Generational Sin Punishments & Works Righteousness

These verses from the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel establish the important idea of individual and personal accountability for sin. This was a big CHANGE in how the Israelites understood sin & families. It also reinforced works righteousness, however. Jesus would later affirm the former understanding (don’t kill the children for the sins of the parents) but overturn the latter from a salvation / justification standpoint.

It is important to understand that God still calls us to live lives defined by acts of righteousness. We are called to abandon sinful ways: To confess our sins (which by our nature we continue to commit) and ask for forgiveness. We are saved through our confession of sin and profession of faith in Christ. Our righteous acts which follow these events are expected, required and natural, but they are NOT the cause or source of our salvation from God’s condemnation which our past sins deserve.

Then another message came to me from the Lord: “Why do you quote this proverb concerning the land of Israel: ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste’? As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, you will not quote this proverb anymore in Israel. For all people are mine to judge—both parents and children alike. And this is my rule: The person who sins is the one who will die.

(Ezekiel 18:1-4 NLT)


“‘What?’ you ask. ‘Doesn’t the child pay for the parent’s sins?’ No! For if the child does what is just and right and keeps my decrees, that child will surely live. The person who sins is the one who will die. The child will not be punished for the parent’s sins, and the parent will not be punished for the child’s sins. Righteous people will be rewarded for their own righteous behavior, and wicked people will be punished for their own wickedness. But if wicked people turn away from all their sins and begin to obey my decrees and do what is just and right, they will surely live and not die. All their past sins will be forgotten, and they will live because of the righteous things they have done.

(Ezekiel 18:19-22 NLT)

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