Doctrine 1: The Doctrine of Household Salvation, Part 3 (continued from Wednesday)
5 “If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right … he is righteous, he shall surely live, says the Lord GOD. If he begets a son who … does none of these duties … he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself. But if this man begets a son who … does not do likewise … he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. As for his father, because he … did what is not good … he shall die for his iniquity. Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is lawful and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The soul that sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” (Ezekiel 18:5-20)
The above passage is a handful, and extends from Ezekiel 18:1-32 (recommended reading). The “jist” of this passage is that of personal accountability. If I sin, I am responsible. If you sin, you are responsible. Each one is responsible for his or her own sin. Now, let’s see how this compares with the doctrine of household salvation. The doctrine of household salvation says that if I, through and act of personal repentance from sin and faith in what Jesus Christ did for me on the cross, am spared from God’s wrath against sin, then God promises to save my family. But this is diametrically opposed to what Ezekiel 18 makes very clear! It is the soul that sins that will bear its own punishment. If I then, be righteous, I will save myself from judgment. If my father, or my son, or any other member of my family, be unrighteous, they will incur judgment. Of course, it is true that I may be able to influence my family members to “believe” so that they are moved to personal repentance. But note this: It is the personal repentance and consequential faith that spares my family members from God’s judgment, and not the fact I myself am saved. This is crucial, and is demonstrated clearly in passages like Acts 2:38, which call for individual, personal, repentance (turning away from God) and being baptized (an outward sign of an inward faith): “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)
Now why is this issue so important? Because, in the west, a great seduction has come upon the church so that she says, “I do not need to repent for my sins, for my wrongdoings. Thus it is that we have heard more about God’s love and compassion in this generation than any other generation, but we have heard little of God’s judgment and the coming wrath against sin and all that is wrong. What has happened to God’s judgment? We have come under the influence of our westernized civizilation — the Carl Jung culture, to be sure — and denied the existence of sin and hence the need to repent. The “household salvation” doctrine fits in well with Carl Jung’s beliefs: there is really no such thing as sin, and it is not personal repentance that brings about God’s favor, but rather, my salvation will bring about your salvation — hence, you do not need to repent, I can repent for you.
In fact, I do have a role to play in your salvation. I can pray for you. I can explain it to you. In the end, however, you alone are responsible to either accept or reject that message. My faith, therefore, may help you to both repent for your sins and beleive in the Lord Jesus Christ. But you must still do the repenting and the believing.
Thus, I think it is that the false doctrine of household salvation has attempted to “lull” us into this sense that “everything is all right” and “they will be saved from God’s judgment against their own sin”. Why? Because (incorrectly), “I believe, and God has promised to save on account of this.” Rather, we ought to be saying to THEM (the unbelievers in our families), “God word says, ‘If you repent and believe, you will be saved from God’s wrath.'” Instead, what are we saying? We are saying nothing, because we have been lulled into thinking that their salvation is “in the bag” — it is secure, it is guaranteed. What then of Ezekiel 18:5-20? How does this square with your theology now? “The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” (Ezekiel 18:20)
In this example (Ezekiel 18:20), either the son or the father may be considered righteous. The other one may well be considered wicked, and thereby incur God’s judgment against sin (hell, in the end, if he/she refuses to repent in the end). God does not blame the “righteous” one for the lostness of the “wicked” one! It’s time to change our theology, and become personally accountable once again! You and I are both responsible for our own sin! And this is the message we need to preach. I cannot believe for you. You cannot believe for me. We can help each other. We can try to motivate one another (and this is a good thing). But, in the end — “when push comes to shove,” as they say — I am personally accountable for what I do with what has been explained to me. And I am permitted by God to reject or accept that message. God is not forcing it upon me. And he has nowhere guaranteed that I am “going” to believe, just because one of my family members has believed!