The Perfect Murder

January 27, 2010

I was recently released by the judge to potentially be a juror in a high-profile murder trial [I presume one of the reasons was because my wife is very pregnant].  The effect of this experience was tremendous on my spirit.  Not only was it very much outside of my normal every day “Christian bubble” routine, but I was surrounded by people that I would never purposefully seek out in a lifetime unless it was directly affiliated with the preaching of the Gospel.  Although it was a very short-lived involuntary experience in which I was not ultimately selected as a juror, it is an experience that I will never forget as long as I live on earth.  I was not only specifically reminded of the utter depravity of man during this time, but of my own fallibility [depravity] as a Christian in my own corruption apart from the Sovereign Grace of God in my life.

            I am sure there are official statistics that would prove the average person has not and probably will not physically take another person’s life, i.e. murder someone.  Although murders take place every day around the world for seemingly various different reasons, they are few and far between when compared to the general population.  Therefore, the general population, as well as the law, evaluates murder as the most heinous crime that one can commit against another human being.  It seems that, no matter how often it happens, murder is always a shock to society and the community whenever it is plastered all over the television screen and newspapers.  It is a headline because it is an unthinkable crime.  Everyone seems to think about it as if it could hopefully be the last murder ever.  Indeed, to commit this crime is punishable by death.  If you have murdered someone or know someone that is very close to you, then you know murder perhaps more closely than you ever wanted to.

            But, the more I looked into the eyes of the alleged murderer while being within feet, the more I understood that he was really no different than I am.  Sure, he may not be as educated.  He also probably spent more time in the streets than I have growing up because I did not grow up in a Christian home either.  I am most positive that he “ran with a different crew” than I did as a child and teen.  His parents, assuming he knew them, probably did not care about his life as much as mine did [although they were not very orthodox].  Looking into someone’s eyes that has physically taken another person’s life is really no different than looking into anyone else’s eyes. 

As a human being, my natural inclination is to think that I could never, under any circumstances, take another person’s life.  I feel like, “nothing is ever that bad.”  I feel like if I physically murdered someone, it would utterly destroy my own life.  And it probably would.  It is such a heinous crime in that I believe it is an impossibility that I could ever do it.  If I hear that someone else murdered someone, I naturally think of how horrible that person is and wonder how they could ever perform such an atrocity.  Then, I think about the fact that I have never murdered anyone and lift myself above that person in reproach of them.  Perhaps if I had murdered someone, I would understand it better and seek justification for it elsewhere. 

However, I cannot evaluate the treatise of the crime of murder according to the U.S. judicial system as originally derived from our Constitution.  It is not because I am not a human and the rights do not pertain to me.  It is not because I do not approve of the Constitution.  It is because I am a sinner that I must evaluate it in light of Scripture.  Sitting in a courtroom and listening to lawyers, prosecutors and the judge himself discussing the issue of a particular murder as if Scripture does not apply caused turmoil in my spirit.  It was an exclamation to me that we live in a fallen world. 

Consider the first murder that took place in the history of mankind.  It was nothing like a CSI episode that we watch on television today.  There was not a plethora of cameras and media surrounding the alleged defendant.  There was not a prosecutor or a lawyer involved.  Although, there was a judge.  It is a story of two brothers, named Cain and Abel.  One was a tiller of the ground and the other was a keeper of sheep.  I suppose that both of them worked very hard throughout each day given them by God.  The issue between the two was that God accepted Abel’s offering but not the offering of Cain (Genesis 4:4-5).  The Scriptures describe Cain as being angry because of this.  “So the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry?’  And why has your countenance fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.  And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it. [v. 6, 7]” The very next verse states that Cain talked with his brother and it came to pass that Cain rose up against his brother and killed him [v.8]. 

Even though this was the first murder that took place in the history of creation, there was certainly no surprise to God that it happened [in His absolute Sovereignty and decree].  Since the murder of Abel was decreed to happen, the purpose of it was not to declare Cain as the most evil person on earth, so far.  Although, he was evil and the murder was declared to be a sinful and evil act.  God did curse Cain from the earth and declared him to be a fugitive and vagabond for the rest of his days [v. 11, 12].  I believe the first murder serves for at least two purposes in which I will elaborate upon for the rest of this exposition.

1.)  It was to publicly demonstrate man’s fallen sin nature and the repercussions of human depravity in being separated from perfect fellowship with God.  “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of the heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5).”  It is to remind us of our fallen condition and our desperate need for grace and a savior.

 2.)  That although murder was clearly not common prior to the first murder happening, the root cause of it was.  The Scriptures did not simply say, “Cain will murder his brother soon because his offerings are not being accepted by God.”  Nor did it say, “Murder will soon be a vengeful act of mankind as demonstrated by Cain on his brother Abel.”  But, God Himself asked Cain, “Why are you angry [v.6]?”  He immediately followed up with, “And why has your countenance fallen [v.6]?”  God defined the terms of Cain’s murder as derived from anger or hatred that was already in his heart and mind.

In evaluating the Scriptures regarding human nature, everything that was in man had instantly changed the moment of the fall.  “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.  She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”  Genesis 3:6 It is eternally imperative that we understand what the fall means for man.  It is not a hopeful condition that was made a little less hopeful by simply eating of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  It was not just that perfect fellowship and communion with our Creator was slightly thwarted by our disobedience.  Most certainly, it is not perfection that was made a little less perfect.  In other words, according to the description of man’s fallen condition in Holy Scripture, we are not basically good with a slightly evil bent.  In fact, after the fall, we are described as completely dead in sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1).  Therefore, we are so thoroughly evil and sin has so penetrated  the core of our souls and conscience, it is indeed impossible for man to do any good at all until God enables him to do so through the new birth and the granting of the Holy Spirit through grace, which gives life (Ephesians 2:5).  We are dead.  To clarify, prior to man’s salvation, he only does pure evil and sins in thought and deed pervasively. 

Pervasive sin is relatively defined as the doctrine of total depravity or radical depravity.   Only those who are born-again by the Grace of God have any conception whatsoever of the evil and indwelling sin that has corrupted the soul of every human being as a result of the fall.  The doctrine of total depravity as defined in the Doctrines of Grace in “Calvinist” or “Reformed” Theology is one that is generally completely embraced or completely rejected by Christians and specifically professing Calvinists.  In fact, many respected preachers and teachers of this doctrine will say that the other four parts of the acronym, “T.U.L.I.P,” otherwise known as the Doctrines of Grace hang on what is believed about total depravity.  It is a doctrine that the world knows nothing of because they do not know the perfect holiness of God.  Neither do they know the utter evil that dwells within them at any given moment.    If man claims to be basically good, then he believes that he has moral power within himself to respond to God. 

Consider the apostle Paul, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.  For what I am doing, I do not understand.  For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.  If then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.  For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.  Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.”  (Romans 7:14-20) I merely mention the doctrine of depravity and Romans 7 (among others) to establish a guideline of what is historically reflected in the human flesh since the fall.  Paul speaks of two laws that are warring within his soul.  As one who is a believer in Christ and justified by grace, it is the Holy Spirit that wills him to do good and to obey God’s commands, for they are not burdensome.  The other law that wars within him and all sinners is the doctrine of indwelling sin.  He follows up with, “O wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me form this body of death? [v. 24]” Because of the dichotomy of the two laws, Paul acknowledges both as a perpetual reality within his soul, and that he also is depraved.

In the Old Testament law, anyone who committed any form of murder was put to death: 

“He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.”  Exodus 21:12

“But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by   treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die [v. 14].”

“He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death. [v.16]”

“And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death [v.17]

If a man were to strike another man so that he dies, the law states that that person should also be put to death.  There were no questions asked because that was the law.  No one could rise against the law and attempt to prevail over it or prove innocence.  If you murdered someone, you were put to death.  Since God made the law in His sovereign decree, infinite wisdom and omnipotence, then He is clearly witness to all public acts of sin as well as those that dwell within each of our wicked hearts.  He is, after all, the creator of all things.  Although each man may be out for himself and try to cover his sin any way he can, as David did, God Himself is the one who judges in perfect righteousness and holiness according to the law of our public sin and indwelling sin in the depths of our hearts. 

Although public acts of murder in the OT were immediately judged by putting the transgressor to death, that did not in any way negate from the judgment of indwelling “premeditations” (Exodus 21:14) of anger, envy or hatred (among all other secret acts of sin) after death [Romans 2:16, Hebrews 9:27].  It is clear by these particular judgments that murder is merely the full growth or the “birthing of sin” that James speaks of regarding the indwelling sin of someone being fully led astray and enticed by his own desires (James 1:14-15).  In the case of public murder, it is the full voracity or complete sinful demonstration and enactment of selfish and vengeful hatred.

Lastly, Jesus Christ himself divulges by ascertaining the law and proving with his very words in the flesh that murder [among other sins] begins in the heart.  “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, but whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.  And whoever says to his brother, ‘Racai!’ shall be in danger of the council.  But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.’”  Matthew 5:21-22 

Jesus did not only claim guilt by one committing the public act of murder.  He already declared that judgment by those who committed such acts in the law of old.  Because of our depravity, the vile nature of a sinner has a complete perversion of what love is.  Due to the effects of sin and the ruling of Satan in the hearts of men apart from grace, hatred dwells within each soul as naturally as each man is born from woman.  Much of the time, we are so consumed with our own self-righteous acts of supposed obedience to the law or Jesus Christ, they we are not even aware of the thoughts and intentions that are already upwelling within our soul to emit to the world at the slightest spark that nears the wick of the dynamite of our indwelling sin.  We haven’t an idea what we could be without the restraining hand or (common) grace of God himself preventing us from causing a public uproar of sin the first moment we are feasibly able to.  Therefore, even John the apostle boldly proclaims regarding the professed love of a believer that, “he who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15).  The extreme example is merely a differential statement between a believer and unbeliever. 

One who has not been rescued by the grace of God and blood of Jesus Christ has no idea of the hatred he is capable of and therefore hates as he pleases, giving birth to culpable murderous thoughts.  However, one who has regenerate knowledge of grace and the glory of Christ is enabled by the Holy Spirit to recognize the eternal deliverance from the complete dominion of indwelling sin and death itself.  Spiritual warfare has raged within in his faculties in the recognition of upwelling wickedness that will always attempt to overthrow the mind, body and soul and pervert the glory of God in the flesh.  Hence, only the believer knows the true heinousness of a fallen and sinful heart apart from grace.  He knows what he was delivered from.  He knows what he is saved unto.  And until he passes from this life to glorification, he knows that he and any given fallen heart is capable of the perfect murder.

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2 Responses to “The Perfect Murder”

  1. Todd Thomsen Says:

    A.J., thank you for this well written article, thank you!

  2. […] Reformed Meditations: The Perfect Murder  […]

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