Commentary: Making a biblical case for capital punishment

Capital punishment (the death penalty) is very definitely Biblically mandated and should be enforced.

Putting aside for the moment whether or not capital punishment is a deterrent to violent crime (which it would be if it were consistently administered more quickly and expeditiously than the typical 10 to 15 years it takes to wade through all the circuitous appeals procedures and bureaucratic nonsense prior to finally fulfilling an execution) and also whether or not it is economically feasible (which it would be if we switched from lethal injection to another simpler method — e.g. hanging, firing squad, or perhaps a mixed-martial artist to simply choke them out; any one of which would cost pennies on the dollar and be much more efficient), as a pastor, I will focus on presenting the Biblical and Scriptural evidence how when a nation (country, state, etc.) refuses to carry out the death penalty, it is displeasing to God, dishonoring to His word, and even defiling to the land itself. “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).
“Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” (Genesis 9:6) “Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.” (Numbers 35:31).

International Bible expert Dr. Ron Rhodes, in his book “The Complete Book of Bible Answers” (copyright 1997 by Harvest House Publishers), likewise affirms capital punishment thusly, “Certainly the death penalty was incorporated into the Mosaic code (see Exodus 21:12; Numbers 35:16-31). And in Romans 13:1-7, the apostle Paul taught that human government has a God-given right to use force in its resistance of evil. Romans 13:4 indicates that the government has the right to take the life of a criminal.

Now, it is true that one of the Ten Commandments says we are not to murder (Exodus 20:13). However, murder by a citizen and execution by the government are viewed as two different things in Scripture. One is a premeditated crime; the other is a deserved punishment. And since government is set up by God (Romans 13:1-7), it would seem that capital punishment may be viewed as the enacting of divine judgment through the instrumentality of the government.”

Biblically speaking, it would be proper to extend the context of crimes meriting capital punishment to include more than those found guilty of murder; for example, those criminals involved with crimes against children are excellent candidates for the death penalty. Jesus Christ affirms, “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:5-6)

But what about “turning the other cheek?” That is an admonition on how to respond to a personal insult or slander between individuals, not an instruction for a nation or government dealing with crime. Look it up! The Apostle Paul submitted to capital punishment (“For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die …” Acts 25:11a), as did Jesus Christ Himself.

And for those readers of the liberal persuasion who are of the “Hug-a-Thug” mentality and philosophy who believe in coddling criminals and justifying and encouraging their behavior instead of punishing it, let it be noted that the Eighth Amendment prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment” is to stop torture, not hinder any chosen methodology of capital punishment; the founders and framers were in favor of capital punishment — look it up. It is also readily seen in the Mosaic criminal justice model the emphasis is on punitive, and not rehabilitative, actions.

Full disclosure: I served as a correctional officer, and was personal witness to the large amount of resources invested in the purported rehabilitation of unrepentant offenders, and to the inefficacy of this investment both in short- and long-term applications (no reduction in recidivism). A nationwide return to the Mosaic model would save lots of time and money.

Capital punishment is very definitely Biblical; its appearance can be seen before the Old Testament Law, under the Law, and even under Grace (New Testament), and woe to the state, country, or nation which abolishes its practice! “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” (Psalm 9:17)

The Rev. Cameron Swain is pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Lewes.

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