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Saving Souls from Death

The Sixth Commandment in the Epistles

4 min

As we look at the sixth commandment in the full light of New Testament revelation, we see many rich and glorious ways that we as Christ’s disciples can and should uphold life. Not only does the sixth commandment call for us not to kill, but in that commandment we are also called to love and protect physical life here on earth.

The Apostle John makes very clear the ultimate difference between life and death when he wrote, “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (I John 5:12). Thus, the ultimate way to obey the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” is to proclaim the Good News of salvation purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

In the New Testament epistles, we have many references on how to preserve and promote both physical and spiritual life. Here are five practical ways that we as Christian men can proclaim life to a world of dying sinners.

  1. Reconcile men to God by proclaiming the Good News of everlasting life.
    The way that men, women, boys, and girls come to find eternal life is through the proclamation of God’s Word. God has chosen redeemed and reconciled sinners to call other sinners to enjoy that same reconciliation. The Apostle Paul wrote: “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (II Corinthians 5:20). We looked at this verse last week in the context of reconciliation. Jesus saved us from eternal death and destruction by reconciling us to God. So also we, as Christ’s disciples, should live to proclaim the good news of reconciliation. Just as an ambassador stands as a representative for his king or government, so we serve as ambassadors of God and His Kingdom, proclaiming the blessing of eternal life to anyone who will repent of sin and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
  2. Save souls from death by warning sinning brothers of the error of their ways.
    When James was writing of the need for Christians to confess their faults one to another, he exhorted us to be willing to confront our brother about the error of his ways. “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:19–20). The Apostle John similarly warned about occasions when God can and does remove Christians from earth for persistent sins that they commit (I John 5:16). According to this verse, when we intervene and pray for an erring brother, we can “give him life.” When we see a brother living in sin, the kindest act that we can do is warn him of the error of his ways. If we do this in a spirit of meekness and humility, the Lord can work through us to restore our brother and perhaps even preserve his life for God’s glory.
  3. Preserve life by supporting widows and orphans.
    The Apostle James wrote that “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). Likewise, the Apostle Paul devoted a lengthy section of his epistle to Timothy about the proper care for widows (I Timothy 5:3–16). As Christian men, we can preserve life in our churches and our communities by caring for what God Himself cares deeply for—meeting the practical needs of orphans and widows. Some may object that there are already government programs in place to assist the needy, but God has placed the primary responsibility of care upon extended family members and the local church. It is a joyful privilege to care for those that God loves.
  4. Uphold a quiet and peaceable life by praying for political leaders.
    In I Timothy 2:1–2, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” In this passage, we see that good government is tied to a quiet and peaceable life. Resistance to lawful authority leads to increasing anarchy. We should pray for and support Godly political leaders that understand their role as ministers of God and those who bear God’s sword (Romans 13:1–7). Those leaders who are ungodly we should honor as far as we are able, and encourage them to submit themselves to the King of kings. We can preserve life in our society by electing leaders who protect unborn children, punish murderers, and uphold justice in the suppression of violence.
  5. Love life by seeking peace with all men.
    The Apostle Peter, in his epistle, encouraged the man who loves life. “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it” (I Peter 3:10–11). This exhortation quotes Psalm 34:12–14. The Scripture was given in the context of Peter’s discussion of how to handle offenses. Instead of “rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing,” we should instead seek peace with all men. To “ensue” peace means to follow after it intently. Just as Jesus taught that the sixth commandment forbids unjust anger, so this commandment on the positive side calls all who love life to pursue peace with those we have offended as well as those that have offended us.

The sixth commandment is vitally important. How we obey these exhortations can make the difference between life and death. When we fail to proclaim the Gospel, we can be held responsible for the blood of dying sinners. When we allow our brother to continue in a sinful habit, God may intervene to take him out of this world. When we neglect widows and orphans, we may be allowing those that God dearly loves to die forsaken and alone. When our leaders shed innocent blood, it is a reflection on our own lack of prayer and failure to promote Godly leadership. And when we allow our relationships to be wrecked by anger and bitterness, we are demonstrating that we do not love life. May God give each one of us the grace to “love life” and to save many souls from death by our faithful obedience to do what the Bible commands.

This article is from our Matters of Life & Death teaching series.

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