The Ten Commandments — You Shall Not Murder

The sixth commandment is not properly translated, “You shall not kill.”  Killing is not prohibited in every form by God, but only certain forms of killing are prohibited.  For example, God commanded Israel in this same Law of Moses to kill the Canaanites in battle and take possession of their land (Deuteronomy 7:17-24). 

Capital punishment is also commanded in the Mosaic Law for specific crimes.  In Exodus 21 specific applications of the Ten Commandments are made and in verses 12-14 the death penalty is required for anyone who kills someone with premeditation.  In verses 15-17 striking one’s parent and kidnapping are said to be capital offenses.  These and other instances of invoking capital punishment are in accord with God’s decree to Noah in Genesis 9:5,6 and are obviously not considered “murder,” which is prohibited in this sixth command.

Murder refers primarily to premeditated and even unpremeditated slaying other than in war (the Hebrew word is used of both, Numbers 35:16-31 and Deuteronomy 4:42).  The slaying of another, intentionally or unintentionally, other than for capital crimes or war, is prohibited by this commandment.  Life is God’s gift and man is made in God’s image, a very precious gift indeed (Genesis 9:5,6).  To steal that gift from another is a violation of God’s moral will.  Every society on earth views it as such.

But this commandment should be viewed from a positive, more inclusive perspective.  To state this command positively would be to say something like, “Preserve life.”  It has application not only to personally refraining from violence but also to being one who doesn’t just stand by when life is in danger, but who gets involved to preserve the lives of others.

How might we be more that bystanders when an alcoholic neighbor gets in the car and drives away intoxicated?  How do we help the pregnant girl who sees abortion as her only option?  What application does this commandment have to preventing a depressed individual from committing suicide?  How about when we know a parent is abusing children?  Or when in war there are obvious atrocities, what do we do?  All these situations and others are opportunities for us to live out the depth of this commandment and not remain bystanders.

There are difficult ethical questions bound up in this command.  Is self-defense that results in the death of another considered murder?  Is pulling the plug on a terminal patient wrong?  Is careless driving that results in death worthy of severe punishment?  Is there a justifiable war these days?  Different parts of the body of Christ have given different answers to all these questions.  Each must seek to honor this law of God.

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The After Life — The After Life of the Believer

The after life of the believer is most powerfully expressed by those who have faced death and shared with us their expectations and experiences.  When Stephen was being stoned for his testimony to Christ he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).  As he breathed his last he prayed two prayers:  “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” and then “fell asleep” (7:59,60).  In so doing he gave us two expectations for what will happen to us when we die.

At death, because our spirits are separated from our bodies, and “the body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26), our bodies, in Christian parlance, fall asleep.  When Jesus was ready to raise the ruler’s daughter back to life (Matthew 9:23-25), he told the mourners, “The girl is not dead but asleep.”  By this he was describing the temporary nature of the death of the body and that it was about to be resuscitated.  This foreshadows the resurrection of the body for believers.  It is not our souls that are asleep, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach, but our bodies.

Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 that our bodies are like tents housing our spirits.  Our spirits have another home in heaven when this one is “destroyed” and so we know

 that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord….We are confident…and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. (verses 6-9) 

If we, at death, are absent from the body and with the Lord, then where do our spirits go at death?  To heaven!  Paul told the Philippians, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (1:21).  How could it be gain?  He explained, “I desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is better by far” (1:23).  Like Stephen, when our bodies “fall asleep” our spirits are received by Jesus in heaven and we begin a new level of existence free from the sin nature, not because we are free from our bodies, but because we are in the presence of the living Christ.  As the writer to the Hebrews puts it, we “have come…to the spirits of righteous men made perfect” (12:23).

If this is the promise we have on dying, we too may call out with our last breath, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  We don’t need to fear the consequences of our death.  The process of our bodies “going to sleep” is often painful and depressing, but the prospect of being with Jesus is part of what removes the “sting of death” (1 Corinthians 15:56).  Separation of our spirits from our bodies does not, as is the case with unbelievers, mean that we are separated from God.  Instead, the level of closeness we have had with Christ here takes a quantum leap when we die.  The connection becomes even more immediate and realized.  The One we have loved having not seen (1 Peter 1:8), who yet has brought us “inexpressible and glorious joy,” will fill our lives even more when we see him face to face.

Engaging the Thinker

Contained in these pages are my thoughts regarding Biblical topics, written in small portions for digestion and for application to daily living.  I would suggest using them like a daily devotional thought to spur your heart to action during the day. 

You may also see my thoughts and observations about other subjects as well.  I’d love to hear from you.  I also blog at askthepastors.wordpress.com and respond to questions from our congregation.