(Gen 9:6) “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.
For a long time now there has been controversy over the issue of capital punishment. This argument has even existed in the Christian church. On the one hand you have those who say justice must be served. On the other hand you have those who say love and forgiveness must be offered. What does the Bible say and what should the Christian believe?
Here is a list of offenses calling for capital punishment in the Old Testament: 1. INTENTIONAL HOMICIDE (Exo 21:12; Lev 24:17; Num 35:16-21, 29-34); 2. FALSE WITNESSING IN CAPITAL CASES (Deu 19:16-21); 3. IDOLATRY (Deu 13:1-18); 4. ABDUCTING PERSONS FOR SLAVERY (Exo 21:16; Deu 24:7); 5. SEXUAL ACTS OF INCEST, HOMOSEXUALITY, AND BESTIALITY (Exo 22:19; Lev 20:11-17); 6. RAPE (Deu 22:23-27) including the girl if she did not cry for help; 7. ADULTERY (Lev 20:10-12; Deu 22:22); 8. SEX RELATIONS OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE: (a) before marriage, but discovered afterward (Deu 22:20-21), the woman alone to be executed; (b) relations with another's betrothed (Deu 22:23-24), both to be executed; (c) the harlotry of a priest's daughter (Lev 21:9); 9. WITCHCRAFT AND FALSE CLAIM TO PROPHECY (Exo 22:18; Lev 20:27; Deu 18:20; 1 Sam 28:3, 9); 10. PROFANING THE SABBATH (Exo 31:14-17; 35:2; Num 15:32-36); 11. BLASPHEMY (Lev 24:14-16,23; 1 Kings 21:13; Mat 26:65-66); 12. CURSING OR STRIKING ONE'S PARENTS (Exo 21:15,17).
But some say Jesus and the New Testament brought in a new order of love that supersedes the Old Covenant law. But consider that Jesus said He didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it, and that God’s law will never pass away (Mat 5:17-18). The apostle Paul in Romans 13:1-4 says that the state does not bear the sword in vain and that the authorities are an avenger of evil to execute wrath on those who practice evil. Also in Acts 25:11 Paul said if he was an offender or had committed anything deserving of death, he would not object to dying.
Others say that one of God’s commandments is you shall not kill. But that is not true. Exodus 20:13 says you shall not murder. Self-defense is permitted in the Bible (Exo 22:2; Luke 22:36). And the main purpose of capital punishment is not revenge, but justice. A person intentionally took someone’s life and so that person’s life must be forfeited. It is punishment that meets the crime. Also the Bible teaches that capital punishment is a deterrent to crime (Deu 13:10-11) and that delayed justice will encourage people to more delinquency (Eccl 8:11).
And if you think about it . . . capital punishment ties into Jesus dying for our sins. Someone had to pay for our sins and Jesus did that on the cross. It was the just for the unjust (1 Pet 3:18). The cross is where justice and mercy met and mankind was forgiven. Hallelujah, what a Savior!