Ezekiel 18:32 (ESV) -- For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.
Doing theology requires thinking. Serious thinking requires holding ideas together rather than letting everything become a this/that dichotomy. For example, we should not pit faith and works against each other. Both have their place. Faith is the way by which we enter salvation. Works are what come from the life of those who are saved. Faith without works is dead. But works of the flesh cannot save anyone. Biblical theology doesn’t pit them against each other, but rather, it recognizes the role of each in their biblical context.
Our passage today communicates an idea that requires the same kind of theology work. We read in Ezekiel 18:32, “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.”
Those who believe in God’s sovereign choice in the salvation of sinners often ignore this passage. Those who are uncomfortable with the idea that God chooses a people for Himself to save (election) cite this as a passage of justification for denying election. But accurate theology cannot handle Scripture that way. It holds the tension of passages; it doesn’t choose one over another. There are plenty of biblical texts that support sovereign election. God chooses Abraham over everyone else. The choice of Israel as His people over all others shows election from the Old Testament, but it doesn’t end there. The New Testament teaches the same. But many who have never been taught those precepts react with allergic instinct. The passage today often becomes the source for justification in rejecting election. But that is not what the prophet is communicating. The LORD speaks through Ezekiel to reveal that He takes no pleasure in the death of anyone. This is true of physical death and spiritual death. Yet the LORD certainly allows for it. His lack of pleasure in the death of people doesn’t cause Him to stop it from happening. Why is this important to note? Because God is capable of willing one thing to happen, even when in some sense God doesn’t take pleasure in the thing He is willing.
The cross is the best example of this sort of thing. God despises the sin of the people involved in the wrongful death of His innocent Son. The lies, pride, greed, injustice, and murder all violate His commands. Yet in another real sense, God delighted to crush His Son. He delighted in the death of His Son in the place of sinners.
Theology can be complex. But this is why we avoid quick easy answers and take the Scriptures as God has revealed them to us.
We seek to know Him and His ways as He’s revealed them.
Reflection & Journal:
- Why is this passage often cited against election?
- What does the passage actually teach?
- How does this devotion help you understand the way of approaching theology?
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