What Scripture Says About the Death Penalty


Some of you may have missed this in the comments section of yesterday’s entry on the Bryan Martin murder trial. In case you did, here it is again.

BY: Jason Glenn of Upton, KY, formerly of Slapout, AL and several points in between.

Before I begin, for the sake of full disclosure, consider these points before considering my position.
1. Dale is my brother, and I’m proud of his convictions.
2. Thad is my uncle, and I’m reluctantly admitting that I occasionally read his blog.
3. I am a bleeding-heart conservative, Gospel-preaching preacher, who loves the Bible (both Testaments), God, and the Son of God – my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Now, here’s my position on capital punishment, based on the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul, both of whom made news in the New Testament.

Jesus issued a fairly radical call to civil obedience in Matthew 22:21. The immediate context of this teaching was related to taxes, but the general point is that it is right to give the government what is due the government.
Years later, when Paul wrote to the church in Rome, he used this same idea to address the role of government in the sovereign plan of God. All of chapter 13 should be required reading, but here I’ll just ask you to read verse 4.
The government of the State of Alabama is a servant of God and it has been granted the authority to use the “sword” to punish those who commit the most heinous crimes. You don’t spank of fine people with a sword, you put people to death with the sword. The sword is a symbol of death, and God has ordained civil government to bear the sword to issue final punishment by putting evil-doers to death.

Part of the ministry of God in government for the good of man is to make evil-doers fear the sword. Let the condemned have their appeals and due process, but at the end of the day, society is served greatly when the government serves God as the avenger (not revenger)of those who have been wronged.

As unpleasant as it may seem, the use of the sword serves as one of the foundations of a safe, civilized society where human life is sanctified.
Paul believed what he wrote. There was a time in his life when he was brought before the governor to defend himself against criminal accusations. In Acts 25:11, Paul was “walking the walk” as we would say. He acknowledged that the government had the right to put him to death if he in fact had committed a capital offense (he had not). This is not a strange position for a Christian to take. I have read many accounts of condemned prisoners coming to a relationship with Jesus Christ, and acknowledging the justice in their death sentence. One popular account is found in Luke 23:39-43.

And back to Christ, we can find an instance where He affirmed the right of the government to use the sword. When Jesus was arrested, Matthew 26:51-52 records that Peter took out his sword and cut off the ear of one of the guys who had come to take Jesus. The Lord admonished Peter to put his sword away, saying, “All who take up the sword will perish by the sword.” Jesus was telling Peter that if he took a life, he would be put to death, because that was the law. Jesus was affirming the right of the government to use the sword, and warning Peter against being a vigilante.
As to “anonymous’s” assertion that God’s will was done, who is to say. I wouldn’t pretend to know the mind of God on this exact case or the hearts of those who earnestly prayed for His perfect will to be done. Sometimes people pray amiss, sometimes they get it right. I don’t know what God has for Calvin McMillan, but I pray it is salvation.

But this I do know, and it’s not just “Old Testament news,” I do know that God still uses the government to put evil-doers to death and I am thankful that He does.

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2 thoughts on “What Scripture Says About the Death Penalty

  1. Thanks Jason. Who by the way is Dale's brother, Thad's nephew and at one time a dang good 3rd baseman. But back to the topic. I am so glad you quoted that scripture. I struggled for a while about how can I serve God and others being a law enforcedment officer. I really didn't see my job as a ministry. It was sometime a little rough and tumble and most of the time it kept me from church. But, after finding Romans 13:1-5 I began to see things a little differently. That combined with being able to be there and care for some of my best friends in a behind the scenes sort of way I realized I was serving God right were I was. Those verses really mean alot to me. I used to have them on my desk at work. Thanks for your insight.

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