Say to them, As I live, said the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked…
God is here; revealing the secret thoughts of many hearts on the subject of sin, and the hopelessness of deliverance from its dominion. and the impossibility of coming to life or salvation, if that salvation is to consist in separation from sin in the inner and outer man. Salvation, or eternal life, by redemption from sin, and reconciliation with God in repentance, and its fruit, or fulfilment, regeneration, this is to be the message of every minister of the Gospel, which is not only to be proclaimed so plainly and loudly that it cannot be mistaken, but to be pressed on the conscience of his people with the intense earnestness of affection, and fervent longing for their soul's salvation, which will breathe the very spirit of the Divine love, to which the minister but gives expression.
1. A false persuasion possesses the minds of innumerable members of the Christian Church as thoroughly as it pervaded the Jewish on the subject of sin, salvation, and the righteousness, as well as grace, of God's providence, or judgment, in His dealings with sinners. Do Christians in general, any more than Jews in Ezekiel's day, connect consciously in their own minds, as things inseparable, sin not repented of and death eternal, or damnation, sin repented of and life eternal, or salvation? Is the way of the Lord in their eyes equal, by a revelation which has commended itself to their consciences of a way of righteousness that is invariable in the case of every sinner, the saved and the lost equally, and as unchangeable as the life of the eternal God Himself, being one of the laws of the kingdom of heaven, indeed; the fundamental law on which the kingdom eternally rests? Is life, in their faith, separation inwardly and outwardly from sin? Is salvation, in their view, salvation from sin, and reconciliation with God, or return to God on the sinner's part by repentance unto life, and regeneration to newness of spiritual life? Do they see that such is the salvation of the Gospel?
2. What, then, is to prepare the way of the Lord in the Christian, as formerly in the Jewish church? What but the proclamation of the antidote to the former life in the message of the prophet which forms the second lesson of the text? What but repentance unto life revealed to be the Gospel way of salvation, the way of salvation open to every sinner equally without respect of persons, and the only way of salvation to any sinner, because the only possible way by which a sinner can become a saint?
(1) God, as He is now revealed in Christ, wishes the salvation of every sinner, and has no pleasure in the death of any. This is not only a matter of certainty, an unquestionable truth to which the Gospel bears testimony in innumerable passages. It is the fundamental truth on which the whole Gospel of salvation rests, because it is the thing revealed in the revelation of God as a Redeemer, who has no respect of persons, — a Saviour of sinners, whether they be Jews or Gentiles, a Father of every prodigal son.
(2) God, as He is now in Christ revealing this His purpose of love universal, has proclaimed the way of salvation in the case of every sinner alike to be repentance unto life. Enter in by repentance, for in repenting thou art turning thy back on hell, and all that is infernal and of the wicked one; thou art taking part with thy true Lord and Redeemer against those very enemies and powers of darkness from which He came to set thee free; thou art allowing, and inviting, and beseeching Him to turn thee "from darkness to light," etc.
(3) God in the Gospel of Christ has now commanded His ministers to preach repentance unto life as the way of salvation to all sinners, and to press it earnestly and incessantly on the consciences of all, with all affection, as the only way of escaping death or damnation.
(i) It is a man's own fault — God is not to bear the blame — if the man, although a sinner, does not come to life and salvation.(ii) This is the purpose of a Gospel ministry, to bring you to repentance, and so to salvation; to baptize you with the baptism of repentance, through faith in Jesus Christ for you crucified, and so bestow on you remission of sins, and all the other spiritual blessings of the kingdom of heaven.(iii) Whatever be the actual result to you personally, "the way of the Lord is equal," and impartial. God is gracious, and to you gracious, whether you believe so or disbelieve. God is righteous, and will deal with you righteously in His providence, and judge you in righteousness according to your way and works, whether you come to repentance, and so forsake sin, or refuse to come to repentance, and so remain ungodly, unrighteous, unregenerate.
Parallel VersesKJV: Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
WEB: Tell them, As I live, says the Lord Yahweh, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn, turn from your evil ways; for why will you die, house of Israel?