Capital Punishment: What is Your Decision?

By Mark Dove, May 7, 2010 9:07 am

We periodically add a post that was originally  published elsewhere. We do this because we are hopeful they will be of interest or beneficial to many. The following article was a past CLASS Essay Competition winner.

Joel Morris
Grade 11
2002 Essay Competition
$300 Grand Prize Winner

Capital Punishment: What is Your Decision?

When each of us hears the words “capital punishment” or “death penalty,” we have an immediate reaction. Either we respond by not understanding how anyone could support such an inhumane, heinous act; or else we wish people would realize it is a method of punishment necessary for establishing justice in our society. There really is little gray area; most everyone has made their decision on this issue. I would simply like to present facts so that everyone might make a soundly based decision in light of God’s Word.

There is right and there is wrong; God is unchanging. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). We need to turn to the Bible in founding our beliefs. With this in mind, let us examine just what the Bible does say on the topic.

“Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man” (Genesis 9:6). God is loving, but He is also just. Stoning major criminals was a fairly common practice under the law which God gave to the Israelites. In numerous instances, God Himself took aggressive action to kill those who sinned against Him. He caused the ground to swallow up people; He caused massive plagues to break out. Serious crimes deserve serious penalties. The Bible warns us, “Because there is wrath, beware lest He take you away with one blow; for a large ransom would not help you avoid it” (Job 36:18).

Some say that those ‘primitive’ ways were done away with when Christ died and rose again. They say we live under grace rather that under the law. They argue that Christ stated:

You heard that is was said, “‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say unto you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:38).

This verse, however, is referring to forgiveness; it is not telling us to do away with punishment. Christ also said He did not come “to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). Christ only brought clarity to the Old Testament; He did not attempt to replace its framework. To do so would have been to undo His own work. Punishment must still be made to wrongs done, just as it was in the days of the Hebrews.

We find case after case where God severely disciplined those He loved, such as great men like David and Moses. When David sinned with Bathsheba and killed Uriah, he repented and God forgave him; but God still punished him by allowing his son to die. When Moses struck the rock in defiance of God’s command, God refused to allow Moses into the Promised Land. God kept Moses out of Canaan so that He could dissuade Israel from rebelling against Him in the future. If we do not give proper punishment for murder, how do we hope to deter future criminals from doing the same thing? We can not. Punishment must be just and swift. “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong” (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

In following biblical law, we need to have just methods of punishment, as the Israelites did. When someone commits murder, they deserve to receive the ultimate punishment that can be administered. We know from studying God’s Word that all spiritual truths have counterparts in the physical world. In our case as human beings, God’s law requires that the penalty of sin be death, meaning eternal separation from God. Thankfully, we are spared from this penalty if we accept His free gift of salvation. If spiritual crime (sin) is punishable by the ultimate spiritual punishment, then there needs to be an equally strong physical punishment for the most severe physical crimes. Spiritual death is the ultimate penalty God can administer, and He does administer it. Likewise, physical death is the strongest penalty we can administer, and it is our God-given duty to do so when circumstances make it appropriate.

The world is quickly moving towards eradicating the death penalty; people are crying out against ‘inhumane’ treatment. As Christians, we must not be torn apart by the world’s view of what is supposedly humane and what is not. True, we are to support life, but a murderer has violated the right to life of another human being. Thus, they do not deserve any better treatment than they have shown to their fellow man. A criminal has made a conscious decision to disregard life and needs to be punished in accordance with the weight of the offense.

Using life-long imprisonment is not a biblical replacement for the death penalty. “Do not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer, who deserves to die. He must surely be put death” (Numbers 35:31). In addition, there are practical reasons to disregard so-called alternatives. Life-long imprisonment essentially strips the criminal of his life, since he must spend it behind prison bars. In the meantime, the government is spending excessive amounts of our tax money to keep him alive. Furthermore, some criminals get out of their life sentence due to bureaucratic red-tape or because of the ‘good behavior.’ People convicted of murder are walking our streets today, endangering all law-abiding citizens. Thus, refusing to administer the death penalty penalizes honest citizens and aids felons in avoiding just punishment.

We must remember Who holds the keys to life and death in His hands. Our money in the United States carries the declaration “In God We Trust.” If this is really true, then His higher standards are the ones we should strive for. Our only hope of a moral society is one in which His perfect laws are implemented.

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One Response to “Capital Punishment: What is Your Decision?”

  1. KMPrice says:

    Well said Joel. I should like to add a bit to your thesis by commenting on the passage in Genesis you brought to our attention, and then to quote some New Testament scripture to support your position.
    First, in Genesis chapter nine, it plainly states that God has given man the sacred duty of execution for the crime of murder because “in the image of God, made He man.” Man is made in the image of God, so that makes murder an indirect assult on God. He takes it personally and commands that the perpetrator be executed. It is His vengence, not mans’. We should take no delight in it. Also, it deters crime since the dead man cannot kill again, and parents will more likely raise their children in the fear of God, to avoid such an end for their own offspring. But THAT IS NOT THE INTENT OF THE LAW. It is to punish, not deter crime.
    Second, two writers of the New Testament also agree with you. They are the apostles Paul and John. Paul was being accused by the Jewish leaders before Festus and said in Acts 25:11, “If then I am a wrong-doer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I refuse not to die; but if none of those things is true whereof these accuse me, no man can give me up unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.” Taken from the ASV. Paul admits that there are crimes worthy of death.
    Next, John in his first epistle; 1 John 5:16 If any man see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and God will give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: not concerning this do I say that he should make request. Taken from the ASV. The beloved Apostle John says there is sin unto death.
    Stand firm Joel, you’re in good company.


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