Q67: Which is the sixth commandment?
A: The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill.
Q68: What is required in the sixth commandment?
A: The sixth commandment requireth all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life (Eph. 5:28-29), and the life of others (Ps. 82:3, 4; Job 24:13).
Q69 What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?
A: The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life (Acts 16:28), or the life of our neighbor unjustly (Gen. 9:6), or whatsoever tendeth thereunto (Prov. 24:11, 12).
I. General comments
The scope of this commandment is the preservation of that life which God has given to man.
A. This command respects both our own life and that of others.
1. The negative command always implies the positive. This commandment in the Hebrew (lo ratzach) is just two words: “don’t kill.”
B. Hebrew has eight different words for killing. Lo ratzach is never used pertaining to the legal system, the military, or animals; but is used for unlawful killing, i.e., premeditated murder, or voluntary/involuntary death.
1. Sum: this commandment forbids the unjust taking of a legally innocent life; it pertains to murder in cold blood, manslaughter with passionate rage, and negligent homicide.
II. Required in this commandment is the preservation of our lives and that of others.
A. Our own lives: soul and body.
1. Soul: carefully avoid all sin (Prov. 11:19); utilize all means of grace to promote spiritual growth (1 Pet. 2:2).
2. Body: just self-defense (Ex. 22:2); moderate use of whatever is necessary for our health and welfare (Eph. 5:29); keeping a contented and cheerful disposition (Prov. 17:22).
B. Our neighbor’s lives: soul and body.
1. Soul: giving them the example of a holy life (Matt. 5:16); counseling and encouragement (1 Thess. 5:14); prayer (1 Tim. 2:1); be spent for (2 Cor. 12:15).
2. Body: defense of the innocent against unjust violence (Ps. 82:3-4; Prov. 24:11-12); provision of life’s necessities (Ja. 2:15-16); courtesy (Prov. 15:1); not taking offense (1 Cor. 13:5-7; Col. 3:12-13).
III. Forbidden in this commandment is taking life unlawfully or taking part in what may lead thereto.
A. Our own lives: soul and body.
1. Soul: neglecting the means of grace and salvation (Prov. 8:34, 36); resisting grace (Prov. 29:1; Acts 7:51); continuing impenitent (Ezek. 18:30-32); unbelief (Jn. 5:40).
2. Body: suicide (1 Sam. 31:4; Matt. 27:5); fretful wishing to be dead (Job. 7:15-16; Jon. 4:3); discontent (Ps. 37:8); anxiety (Matt. 6:31; Phil. 4:6); neglecting health (Eph. 5:29); gluttony (Prov. 23:20-21; Phil. 3:19).
B. Our neighbors’ lives: soul and body.
1. Soul: setting an example of sin (Matt. 18:7); unloving use of Christian liberty (Rom. 14:15); joining in sin with others (Ps. 50:18); provoking others to sin (1 Ki. 21:25); teaching sin (Isa. 5:20); consenting to sin (Acts 9:1); neglecting the prevention of sin in others (Ezek. 3:18); neglecting to recover them from sin (Lev. 19:17); neglecting compassion (Ezek. 9:4).
2. Body: lawful and prohibited killing.
a. Lawful cases where life of neighbor may be taken justly.
(1). Public justice: the death penalty is right simply because God commands it (Gen. 9:6).
(a). State is God’s servant to punish and has duty to protect citizens (Rom. 13:4, 6; Acts 25:11)
(b). Execution stops murderer from killing again and deters others (Rom. 13:3).
(2). Lawful war (Judg. 5:23): here the citizen is not acting as a private person, but as an agent of the government. State has right of self-defense also.
(3). Self-defense (Ex. 22:2-3).
b. Prohibitions: unlawful killing (Num. 35).
(1). Vv. 9-12: accidental killing, trial afforded (cf. Josh. 20:3).
(2). Vv. 16-21: striking with intent, death penalty/no mercy (cf. Deut. 19:11-13).
(3). Vv. 22-25: unintentional (literally “without knowledge” [cf. Deut. 19:4-7]) killing, trial and safety provided.
(4). Vv. 30-33: safeguards, there must be multiple witnesses (v. 30; cf. Deut. 19:15-20), and no ransom (Num. 35:31-32).
(a). Also, assassination (2 Ki. 6:32), conspiracy (2 Sam. 11:14-15), abortion (cf. Ps. 139:13, 15-16), killing under color of lawful authority (1 Ki. 21:12-13, 19); euthanasia/assisted suicide.
(b). By omission when we neglect the sick (Lk. 10:31-32) and poor (Ja. 2:15-16); by commission when we oppress (Ezek. 22:7); by physically harming (Ex. 21:18, 22).
(c). Heart-murder (Matt. 5:21-22); envy (Prov. 14:30); revengeful thoughts and attitudes (Rom. 12:14); hatred and malice (1 Jn. 3:15); rejoicing at calamity of others (Prov. 24:17).
(d). Tongue-murder (Prov. 12:18; 18:21; Ja. 3:6).
(e). Eye-murder (Prov. 6:17).
A. Use, of knowledge.
1. This command obliges us to seek the welfare and good of both our own souls and those of others as well. “Our neighbor bears the image of God: to use him, abuse, or misuse him is to do violence to the person of God who images himself in every human soul” (John Calvin).
2. The highest duty of this commandment is to warn our neighbor of self-destruction (Ja. 5:20).
B. Use, of testing.
1. God’s law is spiritual and sees the heart. Let us all examine ourselves in this matter, knowing that we are guilty of shedding both our own and our neighbor’s blood.
C. Use, of exhortation: sinners and saints.
1. Sinners. Murder in any form excludes one from the kingdom (Ga. 5:20-21) and includes one in the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8). Be humbled and convinced, and apply the blood of Christ, that the guilt may be washed. Jesus died for murderers, offering forgiveness to the very people who had murdered Him (Lk. 23:34). When these people were accused by Peter of Jesus’ murder some asked what they could do about it, Peter answered, “Repent…” (Acts 2:38).
2. Saints. The love of God is our main motive to stir us up to all the duties of a holy life. Let us study meekness, as that will make us like Christ (Col. 3:12), and possess a charitable frame of spirit as our duty (Rom. 12:15). Be long-suffering, ready to forgive and be reconciled (cf. Matt. 6:15), “not rendering evil for evil” but rather a blessing (1 Pet. 3:9).