Baptist History Homepage

by Rosco Brong

Persona1 Responsibi1ity
Ezekiel 18:2-13, 29-32

Without losing sight of the fact that in a more or less crowded world we are all subject to mutual influences so that in some degree individuals tend to disappear in the crowd; we need to emphasize in the social turmoil of our day the individuality of man and the personal responsibility of each individual before God.

Men would like to claim personal credit for everything they consider good in themselves, while blaming heredity, environment, or "luck" for everything bad. Modern education, politics, and religion have conspired to convince a depraved generation of mental and spiritual perverts that they have all sorts of "rights" but no responsibilities. In their perverted view, everybody is to blame for crime except the criminal.

Like modern America, ancient Israel produced a wicked generation which blamed all its ills on the sins of the fathers. In our day as in Ezekiel's, surely the fathers have sins enough to answer for; but God's message through Ezekiel reminds us that father and son alike must come under the personal judgment of God.
Outlining the lesson, we note:

1. Responsibility, Ezekiel 18:2-4
a. Perverse proverb, 2-3.
b. Personal punishment, 4.
2. Righteousness, Ezekiel 18:5-9.
a. Character commanded, 5.
b. Deportment detailed, 6-8.
c. Righteousness rewarded, 9.
3. Reprobation, Ezekiel 18: 10-13
a. Sinful son, 10-12.
b. Destruction due, 13.
4. Repentance, Ezekiel 18:29-32.
a. Invitation to look, 29.
b. Invitation to liberty, 30.
c. Invitation to life, 31.
d. Invitation to love, 32.

RESPONSIBILITY, Ezekiel 18:2-4.
Israel was suffering under the temporal judgments of God as the result of national sins during a period of many generations, but the generation then in Babylonian captivity needed to face up to its own responsibilities rather than complain about the sins of the fathers. Let us remember also that nations are made up of individuals, and God's message to the nation is made personal to each individual father and son.

Perverse Proverb, 2-3.
Human proverbs often contain a modicum of truth, as there was some truth in this one; but when partial truth obscures the whole truth, then the partial truth should be cleared away. God here swore that He would so exercise temporal judgments in Israel on an individual basis that there would no longer be occasion for the use of this perverse proverb.

Personal Punishment, 4.
Although this text certainly has a rightful application to eternal judgment, context makes it evident that the primary reference is to temporal judgment in physical death.

RIGHTEOUSNESS, Ezekiel 18:5-9.
If we would rightly divide the Word of truth [II Timothy 2:15], we must distinguish between spiritual life, which is the everlasting gift of God [Romans 6:23], and natural life, which God may extend as reward for righteous conduct [II Kings 20:1-6].

Character Commanded, 5.
Being just or righteous is a condition of character possible only by divine grace; doing "that which is lawful and right" is the normal expression of such character. God commands and supplies righteousness in His people.

Deportment Detai1ed, 6-8.
God's holy law does not leave us in doubt as to what He means by righteous behavior. Standards of good deportment are set forth in considerable detail; the details mentioned here are only a few of those listed in His law.

Righteousness Rewarded, 9.
Long life as a reward for righteous conduct is a principle emphasized more in the Old Testament, but certainly included in the New [Ephesians 6:3; I Peter 3:10-12].

REPROBATION, Ezekiel 18:10-13.
Even as God approves and rewards good behavior, so He disapproves and punishes sin. It is true that He judges families and nations, but it is more important to each of us that He judges individuals, so that we cannot shift to society our personal responsibility.

Sinfu1 Son, 10-12.
Though parents are commanded to instruct and discipline their children, it is nevertheless a fact of everyday life that a generally righteous father may have a wicked son, or vice versa. Both possibilities are considered in the context of the lesson; the case in view here is that of a sinful son of a righteous father.

Destruction Due, 13.
Shall the evil man then escape the judgment of God because he had a good father? No: whatever benefits and blessings he may enjoy from his father's virtues, he must eventually answer for himself to God, "Who will render to every man according to his deeds" [Romans 2:6]. Maybe there will be some bloodstains on the hands of parents or other responsible persons who may have failed to warn him; yet in the end the blood of the wicked will be upon himself.

REPENTANCE, Ezekiel 18:29-32.
God "now commandeth all men everywhere to repent" [Acts 17:30]. Warnings of divine judgment ought to turn men trembling away from sin to seek divine mercy.

Invitation to Look, 29.
Look at the facts, God says in effect. Whose ways are unequal? If men seem to receive varying treatment from God, is it not because of their own unequal ways? The alternations of mercy and judgment do not represent changes in the character of God, but differences in the characters of men. Look at the facts as stated in God's Word.

Invitation to Liberty, 30.
Miserable slaves of sin and corruption can find liberty and deliverance from iniquity and ruin through repentance and conversion. Therefore "repent and turn."

Invitation to Life, 31.
"Why will ye die" when life is offered freely? Granted that men can make for themselves "a new heart and a new spirit" only through the operations of divine grace, who can deny that the language here declares personal human responsibility?

Invitation to Love, 32.
Furthermore, God is not indifferent or neutral on the question whether men choose to live or die. God is love, and it is His preferred and declared will that the sinner turn from his wicked ways and live. God has "no pleasure in the death of him that dieth." God commends His love toward us "in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" [Romans 5:8]. He knows better than we can imagine the eternal punishment that awaits the sinner, and so in His love He invites all to turn to Him.

CONCLUSION [John 3:36]
The verse seems clear enough without comment.

[From Ashland Avenue Baptist paper, May 16, 1975, pp. 2-3. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

More OT Lessons
Baptist History Homepage