SUNDAY NIGHT CROSSTRAINING NOTES
The Sacredness of Human Life in the Image of God
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Sunday, June 9, 2013 - 6:00 p.m.  Sermon #: 1657
Pastor Don Horban

Exodus 20:13 - “You shall not murder.”

Genesis 9:5-6 - “And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. [6] Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

Matthew 5:20-26 - “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [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. [23] So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, [24] leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. [25] Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. [26] Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”

I called this series Foundations for Reconstruction, partly because I liked the title from the old book by Elton Trueblood. But mostly, I like the message in those words. Foundations are what you build on. These truths form the important bedrock for individuals and for society. We’re smaller people for ignoring or forgetting these commands.
Here are some foundational truths from this sixth command about murder:

1) HUMAN LIFE IS SACRED BECAUSE IT COMES FROM GOD HIMSELF AND EXISTS, HOWEVER FALLEN, IN HIS IMAGE

This truth needs to be reaffirmed in a world that has cheapened the value of many lives. If man is just the most advanced species to have climbed out of the trees, then it really doesn’t matter much how the weaker and older and less valued members of the species are treated.

But, whatever else Christians may argue about when discussing the creation of man, some things are so clear and emphatic that they are undebatable. And one of the foundational truths of the Scriptures is that God created man:

Genesis 1:27 - “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Psalm 139:13 -“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.”

The verse from Genesis chapter one is important, not only because it says man is God’s creation (He created the animals as well), but because it separates mankind from the rest of God’s creative work. Man is special because he’s made in God’s image.

This is a truth that all people know even if they don’t want to acknowledge it. Man is different from the animals, not merely more advanced. You may feel badly when a bug splatters on your windshield. But it doesn’t even compare to the way you feel if you run over a three year old. Man is made in God’s image. Atheist and Christian both know the difference between man and the rest of creation. It’s a truth God has built in the fabric of the way we’re made.

The verse we read from Psalm 139 is important because it refers, not to God’s creative work with Adam or Eve, but with human life as it comes from the womb of the mother. David says God created him while he was in his mother’s womb. While mothers host and give birth to human life, God creates the life Himself. That, by the way, is what makes abortion such a terrible sin. But more on that later.

Not only is man created, and not only is he created in God’s image, but the length of his days is determined by God Himself. This is recorded in the oldest book in the Bible, the book of Job:

Job 14:5 - “Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass....”

Psalm 104:29 - “When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.”

Christians should never forget these foundational truths. They are basic truths dealing with the arrival and departure of human life in this world. God initiates life. Man is made in God’s image. The length of his days is to be determined by the Creator alone. And
nothing in this sixth command makes sense until these truths are kept in mind.

2) NOT EVERYONE IS PROTECTED BY THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT

It’s unfortunate that most of us have grown up with the translation “Thou shalt not kill”ringing in our ears, because not all killing is covered by this command. The Hebrew word is far and away best translated “murder” - “You shall not murder.” That’s what this command is all about.

And we know this to be true from studying the rest of the Scriptures. Like it or not, the Bible is full of stories of people who deserve to die - people God says deserve to die. All you need is a basic concordance and you can do the homework. There are many people who forfeited their right to having their lives protected by this sixth commandment.

Murders, adulterers, homosexuals, children who cursed their parents (that’s right - look it up - it’s in there), kidnappers - all of these were to be put to death. And the orders came from God Himself. While those commands were geared to life in a divine theocracy and don’t apply to today’s multi-cultural humanly governed peoples, they were in place in the Old Testament and prove the command we’re studying today applies specifically to murder, not killing in general.

This commandment was never used in the scriptures as a blanket to prevent all killing. Violence in war (not to be confused with war crimes) was not considered murder. The execution of justice was not murder. The truth is those things were never prevented, nor forbidden by the sixth commandment.

3) BECAUSE THE TAKING OF INNOCENT HUMAN LIFE IS SUCH A WICKED ACT, THE BIBLE GIVES INSTRUCTION AS TO HOW TO PUNISH THOSE WHO DO

Genesis 9:6 - “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

There are two important points to reflect on in this verse:

First, this command from God predates the giving of the law prescribed in the Ten Commandments. That is, these words have nothing to do with the giving of the Ten Commandments or the theocracy of the nation of Israel. Moses isn’t even on the scene yet. There is no Israel. These are God’s instructions to all of the population on planet earth - Moses and his family.

Second, the reason given for the command at least builds the case for its permanent validity: Genesis 9:6 - “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

If the command were given to prevent the outbreak of war or unbridled vengeance for acts for violence, or to preserve Noah so that God could, later on, establish His people and bless the world with the Messiah, then it could easily be dismissed for our day. All of those things have been fulfilled. Mission accomplished.

But, in fact, none of those is the reason for the command. At least, not the stated reason. From the text, there is only one reason for the introduction of capital punishment: Man is created in God’s image. And, of course, he still is.

“But, Pastor Don, what about those words from the book of Job that you read at the beginning of this sermon about God setting the limits and bounds on a person’s life?”

Listen, I believe that. I believe only God has the right to determine the length of a person’s days on this earth. Man, on his own, has no right to take revenge on any person. And the important words in that sentence are the words, “on his own.”

The New Testament is equally clear on this important truth: Romans 12:17-19 - “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. [18] If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. [19] Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’”

Personally, I am never to repay, or try to strike back, or try to get even for the wrongs done to me. My life is to be so marked by the kind of grace I myself have received from Jesus that people are stunned by how unselfish I am when wronged by others. I’m to forgive as freely as I have been forgiven.

But what about when somebody shoots my wife. Am I asked to forgive that person? Yes. I am. Is society asked to forgive that person? No. Absolutely not.

This is an important distinction. I am never to take personal revenge for anything in life. In fact, I’m specifically told to leave revenge to the Lord. He will avenge those wrong doings. And I’m meant to notice that just because God tells me it’s wrong for me to do something that doesn’t necessarily mean it is also wrong for God to do that very same thing. This text tells me it’s wrong for me to take personal vengeance precisely because it is God’s responsibility to execute vengeance on my behalf when I suffer righteously.

Well, how will He avenge those crimes? Paul tells us very specifically how this takes place, even now in our world:

Romans 13:1-4 - “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. [2] Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. [3] For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, [4] for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.”

This is so important. There is nothing personal in the application of justice. Paul says those who “bear the sword”(note the violence in that picture) are actually servants of God. That means, when they execute vengeance, they execute God’s vengeance.

That is not only true of capital punishment. It’s true of all punishment. If you shoot my brother, I don’t have the right personally to lock you up in my basement for thirty years. But the government has that right. It would be a crime for me to do that. But it would be perfectly righteous for the authorities of the land to do that.

Having said all of that, Christians need to exercise care when talking about sentencing people to death. It’s so easy to sound harsh and hateful. Almost like we’re happy to see them get what’s coming to them.

I always try to remember that the one person the Bible calls a “man after God’s own heart” was a murderer. The next time you read Psalm 23 and feel blessed in your heart, remember it was written by a murderer.

And do you remember who the first murderer on planet earth was? Cain. And do you know who protected him from execution? God. All I’m saying is this. From the teaching of the Scriptures, I believe in capital punishment. But if I believe that, I should believe it with tears.

4) ABORTION AND SOME OTHER THORNY ISSUES

I say “thorny”not because there is any question in my mind, but because the words used by abortionists and others are so tailored to confuse and blind people to the real issues. Everything that can be done is done to turn abortion into anything but what it is - murder - the intentional taking of an innocent human life.

I just used two important, defining words - “life” and “human.” Let’s look at each carefully.

a) Abortion is the taking of life. It seems to me we all know that a fetus is a life. I mean, that’s the whole problem in a nutshell. The fetus has to be terminated. Or, the pregnancy has to be terminated. Call it whatever you like, something has to be terminated by the abortionist in the womb of the mother.

Why? If there is no life in that womb, there should be no problem. But there is a problem. Because everyone knows if you don’t kill something, you’re going to end up with a baby. And that stubborn little life won’t go away all by itself. It lives. And it loves to live.

It’s because it’s alive that you have to stop it. You don’t have to abort your kidney or your spleen. But this little life is of a different nature entirely. It’s not a part of a mother’s body. You will never give birth to your lung or your liver. But this little life is different. It has a body all its own. The mother merely hosts this little life in her womb.

I said there were two words to look at. First, the fetus is life. Now for the second word - human:

b) The life in the womb is human life. Has our world sunk to such stupidity that we actually have to review the obvious? No human mother and human father have ever conceived and given birth to an aardvark, a porpoise, or a turtle. No sir. If there’s life in that womb at all, there is only one kind available from human parents - human life.

How dare anyone say it’s not human life in the womb? What total nonsense. It brings to mind so forcefully the pungent truths from Paul in the book of Romans: Romans 1:21-22 - “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. [22] Claiming to be wise, they became fools....”

We are living in days when we witness the truth of those words. There are so many areas where the more clever man gets, the more ways he finds to explain away his wickedness. Even at the cost of foolishness.

You can talk about “evacuating a fetus” or a “planned miscarriage”, or whatever term you want to use. But everyone knows in his or her heart what’s going on.

But there are abortionists who will grant both of these truths we’ve been examining. They’ll admit that the fetus is a life. And they’ll even admit that it is a human life. The argument they use in justifying abortion comes with a different angle. “We want every child to be a wanted child. If the baby isn’t going to be loved, then it’s better for it not to be born.”

“Every child a wanted child!” That’s their banner. And it’s a pretty slick move in which the meanie becomes the person saving the child, not the person killing the child. And people buy into this madness.

Yet the slogan begs the question - “What’s wrong with this baby to make it so unwanted? Has the baby done something wrong? Something worthy of such cruel punishment?”

And also, unwanted by whom? Everyone? Will no one care for this baby? And if no one wants it, does that take away it’s value, its right to live on planet earth?

Be very careful how you answer that last question. Because there are unwanted four year olds in this world. And unwanted eighty year olds. And unwanted handicapped persons.

Who gets to make the value assessments as to who is of value and who isn’t? We’ve already gone down this road once or twice in our history books. What about Jews in Nazi Germany? What about the African Americans in the tragic days of slavery in British and American history?

Once people are selfish enough and wicked enough to start down the road to allowing abortions based on how wanted that pre-born child is, be sure of this, there is no stopping place. What will your argument be when one day nobody values you?
The point here is simple. Me not wanting something doesn’t determine its worth. It only reveals my values and priorities.

For these good reasons, God says all of life is sacred. This is no irrelevant command. The life it protects is yours.

5) JESUS AND THE MURDER COMMAND

Matthew 5:20-26 - “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [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. [23] So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, [24] leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. [25] Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. [26] Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

The Pharisees hadn’t murdered anybody, but they hadn’t kept the sixth commandment. That was Jesus’ shocking conclusion. Jesus clearly says that their level of righteousness wasn’t good enough for heaven - Matthew 5:20 - “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Then, in a rather surprising move, he relates the murder command to how people go to church on Sunday morning. He relates the murder command to our worship.

Certainly it’s enough for the courts that I don’t murder. But it isn’t enough for God. Murder comes from anger and hatred. And God wants my heart to be as free from the motive as my hands are clean of the deed.

So let’s guard against a selective application of this murder command. I do that all the time: You shall not murder. “Aha, there it is! No more abortions in the land.” Or, “Aha, proof of the validity of capital punishment!”

Friend, while those may be true statements, they are still an incomplete theology. That’s a shallow way to narrowly use this command. We get so slick at applying truth to every situation that remains academic, that never really touches any point of our own holiness or lack of it.

You shall not murder. “O God, forgive me for all those times I’ve brought a heart, differing only in degree, but full of hatred and revenge and anger that, while never robbing the world of a life, can so quickly shut my own heart up in death, both now and eternally.

In fact, the next time you think of abortion, the next time you find your heart just firing up in rage against the mutilated bodies of innocent babies filling incinerators across our land, just stop for a minute and say, “So that’s how you feel about my heart when bitterness and anger reigns.”

And then, before you finish the next worship chorus, or pick up your protest sign, or put your signature on that petition, kneel and get God’s forgiveness. That’s how you hold the Pharisees at bay. And that’s how you grow in holiness that pleases the Lord.