2 What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge?
Death Through Adam
Is it correct to say that God punishes us for Adam's sin? It appears to me to be charging Him with injustice and to give the enemy an advantage over us.
Answer.-God does not punish the children for the father's sin. He says so in expostulation with Israel through Ezekiel: (Ezekiel 18:2, 3; 20).
We suffer death in consequence of Adam's sin, but not in punishment of it. There is a distinction. To punish one man for the act of another is abhorrent to the ideas of justice that God propounds in His word; but to make it a law of generation that mortal shall produce mortal, does not bring with it the same idea. It is better to be born mortal with the hope of salvation through Christ than not to be born at all.
Adam became mortal because of sin, and as his children, partaking of his nature, we cannot be otherwise than mortal; but to call it "punishment" is to confuse our moral perceptions, and to speak otherwise than the scriptures speak. Our correspondent puts the case well thus:
"Adam's enjoyment was neutralized, and hope of life was taken away when he transgressed. The deprivation of what he enjoyed, present or prospective, was a punishment. If his sons were born before the transgression, and, without sinning, come under the law of death because Adam sinned, that surely would be a punishment. The reverse, however, appears to me to be the case.
God gives us life, and we find by experience and revelation that our destiny is death. We have no claim upon the blessing of life, nor upon that of death (for the one seems as much a blessing as the other in our condition of existence).
Therefore if there be any punishment at all, I think, it must be in the condition we are born into, and surely we should not presume to a better nature than possessed by our fathers. The case of the righteous men in Sodom proves the mercy of God, and does not affect his justice, unless it can be shown that God would have destroyed one righteous man because of the wickedness of the many."
The Christadelphian, July 1892
23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith Adonia Yahweh: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?
Israel complained they were being punished for their fathers' sins, and they could quote certain statements of God Himself that seemed to support them, as that He was destroying Jerusalem because of the blood that Manasseh had shed fifty years before (2 Kgs. 24:3); and that He would-
"Visit the sins of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations"
The answer is two-fold. First, the nation was being judged as a nation because it continued such sins as Manasseh's. A nation is like an individual. If it continues to sin, it is finally punished for all its past sins. If it repents, those past sins will be forgotten. Similarly, the rest of the quotation about the "sins of the fathers" changes it from injustice to mercy and patience: it is the "third and fourth generation of them that hate Me" that at last receives God's deferred wrath.
Second, national judgments were one thing, and the just suffered in them like the unjust. But in the ultimate eternal judgment-which is the only one that really matters-each individual stands alone, and is rewarded or punished according to his own record.
A righteous Jeremiah or Ezekiel may necessarily suffer in the general calamities with the wicked nation he ministered to, but that was just a passing aspect of the development and training for God's eternal glory. We-
"Must through much tribulation enter the Kingdom" (Acts 14:22),
and that tribulation will be doubly welcomed and accepted with joyful patience, if it is incurred in ministering to God's people.
Bro Growcott - Prophesies in the captivity
24 But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.
This is neither more nor less than the apostolic doctrine that only "he that endureth to the end" shall be saved; and that if any man walk after the flesh, he shall die. A man trusting to the righteousness of ten years (say) and then slackening off into loose and wicked ways, will find at the judgment seat that the righteousness of the first part of his life is not reckoned, but has been cancelled by his lapse.
But this is a different case from the case of a man ordering his life aright before God, and having a slip of some kind, which he deplores and prays forgiveness for, and which he disowns and no longer follows. Ezekiel's words contemplate the case of a man once righteous turning away from his righteousness and "doing according to all the abominations of the wicked." It is not the case of a rectified stumble.
The Christadelphian, Oct 1894. p391-393.