Capital Punishment
What is the biblical support for the death penalty?

Introduction

A. Text: Rom. 13:4.

B. Paul said, "For if I am an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar" (Ac. 25:11).

C. Capital punishment = the infliction of the death penalty by civil authority.

D. Capital punishment is a controversial topic that is frequently in the news.

E. We need to understand the death penalty from a biblical perspective.

I. THE CONCEPT OF PUNISHMENT IN GENERAL

A. From the start, the Bible grants validity to the idea of punishment for lawbreaking.

B. The Bible assumes that criminal acts deserve to be punished.

II. THE CONCEPT OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

A. The central question is: are there some crimes so serious that the only just penalty is the death of the offender?

B. By certain acts a person disqualifies himself from the right to continue living -- he forfeits the right to live.

C. This is reflected in the Old Testament.

D. It is also reflected in the New Testament.

E. Our conclusion is this: for all societies of people since the beginning of time, there has been a principle of justice that some crimes are so serious they can be properly punished only by death.

F. The execution of the death sentence is a part of the rightful function of civil government as ordained by God.

III. THE PURPOSE OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT

A. In general, law itself exists to curb the conduct of those who are not inclined to curb their own conduct. Cf. "The law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate" (1 Tim. 1:9). Cf. vv.8-10.

B. The primary purpose of civil authority is to restrain injustice and crime, so that people can live without fear. Cf. Rom. 13:1-7.

C. Carrying out the death penalty is a part of what God ordained government to do.

D. It is emotionally difficult for a compassionate people to execute criminals -- but the consequences of not doing so are even more difficult in the long run.

IV. THE CONSEQUENCES OF FAILING TO EXECUTE CAPITAL CRIMINALS

A. Contrary to modern thinking, capital punishment does deter crime -- at least it would if it were carried out consistently and in a timely fashion.

B. When, as a society, we do not set up capital consequences for capital crimes, we can expect a growth of cynicism, mockery of the law, and violent lawlessness.

C. What we do about crime and punishment says much about our national character.

D. We need to start being more careful about our "marks of social value."

E. Many of the emotional arguments against the death penalty are based on pity.

F. Yes, we must always be compassionate -- but we must never let compassion keep us from doing what is right.

Conclusion

A. God has ordained civil government to restrain lawlessness -- and he has given it the responsibility of putting to death those who commit crimes worthy of death.

B. "Contemporary efforts to abolish capital punishment proceed on a non-Christian view of man, a secular theory of criminal law, and a low estimate of the value of life" (Gordon Clark).

C. We need to be reminded:

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