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 Vol. 4, No. 6 

June, 2002

~ Page 13 ~

Capital Punishment

By Ken Chumbley

The topic of capital punishment has been in the news again with a number of executions by lethal injection having taken place. Some were hardly mentioned, others, like that of Gary Graham in Texas, where headline news both in the print media and on television. Particularly because this is [2000] an election year and a number of these executions have taken place in Texas, were one of the Presidential candidates is [was] the Governor, the various commentators have been offering their views. Many of the views that have been expressed have been those of the liberal elite in the media with their own special slant. However, for Christians the matter of the rights and wrongs of capital punishment should be settled by what God's Word teaches, not by the opinion of the latest guru on a talk show or on the editorial page.

Some have argued that since God prohibited killing in the Ten Commandments, "Thou shalt not kill," that this rules out capital punishment. However, if that were true, then God commanded his people to violate that law in the very next chapter (Exodus 21). In that chapter, God lists certain crimes and stipulates that for certain offenses the penalty was death (Exodus 21:12, 14-17, 23, 29). The truth of the matter is the command against killing was a command against murder, for that is what the Hebrew word used in Exodus 20:13 actually means.

When we come to the New Testament, we find that Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, points out that civil government "beareth not the sword in vain" (Romans 13:4). Remember, the sword is a lethal weapon. God grants the power to use the sword to the civil authorities because they are "a minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil" (Romans 13:4). It is not for man to take personal revenge, but it is within the power of civil government, as ordained of God, to carry out the ultimate penalty, that of taking a life. Remember this was in the days of the cruel Roman government. Paul, himself, was not afraid of death if he had committed an offense worthy of death, capital punishment (Acts 25:11).

A few years ago there was an outcry when the first woman, Karla Faye Tucker, executed in this country for many years died by lethal injection for two brutal ax murders she had committed. An outcry arose among denominationalists saying that she should not die as she had been converted to Christ. If it were true that she had been converted, it did not change the fact that she had committed that heinous and brutal crime. She was sentenced for that crime and she had to bear the consequences of taking the lives of two fellow human beings. This does not mean she would not, if converted, have been forgiven by God. One can commit heinous crimes and still be forgiven by God, if truly repentant. You probably remember the appalling case of Jeffrey Dahmer a few years ago and the brutal crimes he committed. Did you know that he was baptized for the remission of sins while he was in prison, after he had been convicted of those horrible murders? He was baptized into Christ by a faithful Gospel preacher. If he were truly converted, he will be in heaven. God can forgive even the vilest of sinners, as was Saul of Tarsus (Paul) if they will obey him.

Let us never be guilty of denying to civil authority that which God has granted to it.

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