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Sermon Outlines - Topical Sermons - Capital Punishment


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                          "CAPITAL PUNISHMENT"


INTRODUCTION

1. Whenever an execution is imminent, questions are often raised...
   a. Should capital punishment be acceptable in a civilized society?
   b. Is it morally right for a government to administer capital
      punishment?
   c. What is the purpose behind capital punishment, and is it
      accomplished?

2. How do we find the answers to such questions?
   a. We could turn to various sources, and receive conflicting answers
   b. For Christians who believe the Word of God to be complete and
      all-sufficient (2 Ti 3:16-17; 2 Pe 1:3), we must look to it for
      the answers

[In this study, we shall endeavor to glean from the Bible what it has
to say on the subject.  Turning to the book of Genesis, the book of 
beginnings, we read of...]

I. THE BEGINNING OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

   A. BEFORE THE FLOOD...
      1. Cain received protection from God against capital punishment 
         - Gen 4:13-15
      2. Lamech, descendant of Cain, presumed even more protection
         against capital punishment after killing a young man - Gen 4:
         23-24
      3. By the time of Noah, mention is made of the corruption and
         violence which had filled the earth - Gen 6:11-12 (might this
         be the consequence of a society without capital punishment?)
      4. God's solution for the wholesale corruption and violence:  
         capital punishment on a mass scale! (i.e., the flood) - Gen 
         6:13

   B. AFTER THE FLOOD...
      1. Man is immediately given an awesome responsibility - Gen 9:5-6
         a. God now requires a reckoning from those who kill
         b. He now requires a killer to be killed by his fellow man
      2. The reason God requires this of man:  "For in the image of God
         He made man"
         a. To kill one created in God's image is a serious offense 
            worthy of death!
         b. Because man is created in God's image:
            1) He possesses the ability to exercise justice and 
               righteousness
            2) He is capable of being a worthy administrator of capital
               punishment

[While the evidence is scarce, it appears that before the flood people
took God's word to Cain as a license to kill without consequence.  With
the flood, God Himself administered a form of capital punishment upon
the violent and corrupt.  After the flood, He charged man with the
responsibility to take the life of those who shed blood.

Now let's take a look at...]

II. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT UNDER THE OLD COVENANT

   A. GOD GAVE THE LAW TO GOVERN THE NATION OF ISRAEL...
      1. The Law was both a civil and religious law, and has served as
         the basis for criminal justice in many other civilizations
         since first given by God
      2. In it, we find that capital punishment was proscribed for the
         following crimes:
         a. Premeditated murder - Exo 21:12-14
         b. Parental abuse - Exo 21:15
         c. Kidnapping - Exo 21:16
         d. Cursing parents - Exo 21:17
         e. Striking an expecting mother which causes the child to be 
            born prematurely and dies - Exo 21:22-25
         f. Failure to keep a killer animal from killing - Exo 21:28-29
         g. Killing a thief in revenge - Exo 22:2,3
         h. Sorcery - Exo 22:18
         i. Bestiality - Exo 22:19
         j. Adultery - Lev 20:10
         k. Incest - Lev 20:11-12
         l. Homosexuality - Lev 20:13
         m. Marrying both mother and daughter - Lev 20:14
         n. Being a medium or spiritist - Lev 20:27
         o. Breaking the Sabbath - Num 15:32-36

   B. WAS THE LAW A GOOD LAW?
      1. Paul said that it was "holy and just and good" - Ro 7:12
      2. While the religious aspects of the Law was temporary (Ga 3:23-
         25), the civil law served its purpose well:  to govern and
         preserve a nation
      3. Who would be so presumptuous to say they could improve upon
         such a civil code of ethics?
         a. Many have arrogantly presumed they could do better
         b. And countries have gotten worse, not better!

[Certainly under the Old Covenant capital punishment was ordained of 
God.  But we live under the New Testament, not the Old;  what does the
New Testament say?]

III. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

   A. THE PURPOSE OF THE NEW COVENANT...
      1. Unlike the Old Covenant, the New Covenant is not designed to
         govern or regulate civil governments
         a. It is designed for those in Christ's kingdom, which is 
            spiritual in nature - Jn 18:36
         b. Its purpose is to help man achieving and maintaining a 
            right relationship with God
         c. So for the most part, it does not concern itself with 
            telling men of the world how to regulate their civil 
            affairs
      2. But in defining our relationship to civil authorities while
         subject to a Higher Law, there are references which reveal 
         God's attitude toward capital punishment

   B. REFERENCES TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT...
      1. Take a look at Ro 13:1-7
         a. Governmental authorities are established by God
         b. They serve as ministers of God, as "an avenger to execute
             wrath on him who practices evil"
         c. When a government fulfills its responsibility upon those
            who are evil...
            1) It "does not bear the sword in vain"
            2) This is a clear allusion to the administration of 
               capital punishment!
         -- Thus the NT supports the government's right to exercise the
            death penalty!
      2. Consider what Paul said in Ac 25:11
         a. He was willing to die if he "committed anything worthy of
            death"
         b. A clear implication that in Paul's mind some crimes were 
            worthy of death!

[While the New Testament is focused upon the responsibilities of
disciples of Jesus in His spiritual kingdom, there is certainly no
indication that it is wrong for government to administer capital 
punishment when necessary.  The principle established in Gen 9:5-6,
given to all of mankind before the Old Covenant, remains a 
responsibility placed upon the governments of men!

But what about objections commonly raised whenever the issue is 
discussed?]

IV. COMMON OBJECTIONS TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

   A. THE BIBLE SAYS "THOU SHALT NOT KILL"!
      1. The word "kill" is best translated "murder"
         a. Cf. Exo 20:13 (NKJV, NASV, NIV)
         b. This command forbids killing with malice and premeditation
      2. In the next two chapters, God prescribes the death penalty for
         nine different crimes! - e.g., Exo 21:12-17
      -- The command not to murder is directed toward individuals; one
         must ignore the context and twist the Scriptures to apply it
         to the issue of capital punishment!

   B. THE BIBLE SAYS THAT GOD HAS NO PLEASURE IN THE DEATH OF THE 
      WICKED!
      1. It is true that God says He has no pleasure in the death of
         the wicked - Ezek 18:32
      2. But consider the context of this statement:
         a. The soul that sins shall die; one shall not bear the 
            iniquity of another - Ezek 18:4
         b. Certain sins makes one worthy of death - Ezek 18:10-13
         c. God encourages the wicked to repent and do what is right 
            - Ezek 18:21-23
         d. But even the righteous person who begins to do wickedness
            shall die if they do not repent! - Ezek 18:24
         -- The whole thrust of the passage is this:  repent before it
            is too late; God may have no pleasure in the death of the
            wicked, but that doesn't prevent Him from carrying it out!
            (cf. God's death penalty on 24,000 in the plains of Moab 
            - Num 25:1-13)

   C. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT DOESN'T WORK, IT DOESN'T DETER CRIME!
      1. This is true to a certain extent, when it is not carried out
         quickly - cf. Ecc 8:11
         a. But it does prevent the person executed from ever killing
            again!
         b. Its ineffectiveness in preventing crime by others is an
            argument against our system of administering capital 
            punishment, not the idea of the death penalty itself
      2. "Determent" is not the only purpose, there is also the issue
         of "justice"
         a. Justice demands that the punishment fits the crime
         b. As God explained when He proscribed the need for capital
            punishment: "For in the image of God He made man" - Gen 9:6
         c. Some crimes are so heinous, any punishment less than death
            is not justice!

   D. INNOCENT PEOPLE ARE SOMETIMES PUT TO DEATH!
      1. This can happen...
         a. But again this an argument that pertains to a system in
            which capital punishment is administered
         b. It not an argument against the idea of capital punishment
            itself
      2. In the Old Testament...
         a. Capital punishment could not be applied unless the crime
            was seen by two or more witnesses - cf. Deu 17:6
         b. If a single witness made an accusation that proved false,
            it could fall back on him! - cf. Deu 19:15-21
      3. Personally, I prefer to seeing the death penalty limited to
         certain cases...
         a. In which there are two or more eyewitnesses, and there is
            no doubt
         b. Where the conviction is not dependent upon laboratory 
            evidence
         -- Where there are no eyewitnesses, then perhaps the maximum
            penalty should be life in prison (in case the laboratory
            evidence is later proved faulty)

CONCLUSION

1. Does God approve of capital punishment?  We have seen...
   a. That God gave mankind the responsibility of carrying it out after
      the flood
   b. God's own illustration of justice in the government He gave to
      Israel
   c. How Christians today are to acknowledge the right and 
      responsibility given by God to governments to be His ministers in
      avenging wrath on the evildoers

2. Certainly any civilized nation abhors violence and bloodshed; but
   civilization cannot exist...
   a. With violence and corruption running rampant
   b. When government fails to administer justice with punishment that
      fits the crime

3. How does God view governments that fail to carry out their
   responsibility to execute wrath to the evildoer?
   a. As with anything that takes away justice: woe! - Isa 5:20-23
   b. As with anyone who fails to fulfill their responsibility: cursed!
      - Jer 48:10

Many may refuse to accept what the Bible has to say about capital
punishment.  But let those who profess to be Christians and accept the
Bible as inspired acknowledge that capital punishment is ordained of
God!
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