The Duty of the Prophets – and Ours Also!

By Lewis Willis

In the text below, Ezekiel explains part of his responsibility as a prophet. Inasmuch as “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,” it behooves us to know and understand that we labor under the same obligation (Rom. 15:4). And, let us make no mistake about it, we share the same duty Ezekiel had (Gal. 6: 1; 2 Tim. 2:25; Jas. 5:1920; 1 Cor. 4:14; 1 Thess. 2:11-12).

Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require aat thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, when a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.

Look at that passage again. Analyze it. It identifies the scope of our duty to others regarding truth. The first thing a person is to do is hear the Word. Then, he is to sound out the warnings contained therein to the people around him. That was true to Ezekiel and it is true for us today.

When a man commits sin – any sin – he is in danger of losing his soul. In fact, it is certain that he will lose his soul unless someone gets to him and warns him of his danger. That was Ezekiel’s job, and we have the same job today. If we do not warn the wicked man about his sin, he not only dies in his sin, condemned of God, but his blood is required at our hand. If we warn him and he does not turn from his sin, he dies in that condition but, by issuing the warning, we deliver our souls. Therefore, let us recognize our duty. We must warn our family, neighbors, and friends about the dangers of sin. They are responsible to obey God and get forgiveness. But we are either guilty or innocent concerning them, depending on whether or not we issued the warning.

A second lesson we must learn from our text is that a righteous man can turn from his righteousness and commit iniquity. Sometimes we act like that is not possible. Is it any wonder that Paul warned, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12)? A Christian could not make a greater mistake than to think it is impossible for him to sin and lose his soul.

Ezekiel recorded our responsibility to the righteous man who sins. He said that such a man is going to die in his sin unless he is warned and turns from iniquity. Our point here is, we must recognize our duty to warn those who have fallen. If we do not warn them, they die in their sin and God requires their blood at our hand. However, if we issue the warning, they may die in their sin, but we are not responsible. Thus, by issuing the warning, we deliver our soul.

A final point from our text is very important. Ezekiel said that the righteous man, who has turned aside to practice iniquity, will give account of himself unto God. However, his righteousness will not be “remembered,” that is, his righteousness in one area will not excuse him from iniquity he has practiced in another area. To illustrate, suppose a man has acted lovingly towards his wife for six days. That is a righteous practice. But, suppose on day seven that he physically abuses his wife. His righteousness for six days does not make his iniquity on the seventh day suddenly disappear. Or, six days of telling the truth will not make us guiltless if we lie on the seventh day. The message is, recognize sin when it creeps into your life and correct it. It does not just go away, nor does God just forget it. Obey his word and he will forgive it, then we can forget the sin.

We share, with the prophets of old, the duty to know truth, teach it and warn all men that transgression of God’s law will bring upon them condemnation. Isaiah said, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7). Our salvation, and theirs, depends upon the issuance of the warning, and its being heeded. Let us do our duty. We all need it!

Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 15, p. 463
August 2, 1990