But when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and practices iniquity, committing the same abominations as the wicked, will he live? None of the righteous acts he did will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness and sin he has committed, he will die.
I. MEN HAVE CHERISHED SUSPICION OF THE DIVINE MALEVOLENCE. No one who is acquainted with the religions which have obtained among the nations of mankind will question this. The deities of the Gentiles have reflected the moral qualities of the human race, and accordingly attributes morally reprehensible as well as attributes morally commendable have been assigned to the deities whom men have worshipped. Indeed, worship has to no small extent consisted in methods supposed efficacious to appease the wrath of the cruel and malicious powers from whose ill will humanity, it has been thought, had much to dread. And it is not to be questioned that even Jewish and Christian worship have not been free from some measure of this same error. It has been customary to refer the governmental and judicial infliction of punishment to a disposition to take pleasure in human sufferings and torture. The student of Scripture is aware that there is no authority, no justification for such a view; but the student of human nature is not surprised that such a view should have been taken.
II. GOD'S REPUDIATION OF MALEVOLENCE IN PLAIN AUTHORITATIVE WORDS. "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked? saith the Lord God." It is indeed condescension in the Supreme Ruler thus to remove the misunderstandings and difficulties which men create for themselves by their own ignorance and sin. Again and again he represents himself as merciful and delighting in mercy, but nowhere does he give the least ground for a suspicion that he delights in, or even is indifferent to, the sufferings of the children of men. Since all his words are faithful and true, we can but rest and rejoice in such an assurance as that of the text.
III. GOD'S PROOF IN HIS DEEDS OF THE BENEVOLENCE OF HIS NATURE. Israel, as a nation, had abundant evidence of the loving kindness and long suffering of him who chose the people as his own, trained them for his service, instructed them in his Law, bore with their frequent disobedience and rebellion, and ever addressed to them promises of compassion and of help. But all proofs of the Divine benevolence pale before that glorious exhibition of God's love and kindness which we Christians have received in him who is the unspeakable Gift of Heaven. Had the Almighty felt any pleasure in the death of the wicked, he would not have given his own Son, while we were yet sinners, to die for us. He took pleasure, not in the condemnation and death, but in the salvation of men. In Christ his love and kindness appeared; for Christ came, not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.
IV. THE ENCOURAGEMENT THUS AFFORDED TO PENITENT SINNERS TO HOPE FOR ACCEPTANCE AND LIFE. The pleasure of God is that the wicked "should return from his way, and should live." Thus there is coincidence between the good pleasure of the Omnipotent upon the one hand, and the best desires and truest interests of penitent sinners on the other. He wire repents of his evil deed, who looks upwards for forgiveness, and who resolves upon. a new and better life, has not to encounter Divine displeasure or ill will; on the contrary, he is assured of a gracious reception, of immediate pardon, of kindest consideration, and of help and guidance in the carrying out of holler purpose and endeavour. The demeanour and the language of God are those of the compassionate Father, who welcomes the returning prodigal, accords him a benign reception, and proffers him all those blessings, now and hereafter, which alone can answer to the glorious and comprehensive gift of Divine love - eternal life! - T.
When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness.1. There is a righteousness which men may turn from. There is an opinionative righteousness (Luke 18:9; Matthew 23:28); many think themselves righteous, and appear so to others: there is also a duty, a moral, or legal righteousness, such as Paul had (Philippians 3:6); and from these righteousnesses men may and do turn daily. Many attain to a duty righteousness under the Gospel, but yet fall off again (Matthew 13:20-22; 1 Timothy 5:15; John 6:66; 2 Peter 2:2; 1 Timothy 4:1). Take heed, therefore, of trusting in or to any righteousness of your own.
2. It is not sufficient to begin well unless we proceed: fair beginnings without progress come to nothing. Consider the arguments which lie here in the text, to keep you from falling off, and encourage you to persevere in God.(1) If you do turn back you will fall into iniquity; you will commit iniquity, the frame, bent, and set of the heart will be that way; the thoughts, studies, counsels, motions, endeavours will be towards and in iniquity, you will be an evil-doer, a worker of iniquity.(2) He lies obvious to all manner of sin; what will not the man do that turns from his holy profession?(3) Whatever good he hath formerly done shall be all forgotten: if he have done much good to his family or friends, it shall be all laid aside, buried in the dark, and not once be mentioned unto him.(4) He shall die, and that eternally, in his apostasy, and the guilt, not of one sin, but all his sins, shall be upon him.
(W. Greenhill, M. A.)
1. The glorious and most omnipotent majesty of God.
2. His all-seeing providence.
3. His impartial justice.
4. His severe threatenings against sin.
5. The dreadful punishments He inflicteth upon sinners.
6. The heinousness of the sin of presumption, which turneth God's grace into wantonness.
7. The difficulty of recovery after relapses.
8. The uncertainty of God's offer of grace after the frequent refusal thereof.To keep us in hope, that we dash not upon the rock of despair on the contrary side, let us set before our troubled and affrighted consciences these grounds of comfort —
1. The infiniteness of God's mercy.
2. The price and value of Christ's blood.
3. The efficacy of His intercession.
4. The virtue of the Sacraments.
5. The universality and certainty of God's promises to the penitent.
6. The joy of God and angels for the conversion of a sinner.
7. The communion of saints, who all pray for the comfort of afflicted consciences, and the ease of all that are heavy laden with their sins.
8. The examples of mercy showed to most grievous sinners.But to confine my meditations to the letter of my text. The words divide themselves into (first) a supposition, when, or, if the righteous forsake; secondly, an inference, his former righteousness shall not be remembered, etc. The supposition is dangerous, the inference is pernicious.
1. Of the supposition, when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness. No man ever made question but that a truly regenerate man may depart from his actual righteousness, and commit iniquity, and do according to all the abominations that the wicked doth; and that if he should die without repentance, that his former righteousness should stand him in no stead, but that he should suffer the pain of eternal death, which is all that the letter of this text enforceth our assent unto. Our motions to God-ward, and proceedings in a sanctified course of life, are like the rowing of a small boat against a strong wind and tide (the blasts of the evil spirit, and the propension of our corrupt nature), much labour and sweat is required, and very little is done with much ado; and if we slack our hands, and miss but one stroke, we are carried down with the stream, and cast farther back than we can fetch again with many strokes. What a foul and shameful thing is it with the dog to return to your vomit of luxury, and with the swine to your wallowing in the mire of sensual pleasures. As in the diseases of the body, so also much more of the soul, all relapses are dangerous, and in some diseases altogether incurable; the reason whereof alleged by some learned physicians is this, that when we first take our bed the malignity of the disease worketh upon corrupt humours in the body, which when they are purged, and we restored to health, if after by any distemper we fall into the same malady, the malignity of the disease worketh upon our vital spirits; in like manner the malignity of sin before our conversion worketh but upon our corrupt nature, but after upon the graces of God's Spirit. We find in Scripture many desperately sick, yet cured the first time by our Saviour; but where do we read in all the Gospel of any blind man's eyes twice enlightened? of any deaf ears twice opened? of any tied tongue twice loosened? of any possessed with devils twice dispossessed? of any dead twice raised? No doubt Christ could have done it, but we read not that ever He did it, that we should be most careful to avoid relapses into our former sins, the recovery whereof is always most difficult, and in some cases (as the Apostle teacheth us) impossible (Hebrews 6:4, 5, 6, 7, 8).
(D. Featly, D. D.)
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