Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Death Penalty

[The issue of the death penalty came up again in a recent conversation that I had, so I thought I'd post some reflections on this topic here.]

As mentioned on this blog before, in discussing the biblical basis for an assertion that human governments are required by God to execute the death penalty against murderers, the primary passage to which Christian thinkers turn is Genesis 9:5-6:

5 “Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man's brother I will require the life of man. 6 Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.” (NKJV)

[Read a more in-depth discussion of these verses HERE.]

If these were the only verses in which it seemed that God required a death penalty for murder, and if it seemed that God were consistently opposed to any death penalty in the rest of Scripture, then we may seek for some counter-intuitive interpretation of these verses, but we see that under the Mosaic Covenant there were many crimes for which the death penalty was required. While the Mosaic laws are no longer in force (especially we see in the New Testament that the civil and ceremonial aspects of the laws given to Moses have been superseded by the work of Christ), we must recognize the fact that the God who gave those laws regarding the death penalty is the same God we worship and adore, therefore we should not think that the idea of a death penalty in itself is contradictory to God's character. And so both God's words to Noah (which came before the Mosaic Covenant) and the Apostle Paul's teaching concerning government's use of the "sword" in Romans 13 (the "sword" obviously referring to capital punishment: no one merely slaps a person on the hand with a sword) should certainly inform our thinking on the death penalty.

A major concern that I have in this area is that if we think of God as too nice to allow for a death penalty in any circumstance, we may fail to affirm the truth that "the wages of sin is death" (Rom 6:23a), i.e., that we are all, by nature, under the death penalty from Him due to our transgressions, which is the bad news that is the necessary background for the good news of what Jesus did on the Cross on behalf of sinners.

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