Today, we’re going to be continuing our series “The Ten Suggestions???” and we find ourselves at commandment number six, in Exodus 20:13. Maybe today we might feel at ease, at least for a moment, because at least… we haven't broken this commandment. But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made this statement, "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:21-22).
So Jesus broadens the playing field, saying anger in our hearts can be like murdering someone. Just as john said in 1 John 3:15, "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him."
The word, "hate," used here means "to habitually despise." It’s not speaking of only a passing emotion, a flurry of anger, but a deep-rooted loathing. You know we all lose our tempers here and there. But this is allowing bitterness toward someone to take root in the heart over a period of time… to the point that you are seething with anger every time you see that person… whenever you hear their name. The New Testament even tells us that spreading lies about someone, gossiping or assassinating their character can be like murder. But if you love God, then you will love your neighbor and if you love your neighbor you won't do these things.
So here’s the sixth commandment. We’ll read it together at verse 13… it’s very simple yet it is also very complicated: “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13)
“You shall not murder” is a translation into English from the original Hebrew which people still read and write today. And so those who know, tell us, this is actually two words, “No murder.” Pretty simple right? The first word, we’ve understood for many years, you know, we learned “no” early on in childhood, it’s not really debated. It’s not easy to accept but it’s not new information right? But the second word is a little more complicated and since all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable, since Jesus said that every single word matters and counts, we are going to dig in to this one word today.
Now right from the start you got to wonder what God means? You see, many of us are familiar with the old King James Translation with it’s older style of English which says, “Thou shalt not” what? “Kill” right? “Thou shalt not kill.” And honestly I think most people are familiar with the language of the King James Bible… and this leads us to all kinds of false teaching. You know some people take it to mean that you should never defend yourself… you should never take a life… you should never kill. And those kind of pacifist teachings are simply the result of misunderstanding one word of the Bible.
But the Lord is not some pacifying antiwar deity. He’s never presented as a pacifist. As a matter of fact, only a very selective reading of the Scriptures could lead you to that position. The Bible never tells us in it’s original language, “Thou shalt not kill”; it tells us that we should not murder. Again two words… “No murder.”
So this is very important, because there is a big difference between killing and murder. To kill is to take a life, like maybe an accident, self-defense, a soldier at war, or a police officer returning fire. But murder on the other hand, refers to things like manslaughter, infanticide, physician-assisted suicide, euthanasia, acts of terrorism, retaliation, revenge, and you know, just plain old fashioned murder. So what I am saying is that there are ways that taking a life is justified, just as there are ways that taking a life is unjustified, and so that adds to the complexity of understanding this command. And so we’re going to dig in to see exactly what God means by this word.
One day Jesus was confronted by a group of men that wanted to kill him. He told them, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). So, when it comes to this issue of murder, it’s not just a social issue. Murder is a spiritual issue and a demonic issue. You see, God creates life, but “Satan was a murderer from the beginning.”
Jesus goes all the way back to the beginning, back to the account of Adam and Eve, you know… the first two brothers. And the Bible tells us that Cain became jealous of his brother Abel and murdered him. So murder begins with the first two brothers; it’s demonic; it’s what Satan does; and Jesus says he’s been that way since the beginning.
And today we’ve become so good at murder that we’ve actually created words like genocide to soften the horror of mass murder. We call it homicide, manslaughter, and assassination. We use terminology like ethnic cleansing in places like Bosnia, Rwanda, and even Nazi Germany. We have men like: Hitler, Lenin, and Mao. We have atheistic Communism and various deviations of it proposing that you don’t come from God; you don’t have dignity, and the state has the right to end the life of any person it considers unfit for the populace.
We may be advancing technologically… but we’re not advancing morally.
In Proverbs 8:36, God says it this way: “Whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death." You see the further we get away from the God of the Bible, we stop thinking like the God of the Bible, and the more prone we are to move toward murder. And I would say that our atheistic, irreligious culture in America today is becoming increasingly desensitized to murder. Just think of the average day on the television… the news, the shows, and the movies are so realistic they have the potential of desensitizing society as a whole to the horror of murder. Add to that the authenticity of video games and such and we’re raising a generation of youth that have been desensitized and are really good at murder.
So we find ourselves living in a day of situational ethics. We live in a culture where God is no longer the center, but humanity is the center; that laws are not binding on all peoples, everything is situational; and that we can find within ourselves the authority to determine truth. So what we’re finding in the Ten Commandments is that the way that God is trying to organize our hearts, our lives, our minds, and our culture is God-centered; with laws and truth that are outside of our own cultural code of ethics.
And as we gather today at the foot of Mt Sinai, God tells us, “You shall not murder.” Now for most of us that’s not a grey area. It’s black and white. But for others, for our world community, the question may be posed upon some of their lips. “Why?” Why is murder wrong? And here’s why: God is the author of life (Acts 3:15). God is the one who is sovereign over life. God has authority over human life. That’s exactly what it says in Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” Here in the book of Genesis, God said to Noah and his sons, you shall not murder anyone, because if you murder someone, then you shall be killed because people bear the image and likeness of God.
So here’s the big idea: The image of God means that we are unique, we have been given authority to rule, and we resemble God in the sense that like God, we are eternal beings. So it’s the image of God that makes us great among all of His created things. It’s the image of God, imprinted upon our human soul that makes us distinct, that makes us so great, and even though we often make choices that cause the image of God to become clouded, that cause it to become corrupted; Jesus Christ came to take away our sin and redeem us so that we can be restored as God’s image-bearers and our greatness would remain forever (Romans 3:23-24).
So, because of the image of God in our spiritual DNA, we shall not vengefully, aggressively, or offensively take the life of another human being. All of life is sacred to God. He is the living God, the author of life, who knits us together in our mother’s womb. He is a God who is all about life. He is a pro-life God. And if someone threatens the existence of that which He has created, if someone murders a person, the threat shall be removed, that person shall be put to death. So, when it comes to the issue of murder, God says, “Don’t!” Not because, it’s not nice, or it’s rude, or it’s inconsiderate. It’s actually a bigger issue than that… God says, “Because they bear my image.”
So, this is biblical thinking; we are image-bearers of God. So, to murder a person is not only an offense against the person, but it’s an offense against the God who made them. This is what the Bible is telling us here in the Ten Commandments. There are those things that are sinful and those things that are criminal, but when it comes to murder it’s not just a social issue, it’s a God issue. It’s an offense not just against the person, but it’s an offense against God who made them in his own image. So, when you murder a person, you’re declaring war on God because you’re attacking his image.
Some of you need to know that, you need that reminder that you’re made in his image. You have dignity, value, and worth. And as such, you’re to be treated with love, respect, and equality. And let me just say this, we believe in justice, we believe in equality, we believe in dignity, because we believe the Bible. You see, apart from the Bible you won’t find equality, dignity, or respect for human life. You just won’t.
So, God is the author of life, he’s the creator, he has all authority; and therefore he has the authority not only to command us not to murder, but also to give commands to governing municipalities, states, and nations. One of them we find in Romans 13:1–4: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” NIV
This is what the Bible teaches: God is in ultimate authority and he has delegated some authority to the governing authorities. But if you set aside the biblical concept and notion of a sovereign God, what you end up with is either a sovereign individual or a sovereign government. So it’s either sinners taking charge of their own lives, or sinners collectively in a governmental capacity in charge of all our lives, or God who is sovereign over everyone and everything, and he’s the one in the position of highest authority.
This is what the Bible teaches us: that God is the ultimate authority; that God speaks to us through his laws; and that God’s laws are binding on all peoples, times, and places. That’s how we get true justice and equality; those are things that only God can provide through laws that oversee all nations, times, places, races, cultures, peoples, habits, preferences, and orientations. So what God does, is he calls all people to repent, to be changed, and to live in obedience to his commands. And that includes the governing authorities. God gives them a sword to oversee the citizens, to bring justice, and to create an environment in which all life is sacred so that life can flourish.
Now just imagine if you could… imagine if we got rid of all the police officers, all the courts, and all the jails. That would not lead to human flourishing and life would it? That would lead to lawlessness, chaos, and death. And so the sword, the threat of punishment, helps to keep unrepentant sinners constrained in regards to their conduct. It’s for this reason, based upon Romans 13, and the example of the Old Testament, that God gives the governing authorities, the right to carry out capital punishment to help maintain civic and social order.
And so, this is merely to say, that there are significant consequences, to discourage sinful behavior, rebellion, and lessening the desire for personal vengeance. You know, because if you can’t call the police, if you can’t take it to court, and if there’s not a prison system or capital punishment, what you’re going to do is to try and take justice into your own hands. You’re going to try to get revenge, like in the old days, you know, like the stories of the Wild, Wild, West. And the result is a very dangerous culture in which angry vengeful people take lives. But if there’s a process for which justice can be pursued, that helps to eliminate that kind of personal vengeance. So God commands and gives permission to have murderers tried and punished with capital punishment.
And I know there’s always those people who say, “I don’t think that God has the right to take life,” but that’s because they’re the criminals, and criminals never like justice. But God is the ultimate authority and he said, “Anyone who murders will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:21). And he says: “As surely as I live, every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God” (Romans 14:11).
As we close, here’s the good news: God is a living loving God. Our sin brings death. But God… became the man Jesus Christ, he started as a baby in his mother’s womb, grew up to hang on a cross and to be murdered. Among his final words were, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). Jesus died not to condemn, but so that murderers could be forgiven and changed. And he rose, conquering death, so that God’s final word was not murder but resurrection.
We believe in the resurrection of the dead. Our hope is in the resurrection. We murdered God, but He conquered sin and death, and He brings forgiveness and life.
And it doesn't matter where you are today. It doesn't matter who you are or what you've done. God's love is for everyone. The sacrifice Jesus made on the cross covers all our sins... even the sin of murder. And maybe you or someone you know was involved in or the victim of murder. You know firsthand about the hurt that this violent act causes… maybe you're experiencing the emotional scars... or maybe you’re someone who has been mentally "murdered" by the cruel acts, words, or abuse of another person.
I want you to know that no matter how you have been affected by a direct or indirect act of murder, no matter how deeply you have been wounded, God's love can heal you.
This is the greatest hope we have in a relationship with Jesus Christ! The death He died on the cross has the power to forgive and heal completely, no matter who you are or what you've experienced. And if you’ve destroyed another life... through word or deed... I want you to know today that no matter who you are, no matter what you've done, said, or thought, God's love can forgive every sin. The death Jesus died on the cross has the power to forgive and heal completely, no matter who you are or what you've experienced.
And that is cause for great rejoicing… that’s a cause for thanksgiving. And this afternoon we’re going to celebrate together… this coming Thursday we celebrate Thanksgiving together as a nation. And so as believers in Christ, we’re going to respond now, as the Lord tells us, “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20).
God tells us to live a life of thanksgiving. We believe that God is a Father who speaks, and when he does, his children respond right? So we’re going to sing and celebrate, we’re going to give thanks to God our Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ by singing to him and celebrating who he is. So, let’s respond and transition into worship as I’m praying...
Note: This sermon has been edited for readability.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
November 30, 2014