"The Soul That Sinneth"
If there is one thing that a preacher must do, it is to help people understand
that they are responsible for their own actions. It is easy to blame a spouse or
a job and claim that their presence is a hinderance or stumbling block. Many
times people seek to justify themselves by claiming that sinning is just a part
of their nature. While in all actuality it should be just the opposite. If
everything we do or say has to be credited to nature, we should argue that it is
our nature to do right, considering that we were created in the image of God.
The truth remains, that man is a free moral agent and has been created with the
power of choice. And people will never correct their mistakes as long as they
continue to blame others for their own sinful actions.
Ezekiel 18 pivots around a proverb, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge". In effect, the children of Israel were chanting , "we are being blamed for our father's sins". Does this sound familiar? It should, considering that John Calvin, founder of the Presbyterian church, resurrected this philosophy in the early 1500's and became famous for his doctrine of Inherited Depravity. Nevertheless, God's answer still remains the same and it is found in this text.
In Ezekiel 18:4 God said, "Behold all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die". The soul that dies is the soul that sins. Therefore, in order for a soul to die, sin would have to occur by that soul. The apostle John stated it much clearer in 1John 3:4. "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law". Sin is something that you do, not something that you inherit. According to John, you have to transgress the law (God's law), to be a sinner. Little babies can not be sinners because they have never transgressed law. Therefore, upon that premise alone the Inherited sin theory falls. Nevertheless, there is another perspective and that is the physical aspect of inheritance. Every trait that you and I have is inherited. The color of your eyes, skin pigment, hair, height, weight, and many other things. It is my understanding that every inherited characteristic is found on a chromosome in an allelic pair. I wonder, on what part of the chromosomes does the sin gene reside? That is, if sin really is inherited.
God reveals an explanation to the dilemma immediately by using examples of three individuals. God has an estimate of every man that ever lived. In verses 5 & 9 God explains, "But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right,..." ......"Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgements, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord God". This man was a good man. He obeyed the Lord and was blessed by God. However, he had a son that was not so good. "If he beget a son that is a robber, a shedder of blood, and that doeth the like to any one of these things..."......."he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die, his blood shall be upon him" (v. 10 & 13). Here is a son who has done evil things in his life and will die because of it. It was not the fault of his father nor was this sin alluded to his father in any way. He opted to sin by using the power of choice. Every man has been created with the same ability, to choose right from wrong. Again, the Lord offers another example, the grandson. "Now if he beget a son, that seeth all his father's sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like,..."...."he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live" (v. 14 & 17). Each man stood as individuals before God and God has an estimate of each one including you and me! The apostle Paul put it rather aptly, "For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ: that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2Corinthians 5:10).
In verse 25 the Lord says, "Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal." What these folks were actually claiming was that God is not fair. "Lord, we just don't think you are fair". In fact, every time a person preaches or teaches that people are born in sin or have inherited sin from their parents, is saying nothing less than "Lord you are not fair".
Every man is responsible for his own actions. We ca not blame our parents for our sins nor can we blame inheritance or God. "The soul that sins, it shall die".
By Tony Ripley
From Expository Files 5.5; May 1998