Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 40 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about question 105-107.
This week our question deals with the sixth commandment,
Deut 5:17 You shall not murder.
This is perhaps the most recognized and culturally accepted commandments in all of the decalogue (the ten). Even among the unbelieving, non-Christian people around us, this command is seen as right and just.
Nearly every civilization known to us, has had some laws prohibiting the taking of human life and promising punishment to those who did. But that hasn’t kept our world from being filled with murder, nor has it kept murder out of our imaginations. Right here in Dallas, records indicate that the murder rate is on a dramatic rise.
In 2018 Dallas, TX recorded 196 homicides. By May of 2019, the city had already recorded 90 homicides, which means that before the summer began we were on pace to break a terrible record.
But murder is not just a reality in our culture it is also big business in the box office. Horror movies depicting homicidal violence have never been more popular. The highest grossing horror film in 2018 was The Quiet Place taking in $188 million. The entire horror industry took in $901 million in 2018. Almost $1 billion was spent in 2018 by people who wanted to be entertained by violent murder being depicted on screen. This doesn’t take into account the millions made on action, adventure and sci-fi depicting similar violence.
What does this mean? For starters, It reveals that we don’t take this command of God very seriously. But it also reveals that at some level deep down, murder is a problem that all of us struggle with.
Lord’s Day Focus...
Murder has been an issue for humanity since the very beginning. In Genesis 4 we read about the very first sin committed outside the Garden of Eden. Cain and his brother Abel prepared their offerings to the Lord. The Lord received Abel’s offering but not Cain’s and,
“So Cain was very angry, and his face fell…8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.
Just a few verses later in the same chapter (Gen 4), we read the story of a man named Lamech who boasted about his two wives and that he had killed a young man. After the flood, God commissions Noah and his family to being rebuilding human civilization. But this time God gives him a law prohibiting murder from Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”
Don’t miss the fact that we are 9 chapters into the Bible, and we have already seen murder become so prevalent on the earth that God gave Moses this divine law in order to forbid it. Murder is a serious crime in the eyes of God and it demands a serious punishment.
Murder is an assault upon the image of God in man. Human life is not cheap, it is precious to God and when it is taken, God demands justice. Murder is the intentional taking of innocent human life. It is not the same thing as the accidental taking of life, nor is it the same as self-defense, nor does this prohibit just war.
The act of murder is a grievous sin and its effects can be seen throughout the Bible and throughout the history of humanity. Murder is a terrible crime, a terrible transgression of God’s law, which demands swift and balancing justice, but murder has a root that goes deeper than the act itself.
When Jesus addressed this sin and the commandment prohibiting it, He didn’t deal so much with the act itself but with the heart attitude behind it.
Matt 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
Murder is a terrible sin, but anger is the real root of the problem and the root is what the Heidelberg wants to address.
Question 105: What is God’s will for you in the sixth commandment?
Answer: I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor – not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds – and I am not to be party to this in others; rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge. I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either. Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the sword.
How many of us have read the 10 commandments and thought, “Well at least I haven’t committed murder?” Jesus’ audience did the same thing. They looked at the pursuit of righteousness simply in terms of what they had and had not done, but Jesus taught that our behavior is only part of the equation. The key to understanding the deeper purpose of God’s law is to understand what it reveals about our hearts and in our hearts, we commit murder all the time.
It is easy to see that anger is what leads to the act of murder, especially if we look at the story of Cain and Abel. But Jesus wants us to know that the anger in our hearts is just as dangerous and deserving of condemnation as the act itself. God cares when we commit sinful acts, but He also cares about the sinful condition of our hearts.
So God’s will for us in this commandment is not that we would do everything in our power to avoid the sin of murder, but that we would strive to rid our hearts of the attitudes and emotions that give rise to murder. Heidelberg even talks about the act of harming oneself as murder.
Suicide is a terrible thing and often comes about because a person is hurting or has been hurt in a way that is completely overwhelming. But it is still sin. We should grieve when suicide takes place and we should try to comfort those whose loved one has taken their life, but we need to have a category in our mind for what has taken place and suicide is still sin.
Question 106: Does this commandment refer only to killing?
Answer: By forbidding murder God teaches us that He hates the root of murder: envy, anger, vindictiveness. In God’s sight all such are murder.
God hates the root of murder. The heart is desperately wicked and we cannot tame it, but God can. In His mercy and grace, God can and does give new hearts to His people, but He also renews our hearts by His Spirit and His Word.
As He works in our hearts, He calls us to turn away from the root of murder and wicked fruit and to embrace the root of love.
It is well known that love is at the heart of the message and vision of Christianity. There is perhaps no more popular New Testament verse in the world than John 3:16, where we come to understand that God loves the world and in His love He gave His Son to us so that all who believe in Him will not perish but will have eternal life. The Father’s love for unlovely sinners, like us, is at the very heart of the Christian message.
But that is not the end of Christianity’s vision of love. Jesus told his friends that there is no greater love in this world than the love that would cause a man to give his own life in order to save his friends and that is exactly what Jesus did. He died in our place. He took our place and shielded us from the judgment of God and He did this because of His love.
But still, this is not the end of Christianity’s vision of love. In the NT gospels, we see Jesus teaching all of His disciples that we are to be people of love. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are even commanded to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.
Jesus tells us that the world will know that we belong to Him by the way we love one another. The Christian vision of love is incredible and it gives us the idea that God wants love to fill the earth and fuel all of our emotions and actions.
Question 107: Is it enough then that we do not kill our neighbor in any such way?
Answer: No. By condemning envy, hatred, and anger God tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, and friendly to them, to protect them from harm as much as we can, and to do good even to our enemies.
To do good to our enemies is uncommon love. This is radical love fueled by a profound understanding of gospel realities. The gospel teaches that despite God’s goodness toward mankind, all of us have rejected Him in our hearts. We suppress the truth about Him and we seek to live as though we belong in God’s place. But, He loved us. Before the foundation of the world, He chose to love us and even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We don’t deserve His love and when this truth takes hold of our hearts, it will begin to change the way we view everyone, even our enemies. At the end of the day Jesus is calling us to imitate the love of the Father in how we interact with everyone, from family and friends, to fellow believers, and even to strangers and enemies. He calls us to love, to do good, to lend with no strings attached. God is the standard of how we are to love others, and God’s love is perfect.
As followers of Jesus we are called to love not to hate. We are called to love God in a way that resets our heart and enables us to love others in an extraordinary, unnatural and radical way. This sixth commandment is not just a prohibition against a terrible type of sin, it is also a summons to an otherworldly type of love.
Thank you for joining me today to learn about the sixth commandment. Next week, we will continue to study by looking at the seventh commandment, which prohibits adultery and helps us understand what Biblical sexual ethics are all about. I hope you will join me for that discussion as we look at Lord’s Day 41 and questions 108 -109.
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Thanks for listening.