************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 40 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 29, 2018
Lord's Day 40
Matthew 5:21-26, 43-48
"The Sixth Commandment"
All of us should be outraged by comedienne Michelle Wolf. One of her shows, which aired on Netflix early in July, had a couple of abortion jokes:
-Abortion "should be on the dollar menu at McDonald's." The camera then showed a shot of a fake dollar menu listing menu choices: Burger, Abortion, Cheeseburger, Fries.
-Abortion "doesn't have to be a big deal. It's about $300. That's like six movie tickets ... God bless abortion."
What has happened in America that Netflix and Michelle Wolf can be so matter-of-fact about killing babies? We can respond by cutting the Netflix cord or by sending letters of protest or by praying Judge Brett Kavanagh -- the newest Supreme Court nominee -- is a true conservative.
Sound doctrine is our theme as we have been looking at the Catechism. Sound doctrine is reliable doctrine, trustworthy doctrine, believable doctrine. Sound doctrine is doctrine that is based upon the Bible and not upon what man's itching ears wants to hear. Today, we look at what sound doctrine says about the sixth commandment.
I The Sermon on the Mount
A "You shall not murder." In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clarifies the sixth commandment. Jesus starts off by warning us against the teaching and practice of the Pharisees. He says:
(Mt 5:21) You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.'We have two separate Old Testament statements here joined together by the Pharisees. "Do not murder," is the Sixth Commandment in Exodus 20. "Anyone who murders will be subject to judgment" comes from Numbers 35. These are both Biblical statements so what conceivable criticism can Jesus level against the Pharisees?
First, by joining these two statements together the Pharisees are reducing the meaning of the sixth commandment. The Pharisees are saying God, in the sixth commandment, only forbids actual murder. Therefore they fooled themselves into thinking they kept and fulfilled the sixth commandment.
Second, the Pharisees also reduced the punishment for breaking the sixth commandment to mere punishment at the hands of the civil magistrates. "Anyone who murders will be subject to judgment." The word "judgment" points to the Jewish courts of justice. There was one in every city, consisting of 23 members. In these courts a killer was judged. What they were actually saying, then, is this: "You must not murder because if you do you will be in danger of being punished by an earthly judge." They did not mention the punishment of the heavenly Judge at all.
B How does Jesus understand the sixth commandment? What does He mean by murder? Jesus says,
(Mt 5:22) But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.A note at the bottom of your pew Bible says some Greek manuscripts add the words "without cause" to verse 22. This clarifies what Jesus is saying.
Jesus tells us that the sixth commandment includes not only actual physical murder but also anger without cause against a brother or sister. Those who are angry without cause against a brother or sister are guilty of murder.
Many times throughout my ministry I have come across angry people -- people, that is, who fight, quarrel, and argue with their brothers and sisters. They make up reasons in their own mind and choose to be angry and upset and offended. I have seen homes torn apart, brothers and sisters and parents who don't speak to each other, members of the church who cross the street rather than share the sidewalk with a fellow member. In fact, there was a case before Judge Judy last night of two sisters. One, with an out-of-control temper, was suing the other. Judge Judy threw the case out of court.
C Murder includes more than anger without cause. Jesus says it also includes contempt.
(Mt 5:22) Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca, ' is answerable to the Sanhedrin.""Raca" means "empty, worthless." It is an attitude of contempt, of dismissal, of disdain, of scorn. What we are to think of is the Jewish custom of shaking out one's garments or sandals. Jesus advised His disciples to respond this way to those who refuse to listen to the Gospel:
(Mt 10:14) If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.Paul did the same thing when the Jews in Corinth reviled him. He shook out his garments and said, "Your blood be on your own heads" (Acts 18:6). To shake out your garments or sandals is to say you want nothing more to do with a person or town, that they no longer exist as far as you are concerned, that they are banished from your sight and thoughts. But notice, Jesus and Paul do this to those who reject God and Christ.
In our Scripture reading Jesus is talking about Christians who do this to a brother or sister. Jesus tells us this morning that it is worse than murder when someone banishes his brother or sister from his life, as if he or she does not exist for him.
D Jesus ends by saying murder also includes hatred and bitterness. He states:
(Mt 5:22) But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."You fool" is a technical Jewish term which means "be damned." Jesus speaks against those who damn a brother or sister and wants them to go to hell. Imagine hating your brother or sister so much that you wish hell upon them?!
Those who hate their brother and sister will face the highest court of all, the judgment throne of God.
E Jesus condemns anger, contempt, hatred. Using the language of the Catechism, these all are the "root of murder." Jesus tells us we commit sin just by desiring or thinking such things. The Pharisees, on the other hand, believe you have to actually commit the physical act of murder before it is sin.
Those who adopt the view of the Pharisees can fool themselves into thinking they only sin part of the time. They can even fool themselves into thinking they are righteous. Those who adopt the view of Jesus realize they are sinning all the time. And, therefore, they always needs His grace and mercy and blood.
F Did you notice that the Catechism quotes directly from our Bible reading at the end of Matthew 5? In telling us the meaning of the sixth commandment, the Catechism says,
God tell usJesus says,
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.
(Mt 5:43-45) "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' (44) But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (45) that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.Of course, nowhere in the Old Testament is it written, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." The religious leaders told the people this was the interpretation of the Law. Jesus rejected not the Law but the Jewish interpretation of the Law.
"Love your enemies." Which means so many different things you can do. Forgive them -- truly, really, sincerely, from the heart -- when they hurt you. Help them. Pray for them. Present the Gospel to them. Visit them if they are sick or in prison.
II Why We Are Pro-Life
"You shall not murder." This is what God commands in the sixth commandment. There is a theological reason for this command. Sound doctrine declares that human life is special, sacred, significant. Sound doctrine declares human life is special, sacred, significant because we are made in the image of God. This can't be said about anything else in all of Creation. This can't be said of the angels of heaven. This can't be said of animals or birds or fish. This can't be said of plant life. Although God created all things, only humans bear His likeness, and they bear it from conception on.
Now, because of this, sound doctrine declares that we must be pro-life. Sound doctrine declares we are pro-life because every human is in the image of God. We are opposed to anger, contempt, and hatred because every human is in the image of God. We are opposed to abortion because every human is in the image of God. Listen to how God puts this at the time of Noah:
(Gen 9:6) Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.God wants human life protected and guarded because it is made in His image.
III How Pro-Life Are We?
A "You shall not murder." I want to ask a question: "How pro-life are we really?" "How pro-life are we really?" That's a good question to ask in our age of single-issue politics. Too many Christians today, like the Pharisees, reduce the sixth commandment. Too many Christians today, reduce the sixth commandment to one issue -- the issue of abortion. And they ignore the broader meaning of the sixth commandment. The same thing happened in the sixties when the mainline churches reduced the sixth commandment to a prohibition against the Vietnam War. And, again, ignored the broader meaning of the sixth commandment. So again I ask, "How pro-life are we really?"
B "You shall not murder." To be pro-life, to keep the positive requirement of the sixth commandment, means we do more than fight abortion and refrain from murder. It means we are pro-life across the board.
It is easy to be pro-life with the people we know and love. And, we do an absolutely wonderful job in this area. I am so impressed with how faithful members are in praying for each other, sending cards of encouragement, visiting the sick and shut-ins, bringing meals, and so on. In fact, yesterday I dropped in on one of our shut-ins and was delighted to see two of our ladies visiting with her.
"Bloody Honduras" is the title of an article I just read in World Magazine. Honduras is a country filled with gangs and violence and drugs. One response is to flee to the United States, as is done by thousands of migrants from Central America. Another response, a pro-life response, is to try and change the source. So we are told about Carlos Hernandez, a Christian who joined a Honduran police commission tasked with purging corruption from a notoriously crooked police force. The commission was formed after reports implicated top police officials with the infamous gang MS-13 and also implicated them in the 2009 assassination of the country's top drug prosecutor. Carlos received threats to himself and his family. But he and his colleagues on the commission persisted. The risk paid off. They removed six out of nine generals and 5,000 out of 13,000 police officers on the force, including hundreds of top cops. A fresh crop of officers is on the streets, with new training designed to combat corruption.
I say again that pro-life Christians are pro-life across the board. Pro-life Christians fight slavery. Pro-life Christians protest discrimination. Pro-life Christians oppose apartheid. By the way, did you know there is now a new kind of apartheid in South Africa? Now, it is blacks segregating whites. But you don't hear about that from our media. Pro-life Christians pray for persecuted Christians.
Back to my question: "How pro-life are we really?" Are we outraged that in the richest country on earth, children search for food in garbage bins? In a nation that prides itself on the being the most religious, church-going country on earth, does it bother us that we have so many violent deaths?
It is easy to be pro-life with the people we know and love. But what about the people we don't know? What about the clientele of Love INC or the Rescue Mission?
I want you to realize something: even as saved people, even as renewed people, even as born-again people, we are so deeply flawed. We fail and fall and come short in keeping the Sixth Commandment. We continue to be sinners who need the grace of Christ.
C "You shall not murder." Those who are pro-life are opposed to a Christianity that locks itself away from the world. Martin Luther recognized this was the approach of his life as a Roman Catholic monk. Monks wasted much of their time on their own spirituality: prayer, meditation, reading of Scripture, etc. Godliness, Luther realized afterwards, was not a self-serving, individualistic pursuit, but a means of glorifying God by serving others. So the sixth commandment is violated not only when a person actually does evil, but also when he fails to do good to his neighbor. A holiness that avoids contact with the world is selfish and self-centered. But God's holiness concerns relationships.
John Calvin spoke in similar terms. It is dangerous to focus so much on one's own salvation that the salvation and welfare of one's neighbor is overlooked. Because we are justified by grace through faith alone, apart from works, the question of acceptance before a holy God is settled once for all. Therefore, we can get on with the task of loving God and neighbor.
"You shall not murder." Yet, Christians are very thankful for one murder. Christians are thankful that Christ was murdered for their sins.
Now, out of thankfulness for Christ, we do not murder. Nor do we have anger, contempt, and hatred to our neighbor made in the image of God. Instead, we love our neighbor and do good even to our enemies.
So, let me ask one final time: "How pro-life are we really?"
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