Monday, July 22, 2013
The hermeneutical justification for the wider implications of the fifth commandment
Note: In our Sunday afternoon services at CRBC we are continuing to work our way through Spurgeon's revised version of the Baptist Catechism. I have devoted the last three messages in the series to the catechism's instruction on the wider implications of the fifth commandment (first in the so-called "second table" of the law and, therefore, first in treating man's relation to his fellow man) and have at least one (and possibly two) more messages to go before moving on to the sixth commandment. The Fathers who prepared the catechism note that the applications flowing from the underlying principles of the fifth commandment go beyond merely the duty of children to honor parents but requires, "the preserving the honour, and performing the duties belonging to every one in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals." As Thomas Vincent points out in his study of the Shorter Catechism, this commandment addresses proper relations between children and parents, wives and husbands, servants and masters, citizens and magistrates, churches and ministers, etc. Here are some notes I shared in the second message in the series offering a brief hermeneutical justification for these wider applications.
Before going forward I want first to address a question of hermeneutics or the proper interpretation and application of Scripture. Some of us were discussing the approach of our Puritan and Particular Baptist fathers reflected in this catechism in their interpretation and expansion of this commandment in particular. Did they go beyond what is written to say that the fifth commandment addresses not only children honoring parents but also other human relationships?
I want to argue that this approach is appropriate for the following two Biblical reasons:
First: It follows the example of how Jesus interpreted the Ten Commandments in the Sermon on the Mount (see the so-called antitheses of Matthew 5:21, 28 where Jesus says that the prohibition against murder also includes in principle a prohibition against unjust anger and the prohibition against adultery also includes a prohibition against lust).
Second: It follows the example of how Paul applied the fifth commandment in the household code of Ephesians 6:1-4 [cf. Colossians 3:20-21]. Note especially how Paul's citation of the fifth commandment in Ephesians 6:2-3 appears literally at the very conceptual center of the Ephesian household code:
A. Wives and husbands (Eph 5:22-33)
B. Children (6:1)
C. Citation of the fifth commandment (6:2-3)
B' Fathers (6:4)
A' Servants and masters (6:5-9)
And for the following logical reason:
If the Ten Commandments are the summation of the moral law of God, then we should be able to trace the root of any moral law to at least one of the Ten Commandments. One cannot say, for example, the Bible does not forbid bank robbery explicitly, so bank robbery must be OK. No, the prohibition against bank robbery is included in the eighth commandment, Thou shalt not steal.
There is, of course, a caution here. The applications we draw from the principles underlying the Ten Commandments must be logically and Biblically consistent.