25 Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair? 26 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies. (Ezekiel 18:25–26, NKJV)
When pointing out the Bible teaches it is possible for a Christian to fall away from Christ and be lost, we hear the same objection that was made by Israel in the days of Ezekiel: “That’s not fair!” (See yesterday’s Sword Tips #1078 on Ezekiel 18:24, as well as Gal. 5:4; 1 Tim. 4:1-3.) Nevertheless, God rebuts and rejects that objection for what it is, an inversion of the truth of the matter (cf. Isa. 5:20). God said it is unfair to conclude that a person can be rewarded, even though he “turns away from his righteousness” and “commits iniquity” (v. 26). It is a slanderous and appalling insult against God and His justice to propose that one can do evil and the outcome be good (Rom. 3:8). “The soul who sins, shall die” is given as a warning that sin – whether committed by God’s people or by God’s enemies – will receive a just and impartial punishment (Ezek. 18:4, 20; Rom. 2:6-11). Be careful not to attribute any unfairness to the Lord God. Instead, let us humbly conform our faith and our lives to His word, because “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:9).
But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die. (Ezekiel 18:24, NKJV)
We are tempted to think of our lives like scales, and as long as the good outweighs the bad, we are okay. But, God will not judge us based on whether we have more good than bad, or vice versa. “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:4). Today’s verse assures us that if we turn away from righteousness and commit iniquity (lawlessness against God), our righteous deeds will not be remembered. We will experience the punishment of death because of our unfaithfulness. The guilt of our sin brings eternal death (Rom. 6:23). This is another verse that teaches the possibility of apostasy. If it is true that once you are saved you can never be lost, then this verse is meaningless and God’s word is false. John said, “everyone who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 Jno. 3:7). But if we commit sin, we commit lawlessness (1 Jno. 3:4). We cannot live in sin and be counted righteous. Let us heed Ezekiel’s warning and not turn away from righteousness, but instead, pursue it (2 Tim. 2:22).
5 You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways. You are indeed angry, for we have sinned— In these ways we continue; and we need to be saved. 6 But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:5–6, NKJV)
Far from confirming the false teaching of total depravity and a “sin nature” inherent in humanity, this passage explains the sinfulness of a rebellious nation. Neither does it teach that we can do nothing that impacts our salvation. Israel had turned from God’s ways to idolatry, eliciting God’s wrath (“we have sinned,” v. 5). Indeed, even after repeated warnings, Israel continued in the ways of sin instead of turning back to God’s “old paths, where the good way is” (Jer. 6:16; Isa. 65:2-3). The people needed to be saved. None of their sacrifices pleased God; in their sin they were unclean like a defiled garment (Isa. 1:10-15). It was their sins (not some “sin nature”) that separated them from their God (Isa. 59:2). Like Israel, God’s people can still turn away from God’s way, become defiled in sin, and face divine wrath. God spares the one who “rejoices and does righteousness” (v. 5; Acts 10:35). But, those who practice sin are like a dead leaf, blown away by the wind. So, rejoice in God’s salvation and walk in “true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).
15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17 And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18 who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:15-19)
The Lord “knows those who are His”; they are approved before Him (verse 19, 15). We must present ourselves “approved to God” by properly handling God word to avoid error and to depart iniquity. Hymenaeus and Philetus failed to do so. They strayed from the truth and overthrew the faith of others with their error. It matters what we believe, teach and practice! If it does not, then why this warning? Clearly, here are Christians who lost their souls – not because God cannot save, but because they “strayed concerning the truth” (cf. Isaiah 59:1-2). Beware, lest you fall (1 Cor. 10:12).
Love…does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth… (1 Corinthians 13:6)
Love does not celebrate sin. Oh, how many misunderstand love! The sin of adultery is called a “love affair”, when lust is its true nature (Heb. 13:4). The sin of loving money is prolific and exalted in our materialistic world (1 Tim. 6:6-10). Loving self and loving (sinful) pleasure has defined the masses since ancient times, and it continues to be so to this hour (Gen. 6:5; 2 Tim. 3:1-5). To truly love those in your life, do not take pleasure in their sin. Do not endorse it, encourage it or participate in it. Love makes a clear distinction between sin (iniquity, lawlessness) and the truth. Jesus said God’s word is truth (Jno. 17:17). Therefore, love takes pleasure in the word of God; in learning it, believing it and living it. Love for God compels a yearning for the truth. This is a simple yet profound way to determine whether we truly love God and others. Does truth or iniquity guide our decisions and actions? What are you celebrating; sin or truth?