I was recently visiting Dawn’s blog; she was in the middle of having a debate with Pizza Man about the death penalty. She asked me what my thoughts/beliefs on the death penalty are. Since my reply to her has gotten a bit too long to post into a comments box, I have decided to post it here. I hestitated to do so, since I tend to shy away from discussions on social issues, preferring instead to stick with Biblical and spiritual topics. Maybe, though, this information will be useful to others who are looking to find the Biblical position on this issue.
The death penalty is a God-ordained means of justice instituted well before the law was given to Moses.
“And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” Genesis 9:5,6 (God said this to Noah immediately after the flood.)
IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” Romans 13:1-4 Written by Paul to the Christians in Rome.
Here we are told of the government’s role and authority in the lives of Christians that we are also to respect as the ordinance of God. Notice the terminology such as bearing the sword and revenger to execute wrath. Yes, these terms could be symbolic of simply punishment, but if the government shouldn’t have the power to execute, maybe it should have said something like keeper of the bonds or something instead of bearer of the sword and revenger to execute wrath.
1) But the government is corrupt!
A: And you don’t think that the Roman government was as well? Are you forgetting about the persecution of the apostles and churches? Of course you’ll find corruption in the government. Corruption will always exist in systems where men are in control, ALWAYS.
2) I’m pro-life.
A: Yes, and so am I. For that matter, so is God Who instituted the death penalty. Death isn’t something that anyone prefers to use and certainly something that is not enjoyed, but is necessary. Don’t forget the part about the higher powers being a terror unto those who practice evil.
3) There are those who deserved death who did not get the death penalty. Like what about Cain, Moses, Paul, and David?
A: First and foremost let us not forget that God can forgive; God is the ultimate Judge, so it is God’s choice whom He will show mercy and a stay to. On a case by case basis: Cain – crime committed before the institution of the death penalty, but did not excape being punished by God. Moses – was a case of defending another man who was being beaten; this was a case of defense, not of murder. Paul – misguided zealousness, but acted with the permission of the leaders and within full accord of his civil law; not a murderer. David – repented for his actions and got a stay of execution from God, but did not by any means escape punishment, paying for his crimes by losing 4 children. (By some who are parents, it might be agreed that death would have been preferrable.)
4) I’ve done things to earn death from the Levitical law.
A: Our government hardly imposes the Levitical law. So bringing up the death penalty for matters like these is raising a moot point because our government never has and never will implement the Levitical law. If you have sinned against God by committing acts that He finds detestable or abominable, then repent so you can receive His mercy.
The next question I was asked was essentially, which offenses deserve the death penalty? Tricky question. I would say that Biblically the only crime which God seemed to demand blood for from both Gentile and Jew alike was murder. “So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.” Numbers 35:33
If I made the laws of the land, I’d also want that those who commit sex crimes to see the death penalty, especially those who violate children.
I’ll conclude at this point for now. If I get more points that need to be addressed, I may edit this post to include them.