Saturday, September 05, 2009

Having it Both Ways

Ezekiel 18:25-29
(25) "Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?
(26) When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die.
(27) Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life.
(28) Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.
(29) Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?

This is part of a bigger passage that deals with the need for repentance. The repeated phrases in verses 25 and 29 bracket this section nicely. God is saying that the wicked have second chances if they repent, but the righteous can blow it if he turns to wickedness.

This is a passage that must be handled delicately on this side of the New Covenant. I do not think it means that any sin will thrust the believer back into his old state. However, I do think that it tells us something very important about the human condition. The assumption that the people made was that they were basically good and that they should get a lot of credit for their previous righteousness. This passage turns that upside-down.

I think on this side of the cross we realize that man is not good. Our righteous deeds are as menstrual cloth. Paul described his great devotion to being a Jew as being manure. This is some pretty vivid imagery. Basically, there is nothing we can do to merit salvation. No one is good enough.

Except for one person. Jesus was good enough and His righteousness stands in our place.

My hope is built on nothing less,
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness.

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