Big Idea: Only the wicked (the one who sins) dies (Eze 18:4, 20).
The Problem: The two fundamental fallen human tendencies / default is to (1) blame someone else and (2) blame God -- so that you DO NOT need to take personal responsibility for any sins committed.
Key Question: Why does blaming others (and God) prevent us from experiencing peace and joy?
"For everyone (all souls) belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one (soul/person) who sins is the one who will die" (Eze 18:4). "The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them" (Eze 18:20).
- [Eze 13:19, 22-23] When is encouragement wrong or bad?
- [Eze 14:3] When happens when you set up idols in your heart?
- [Eze 16:15] When others see your beauty, do they lust after your beauty or do they long for the God and Giver of your beauty?
- [Eze 18:2-4] Why is it always wrong to blame God and others (such as parents)?
Ezekiel 18 contain one of the most profound, moving and influential reflections on the relationship between God's justice and human freedom. It is one of the most powerful and robust evangelistic appeals in the OT, where Ezekiel skillfully, carefully and passionately articulates his reasons and logic together with a heart felt pastoral concern for his contemporaries. It is rich and complex with several levels of meanings related to the questions the exiles were raising (Eze 18:2, 19, 25, 29). It probably reflects an actual disputation that Ezekiel had with his hearers, possibly on more than one occasion. This all begins with a common, well known saying not only among the exiles, but also back in Isreal (Eze 18:2; Jer 31:29-30).
To those who presume on the grace of God, it sends a stern warning; to those who despair of life, it offers hope. In both respects it provides a healthy corrective in approaching human evil and suffering that would absolve the individual of responsibility for his or her own life and destiny. In chapter 18, Ezekiel firmly and strongly and repeatedly repudiates and refutes the following:
- Blaming others for his or her fate (Eze 18:2). To be sure, parents need to always be reminded that God holds them responsible for the welfare of their children (Exo 20:5). But children may not absolve themselves of personal responsibility for their own destiny. It is NOT inevitable that death is destined for the children of the wicked, nor is life promised for the children of the righteous. Rather each individual dies for his or her own sin, and lives by his or her own righteousness. Each person is master of his or her own destiny.
- Eternal destiny or condemnation is already determined by one's past choices and decisions. Death for the wicked and life for the righteous can be arrested at any time. No one can bank on an abundance of past good deeds to ensure their future well-being, nor do they need to despair that an abundance of past evil will condemn them in the future. The appeal to "repent and live" (Eze 18:30, 32b; 14:6) assumes real personal freedom to determine at any time one's own conduct and also the destiny that God decrees for a person.
- Blaming and accusing God for being unfair (Eze 18:25, 29), unscrupulous, capricious and unpredictable. God's moral universe runs according to fixed rules. It includes the following:
- The person who sins dies for his or her own sin (Eze 18:4b, 20a).
- Righteousness is expressed primarily by right action (rather than credal assent) (Eze 18:5-9).
- Those in authority and with means will be held accountable for the way they treat the weak and marginalized.
- A person's past behavior need not determine his or her future well-being (Eze 18:21-22).
- God is on the side of life for all, rather than death for any (Eze 18:23, 32).
- God is primarily bent on judgment and death (Eze 18:23, 32). The gospel is crystal clear that God promises hope and that he stands on the side of life, not death, while also warning of judgment. To be warned is not only to remind one of the poeril of one's course but also to be directed to the way of escape. God's mercy and grace move him to plead with men and women to accept that way, to repent of their sin and find life in him.
- Bible teachers/leaders proclaiming what people want to hear. People in despair need a message of hope. Those wrapped in self-pity and in their own misery need a vision of God's mercy. The leader/teacher must lead the way against the teaching of cheap grace and it's counterpart work righteousness. One's appreciation for grace is directly proportional to one's consciousness of sin. No teacher or leader does anyone any favors by promoting a sense of well-being when one is governed by the law of sin and death (cheap grace/work righteousness). For them there is no substitute for a call for repentance.
- God's covenant with his people (Israel) is over. For those in exile its benefits have been suspended. But underlying God's passionate appeal for the nation's corporate repentance and revival is his commitment to his people. God has given his word (promise) and he longs for the day when they will reciprocate and respond.