Capital Punishment – Should Christians Support the Death Penalty?

The Commonly Misunderstood Verse

“Thou shalt not kill.”

Many people have misunderstood and misapplied the verse, “Thou shalt not kill.” They have taught this particular command means there should be no capital punishment and no soldiers under orders to fight in defense of their wives, children, and country. This is not at all the meaning of the Sixth Commandment. When God says, “Thou shalt not kill,” it reads in the Hebrew language, “Thou shalt not murder.”

God’s Word clearly teaches capital punishment: That deliberate, willful murderers should be put to death for their crimes as justice. In Romans 13:1-7, God commands us to be subject to the civil and governmental authority. He commands us to pay taxes and to obey the other laws of the land.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

You will notice in verse 4 He refers to armed officers who bear the sword. This is a weapon used to put people to death when the need arises. This indicates the death penalty must be applied for some crimes such as cold-blooded murder. Note also in this passage that government, law, and order are ordained of God.

Jesus Approved of Capital Punishment as Practiced in Israel

Jesus Himself indicates in Luke 13:1-5 that capital punishment was justly and properly applied in His day and time. He even used this to indicate that His listeners, though not guilty of criminal offenses against the law of the land, would perish if they did not repent of their sins against God. The Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, teaches capital punishment.

“And surely your blood of your lives will I require; … at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man” (Genesis 9:5-6).

“He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death” (Exodus 21:12).

“And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 21:16).

Numbers 35:16-18 tells us:

“…The murderer shall surely be put to death.” Also verses 19-21 enforce this.

Numbers 35:31 and 33 say:

“Moreoever ye shall take not satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.”

“So ye shall not pollute the land, herein 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.”

Jesus Preaches Love AND Justice

Yes, Jesus commands us to love our enemies. Rather than hurt others, He allowed others to hurt Him and crucify Him. Nevertheless, Revelation 19:11-16 teaches us when Jesus comes back to the earth the second time He will come to judge and make war. This same passage teaches us He will come with “the armies, which were in Heaven.” In verse 15, it tells us He will “smite the nations” and He will come to tread “the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.”

These passages show that God will send to Hell any person who neglects or rejects Jesus Christ, who tramples underfoot the blood of Christ, and who spurns the pardon, which God offers through Christ. They teach that God intends for human society to put to death paid killers, cold-blood killers, and murderers who kill in a fit of temper.

They also teach we should have armed policemen to protect our homes against those that would kill in hatred or rob, if the robber took an innocent person’s life in order to get his property. The same Scriptures teach God intends for us to have armed soldiers and military personnel to protect all the homes in our nations.

Thus, we can see from these verses that God intends that those who murder should be punished according to His Word and that would be by losing their own lives.

I still support capital punishment as a deterrent. I believe the Bible approves it. While Christ was on the central cross, between two-crucified criminals, He had the platform of the ages from which to condemn capital punishment. He did not.

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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