Exodus 20:13 Sermon Notes


Pastor Rick Duncan

We have to be careful how we talk about pastors and politicians, coaches and teachers, family and friends. We can be filled with pride and self-righteousness. When that happens, our attitudes and actions can become murderous. Then, we’re guilty – according to Jesus – of breaking the 6th Commandment.

You shall not murder.

Exodus 20:13

The King James Version says it this way: “Thou shalt not kill.” The Hebrew word is rasah which means “to murder” rather than “to kill.” Rasha forbids the unlawful, premeditated, or immoral killing of another human. And, as we’ll see when Jesus explains this Commandment, He applies it to our attitudes as well as to our actions.  

3 Questions:

  1. What does the 6th Commandment not forbid?
  2. What does the 6th Commandment forbid?
  3. What does the 6th Commandment require?

Question #1: What does the 6th Commandment not forbid? 

Killing in self-defense.

All murder is killing, but not all killing is murder. If you turn ahead just 2 chapters in Exodus where the 10 Commandments are being explained and applied, we read, “If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him” (Exodus 22:2). So, defending yourself or your family or your property against a violent intruder is not forbidden by the 6th Commandment.

Yes, the Lord Jesus does say, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also(Matthew 5:39). But C.S. Lewis wrote that in this saying Jesus is speaking about the “frictions of daily life,” not life-and-death scenarios. In Luke Jesus tells His disciples, “Let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36). Some scholars say that in this verse, Jesus upholds the right to self-defense. 

Yes, we should joyfully suffer persecution for our faith. But self-defense is not forbidden. However, it must be a last resort in response to a violent threat. When it’s time to suffer, when it’s time to flee, and when it’s time to defend requires Spirit-led wisdom.

Capital punishment.

We might have serious reservations about the way that capital punishment takes place. We might question whether or not capital punishment is a deterrent to violent crime. But because life is sacred and because everyone is created in the image of God, those who wrongfully take another human life are liable to lose their own.

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

Genesis 9:6

In Romans 13, we learn that it’s the government’s responsibility to be a “terror to bad conduct,” to “bear the sword,” to be “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” For the death penalty to be carried out justly, there must be due process, a certainty of guilt, a chance of appeal, and, finally, a reluctance to execute.

Just war.

In Romans 13, we learn that it’s the government’s responsibility to be a “terror to bad conduct,” to “bear the sword,” to be “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” Sometimes the only way to keep sinful people from doing great harm to the innocent is by a government going to war. In a world filled with evil, sometimes war is necessary to prevent even greater evil. Sometimes, governments go to war and the war isn’t a just war. And we should speak up and speak out against that. 

So, pray for godly wisdom for our leaders. Pray for the safety of the military. Pray for quick resolution to conflicts, like the ones in Ukraine and Israel. Pray for a minimum of casualties among soldiers and civilians on both sides.

OK, that’s “What does the 6th Commandment not forbid?” If you want to dive deeper on these topics (and I hope you do!) we’ll have some links to some great biblical info on these topics. Now…

Question #2: What does the 6th Commandment forbid? 


In the beginning God created. And the crown of His creation was man and woman. Ever since, every baby in the womb, every little girl or boy holding a mommy’s hand, every teenager, every young adult, every woman, every man, every aging senior is someone created in the image of God.

So, the taking of a life that God has created and sustained is really an act of defiance against God. It’s breaking the 1st Commandment (“You shall have no other gods before Me”) as well as the 6th. Because we love the LORD we love life!

The LORD alone is good and wise. In Deuteronomy 32 the LORD says, “See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive…” (Deuteronomy 32:39a). The LORD alone has the right to give life and take it away. 

When a belief in God as Creator is dismissed and evolutionary thought (the survival of the fittest) is embraced, then the value of human life plummets. Lisa Lopez-Galvan was shot and died in Kansas City celebrating the Chiefs Super Bowl victory. 22 people were injured, half under the age of 16. Here in Cleveland, over the last several years, over 200 homicides devastate families and communities.

The LORD says, “You shall have no other gods before Me – Love Me!” and “You shall not murder because I’ve created women and men and girls and boys in My image – Love Life!!!”


Geno comes from the Greek word for race or tribe. Cide comes from the Latin word for killing. Genocide is killing large numbers of people from a particular nation or ethnic group in order to eliminate that nation or group.

In the 1940s the Holocaust took the lives of close to six million Jews. In the 1990s the Serbians murdered 200,000 Bosnian Muslims and the Hutus in Rwanda murdered 800,000 Tutsis.  And in this Century, the Dinkas in South Sudan have targeted non-Dinka tribes.

God loves the nations and the peoples of the world. And so should we! God has promised that someday in the life to come a great multitude of people from every nation, every tribe, and every language will worship Jesus (Revelation 7:9-10).

So, we should seek to use our influence to help our government stand against any form of genocide. 

Feticide (Abortion) 

The early church leaders looked at passages like Psalm 139, Jeremiah 1, and Luke 1 and concluded that life begins in the womb and should be protected there. Some quotes from the very earliest days of the church.

You shall not murder a child by abortion, nor kill one who has been born. Didache (c. 80-140)

Murder is once for all forbidden. Therefore, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier way to kill a human. Tertullian (c. 197)

You shall not slay your child by causing abortion, nor kill the baby that is born. For everything that is shaped and has received a soul [is] from God. Apostolic Constitutions (c. 390) 

This is why our Elders led our church to state our Essential Beliefs on Cultural Issues. One of these deals with abortion.

We believe that human life begins at conception and that the unborn child is a living human being. Abortion is murder and constitutes the taking of unborn human life (Job 3:16; Ps. 51:5; 139:13-16; Isa. 44:24; 49:1, 5; Jer. 1:5; 20:15-18; Luke 1:36, 44).

Now, we are sensitive to the fact that this is a painful topic for many people. Some have had abortions. Some have encouraged abortions or paid for abortions. We are for you, not against you. More importantly, God is for you, not against you.

If you’ve experienced abortion and are suffering from painful emotional effects, you might consider attending a 7-week course “Healing Effects of Abortion Related Trauma” (HEART). Call Lilli Women’s Center (216) 650-6133.


We’re supposed to wear spiritual armor as followers of Jesus – the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the sword of the Spirit, the shield of faith. In a weak moment, this good man took off a piece of his armor. And he believed the lie of the devil – that the world would be better without him. And he took his own life.

But the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. When Jesus died on the cross, He didn’t shed His blood to forgive every sin except suicide. It’s tragic. It scars families deeply. But it’s not the unpardonable sin.

If you’re ever tempted to take your own life, remember that your life is not your own! Your life belong to God. He alone has the right to decide when and how a person should die. You can pray, “My times are in Your hands” (Psalm 31:15). God is the giver and the taker of life. He gives, and He takes away (Job 1:21).

If you ever even consider suicide, please seek help! Call 988! Or get yourself to a hospital. Or call 911. You’re not alone. We care about you. In Christ, there’s hope.


Here again is a quote from our Essential Beliefs on Cultural Issues, this time dealing with euthanasia.

We believe that an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, facilitates premature death, is assuming a decision that is to be reserved for God. We do not believe that discontinuing medical procedures that are extraordinary or disproportionate to the expected outcome is euthanasia (Ex. 20:13; 23:7; Matt. 5:21; Acts 17:28).

Question #3: What does the 6th Commandment require? 

Matthew 5:21-22 

Jesus knows that the outward act of murder comes from an inward attitude of anger. The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. Jesus says we have broken the 6th Commandment when we have anger in our hearts, when we insult others, and when we name call.

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 1 John 3:15

Another quote from our Essential Beliefs on Cultural Issues, this time dealing with how we are supposed to love even those who oppose us.

We believe that we should demonstrate love for others, not only toward fellow believers, but also toward those who are not believers, those who oppose us, and those who engage in sinful actions. We are to deal with those who oppose us graciously, gently, patiently, and humbly. God forbids the stirring up of strife, the taking of revenge, or the threat or use of violence as a means of resolving personal conflict or obtaining personal justice. Although God commands us to abhor sinful actions, we are to love and pray for any person who engages in such actions (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 5:44-48; Luke 6:31; John 13:34-35; Rom. 12:9-10; 17-21; 13:8-10; Phil. 2:2-4; 2 Tim. 2:24-26; Titus 3:2; 1 Peter 3:8-9; 1 John 3:17-18).

If we’re not careful, we can be biblically-accurate about our point of view while violating the 6th Commandment and doing so in the name of Christ!

And we wonder why the next generation is not interested in our faith or why someone we love walked away from the faith? Could it be that they see more easily than we see our failure to treat people with decency? They know Jesus said, “Love your enemies!” And if our brothers and sister in Christ are on the opposite side of an issue that we’re passionate about, we demonize them.  

Maybe it’s not that the people leaving the faith disagree with our position as much as it is that they disagree with our pugnacious persona.

Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…

Ephesians 4:15

Yes. Speak the truth. Stand up for Jesus. No turning back! Be salt and light! Fight for right! But do it in love, without malice. Believe the best! No name calling. No attributing to people the worst possible motives. No snarky comments on social media that you would never say to someone face-to-face if you sat down to talk over a cup of coffee.

What if somebody said to you, “I know what you believe. But why aren’t you like those other angry, bitter believers? It’s actually possible to have a conversation with you. You don’t villainize the other side. What’s different about you?“

What if you could say, “I believe that everyone has been created in the image of God. Everyone should be treated with dignity and civility. I’m a follower Jesus Christ and He’s told us to do good to those who hurt us. So, by His grace and for His glory, I’m trying hard not to murder anyone with my words or to kill their reputation. I’m seeking to join Jesus in building His kingdom, which is a kingdom of truth and honor and respect and hope and justice… on earth as it is in heaven.”

We don’t always get this right, do we? In fact, if we just look at our attitudes and our actions – our words and our ways – at home, we’ll have to admit that we break this 6th Commandment right there. What we say to our spouses and our kids and our parents and our brothers and sisters is murderous.

“You are a disappointment.”

“You can’t do anything right.”

“Why can’t you be more like…?”

“I don’t know who you are any more.”

“I wish I’d never had kids” or “I wish I had different parents.”  

We’re not commandment-keepers. We are commandment-breakers!

If you were here a few weeks ago, you might remember the New City Catechism: Question 15

Since no one can keep the law, what is it’s purpose?  That we may know the holy nature of God, and the sinful nature of our hearts; and thus our need for a Savior. 

You do know that God has provided a Savior, right? One more question:

As a 6th commandment law-breaker, what must I do? 

I have 3 words for you: Repent. Receive. Replace.


In Matthew 5 where Jesus told us that anger and name-calling and insults were violations of the 6th Commandment. Matthew 5:23-26.

Some of us need to have a conversation or make a call today. We’ve talked badly about a boss behind her back. We’ve killed a friend’s reputation. We’ve murdered a family member’s sense of self-worth. The Holy Spirit is here today convicting us. We need to purpose in our hearts to repent and to prove our repentance by doing our part to ask for forgiveness and to seek reconciliation.


We need to receive Jesus as our Forgiver and Leader, our Savior and Lord.

Murderers can be forgiven. The great missionary church planter, Paul, persecuted Christians and even held the coats of the men who stoned to death the Christ-follower, Stephen. But one day, while Paul was on a road heading to put other believers to death, Paul met Jesus Christ. And Jesus forgave Paul and gave him a job to do: “Travel the world and tell people about Me – that if I can change your life, I can change anyone’s life.”

Jesus died on the cross to forgive murderers – Commandment-breakers. He rose again. When we receive Him, He sends His Holy Spirit to live inside us – to turn Commandment-breakers into Commandment-keepers.


Put off your old self… put on the new self… Ephesians 4:22a, 24a, 

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love as Christ loved us…

Ephesians 4:31-5:1, 2a

Look at those three words: Repent, Receive, Replace.

“You shall not murder” because we love life!

In order for you to obey the 6th Commandment better and love life more, which one do you need to act on today?