Divine Service ~ August 14, 2016 ~ The 13th Sunday after Pentecost (The 5th Commandment)
Luther distinguishes between spiritual and civil government and authority, which we commonly refer to as the doctrine of the two kingdoms. God takes care of us in the Church through the ministry of the Word and Sacraments, the Means of Grace. In our homes he cares for us through our parents. In the world, he cares for us by means of civil government. God gives to the civil government the authority to punish criminals and, when necessary, to execute them. The spiritual meaning of this commandment is that we are not to "kill" our neighbor in our hearts, with our thoughts, with our words, or with our hands. No one has the right, on his or her own authority, to murder another person. Only God may take a human life, and he entrusts this authority to civil rulers. So Christians can in good conscience wage war and punish and execute criminals under rightful government authority. Luther goes on to explain that we break the Fifth Commandment not only by acting against it, but also when we fail to protect our neighbor.
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