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Thou Shalt Not Kill – How Does This Commandment Apply to the Church, the Individual, and Society?
Exod. 20:13: Thou shalt not kill. Without argument, the commandment of God with which the race as a whole and the Church in specific has had the most problem, concerning which the most confusion exists, and with respect to which the most misguided actions of religious men have been committed is this one. Devout men of the faith have been guilty of violating this commandment and failing their responsibilities to their families, all the while believing that obedience to it is one of their strongest testimonies to the world. This great commandment thunders down on us out of the smoke, fire, and quaking of Horeb, the Mountain of God. But for far too long its life-giving truth has been hidden from our view in the darkness behind the Old Testament veil. With God’s help we will open up this issue and explain the truth of it to all who are interested and willing to learn.
First, though, there are some matters of context, content, and connotation that I wish to establish. There are some technical deviations from this that are too tedious for our discussion and not necessary in order to understand the matter; but generally speaking there are eight Hebrew and six Greek words translated into the English word kill in the King James Version of the Bible.
1. First there is Nakah (naw-kaw’), which means to strike, or to punish.
2. Next there is naqapph (naw-kaf’) that means violence, to beat to death or to attack, as in war.
3. Then there is mowth (mooth) that means to slay suddenly or to be driven by necessity. This is best understood as self-defense or defending those over whom you have responsibility.
4. A fourth word in shachat (shaw-kat’); to slaughter, as in making of sacrifices, or a massacre.
5. Another word is ratsach (raw-tsakh’) that means to kill a human being without just provocation or in other words, to murder.
6. There is taback (taw-bakh), which means to slaughter animals. This could be for any purpose, such as food, to rid a territory of disease in herds, sacrifices, or any purpose.
7. Zabach (Zaw-bakh’) means to slaughter animals specifically for making sacrifices.
8. An eighth word, and the last Hebrew word we shall consider, is hawrag (haw-rag’), which means to smite with deadly intent, or to destroy out of hand. This could mean murder but it does not necessarily.
1. The first Greek word of the New Testament I would like to point out to you is phneuo (fon-yoo’-o) which means, and only means to murder.
2. A second Greek word is apokteino (ap-ok-ti’-no) that is to kill outright or to destroy as in war.
3. Thuo (thoo’-o) means to kill for the purpose of sacrifice,
4. Anarieo (an-ahee-reh’-o) means to take away, abolish, or to put to death.
5. Diacheirizemai (dee-akh-i-rid’-zom-ahee) means to lay violent hands on as in manslaughter resulting from a fight, execution, war and so on.
6. And the final Greek word we shall look at, which is sphazo (sfad’-zo) which means to butcher.
When God gave Moses the commandment in Exodus 20:13, He said, “Thou shalt not ratsach (rat-tsakh’)” which means and only means to take a life without just cause, or to murder.” Jesus verified this commandment in Mat: 19:18 when He said: “Thou shalt do no murder.” Here Jesus used the Greek word phneuo which means and only means “to murder.” There were five other words which Jesus might have used but He did not. He used this one. In Matt. 5:21, 22 Jesus said: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” Here too, Jesus uses the word phoneuo, which specifically means to murder, or to take life without a just cause. Jesus went on to point this out by saying that he who is angry with his bother without a just cause is a murderer.
Two things are evident from this commandment. Murder must involve killing a human being; there can be no murder of animals. And for that killing to be murder and a violation of the Ten Commandments it must be without a just cause.
The second thing is that there are just causes for taking the life of another human being and for that the commandment does not apply. Taking life to defend property and family is not murder. Taking life in war to repulse attackers is not murder. A policeman taking life in the upholding of the law is not murder. Executing criminals for capital crimes is not murder. So long as there is a just cause, there is no crime at all. In the absence of deliberation there may be a crime, but there is no murder. If a man kills another in a fight, and he is not defending himself against attack but rather engaging in a brawl out of ill-temper, ego, or (as is most often the case when men fight) over a woman who does not belong to him, this is manslaughter but not murder unless of course there are circumstances which show it to be murder.
Thou Shalt Do No Murder
The first thing we must know about the Sixth Commandment, if we are to understand it, is that we are dealing with murder in this commandment and that alone. In I Samuel David was commended by God and by man for slaying his ten thousands. This is the word naw-kaf which means to kill by striking and punishing. The final act that resulted in Saul being ousted by God Himself as king over Israel was that he would not kill Agag, the King of the Amorites, as God had commanded him to do. Godly old Samuel, in order to stay the wrath of God against Israel for this dereliction, took a sword, got up on Agag’s chest in the sight of the people, and hacked his head off. This was an execution that God ordered. Not only was it right but to not do so, as Saul found out, was an intolerable disobedience. Does anyone seriously believe that God ordered David, Saul, and Samuel to violate the Sixth Commandment?
Most of the resistance to taking of human life for any reason at all is based upon several false assumptions that devout religious men make on a common basis.
1. First of all, the constitution is dead wrong. Man is not a sovereign being; God is sovereign. Man has no inalienable rights with God. Man does not live on this earth because he has the right to do so. He lives on this earth by the mercy of God in spite of the fact that he has no right to go on living. If any of us got what we deserved, we would be executed by God without mercy, as indeed all of those who are outside of Christ will be in the Day of Judgment.
2. The second point is related to the first. It is the argument that human life is sacred and that neither God nor man has the right to take life from the human. This is also false. God is sacred, truth is sacred, and the life of God is sacred. There is nothing sacred about mortal life. We are under the curse of mortality, and in time we will die, as indeed all that is the antithesis of sacredness will eventually.
3. The third mistake is that true Christianity is pacifistic. This is far from true. Even in the New Testament Church harsh punishments were meted out by the Apostles for derelictions. When Jesus gave His moral about turning the other cheek He meant it in the spirit which gives life and not the letter which kills. Jesus was saying that a man should be more concerned about his witness as a child of God than about His ego, his vanity, and even his rights. We should have the spirit of meekness and be willing to walk away or to take the abuse if the alternative is to protect ourselves at the expense of the Gospel. At no time did Jesus intend to tell men that this denied them the right to defend their families against intruders or to relieve them of the responsibility of doing so.
Mortal Life is Conditional and Temporal
From the earliest time the fact that life on this earth was conditional and certain things would result in man’s execution and elimination was in clear evidence. In the Garden of Eden God told man that if He violated God’s law he would die. This was death that would come in the form of objective judgment as well as cause and effect. God would be the executioner and from time to time He would commit this duty to men. When He did so–as in the case of Saul, Samuel, Moses, and David–He expected that it be done. God has never accepted arguments from His creation as valid in this matter. Wrath, justice, judgment, and vengeance are attributes of God; just as are mercy, grace, love, and forgiveness. When theologians, preachers, and teachers revise the character of God to eliminate one of these attributes they have moved away from the biblical God and are preaching, promoting, and worshiping a false God of their own making. The death of Christ proves for all time and to all men that God is a God of wrath, justice, judgment, and vengeance; and that without those attributes there would be no grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Indeed, there would be no eternal future. When justice goes un-avenged everything goes down the drain.
But Did God Not Say?
But did God not say, in the Ten Commandments, that we are not to kill? No, He did not say that. He said, “You shall not commit murder.” It is pointless to argue that all killing is murder. If we say that the state is executing someone for a series of rapes and murders, only the dingalings in the third world camp claim that this is cruel and unusual punishment that amounts to murder. The Thirteenth Chapter of Romans makes it clear that these are God’s messengers, ordered by God to carry out this very ministry of wrath against evil doers. It is true that the Church, as a church, is not called upon or permitted to get involved in the ministry of vengeance. Even so, the execution of criminals is still not murder.
Abraham, the Father of the Faithful
In discussing the Commandment, Thou Shalt Not Kill, there is the example of faith of Abraham, the father of the faithful. Abram (as his name was then)–using his own best judgment, in the light of God’s promises, in consideration of who he was, where he was, and what he had been given–went and did that which he believed to be right. Two things are important here.
The Spirit and Not the Letter of Truth
We just made reference to the letter and the spirit of God’s word. We are not saying that Abram was entirely involved with situation ethics–that he just did whatever the situation demanded. But we have often pointed out that any good lie, in order to fool anybody, has to have a lot of truth in it. And there is a lot of truth in what is embodied in the phrase “situation ethics” that comprehends doing what seems right in light of the circumstances and at the time.
The situation-ethics doctrine, when it becomes the all pervasive bases upon which things are done, is very wrong. Yet within the framework of the absolutes of God’s word, situations will determine for us our behavior in many instances; and in many instances they should. There is nothing that God spoke to Abram that said, “Go slaughter those kings and get Lot and his possessions back.” But God had told Abram, “I will bless I will and be with you. Everyone who curses you I will curse, everyone who blesses you I will bless. This land is yours. The whole land is before you. Go out and possess it; and go out and protect it.” Clearly, in Abram’s mind, what he did here was comprehended in those permissions and declarations of God; and that is how the life of faith has to work.
Speak Where the Bible Speaks and be Silent Where the Bible is Silent
This has been drastically misunderstood in the era of the Church in this world so that some people will do only what the Bible tells us to do and we will do nothing that Bible does not tell us to do. Of course that is not realistic and makes hypocrites of people as Pharisaism always does. There are people who really think they believe that. Yet they drive up to their churches every Sunday in their cars, all the while knowing that there in no place in the Bible that says anything about driving a car to church on Sunday? So if we are not going to do anything that Bible does not tell us to do then we must go back and be like the Amish or the Covington Bunch and not drives cars to church.
The Letter Kills
Well, but people say, that that is being silly. Of course it is being silly. There is not, and there was never intended to be, a specific writing in the Bible for every technicality. The Bible does not propose to tell you how much to spend on a house, what color of a suit to buy, whether or not to wear a neck tie, or whether to wear high or low cut shoes. Of course there is nothing in the Bible about that and there is not supposed to be. If you do not have the faith and the good sense to take the principles of the Scripture and apply them reasonably in these areas, then you are not a godly person to begin with. You may be religious but you have no spiritual discernment. God intends for His people to operate spontaneously within the frame work of absolute truth, living and moving and having their being, and making their decisions. As long as they do not cross the lines of absolute rules they can do what they think they should do and they can do what they want to do. That Is exactly what Abraham, the father of the faithful, did; and that is what the 11th chapter of Hebrews tells us we must do. “Without faith it is impossible to please God; he that comes to God must believe that He exists and that He is the rewarded of those that diligently seek him.”
Biblical Truth is Not Cultural
Abraham lived in antiquity and he did not have the same fast moving, technological, and complex world to operate in that we do. Nevertheless the fact that he went out and slew these wicked, murderous kings was a righteous thing with God. Abraham knew it was right. He did not need any more instruction than he had. He went and did what he thought was right. Now the question arises: was he right? When all is said and done can we really say that it was the right thing for Abram to do? Well, we do not even have to make that judgment because it is made for us. Melchisedec, the priest of the Most High God, the King of Salem, brought forth bread and wine. He blessed Abraham and said, “Blessed be Abram of the Most High God; Possessor of heaven and earth. And bless be the Most High God which has delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And Abram gave Melchisedec tithes.” Based on the language of verse 20 you could be confused on who was giving tithes to whom but it comes out clearly in the book of Hebrews where it is said that Abraham paid tithes (and Levi paid ties in Abraham) when he gave to Melchisedec a tenth of all the spoils. So Melchisedec, a representative of God and of a greater priesthood than that which was to come to the nation through Abraham and Levi, came and told Abram he had done good to kill these wicked kings and then blessed the God who delivered these enemies into his hands. And so we know that what Abraham did was good. But the point here is that Abram never had a problem with it. There was no doubt in his mind that he was doing the right thing.
We Walk by Faith and the Spirit of Truth; Not by Sight and the Letter
One must walk by faith and not by sight; that is what the Bible tells us. And the scourge of modern Christianity–because of its militant legalism and its Old Testament mentality–is that Christian people are afraid to act out of conviction, common sense, and good judgment for fear of being wrong.
Guilt Complexes are not a Form of Humility
Sometimes when people feel guilty they think they are being humble: “Well I just don’t want to be so arrogant as to say I know was right.” But the truth is that when you do something that you feel convicted and convinced to do, and then you begin to doubt yourself, that is an insult to God. Does God lead us by faith or not? And it is really a very self-righteous position. If you are acting on your own without God’s counsel, without God’s permission, and without God’s blessing you should not do anything. You are self-righteous to think that anything you do is right. One the great passages in the Bible is the sixth chapter of Hebrews where God said of Abraham, when He brought him into the land, “Everyday that you walk by faith you will be blessed and you will be fruitful. I swear this; I will take an oath on my very own character.” God was so anxious to have the heirs of the Promise know the immutability of–the absolute certainty of–His counsel that He swore an oath on His very own existence: “If what I am promising you is not true, Abraham, I am not God.” You may say that was written for Abraham’s sake alone and not for us. Well, it was written for his sake alright, but for our sakes also, to whom righteousness shall be imputed, “if we flee for refuge [a place of safety and security] to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” In other words, what God is telling the Christian is that if we walk in the spirit of truth, If we have the right motives, If we have the right goals and ambitions in life and do not resort to any carnal and false religious things because they appear to be more effective, then that promise is ours. If you go by what you know to be the rules then everyday you walk by faith everything you do will be blessed and everything you do will be fruitful.
The Spirit of the Sixth Commandment
Many Christian people, while not understanding the commandment, take the letter and not the spirit of the Sixth Commandment. They have animosity, old grudges, bitter feelings, and disharmony with their brethren. Yet when I talk to them and draw them out on the subject, they have no just and meaningful reasons for this attitude. It is all based on imagination, something that someone said, competitiveness, hurt feelings, or some other carnal thing. Thus they are guilty, according to Jesus, of the spirit of murder. They are smugly confident that they are more righteous than others (Like the Pharisees to whom Jesus gave this teaching). They will not take up arms and they will not defend property or family. They are against capital punishmen. They believe that pacifism is a Christian concept. But Jesus is trying to tell the the people that many religious men who would never lay a hand on anyone, let alone a brother, are guilty of violating the Commandment because they have killed the reputation, the opportunities, and the right to fellowship of a brother or a sister for no just cause. This, too, is murder. In this context, I think it has a very great application to the Church of today.
The Hypocrisy and Evil Designs of Gun Control Advocates
The Gun control crowd proposes to be against violence in society. This is hypocritical to the nth degree. They have no compunction against destroying the reputation of their president in the quest for power. The do not care about children or the safety of society. They want to be in a position to tell you want you can do about your husband’s infidelity and what you can and cannot do with your children. They want to be able to take them away from you if you do not comply with their libertine and ungodly philosophies. But they know they cannot control a general public who is armed. And so they argue for gun control so that you cannot resist them when they come to your home to take your natural born children away from you for paddling their butts as the Bible tells you to do, and adopting them to perverts; a fate far worse than death. These are not peace-loving people who are against violence. They are the most sadistic, cruel, heartless gang of Satanists that ever came down the pike. If our society functioned the way the Bible says that it should, these home-wreckers, children stealers, and perverts would be taken out an stoned to death. They are not fit to live in a decent society. It is not murder to take a gun and chase away, even shoot and kill if necessary, those who threaten your home and family. But it is murder to destroy the reputation of our fathers, our husband’s, our leaders, and our presidents in a humanistic quest to ascend to power.
He that Provides Not For His Own, has Denied the Faith and is Worse than an Infidel
The same is true in the Church. You may pat yourself on the back because you are non-resistant and non-violent but how do you feel about your enemies? It is there that the Sixth Commandment is joined in spirit and truth. Our father Abraham was not a murderer; but he did not sit idly by and let a bunch of hoodlums run off with his family and goods, and get away with it.
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