3 October 2004
Acts 16:28, Genesis 9:6, Matthew 5:22, 1 John 3:15, Galatians 5:15, Proverbs 24:11 & Exodus 21:18-32
The Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 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.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism in Modern English:
Q.69. What does the sixth commandment forbid?
A. The sixth commandment forbids taking one’s own life or the lives of others unjustly or doing anything that leads to suicide or murder.
1. Is it possible for a person to commit suicide and be truly saved?
Actually, this is a question that only God can answer. Let us say that it would be rare indeed for a saved person to take his own life. He could be so mixed up and unbalanced by the temptation of Satan or so disturbed by mental or emotional disorder, that in a moment of frenzy, he might take his own life. However, this is something best left in the hands of God. The commandment is stated and must be believed.
2. Is it lawful in any case to kill others?
A Christian would be within the bounds of the Word to execute, under and within public law, another person - for example, a murderer (Num. 35:30). He could kill in war that is lawful (in defence of civil or religious liberties) after all other means had been tried (Ex. 22:2, Judges 11:12-34). He could kill when it is a matter of self defence (Exodus 22:2).
3. Besides acts of violence, are there other ways that this commandment can be broken?
Yes, the commandment may be broken in ways such as our committing any act that is detrimental to, or tends to shorten our own lives or the lives of others.
4. In what way could this be done?
This commandment may be broken by the withholding of lawful and necessary means for the preservation of life, such as food, drink, medicine, recreation; by going to extremes in things that will harm our bodies and minds (Luke 21:34); by malicious words or actions which indicate the presence of murderous attitudes in our hearts towards other people.
5. Does this commandment teach that capital punishment is wrong?
No, it does not teach that capital punishment is wrong. A comparison of Genesis 9:6 and Romans 13:4 will confirm that capital punishment should not be abolished.