Capital Punishment, By Leon Brashear

It is interesting that many people are strongly opposed to the death penalty. Recently in Arkansas the planned execution of several death row inmates cause an outcry from a large number of death penalty opponents. The one sure answer to this emotional response is to be found in the Word of God.  Yes, the Bible has some important information on the authority of civil government.

In Romans chapter 13 we find the following in verses 1-4:

[1] Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. [2] Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. [3] For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: [4] For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

Please read carefully the following comments on verse 4:

“The subject of the first clause of the verse is the civil ruler. When a civil authority operates within his God-given realm, he is a minister (servant) of God. The verse does not address the spiritual condition of the ruler; it merely states that the official is filling a role assigned to him by the God of heaven. How many civil rulers realize and admit that they owe their position to Almighty God? Very few in our time.

If he is operating within the authority God has delivered to him, his work will be productive of good for all his subjects, Christian and non-Christian.

However, if a citizen (believer or unbeliever) violates the law, there is reason for that lawbreaker to be afraid. Why? The ruler does not have a sword at his disposal merely for show! He has the Godgiven right to execute lawbreakers found guilty of a capital offense. The government has been charged with the requirement to enforce the law. Sword is symbolic of all the authority which civil rulers are given.

Civil rulers are servants of God in the civil arena; they are charged with the responsibility to maintain law and order. This requires them to punish criminals and others who break the law. Punishment is often thought of as an expression of wrath, but in the case of judges who mete out penalties for criminal activities, their disposition is one of judicial sobriety, not anger. When a criminal is thus punished, the process may properly be viewed as the wrath of God being brought to bear upon the outlaw.” (Bob Winton, Commentary on Romans)

I agree with these statements, not because of who wrote them but because I believe they are true to God’s Word.   Civil law has a purpose, and one of those is to punish those who are guilty; even to the point of execution.  Those who are opposed to the death penalty are in reality opposing God who ordained civil law and outlined is purpose – which includes punishment of law breakers.

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