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The Church and the Death Penalty

Updated on March 2, 2019
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Dr. David Thiessen is an educator, writer, pastor, and speaker. He has authored several books on a variety of topics including Archaeology

It seems somewhat illogical to say, “You have violated God’s commandment ‘thou shalt not kill’, so therefore I will kill you. Unfortunately, that is the philosophy of a dwindling number but still a majority of Americans- pg. 80

Yes, it may seem illogical, but that is only if you do not differentiate between the words ‘kill’ and ‘punishment’. Most scholars tend to agree that the word in the commandment refers to murder only and does not cover the death penalty.

The reason it doesn’t cover the death penalty is that that act is an act of punishment and not an act of murder. There is a difference between the two.

God Instituted the Death Penalty

The death penalty did not come into existence on its own nor by the will of man. God brought the death penalty into existence because he vales human life very highly and that man was made in the image of God. He states in Genesis 9 tells us this.

Throughout the Pentateuch God laid down the law concerning murdering someone. Exodus 21:12-17, Numbers 35:16-17, Deut. 19:11-12, 27:24 and more all speak on the penalty for murder.

God also has set rules on how a person should be given the death penalty. Numbers 35:30-32 makes sure that a person is not railroaded by one witness and that bribery has not been paid to ensure the person is put to death.

The death penalty is not to be given arbitrarily or because someone does not like the person. In the book of Acts and Romans, the death penalty is spoken of and if it is the law of the land, then the people must obey that law.

The Death Penalty Offense Does Not Rule Out Mercy

Both David and Moses committed murder in their lives. One was an Egyptian prince at the time and the other the King of Israel yet neither faced the death penalty for their crimes.

The Bible says that God will have mercy on those he chooses to have mercy. Also, Micah 6:8-9 tells us that people are to love mercy. What these verses indicate is that there is hope for those offenders who committed the act of murder.

The judicial system cannot turn a blind eye and put every offender on the sae level. Instead, it must investigate to see if the offender is worthy of mercy an dif mercy will help bring the offender to repentance.

There are those offenders where granting mercy will do nothing but not every offender is in that category. There cannot be a blanket imposing of the death penalty nor can the judgment stop once the murder charge has been given.

Applying the death penalty is not to be taken lightly and the church must lead the way to the right way for it to be applied to different individuals.

Does Capital Punishment Work

There are many who claim that the death penalty is not a deterrent. They point to the ever growing crime rate as evidence that the death penalty is not working and that other forms of punishment are better.

Their claims are founded on a faulty look at the crime statistics. Just because there are laws on the books and harsh punishments on record doesn’t mean that crime will go away. There will always be those offenders who know what the punishment is and will still do the crime.

What cannot be seen or recorded are the number of people who have decided not to commit the crime. They are deterred fro committing murder because they do not want to be put to death themselves.

Using the crime statistics in this way only distort the issue and abuses those statistics.

The Church Must Lead The Way

Jesus said his church is the light unto the dark world. When he said those words, he did not put any restrictions o where that light shined. This means that the church is not excluded from leading the way to justice and shedding light on a dark judicial system.

The church is also charged with protecting the innocent but those innocent people are not limited t just the unborn babies, children or teenagers. That charge also applies to adults who have to committed a crime.

The church follows the God of justice and they have access t his definition of what justice is. If the church does not bring that information to the dark world, how will that world know what true justice is?

While the church is to obey the government, that call to obedience in Romans does not mean that the Church is free to disobey God and ignore injustice. As Peter said, the church is to obey God over man.

Implementing Obedience to God

To know how to implement the intent n Peter’s statement in the church’s life, believers must see that obeying the government when it does not call for disobedience against God is not wrong.

The government is not telling people to sin. But when the regulations, laws and instructions of the government lead people to disobey God and sin, then the church and the believer must stand with God and not follow the government’s edicts.

God must be obeyed above all. Sadly, too many church leaders have failed on this point and have allowed themselves and their congregations to sin.

Some Final Words

Instituting the death penalty is not wrong. For certain crimes it is needed and does help potential offenders to change their minds about committing a crime. God knows what he was doing when he instituted the capital punishment. He takes harm to his image seriously.

The church must side with God to help the dark world see what true justice is even when the death penalty is applied to a given offense. It is also up to the church to fight for the lives of the innocent regardless of age, color and even sexual preference.

© 2019 David Thiessen

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