Ezekiel 18:20 (ESV) … “The soul who 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.”
God says to us through Ezekiel that if we trust our own goodness and morality as a basis of salvation, we are always on precarious ground. One sin is enough to condemn us. Our emotional response to that may be to argue that this is unfair, but a more reasoned response would be to see the utter fallacy of trusting our own goodness because there, mingled with all our righteousness, is sin; with our helping hand goes pride; with our congratulation of others there is envy; covetousness, jealousy and gossip are mingled with everything we do, simply because human nature is corrupt and defiled. Some may think that this is a very pessimistic view, but it is simply what God says. The person who thinks he or she is good enough for God just does not understand his or her own heart, and certainly has no concept of the holiness of God.
The only way to be acceptable to God is God’s way, and God’s way starts with repentance. The Lord applies this truth to a person who has lived a rotten life (vv. 27–28). The wages of sin is death but God has no pleasure in that (v. 32). He is a God of infinite love and mercy and is willing to forgive all sin, yet it must be on his terms. This is because sin has grieved his holy character and violated his holy law. Sin deserves death and hell, but God pleads with the sinner to turn from his or her sin, to repent, and come to him for a new heart. We should repent because our sin is taking us to hell. But there is more to it than that: we must also see that our sin grieves God, so, as well as seeking forgiveness, we should also long for a new heart to enable us to live for the glory of God. Our sin is able to be dealt with by the atoning death of Jesus on the cross and, because of this, God is able to cry from his heart, ‘Why will you die?’ (v. 31). There is no need to die because there is salvation available.
all sin deserves hell—that is fair;
all sin can be forgiven—that is grace;
and grace is fair, or a better word would be ‘just’, because our sin is judged, condemned and punished at the cross.