|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
18:21-29 The wicked man would be saved, if he turned from his evil ways. The true penitent is a true believer. None of his former transgressions shall be mentioned unto him, but in the righteousness which he has done, as the fruit of faith and the effect of conversion, he shall surely live. The question is not whether the truly righteous ever become apostates. It is certain that many who for a time were thought to be righteous, do so, while ver. 26,27 speaks the fulness of pardoning mercy: when sin is forgiven, it is blotted out, it is remembered no more. In their righteousness they shall live; not for their righteousness, as if that were an atonement for their sins, but in their righteousness, which is one of the blessings purchased by the Mediator. What encouragement a repenting, returning sinner has to hope for pardon and life according to this promise! In verse 28 is the beginning and progress of repentance. True believers watch and pray, and continue to the end, and they are saved. In all our disputes with God, he is in the right, and we are in the wrong.
Verses 21, 22. - But if the wicked will turn, etc. Here, however, there is a distinct advance. The question is carried further into the relations between the past and the present of the same man, between his old and his new self. And in answering that question also Ezekiel becomes the preacher of a gospel. The judgment of God deals with each man according to his present state, not his past. Repentance and conversion and obedience shall cancel, as it were, the very memory of his former sins (Ezekiel's language is necessarily that of a hold anthropopathy), and his transgressions shall not be mentioned unto him (comp. Ezekiel 33:16; Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 64:9; Jeremiah 31:34). Assuming the later date of Isaiah 40-66, the last three utterances have the interest of being those of nearly contemporary prophets to whom the same truth had been revealed.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But if the wicked,.... So far is the Lord from punishing the sins of one man upon another, that he will not punish a man for his own sins: if he
will turn from all his sins that he hath committed: if he truly repents of them, and thoroughly forsakes them; for it must not be one sin only, but all; every sin is to be loathed and mourned over, and sorrow expressed for it, and to be forsaken; not one sin is to cherished and retained, but all to be relinquished: or the repentance and conversion may be justly questioned whether they be sincere:
and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right; as the repentance and turning from sin must be general, so also obedience to the commands of God, both moral and positive; respect is to be had to all his ordinances, which are all of them to be esteemed as right and lawful, and to be observed: this is bringing forth fruits meet for repentance:
he shall surely live, he shall not die; he shall live in his own land, and not go into captivity. Kimchi's note is, he shall live in this world, and not die in the world to come; so Ben Melech.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
21-24. Two last cases, showing the equity of God: (1) The penitent sinner is dealt with according to his new obedience, not according to his former sins. (2) The righteous man who turns from righteousness to sin shall be punished for the latter, and his former righteousness will be of no avail to him.
he shall surely live—Despair drives men into hardened recklessness; God therefore allures men to repentance by holding out hope [Calvin].
To threats the stubborn sinner oft is hard,
Wrapt in his crimes, against the storm prepared,
But when the milder beams of mercy play,
He melts, and throws the cumbrous cloak away.
Hitherto the cases had been of a change from bad to good, or vice versa, in one generation compared with another. Here it is such a change in one and the same individual. This, as practically affecting the persons here addressed, is properly put last. So far from God laying on men the penalty of others' sins, He will not even punish them for their own, if they turn from sin to righteousness; but if they turn from righteousness to sin, they must expect in justice that their former goodness will not atone for subsequent sin (Heb 10:38, 39; 2Pe 2:20-22). The exile in Babylon gave a season for repentance of those sins which would have brought death on the perpetrator in Judea while the law could be enforced; so it prepared the way for the Gospel [Grotius].
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