There is much debate over the ethical implementation of
capital punishment in society. Many people question the
worthiness of punishing violent criminals with death, and
whether capital punishment deters crime.
God Instituted Capital Punishment
At the time of the flood, man had become very wicked. "Then
the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the
earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart
was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had
made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
The Lord said, 'I will blot out man whom I have created
from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping
things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have
made them'" (Gen. 6:5-7).
As a result, God killed everyone except Noah and his family,
because of man's violent behavior (Gen. 6:13).
After the flood, God instituted capital punishment, commanding,
"surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from
the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the
hand of every man. From the hand of every man's brother
I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man's blood,
by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God
He made man" (Gen. 9:5-6).
Solution to Violence in Society
Capital punishment is the solution God instituted to punish
people for capital crimes, keeping man from reverting back
to the violent and sinful decline that occurred in the days
From a Biblical perspective, societies that punish capital
crimes with death can successfully control crime. But if
they don't, violence thrives.
Capital punishment was commanded by God under the Law of
After giving Israel the Ten Commandments, God commanded
that a man who killed another man with premeditation, was
to be punished by death, even if he had fled to one of the
cities of refuge (Gen. 21:12-14). Other crimes punished
with death included striking a parent, blasphemy, Sabbath-breaking,
witchcraft, adultery, fornication, rape, kidnaping, incest,
homosexuality, bestiality, and idolatry.
Law of Christ
What does the Bible say about capital punishment in the
law of Christ, which we live under today (1 Cor. 9:21; Gal.
Paul outlines numerous aspects of the civil government:
"Every person is to be in subjection to the governing
authorities. For there is no authority except from God,
and those which exist are established by God. Therefore
whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of
God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation
upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for
good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear
of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise
from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for
good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does
not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of
God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices
evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not
only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake.
For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are
servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing"
There are several interesting points in Romans 13 pertaining
to capital punishment:
- Civil governments are God's ministers and servants.
They are established, and exist, by God.
- Whoever resists civil authority opposes the ordinance
of God. He brings wrath upon himself, and will receive
condemnation (cf. 1 Pet. 2:14).
- Civil governments bear the sword as God's ministers.
They do not bear it for nothing --- God intends for them
to use it.
As God's avenger to bring wrath on evil men, civil authorities
must punish crime. Capital punishment is one of the punishments
at their disposal.
Jesus and Capital Punishment
Jesus did not condemn the Romans for administering capital
punishment. Rather, He used a metaphor from capital punishment
to teach commitment. He says, "If anyone wishes to come
after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and
follow Me" (Matt. 16:24).
The fact that Jesus uses the cross to illustrate His disciples'
commitment, shows He was not opposed to capital punishment.
If capital punishment was a sin, it could not illustrate
our walk with Christ.
Paul and Capital Punishment
In Acts 25:11, upon the occasion of Paul making his defense
before Festus, he declared "for if I am an offender, or
have committed anything worthy of death, I do not object
Paul's attitude toward capital punishment is that it is
God's "sword" to bring vengeance upon evil. He didn't object
to capital punishment, and was willing to pay the penalty
of death if he committed anything worthy of death.
God instituted capital punishment after the flood. It was
lawful during the Patriarchal and Mosaic Dispensations,
and it is lawful under the law of Christ.
It is God's solution for controlling society, and keeping
man from reverting back to the violent decline that occurred
in the days of Noah.