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
c. What is the purpose behind capital punishment, and is it
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
[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 PUNISHMENTA. 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:
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
6:13B. 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
2) He is capable of being a worthy administrator of capital
[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 COVENANTA. 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
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 15:32-36B. 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 TESTAMENTA. 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
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
-- Thus the NT supports the government's right to exercise the
2. Consider what Paul said in Ac 25:11
a. He was willing to die if he "committed anything worthy of
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
IV. COMMON OBJECTIONS TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENTA. 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
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
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
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
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
a. In which there are two or more eyewitnesses, and there is
b. Where the conviction is not dependent upon laboratory
-- Where there are no eyewitnesses, then perhaps the maximum
penalty should be life in prison (in case the laboratory
evidence is later proved faulty)
1. Does God approve of capital punishment? We have seen...
a. That God gave mankind the responsibility of carrying it out after
b. God's own illustration of justice in the government He gave to
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