Murder Not!

Catechetical sermons preached in PCC Evening Worship Services, Feb 2013 to Dec 2017

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Thou shalt not kill.

Exodus 20:13

WSC 67. Which is the Sixth Commandment? 

A. The Sixth Commandment is, Thou shalt not kill.1

1 Ex 20:13

WSC 68. What is required in the Sixth Commandment? 

A. The Sixth Commandment requireth all lawful endeavours to preserve our own life,1  and the life of others.2  

1 Eph 5:28,29; 2 1 Kgs 18:4

WSC 69. What is forbidden in the Sixth Commandment? 

A. The Sixth Commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbour unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto.1  

1 Acts 16:28

Ask any professing Christian if he knows the Ten Commandments. If he says, “What’s that?” you may safely conclude that he is a very young believer, has hardly been to church, or is in a church from which he ought to flee. 

But if he says, “Yes, I have heard of it,” then follow up to ask if he can name one commandment. Well, if my experience is anything to go by, most probably, his answer will be, “You must not murder.” 

The Sixth Commandment is famous. It is even the first of the Ten Commandments that the Lord Jesus expounds in His Sermon on the Mount.  

Today, with the Lord’s help, we shall study this commandment; and we shall see how it is much more than commonly understood, a prohibition of homicide. Our Shorter Catechism makes this clear: 

WSC 68. What is required in the Sixth Commandment? 

A. The Sixth Commandment requireth all lawful endeavours to preserve our own life,  and the life of others. 

WSC 69. What is forbidden in the Sixth Commandment? 

A. The Sixth Commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbour unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto.

Based on these brief yet helpful statements, we may enlarge our study of the Sixth Commandment under six propositions: 

  • Murder is the sin condemned 
  • Unjust Destruction of Life Is Murder 
  • Reputation Can Be Murdered Too. 
  • Destroying or Neglecting Oneself Is Murder
  • Excessive Anger Is Murder 
  • Respect for Others Prevents Murder 

1. Murder Is the Sin Condemned 

Our translation reads, “Thou shalt not kill.” But we must remember that the word ‘kill’ here refers to ‘murder’ and not killing in general.  

In particular, it does not forbid the killing of plants or animals. Neither does it forbid the killing of human beings in all circumstances. For example, if you are at war, you may kill an enemy soldier without being guilty of murder.  

Likewise, if someone attempts to kill you and as you defend yourself, you kill him, you would not be guilty of murder.  

Again, this commandment does not forbid capital punishment, as some wrongly suppose. Even before the nation of Israel was in existence, God had already commanded capital punishment for murder! This is in Genesis 9:6: 

Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. 

Gen 9:6

So, the Sixth Commandment is about murder, not just any killing.  

But what exactly is murder? 

2. Unjust Destruction of Life Is Murder 

We know what is murder intuitively. Murder is essentially any unjust and wilful destruction of another person’s life.  

This is the crime that is reported every day in our newspapers. This was Cain’s sin when he slew Abel. It was the sin of Lamech, who killed a young man for hurting him. It was Joab’s sin against Abner and Amasa. Saul attempted it against David, and the Jews against Paul. It was also the sin of David against Uriah because he had instructed Joab to expose him to a dangerous situation to have him killed.  

Remember, intention is the crucial factor when considering if an act of killing another person is murder.  

Thus, if you accidentally and unintentionally kill someone, you are not guilty of murder. Moses refers to this in Deuteronomy 19:4-5. Here, he clarifies that if you are chopping a tree with a borrowed axe and the axe head flies off and kills someone, you would not be guilty of murder. It’s an accident.  

Therefore, if you are playing rugby and you crash into someone, and he dies of his injuries, it would be considered accidental death, not murder.  

Nevertheless, if you are driving a car under the influence of alcohol and you kill someone, you would essentially be guilty of murder whether you are charged with murder or not, for the Sixth Commandment teaches us that we must not do anything that tends to the harm of another’s life. 

Moreover, let us remember that the life of a person begins at the point of conception, not after he is born. As soon as a baby is conceived, he is a person. The Lord says of Jeremiah:  

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Jer 1:5

How could Jeremiah be sanctified and ordained as a prophet were he not already a person? 

Therefore, whatever the world may say, abortion is nothing less than the murder of unborn babies.  

The fact that a foetus or a baby in the womb is already a person is also recognised in the Old Testament Law. In Exodus 21, there is an exposition of the Sixth Commandment. A case law is presented relating to men fighting and accidentally hurting a pregnant woman so that she goes into labour prematurely. 1 We are told that if no harm comes to the baby, the husband may simply sue the guilty party and cause him to pay a fine. But if harm comes to the baby, the man may be charged with murder: life for life.  

Abortion is murder. Christians must never think of aborting a child unless it is clear that the mother’s life will be threatened if the pregnancy is allowed to continue.  

Now, if you have been guilty of murder by way of taking another person’s life, whether young or old, you must go to the Lord in humble contrition and repentance. There is forgiveness even for the chief of sinners. Two of the greatest saints, David and Paul, were both murderers. But the Lord had mercy on them. So, humbly go to the Lord Jesus, and He will wash you whiter than snow with His blood. 

The rest of us may not have sinned so grievously, yet we have, nevertheless, all broken the Sixth Commandment. For let us remember, thirdly, that… 

3. Reputation Can Be Murdered Too 

Slander, lies, backbiting, and back-stabbing are all forms of character assassination or murder of a person’s name and reputation. Solomon has wisely taught:  

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.

Prov 22:1

Thus, slander is a hateful crime in the sight of God. God declares in Psalm 101:5: “Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off.” 

Slander is, therefore, a favourite game of the devil. He will see to it that the righteous are slandered. Our Lord was slandered by the Pharisees who charged that He cast out demons by the power of Satan (Mt 12:24). Paul was slandered as a “pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition” (Acts 24:5).  

Every minister of Christ throughout the ages who has sought to be obedient to the Word of God has been slandered. Martin Luther was slandered not only as a heretic but as the devil personified. John Calvin was slandered as a cold and hostile man who was more logical than biblical. John Knox was slandered as being harsh and treacherous. John Gresham Machen was slandered as being a queer and unsociable schismatic. John Brown of Haddington was accused of practising witchcraft because he had learned Greek and Hebrew by himself and knew the languages better than the theological students in his days.  

You, too, dearly beloved brethren, will have many occasions to be slandered if you seek to live according to the Word of God. By doing so, you would be testifying against the world and nominal Christianity. 

However, you must see that you are not a guilty party in the case of a slander. Remember that slander is the murder of reputation, and reputation can indeed be murdered! Have you slandered someone by misrepresenting the person, or spreading rumours about him? Remember that slander is murder. Repent of your sin and make restitution whenever possible. There is forgiveness in the blood of Christ. Only resolve to sin no more.  

Instead, let us seek the good of others. Take heed to Paul’s counsel: “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth” (1 Cor 10:24). 

But, of course, that does not mean we may destroy our own lives. For remember, fourthly, that…  

4. Destroying or Neglecting Oneself Is Murder 

Remember that suicide is essentially self-murder, which is a breaking of the Sixth Commandment. Our lives are really not our own to do with as we please. Our lives belong to God, and we are only stewards of them: “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself” (Rom 14:7).  

Remember that suicide is murder. There are no murderers in heaven. A murderer can be forgiven upon repentance, but do not presume that you are going to be able to repent of your sin of murder if you succeed in taking your own life. Therefore, never allow yourself to entertain any thoughts of suicide. If you ever think of suicide, seek help. Repent of your thoughts, then talk to your pastor. Talk to your doctor. But don’t try to handle it alone. 

But now, let us understand that the Sixth Commandment does not only forbid murder, but anything that tends to it. Therefore, it also forbids us from doing anything destructive to our health.  

Think of substance abuse such as drug-taking, smoking, and alcoholism. Now, we can’t put a blanket declaration that smoking and drinking are sins. But let us understand that substance abuse such as this kills the body slowly. Therefore, Christians who are guilty of substance abuse are denying the Lordship of Christ over their body. Please do not say: this is my body; I have a right to do what I want with it. Remember that your body belongs to God, and you are responsible to God to take care of it.  

Consider the Apostle Paul’s injunction: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). Consider if what you are doing—including eating and drinking glorifies Him who is your Creator. 

If your body is on loan to you from the Lord, you must seek to take good care of it by eating well and maintaining it with sufficient sleep and bodily exercise. You must also avoid activities that may endanger it. 

I think of inherently destructive sports such as boxing and wrestling. There is a very strong likelihood of getting hurt in these sports. These games, after all, are won on the basis of knocking an opponent down. To hurt another person to the point of unconsciousness, even in the name of sports, is, I believe, a breaking of the Sixth  Commandment, for it involves the dishonouring and destruction of a man created in the image of God. For this reason, in AD 500, the Roman Emperor Theodoric the Great banned boxing altogether. His rationale was that the game was “an insult to God because it disfigures the face, the image of God.” 

Remember, beloved brethren and children, destroying oneself or doing whatever tends to it, or refusing to take care of your body violates the Sixth Commandment.  Our Shorter Catechism puts it this way:  

The Sixth Commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbour unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto.

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But let us not forget, fifthly, that… 

5. Excessive or Unjust Anger Is Also Murder 

This is particularly what our Lord teaches in His Sermon on the Mount. 

He says in His exposition of the Sixth Commandment:  

I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…

Mt 5:21-22

In other words, anyone who is excessively or unjustly angry with another person is breaking the Sixth Commandment! So, children, you are breaking the Sixth Commandment when you fight with one another. So, husbands and wives, if you have a shouting match, you are breaking the Sixth Commandment, amongst other things. So, parents, if you lose your cool with your children and start to yell at them or hit them without restraint, you are breaking the Sixth Commandment. 

But why is unjustified anger a breaking of the Sixth Commandment when it does not affect the other person spiritually or physically?  

In the first place, simmering unjustified anger or grudge-bearing will often lead to downright murder. Read of it in the Bible—Cain, Lamech, Saul, Absalom, etc. Read of it over and over again in the newspapers, too. 

Secondly and more importantly, remember that “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13:10). Remember how the Lord Jesus summarises the second table of the Ten Commandments? Yes, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mt 22:39).  

How can you love your neighbour if you are angry with him without cause? I’m not talking about justified anger. It is possible to love someone and to be righteously angry with him, such as when he sins against you. But suppose you are angry without just cause or are excessively angry. In that case, you are demonstrating hatred, and therefore breaking the Second Table of the Ten Commandments, especially the Sixth Commandment. 

Do you harbour hatred in your heart? Is there someone you do not like to see? Is there someone you wish will fail in his life or in his business? Do you feel unhappy when you see the person do well and secretly rejoice when you see the person suffer? 

The word of God says:  

Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

1 Jn 3:15

Therefore, brethren and youths, if you have such strong feelings against anyone, you must go immediately to the Lord to confess your sin and repent of it. 

Learn to seek forgiveness and to forgive. Asking for forgiveness often ends the quarrel. In the spirit of meekness, seek to be the first to ask for forgiveness, even if you think the other party has wronged you more than you have him. Remember that in almost every angry situation, both parties will be wrong to some degree. 

Forgive and seek forgiveness as God has forgiven you for Christ’s sake. Let not the wicked one tempt you to break the Sixth Commandment more and more violently. 

But finally, let us remember that… 

6. Respect for Others Prevents Murder 

We have seen how murder can arise out of anger and grudge-bearing. We have also seen how we can murder the heart.  And this is a widespread sin. But the apostle John says: 

He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. …Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

1 Jn 3:8-9

Therefore, as God’s children, we need to fight against sin. So if we are easily tempted by the devil to break the Sixth Commandment, then all the more we must seek the Lord’s help to fortify our hearts against the same sin. We must do so by cultivating virtues of respect for others. 

Bear in mind that we are all sinners in the sight of God. Therefore, we must seek to relate to others who have differences with us in a spirit of respect, tolerance and forbearance.  

The apostle Paul, the forgiven murderer, teaches the same in many places. For example: 

  • “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (Eph 4:2).  
  • “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Col 3:13).  
  • “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (2 Tim 2:24-25). 

Beloved brethren, youth and children, this is how we must fight against the sin of breaking the Sixth Commandment. Unless we cultivate meekness, compassion, tolerance, forbearance and a forgiving spirit, we shall easily murder with heart, our tongue and even our hands. 

The apostle Peter is essentially saying the same thing in the conclusion of his first letter: 

Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

1 Pet 3:8-9

With the Lord enabling us to be obedient to these words, we shall be able to keep from overtly breaking the Sixth Commandment. Respect and consideration for others will tend to prevent murder. 


Here again, are our six lesson points on the Sixth Commandment: 

  • Murder is the sin condemned 
  • Unjust destruction of life is murder 
  • Reputation can be murdered, too. 
  • Destroying or neglecting oneself is murder 
  • Excessive or unjust anger is murder 
  • Respect for others prevents murder 

How many of us can honestly claim we have not broken the Sixth Commandment?  

The fact is even a child will break the Sixth Commandment — by throwing tantrums. So I don’t think there is any of us here who is not guilty. I don’t think any of us here is not worthy of death as a murderer in the sight of God. 

But thank God that there is forgiveness in Christ Jesus, who alone has never broken the Sixth Commandment. Indeed, somewhat ironically, it is through being a victim of murder that the Lord was qualified to rescue us from God’s wrath and curse. 

For was not the Lord Jesus murdered? It was a murder of immense proportion. When a perfectly righteous man is knowingly condemned to die for sins he never committed, it is murder. Our Lord was murdered in cold blood!  

But thanks be to God who ordained that the wrath of man should praise Him (Ps 76:10). The most tragic murder of all history—the murder of the Son of God became the basis for the salvation of a great multitude of people who put their trust in Him. 

Dearly beloved brethren, children and friends, we are guilty. We are all murderers. But thank God that there is forgiveness in Christ. There is forgiveness for all who know they are guilty sinners, who repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. 

Repent, therefore, of your sin. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Seek Him while He may be found. Seek Him while you may, lest you find yourself denied entrance into the eternal bliss of heaven because your sin has made you odious in the sight of God.  

But the Lord Jesus will wash away every guilty stain, including blood, in the hand of those who believe in Him. He will clothe them with his righteousness. They will be received as saints and not as murderers. Their sin will be cast into the ocean, never to be remembered again. Only go to Him. He is our only hope! Amen.  

—JJ Lim