What I want to discuss is the Christian perspective on capital punishment. What does the Bible say about administering the death penalty and more so why a murderer is deserving of such a punishment? I don’t wish to get into the “is capital punishment right or wrong debate” because the Bible is so explicit on the issue that I would be guilty of lacking faith in the infallibility and sufficiency of scripture by entertaining the idea without provocation. In other words, if you think the death penalty is wrong and you’re a Christian, take that up with God. I don’t see any way around it without hermeneutical gymnastics being employed and given that I’m 6’6” and can barely touch my shins, I’m in no position to join you.
Genesis 9:6Whoever sheds man’s blood,By man his blood shall be shed,For in the image of God He made man.
Numbers 35:30If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death at the evidence of two witnesses, but no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness.
The protesting Christian must now prove to me that those verses don’t mean what they say. See how easy that was?
But the point isn't to prove that capital punishment is perfectly within the Christian parameters, the point is to investigate why it is.
Doesn't the taking of a life as a response to murder seem hypocritical? How can I say murder is wrong when I fully support men being killed as punishment for their crimes? Because the person being put to death is a convicted murderer. That’s why I fully support it. You get it? They killed someone intentionally. They are not innocent of murder, they are guilty of murder. For the life of me I will never ever understand how people can decry capital punishment as an injustice. Capital punishment, as carried out by the government, sees a man tried for his crime and brought before a jury of his peers while evidence is weighed and arguments are delivered. He has a professional arguer and expert on law as his advocate. Additionally, a murderer in the USA knows that he can be put to death for killing a person. The choice to be executed by the state is a choice he makes when he chooses to kill.
The tragedy in these situations is not that a man guilty of killing a person is put to death it’s that he is put to death and then, most likely, sent straight to hell for all of eternity. And the tragedy isn’t that hell exists, it’s that he, by rejecting Christ for his entire life, chose to go there.
So shouldn’t we abandon the death penalty so men can have a longer time on Earth to be saved? No. Because of my high view of the sovereignty of God and a high view of Scripture I have to take the stance that justice must be swift and fully trust that God will save that man before he’s executed if it is God’s will to do so.
What then is the point of the death penalty? Prisoners for less heinous crimes are hopefully rehabilitated and end up as better men after their time served but those whom are executed aren’t released back into the public, so rehabilitation is not the purpose of the death penalty. Is the purpose to deter future men from committing murder? That might be a secondary effect and something that is ostensibly true but my understanding of the texts dealing with this topic don’t seem to indicate that as a prevailing motivation. Why the death penalty then? If it’s not intended to rehabilitate or deter, then why? Justice. It is because our God is just.
God says a man who sheds another man’s blood will have his blood shed by man as a due punishment for his crimes. Is that unfair? Not at all. It’s not unfair because: A-God said it and B-it makes perfect sense.
A quick survey of the Old Testament reveals to us that God did, however, show mercy on men deserving of death. God is merciful. God is just. He can withhold his wrath as He sees fit. Look at this passage and I think it will help you understand the way God views us, as humans in His image.
Exodus 21: 28,29If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall surely be stoned and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall go unpunished. If, however, an ox was previously in the habit of goring and its owner has been warned, yet he does not confine it and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death.
An ox, a dumb beast of an animal, kills a person and the ox is put to death. Why? The ox doesn’t know any better. It’s just a stupid animal. This doesn’t train other oxen to not kill humans. This is simply about justice and preserving the sanctity of human life.
Man is created in God’s image. That is why He takes it so seriously when we make light of that fact. Murder is a reproach on God’s holy name and a defilement of what He intended. Capital punishment is entirely just because God explicitly said so.