to exclude him from the earthly Canaan [Note: Num_20:10-12.]. Peter, when he beheld his Lord apprehended in the garden, began to fight after the manner of ungodly men; and brought on himself that just rebuke; “Put up thy sword; for all who take the sword shall perish with the sword [Note: Mat_26:51-52.].” St. Paul himself too, on one occasion, was so irritated with the injustice of his judge, that he brake forth into passionate revilings against his ruler and governor, and was constrained to apologize for his conduct in the presence of his enemies [Note: Act_23:3-5.]. If then these holiest of men were thus sorely wounded through their occasional impatience, what advantage will not Satan gain over those, whose spirit is altogether lofty and unsubdued? Doubtless he will harass them in their march, till they turn back, and recede from the field of battle [Note: Mat_13:21.].

But let the Gospel have its due effect; let it render us meek, patient, forbearing, and forgiving; let it transform us into the image of the meek and lowly Jesus, who when he was reviled, reviled not again; and when he suffered, threatened not, but committed himself to him who judgeth righteously [Note: 1Pe_2:21-23.]; and the stumbling-blocks that offended us before, will appear unworthy of any serious regard. When our enemies persecute us, we shall be ready to weep over them for the evil which they bring upon themselves, rather than be incensed against them for the evil which they do to us [Note: Luk_19:41-42.]. We shall use no other weapons against them than “faith and patience [Note: Heb_6:12.]:” “being defamed, we shall entreat; being persecuted, we shall suffer if [Note: 1Co_4:12-13.].” Instead of being “overcome of evil, we shall endeavour to overcome evil with good [Note: Rom_12:21.]:” and by “letting patience have its perfect work, we shall be perfect and entire, lacking nothing [Note: Jam_1:4.].”

It may be objected, perhaps, that, while we conduct ourselves in this way, we shall be trampled under foot of all, and be vanquished by all. But to this we answer, that, though we should be trampled under foot, we should not be vanquished: on the contrary, though “we be killed all the day long, and are as sheep appointed for the slaughter, yet in all these things shall we be more than conquerors [Note: Rom_8:36-37.]. We may, like Stephen, be stoned to death: yet, if like him, we can pray for our murderers [Note: Act_7:60.], we have the noblest of all victories, that of overcoming a vindictive spirit: and, though we fall in the conflict, we maintain the field against all our enemies. Who, do we suppose, was victor, the Jews, who, at Satan’s instigation, put our Lord to death; or Jesus, who expired a victim on the cross We cannot doubt; for we are told in the Scriptures, that, “through death, Jesus overcame death, and him that had the power of death, that is, the devil [Note: Heb_2:14.]: yes; “on his very cross he spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it [Note: Col_2:14-15.].” Nor can we more effectually manifest our superiority to all the powers of darkness, than by “resisting unto blood in our strife against sin [Note: Heb_12:4.].” Were we to become our own avengers, we should “give place to the devil [Note: Eph_4:27.];” but by suffering with our Lord, we become partners of his victory [Note: Rev_12:10-11.], and partakers of his glory [Note: 2Ti_2:12 and Rom_8:17.].

What remains now but earnestly to exhort you to get “your feet shod with” this blessed Gospel? Consider how many devices Satan has to wound your feet, and to cast you down. We have already noticed persecution, as a very principal engine used by him to obstruct your progress. But there are other means whereby he frequently effects his deadly purpose: many whom he could not stop by persecution, he has turned out of the way by error. Look into the epistles of St. Paul, and see how many he has “corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ [Note: 2Co_11:3.].” He has his ministers, as well as Christ; and in outward appearance they are “ministers of righteousness;” nor are they themselves conscious that they are his agents. They propagate what they themselves believe, and oftentimes with a zeal worthy of a better cause. But they themselves are blinded by him; and then are used as his instruments to overthrow the faith of others [Note: 2Co_11:13-15. with Rev_3:9. Such ministers with their hearers are “the synagogue of Satan,” who is their teacher, their instigator, and their god.]. Which of the Churches, planted in the apostolic age, was free from their influence? In which were there not “some who perverted the Gospel of Christ [Note: Gal_1:7.],” and some who, by their means, were “turned aside after Satan [Note: 1Ti_5:15.]?” At Rome there were those who made it their business to “cause divisions; and by good words and fair speeches to deceive the hearts of the simple [Note: Rom_16:17-18.].” At Corinth, the Church was so distracted by them, that Christian love was almost banished; and nothing but “debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults,” obtained amongst them, insomuch that the Apostle threatened to exert his apostolic authority, and to inflict on them some signal judgments, if they did not reform their conduct before he visited them again [Note: 1Co_1:10-11; 1Co_3:3-4 and 2Co_12:20-21; 2Co_13:2; 2Co_13:10.]. As for the Galatian Church, such an ascendency had the false teachers gained over them, that there was scarcely one who retained his integrity: almost all of them had embraced, what St. Paul calls, “another Gospel;” and, so entirely had they transferred their regards from him to their new teachers, that notwithstanding “they would, not long before, have plucked out their own eyes, and have given them unto him,” they now considered him in no other light than “an enemy [Note: Gal_1:6; Gal_4:9-11; Gal_4:15-17; Gal_5:7-8.].” At Ephesus also there were some who, like “children, were tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, while others, by sleight and cunning craftiness, were lying in wait to deceive them [Note: Eph_4:14.].” At Philippi too, there were “dogs and evil workers, of whom it was needful for them to beware [Note: Php_3:2.].” But time would fail us to enumerate the heresies that were propagated, and the apostasies that were occasioned by them, even in the purest ages of the Church. The epistles to Timothy and Titus are full of complaints respecting these deceivers, and of cautions to avoid all intercourse, either with them, or with their followers [Note: 1Ti_1:3-4; 1Ti_1:6-7; 1Ti_1:19-20; 1Ti_4:1; 1Ti_4:6; 1Ti_5:12; 1Ti_5:15; 1Ti_6:3-5, (“from such withdraw thyself,”) 20, 21 and 2Ti_1:13-15; 2Ti_2:16-18; 2Ti_2:23; 2Ti_3:5, (“from such turn away,”) 6–9, 13 and 4:3, 4, 14, 15. Tit_1:9-11; Tit_1:13-14; Tit_3:9-11. See also Rom_16:17-18. before cited, “avoid them;” and 2Pe_2:1-2 and 1Jn_2:19; 1Jn_4:1 and 2 John, ver. 7, 10, 11. “receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed,” &c and 3 John, ver. 10 and Jude, ver. 4 and Rev_2:14-15; Rev_2:20; Rev_2:24.].

Now let any one say, whether, after so many sad examples, he himself needs not to be well established in the true Gospel, lest he be “led aside by the error of the wicked, and fall from his own steadfastness [Note: Heb_13:9. 2Pe_3:17.]?”

But it will be asked, How shall I know the true Gospel from those counterfeits which are proposed for my acceptance? To this we answer, The true Gospel is a “Gospel of peace.” It is a Gospel which sets forth Jesus as our hope, “our peace,” and our all [Note: 1Ti_1:1. Eph_2:14-17. Col_3:11.]. It is a Gospel which leads us to “shew all meekness [Note: Tit_3:2.],” and, “as much as lieth in us, to live peaceably with all men [Note: Rom_12:18.].” Particularly also will it prompt us to seek the welfare of the Church, and to “follow the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another [Note: Rom_14:19.].” Whoever therefore would turn us from Christ as the foundation of our hope; or would “cause divisions and offences in the Church,” in order to “scatter the flock of Christ, and to draw them” from their proper fold [Note: Act_20:29-30.]; we have reason to think him no other than a “wolf in sheep’s clothing [Note: Mat_7:15.];” a minister of Satan in the garb of a “minister of righteousness:” and we should beware, lest, by listening to such an one, our “unstable souls be beguiled [Note: 2Pe_2:14.],” and we “fall so as never to be renewed unto repentance [Note: Heb_6:6.].” We must not only take heed how we hear, but what we hear [Note: Luk_8:18. with Mar_4:24.]: for if “whole houses were subverted [Note: Tit_1:11.]” in the days of the Apostles, and “all the Christians in Asia were turned away from” the ministry of St. Paul [Note: 2Ti_1:15.], there is no minister whom we may not be induced to forsake, nor is there any one so established in the truth but he has need to pray that he may be kept from error.

Surely we need no stronger arguments to enforce the exhortation of the text. Let us get the knowledge of the Gospel: let us receive it, not as a theory merely, but as a practical and living principle, that shall influence our hearts and lives. And when we have received it, let us be tenacious of it; let us “hold fast the form of sound doctrine that we have received [Note: 2Ti_1:13.].” Let us make use of it to keep us firm in the midst of difficulties, and steadfast in the midst of errors. Let us “be ever on our guard, lest any root of bitterness springing up, trouble us, and thereby many be defiled [Note: Heb_12:15.].” Finally, let us “stand fast in the Lord [Note: Php_4:1.]:” so we shall, like our Lord himself, “endure the cross, and despise the shame, and sit down as victors on the right hand of the throne of God [Note: Heb_12:2.].”