*This transcript was originally published at GTY.org.
Our text is going to be the eighteenth chapter in the book of Ezekiel, and I would encourage you to turn to that chapter. I do understand that talking about the subject that I’m talking about can be a little bit controversial, and that’s fine. I am the first one to want to help clarify things that folks might be confused about. And I’ve been asked by many people if I would talk about this issue of social justice, which is such a big issue in our society. So that’s what we’re going to do. I don’t want to give you my opinion or any body else’s opinion, I want to show you what the Word of God says, so that we can understand this particular movement that’s going on around us. Now, my goal is not to talk about politics or economics or sociology or any of those things, I just want to address the issue of social justice and the gospel, social justice and the gospel.
Our culture, our society has been talking about social justice for a couple of years. Social justice has been around for a long, long time. It’s part of classic socialism. But we have in recent months and recent years seen social justice become an issue in the evangelical church where there are many people saying social justice is an essential part of the gospel; and if we don’t understand that it’s a part of the gospel, we don’t have the true gospel at all. That is a pretty significant claim.
I was reading one writer this week who said, “We have never had the gospel until we understand social justice.” And the question that I want to answer for you is, “Does social justice belong as an essential part of the gospel?”
Now let’s define our terms a little bit. When we’re talking about social justice we’re not talking about legal justice, we’re not talking about the law, we’re not talking about things that are lawful and unlawful, good and bad, right and wrong, sinful and righteous. And so, we’re not even talking about divine justice. Divine justice says, “God meets it out will be perfect justice on all levels.” We’re not even talking about biblical justice. What the Bible has to say about justice is also clearly revealed. We’re talking about something different than any of those things.
You don’t find social justice as such in the Bible. Social justice is a term that describes the idea that everyone has the right to equal upward mobility – everybody in a society: equal upward mobility, equal social privilege, equal finances or equal resources. And if you don’t have those rights and you don’t have those opportunities the society is, by nature, unjust.
And I just want to rush right in to say, of course, society is unjust; nobody would argue that. The government is flawed because it’s run by sinful, fallen, corrupt human beings. And try as it will, collectively it lifts itself up a little bit, but it is still fraught with injustice, inequity, discrimination. We aren’t arguing that at all.
But what has happened in this new effort to gain social justice is the demand of various groups of people for circumstances and consideration very different than what they think they have received. They believe that they have been treated unjustly, and now it’s time for the society to treat them justly. And I would add as well, wherever anybody has been treated unjustly they ought to be treated justly. Where anybody has been treated cruelly, they ought to be treated kindly.
But what social justice is saying is that we have been deprived of privileges in the culture. We have been deprived of power; we are the unempowered. We have been deprived of position. We have been deprived of property, of status, of prosperity; we don’t have what the powerful people have. And consequently, there is no social justice for us, those of us who are the deprived.
One word sort of sums it up and that is the word “victim.” Each of these segments of our population who are crying out for social justice believed that they have been victimized by others in this society. This word, more than any other word, describes their self-designed condition. The self-perceived victims of social discrimination today are women who believe that they have been long abused by men, not only personally, but sort of collectively. There are the poor who believe that they have long been abused by the wealthy. There are the ethnic groups who believe that they have long been abused by other ethnic groups who have more power. And there are the sexually deviant, homosexuals in particular, who have been abused by heterosexuals.
So you have these victim categories: women, certain ethnic groups, the poor, homosexuals. And then there is a growing group of victims who would just simply categories themselves as those who have to endure hate speech; and hate speech in our society seems to be anything you don’t agree with. Anybody who says something to you that you don’t agree with you find as hate speech, or anybody who says something that you don’t agree with has imposed upon you a microaggression, and they’re acting aggressively on you because they said something that you did not like, maybe a word, maybe a phrase, maybe an epithet, or maybe an idea, maybe a viewpoint.
So we have a growing category of victims of all kinds of microaggressions. And these are the people that are demanding social justice, and by that they mean they want to stop being oppressed by all the oppressors in society. And the more victim categories someone is in, the more empowered that person is, the more important that person is, the more truthful that person is, the more authoritative that person is. If you’re in multiple groups this is a new idea called “intersectionality.” All the segments of victimization come together for you, and your multiple victim status makes you the most authoritative person, the one to be listened to. But if you are not in any victim group, you have nothing to say, “Shut up, and sit down.” That’s where we are. We have an ever-increasing belligerent mass of victims who are defining their lives by what other people have done to them.
Now listen, I do not doubt that people are victims. We’re all victims in many ways. You know, fundamentally, we’re all victims of Adam’s sin. We’ve all been victimized just by being born into this world. We’re a part of sinful, totally depraved humanity, so I get that.
Most of us have suffered at the hands of someone else. Most of us have been treated unjustly, unfairly, unkindly, sometimes brutally and sometimes mercilessly. Most of us have been misunderstood. Most of us at some point have wondered, “Why do the wicked prosper and the righteous struggle?” We understand that in a fallen world. That’s humanity, that’s life in the world. It isn’t going to be the way everybody would like it to be; that’s why we’re longing for the New Jerusalem in the millennial kingdom when our Lord sits on the throne and righteousness rules the world. It’s a tough world to live in.
I read that in the 20th century alone 170 million people died in genocide. That’s not war, that’s just slaughtering a race or a tribe of people, 170 million. Something like 1.64 billion are believed to have died in modern wars.
The world is full of victims – victims of war, victims of genocide, victims of crime, victims of terror. The world is merciless for all of us on many levels. But lately this victim status has been embraced by the evangelical church; and I’ve seen it coming now for a couple of years, and it’s landed with full force recently. And this is the idea that it’s an essential part of the gospel to understand the importance and the need for social justice.
Now social justice, by its very definition, is a temporal sort of economic concept, not a spiritual concept. So on its face injecting a temporal economic sociological concept into the gospel is injecting something alien into the gospel. But without regard for that, there is a very loud cry being raised that we’re not even Christians who have the gospel if we don’t include the social gospel, which means earthly temporal equity for everyone.
Now that’s the question: “Is it a part of the gospel, or is it not a part of the gospel?” And that is the question that I want to answer, because it’s my responsibility to always make the gospel clear.
Through the years, I have been fighting the battle for the gospel, whether it’s The Gospel According to Jesus, The Gospel According to the Apostles, Ashamed of the Gospel, The Gospel According to Paul, The Gospel According to God – all of these books through decades of my life trying to clarify the gospel. So here we go again with some people saying that something must be part of the gospel, and we need to know whether that is accurate or not. So that is my intent.
Now, just as a foundation, social justice is nowhere included in any New Testament passage about the gospel. Social justice is nowhere included in any passage in the New Testament about the gospel. So on its face it’s not included as a part of the spiritual gospel. It is also not a part of any Old Testament gospel, as we will see in the eighteenth chapter of Ezekiel. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
That is not to say that we’re not to love people and live justly, and care for them, and minister to the people who have been treated unfairly and unkindly and mercilessly; we are as Christians. Of course, we are. We are to be known by our love, love to one another and love to the whole world. And we are to be as Christ was to them, caring for them, meeting their needs, ministering to them, loving them. That is a result of salvation. The question is, “Is the social gospel a part of the saving gospel, or is caring for people a result of the gospel?”
Now here’s the thesis: “Social justice is not a part of the gospel.” Social justice is not a part of the gospel. I’ll go one step further: “It is a serious hinderance to the gospel.” It is a serious hinderance to the gospel. And that is why I am so concerned about it. I’m not saying that people haven’t been mistreated, they have. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be treated better, they should. I’m only asking, “Is this treatment of certain people in society part of the gospel or not?” and it is my conviction that it is a serious hinderance to the gospel. That is why it’s never included in any biblical passage on the gospel.
So let’s go to Ezekiel chapter 18, and I’m just going to make a reference to one verse here, and then we’re going to have to wait till next week to look at it, because I have a lot more things I want to say before we get here. In verse 4, there is a statement at the end of the verse: “The soul who sins will die.” The soul who sins will die. That is the thesis of this chapter: “The soul who sins will die.”
Now before we talk about that a little bit, let me tell you about Ezekiel. Ezekiel is a prophet; he is a prophet in the exile, in the Babylonian exile. His name is only mentioned in his prophecy, nowhere else in Scripture. His names means “strengthened by God.” Let’s look at his call. Go back to chapter 3, Ezekiel chapter 3.
He is called son of man frequently: verse 1, verse 3, verse 4, and again through this passage down in verse 10. He is called son of man; and the other person called Son of man in the Bible is Jesus, another preacher. But let’s listen to this text, starting in verse 4.
God speaks to Ezekiel. He says, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them.” That’s any preacher’s task, that’s every preacher’s task. “Speak My words to them. For you are not being sent to a people of unintelligible speech or different language. I’m not sending you to foreigners, you’re going to the people whose language you speak. You are sent to the house of Israel, your own people, nor to many peoples of unintelligible speech or difficult language, who words you cannot understand. But I have sent you to them who should listen to you; yet the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, since they are not willing to listen to Me. Surely the whole house of Israel is stubborn and obstinate.” This sounds a lot like Isaiah’s call, doesn’t it, in chapter 6. “You’re going to go and you’re going to speak, but they’re not going to listen because they’re rebellious and stubborn and obstinate.
“So,” – verse 8 – “I have made your face as hard as their faces and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. You’re going to butt heads with them and you’re not going to give in. Like emery harder than flint I have made your forehead. Do not be afraid of them or be dismayed before them, though they are a rebellious house. Ezekiel, I have made you a rock. You are a rock. You’ve got a flint forehead. You don’t back down, even though they hate what you say.”
Verse 10, “Moreover, He said to me, ‘Son of man, take into your heart all My words which I will speak to you and listen closely. Go to the exiles, to the sons of your people, and speak to them and tell them, whether they listen or not,’ thus says the Lord God.
“Then the Spirit lifted me up. I heard a great rumbling sound behind me, ‘Blessed be the gory of the Lord in His place.’ I heard the sound of the wings of the living beings touching one another and the sound of the wheels beside them, even a great rumbling sound. So the Spirit lifted me up and took me away; and I went embittered in the rage of my spirit, and the hand of the Lord was strong on me. Then I came to the exiles who lived beside the river Chebar at Tel-abib, and I sat there seven days where they were living, causing consternation among them.”
So he receives this call. He’s going to be hardheaded and resolute, preaching the message to the people that God gives him. They’re not going to like it, they’re not going to listen, they’re going to be obstinate and rebellious and stubborn. But to confirm his call he has a vision of the glory of God, and then he is dropped into the place of Babylon, essentially 20 miles or so south of Babylon, to the bank of the river Chebar, and he sits there seven days, causing consternation among them. They knew he was a prophet of God, they knew he had a hard message, and they were disturbed that he was in their presence.
“At the end of seven days the word f the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house f Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me.” And we’ll stop there for the time being. All right.
Ezekiel was 25 years old when he was taken captive with 10,000 other Jews. He was taken captive in 597 BC. You remember the story; the southern kingdom Judah was still in existence, and the southern kingdom was attacked by the Babylonians, and the first attack came in 605, and that was the first deportation. They conquered the Jews and hauled thousands of them off into captivity. They came back again in 597 in the second deportation, they took about 10,000 more Jews captive, and Ezekiel and his wife were in the second deportation in 597.
So now he is living in Babylon by the river Chebar south of Babylon the city. His wife dies. We don’t exactly when, but there’s a record of her death in his prophecy. And he lives on through the whole prophecy, obviously, and writes it. He lives till about 560, the rabbis said, when he was murdered by a Jew whom he confronted about idolatry. He confronted a fellow Jew about idolatry and he was slaughtered by him, according to rabbinic tradition.
But during the time of his ministry – most say his ministry probably went for about 22 years. He began it when he was 30; that’s how the book begins, chapter 1, verse 1, “In the thirtieth year.” So he’s five years in captivity before he begins his actual ministry. And about halfway through his ministry Jerusalem is destroyed in the 586 siege. So for half his ministry he’s warning the Jews that more judgment is coming, and the warning chapters are chapters 4 through 24. He is a preacher of judgment, preacher of judgment.
Now how did they get into captivity? You remember the people of Israel wanted a king. They had judges, they wanted a king, so the Lord gives them a king. They have three kings in the united kingdom; they have Saul, David, and Solomon. After Solomon the kingdom splits. Ten tribes go north and form what is known as Israel. Two tribes stay in the south and form Judah. They coexist.
The unified kingdom lasted about, I’d say, 110 years, and then it split. The northern kingdom fell first in 722 to the Assyrians, and God used them to judge His idolatrous northern kingdom. And they went into captivity from which they never returned, 722. The southern kingdom survived another 135 years. At the end of that period time God brought judgment from Babylon and it came in three waves: 605, 597, 586.
Now just prior to that, 609, the Egyptians came and killed King Josiah – good king Josiah. The Egyptians killed him 609. And immediately there were bad kings, four of them in a row, really wicked, corrupt kings plunging the people after the good reign of Josiah into sin and iniquity and idolatry. And so God brings the Babylonians to judge them. And Ezekiel then is dropped into the captivity to preach to these captive Jews that God is not yet finished with His judgment. There’s more judgment to come, including the 586 complete destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.
He is then a judgment preacher, and all his sermons pronounce judgment, not only on the people back in the land, but on the people listening to him who are hard-hearted, stubborn and obstinate, and will not hear him. He is a judgment preacher, and he has one foundational, basic principle of divine judgment, and this is it: “The soul that sins will die.” That’s his message. “The wages of sin death,” in the language of the apostle Paul. The soul that sins will die: physically, yes; spiritually, yes; and more importantly and ultimately, eternally. So he’s pronouncing judgment on those who sin. This is the foundation of the gospel.
Now where did Ezekiel get this? Let’s go back to Deuteronomy, back to Moses, back to the law. Deuteronomy chapter 24. And in Deuteronomy chapter 24 God is laying out His law. You come down to verse 16. Deuteronomy 24:16, “Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.”
There’s nothing ambiguous about that, right? Everyone will be put to death for his own sin, whether you’re talking about capital punishment under the Mosaic law or whether you’re talking about physical death in general or whether you’re talking about eternal death, everyone experiences death, any kind of death, because of his own sins. That is the foundational gospel principle. And here it comes, we say it all the time, “You” – Jesus says – “will die in your sins. And where I go you will never come. You will die in your sins.”
This is the law of individual responsibility. It found its way into the life of God’s people Israel, and it shows up in an interesting illustration in 2 Kings chapter 14. If you want to look over to 2 Kings – 1 and 2 Samuel, then 1 and 2 Kings chapter 14. There’s a king named Joash. Joash is murdered. He is murdered by two officials. Amaziah the son of Joash becomes king. The murder of Joash is in chapter 12.
Chapter 14, his son Amaziah becomes king, he’s twenty-five years old. He reigned for twenty-nine years in Jerusalem, verse 2 said, and he did right in the sight of the Lord. He did right in the sight of the Lord. Not everything right; but still, that’s the epitaph: “He did right in the sight of the Lord.”
One illustration of him doing right is down in verse 5: “It came about, as soon as the kingdom was firmly in his hand, he killed his servants who had slain the king his father.” That was according to Mosaic law. And it says, “You take a life, you forfeit your life.” He killed the ones who slew the king his father.
But notice verse 6: “But the sons of the slayers he did not put to death, according to what was written in the book of law of Moses, as the Lord commanded, saying,” – and it quotes back in Deuteronomy 24:16 – ‘The fathers shall not be put to death for the sons, nor the sons be put to death for the fathers; but each shall be put to death for his own sin.’” So this was law in Israel. You didn’t kill somebody else for another person’s sins. People would be killed for their own sins; that is the foundational principle of the gospel: “You will be judged for your own sins.”
Several generations later now and we come to Ezekiel. Let’s go back to chapter 3. And Ezekiel knows this Mosaic law and he knows that it was upheld in the life of Israel, certainly by King Amaziah. So in verse 18 Ezekiel is instructed by God, “When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ to the wicked, ‘you will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.” That is some serious statement. This is called blood guiltiness.
“If you, Ezekiel, you’re a preacher. I you don’t warn the wicked, their blood is on your hand when I take their life.” Amazing. It doesn’t mean that Ezekiel was going to go to hell, it simply means that he had sinned severely by not warning them.
Verse 19, “Yet if you have warned the wicked and he doesn’t turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself.”
“You are a watchman,” – verse 17 – “you’re a watchman, you’re a guardian. You operate with vigilance; that’s your calling. You tell people danger is coming, you warn people; and the danger is the judgment of God.”
Verse 20, “Again, when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I place an obstacle before him, he will die.” “If somebody starts out doing the right things and ends up wicked, he’s going to die. Since you have not warned him, he’ll die in his sins, and his righteous deeds which he had once done in the past shall not be remembered; but his blood I’ll require at your hand.” This is the primary responsibility of the preacher to warn the wicked that they will die in their sins.
Verse 21, “However, if you have warned the righteous man that the righteous should not sin and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; and you have delivered yourself.” No wonder James says, “Stop being so many teachers, for theirs is a greater condemnation.” This is serious business. You fail to warn the wicked of their sin and to warn them that they will die for their own sins, and you have their blood on your hands.
Back in Joshua chapter 1, verse 18, it says, “Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey your words in all that you command him, shall be put to death; only be strong and courageous.” This is to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. The people who don’t listen to you when you speak for God, they will die.” This is the universal responsibility of every preacher, otherwise we’re blood guilty.
Now I want you to go to chapter 14 of Ezekiel, chapter 14. Now remember, we’re right in the middle of his judgment section, all these judgment sermons, and I just want to read starting in verse 12: “The word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Son of man, if a country sins against Me” – now you say, “Yeah, doesn’t God punish countries?” He does.
But let’s read what He says: “If a country sins against me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it, destroy its supply of bread, and send famine against it and cut off from it both man and beast, even though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job were in its mist, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves,” declares the Lord God. The only people He spares are the righteous, all the rest die in their own sins. Even when God judges a nation with famine, those that are under that judgment are those who die in their own sins; the righteous are delivered.
He said if it’s not a famine, maybe wild beasts, verse 15. If I were to cause wild beasts to pass through the land and they depopulated it, and it became desolate so that no one would pass through it because of the beasts, and though these three men” – same three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job – “were in the midst, as I live,” declares the Lord God, “they could not deliver either their sons or their daughters. They alone would be delivered, but the country would be desolate.
“Or if I should bring a third possibility, a third disaster, sword or war on that country and say, ‘Let the sword pass through the country and cut off man and beast from it,’ even though these three men were in its midst, as I live,” declares the Lord God, “they could not deliver either their sons or their daughters, but they alone would be delivered.
“Or” – a fourth – “if I should send a plague against that country and pour out My wrath in blood on it to cut off man and beast from it, even though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in its midst, as I live,” declares the Lord God, “they could not deliver either their son or their daughter. They would only deliver themselves by their righteousness.” Four possible severe judgments referred to even in the next verse.
When God sets to judge He judges those by their sins, even in a collective judgment. The best illustration of that is the universal flood in Genesis 6. He judged the whole world. But it wasn’t that He drowned the whole world because of the sins of a few, He drowned the whole world because the whole world was sinful. He looked and He saw that everyone was corrupt, and all that was in their hearts was only evil continually. Even God’s collective judgments come at the ungodly and sinful people, and the righteous are spared, but not those related to the righteous, only the righteous. Every person responsible for his own sin.
Yes, there are times when God may delay judgment because there are some righteous people. We saw that in Genesis 18, didn’t we, in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. God said, “If there are just this many righteous, or this many, I could withhold judgment for now.” But when judgment does come, it comes on individuals. Another say to say it: “No one dies for someone else’s sin.” No one dies for someone else’s sin.
Now, chapter 33. I wish I had time to read this, but I don’t. But I’m going to just give you a little of it, and I want to show you the consistency of this, Ezekiel 33, the opening twenty verses. But just want to start at the beginning with you.
“The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, speak to the sons of your people; say to them, “If I bring a sword upon a land,” – again, very much like 14 – “and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming on the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, didn’t take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life. But if the watchman see the sword coming” – the judgment coming – “and doesn’t blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.” Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me. When I say to the wicked,’ – verse 8 – “O wicked man, you will surely die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life.’”
This is the job of the preacher. The Lord punishes everyone individually for his or her sin. Judgment comes because of what the sinner has done.
You say, “Now wait a minute, I thought it said in Exodus 20 verse 5 that the sins of the fathers, or the iniquities of the fathers are visited on the children to the third and fourth generation.” It does say that. It’s repeated in Deuteronomy 5:9, “The sins of the fathers” – or iniquities of the fathers – “are visited upon the third and fourth generation of children and grandchildren. It says the same thing in Exodus 34, verse 7, that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.
What is that saying? It’s simply saying this: “Fathers,” plural. That’s a generation of leaders, a generation of influencers, the fathers of the nation. People talk about the fathers of our nation. That generation of fathers, leaders, if they are iniquitous their iniquity creates circumstances that go through the subsequent generation. We understand that, right? I mean, we’re living in as wretched a time as human history could ever have experience because of the vile character of the Internet. Evil is everywhere at a level never known in human history.
This is a vile, corrupt culture. The fathers of this culture, the architects of this culture, the educators of this culture, the people who are giving birth to this culture, the choices that they have made will go on for generations. You understand that. You’re afraid for the world of your children. You’re afraid for the world of your grandchildren. You’re afraid for the world of your great-grandchildren, you can’t even imagine what that’s going to be like, because you know the corruption of this generation will go right on through subsequent generations. And that’s exactly what those verses are saying.
So we understand that, that the sins of a generation create a kind of condition of corruption in which subsequent generations have to live. We’re living in the corrupt generation now that was set in motion by the last generation. So the principle there is one generation, based on its leadership and educators and influencers, creates an environment that is passed on to subsequent generations. We’re living in a very, very difficult, wretched world passed down to us from those before us.
I’ll go even beyond that. The sin of one man, Adam, affected all of us. As in Adam, we all die. So we come into this world affected by the sin of man named Adam, and his sin causes us to be conceived and born in iniquity, totally depraved, unable and unwilling, rivals against God, operating on the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. We are wretched sinful. There is not one who’s righteous, no, not one. That’s because of Adam.
So, yes, Adam sinned and passed on a condition to everybody. Past generations have sinned and their sins had consequences. This generation is probably more corrupt than any generation. This corruption will have consequences in future generations.
However, no one will be sent to hell for the sin of Adam, and no one will be sent to hell for the sin of anybody else. You will die in your own sins. The context, the conditions, yes, the result of others. But my sin is my sin, and your sin is your sin, and God holds us personally culpable and guilty. No one has ever been sent to hell because of the sin of Adam. “You will die in your sins because you believe not on Me,” Jesus said. No one has ever been sent to hell because of the sin of a past generation, or the sins of a father, mother, family, or the sins of people around them.
Let me make it clear. In God’s eyes – listen – no one is a victim. We are all perpetrators of open rebellion, scandalous, blasphemous sin against God. We are all rebels, we are all obstinate, we are all stubborn. Sure, the exiles, they were in Babylon because of bad choices kings made, because of bad choices that their ancestors made to bring the idols into the land. They were in captivity because of those choices. That created the context in which they live. But Ezekiel says to them, “The soul that sins shall die.” Here we have the critical fundamental principle of the gospel; no one is a victim. From God’s viewpoint, no one is a victim.
Even the conditions that we live in today fit into God’s purpose. God has ordained you for this time to be who you are, in the family you’re in, among the people you’re with, in the place you are, all within His sovereignty. And if you say, “I’m a victim, I’m a victim, I’m a victim because I’m this or because I’m that or because of something in the past, then really you’re joining Adam.
You remember that God came to Adam and said, “Adam, why did you eat?” He said, “The woman You gave me.” He wasn’t blaming Eve, he was blaming God. “The woman You gave me. I went to bed single; I didn’t even know what a woman was. And then she showed up and all hell broke loose. You did this.”
That is absolutely how human nature operates. “Oh, I’m the victim of other people’s choices. I’m in the situation I’m in because of what this person did, what that generation did, what my ancestor did, what somebody else’s ancestors did, what the culture has done.” And a faithful watchman, does he say, “Oh, yeah, you’re right”? Does he say, “Yeah, that’s right. You’ve been abused, you know, you’ve been treated unjustly. We sympathize; we see that. We want to embrace all that. We want to have a conference to make LGBTQ people feel welcome in the church. We want to start elevating women, make more women preachers. Yeah, we’re sorry you feel bad.”
Is that what a preacher does? Or does a preacher warn that person, that wherever you are in this world and whoever you are, you are here within the purpose of God’s sovereignty, and the only thing that you need to be concerned about is your own sin? That message is the absolute foundation reality of the gospel.
All who die under the judgment of God die for their own sin and not somebody else’s. That is clear and unambiguous. But it is human nature to fight against it to say, “I’m a good person. I’m a good person. There’s just bad people around me who have done bad things to me,” sometimes two hundred years ago, sometimes two generations ago. Sometimes it’s just part of the dominate male chauvinistic culture. Or sometimes it’s just homophobia.
“All this has been done to me.” And so, hashtag, “Me too. I’m a victim.” “Me too, me too. I was abused, I was abused, I was abused.” “Somebody offended me. Somebody made a micro-aggression against me.”
So I’m a victim of certain regional attitudes or gender attitudes, or sexual preference attitudes, or hate speech, or economics, or education. I’m just a victim of intersecting prejudice and oppression, and I’m victim.” I’ve go so many categories I ought to be given a medal of honor for all my categories of victimization.
Everybody’s offended me, people I don’t know. Dead people have offended me, living people have offended me. You offend me. I’m a victim of past injustice and inequity. and present rejection, discrimination, offense. And most of you don’t even know how much you offend me, it’s unconscious. And by the way, if you’re not a victim, then you’re a part of the oppressor group. You must repent. I’m not surprised that exists in the culture, because that’s what Adam said. I mean, that’s how fallen people react. They don’t take responsibility, they just blame somebody else; and they’re perfectly happy to blame God.
But that notion has gone to church now. It’s taken over the evangelical movement. All the victims now expect the church to take up their victimization cause, and they’re demanding social justice. How did this go to church? How did this get into the church? How did it push its way to a point where people are saying it’s part of the gospel? I can give you a quick answer. Don’t have much time, just real quick.
A few decades ago the church decided in order to win the world they had to become like the world, right? Out went the organ, out went the choir, out went the orchestra, out went hymn books, and we got rock-and-roll lights and mirrors and smoke, and every form of worldly entertainment.
“Well, hey, we didn’t change the message, we just changed the method. We didn’t change the substance, we just changed the style, you know. We’re trying to reach people, and they don’t like hymns, they don’t like long, drawn out expositions of Scripture; so we’re not going to be able to win the world if we don’t change. So we’ve just made an adjustment so we can win the world. And we’re now doing what they like. We’re giving them what they like. We’re giving them what they’re used to, we’re giving them what they want; we’re giving them the style they want.”
Let me tell you something. I wrote a book back in the 1990s called Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World, and I said we’re on a slippery slope, and that’s like over twenty-five years ago. “We’re on a slippery slope.” And I warned this: “The world will accept you changing your style for them, but pretty soon they’re going to demand that you change your substance. They’re going to demand that you – well, they liked the fact that you’ve taken their method, but they’re going to demand you change your message.” And now if in courting the world – all these evangelicals have been courting the world, and they have gotten the world convinced that they really want to make them feel comfortable, and the world is now so aware of their complete commitment this, that the world has decided, “We’re now going to shift from style to substance, from method to message.”
And so, you have these people literally embracing all of this victimization stuff, and now the church has to do this or we are – we’re out. We’re to be rejected. We’re anathema. You can’t believe anything else, you’re not supposed to believe anything else. You’re supposed to fully embrace all of this and be sympathetic to all the victims. This is just pragmatism.
And, oh, by the way, they’re still saying, “Hey, we’ll give them their style, but we’ll keep the message.” And then they’re saying, “Hey, we’ll give them their social substance, but we’ll still keep the message.” Next step, out goes the gospel, because the gospel is the stumbling block and it’s a message they hate.
And it’s going out anyway, because in this new style of evangelicalism you don’t preach like Ezekiel was told to preach. You don’t preach that individuals are going to die in their sins and go to hell forever, you don’t preach that. That’s what the watchmen should be warning. Forget what your societal deprivations are, you will die in your sins. You don’t need to worry about what happened in the past or what’s happening collectively to your group, you need to deal with your own sin before God, because you’re going to be held accountable.
Look, I know people have suffered injustice, I get it; that’s a fallen world. But I also know the Bible is explicit. If you are a preacher, regardless of what people’s social condition is, you have one job, and that is to warn them of wickedness and the coming judgment of God.
Is it our duty to affirm that people are victims of the sins of somebody else? You know where that leads? They’re going to blame God. And if they blame God for their condition, how are they going to go to God because they think He’s merciful? You acknowledge that somebody got a bad deal in history; you’ve indicted God, because He’s the author of history. That’s a slippery slope.
What is this, part of the gospel? Clearly not, absolutely not. The gospel says whatever your condition in the world, however you’ve been treated, whatever’s gone wrong is a small issue compared to your own sin.
Should we make homosexuals into victims? Rebellious, disobedient women into victims? Adulterers, aborters of babies, liars, thieves, criminals victims of society? Should we let people think that it was what somebody else did to them? No.
“Ezekiel, no. No, don’t let them do that. Confront their own sin and tell them this: ‘Repent, or you will die. You will die in your iniquity.’” And He says that over and over and over in chapter 18. “His blood will I require at your hand if you don’t give that testimony.”
The preacher who is negligent in his duty to preach the severe deadly and eternal judgment of God to sinners has blood on his hands. Now, we’re going to see how this all is laid out in Ezekiel chapter 18. Let’s bow in prayer.
Father, we’re so grateful for Your Word, it speaks to everything around us and everything in us. Thank You for the clarity of divine revelation. Help us to give our lives in the name of Jesus Christ to care for all those who suffer; but at the same time to warn them that they’re going to be held accountable before You, not for what somebody did to them, but for what they have done against You. Give us the boldness and the courage to be faithful to preach essential starting point for the gospel. Confirm these things to our hearts by Your Holy Spirit in Christ’s name. Amen.