Whenever a high profile execution is imminent, questions are often raised.- Should capital punishment be acceptable in a civilized society? Is it morally right for a government to administer capital punishment? What is the purpose behind capital punishment and is it accomplished?
As Christians, we need to turn to God's word for answers to these and all questions (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3).
The Bible reveals that before the flood, capital punishment did not exist. Cain received protection from God after taking the life of his brother, Abel (Gen. 4:13-15). By the time of Noah, the earth was corrupt and filled with violence (Gen 6:11-12). Could this have been the result of a society without capital punishment? God's solution - capital punishment on a mass scale. All but 8 souls were destroyed in the flood.
After the flood man is immediately given an awesome responsibility. Genesis 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. God now requires a reckoning from those who kill. He requires a killer to be killed by his fellow man. The reason: man is made in God's image. Indicating the seriousness of the act, worthy of death. Because man is created in God's image, he possesses the ability to exercise justice and righteousness. He is capable of being a worthy administrator of Capital punishment.
Under the Law of Moses God prescribed capital punishment, death by stoning, for the following offences: premeditated murder (Ex. 21:12-14), parental abuse (Ex. 21:15), kidnaping (Ex.21:16), cursing parents (Ex. 21:17), Striking a pregnant woman causing the child to be premature or to die (Ex. 21:28-29), killing a thief in revenge (Ex. 22:2-3), sorcery (Ex. 22:18), Bestiality (Ex. 22:19), Adultery (Lev. 20:10), Incest (Lev. 20:11-12), Homosexuality (Lev. 20:13), Marrying both mother and daughter (Lev. 20:14), being a medium or spiritualist (Lev. 20:27), or breaking the Sabbath (Num. 32-36).
Was the Law of Moses a good law. Paul describes it as "holy, just, and good" in Romans 7:12. Certainly, under the Old Law, capital punishment was ordained of God. But we live under the New Testament, not the Old. What does the New Testament say regarding the subject.
Unlike the Old Covenant, the new covenant is not designed to govern or regulate civil governments. The new covenant is designed for those in Christ's kingdom which is spiritual in nature (John 18:36). For the most part it doesn't concern itself with telling men of the world how to regulate their civil affairs.
The New Testament does discuss capital punishment and shows God's attitude toward it. Look closely at Romans 13:1-7. Governmental authorities are established by God (v.1). They serve as ministers of God as an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil (v.4). When government fulfills its responsibility upon those who are evil (v.4) it "does not bear the sword in vain." This is a clear allusion to the administration of capital punishment.
Does God approve capital punishment? We have seen that God gave mankind the responsibility to carry it out after the flood. God's own illustration of justice in the government he gave Israel. How Christians are to acknowledge the right and responsibility given by God to governments to be his ministers in avenging wrath on evil doers. Certainly any civilized nation abhors violence and bloodshed; but civilization cannot exist with violence and corruption running rampant.
How does God view governments that fail to carry out their responsibility to execute wrath on the evil doer? As with anything that takes away justice, woe! (Isa. 5:20-23). Many may refuse to accept what the Bible says about capital punishment. Let us stand for the truth, that capital punishment is ordained of God.