Summary: Biblical support for Capital Punishment and what it means for our country.
Romans: 13: 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.
The issue of capital punishment has caused controversy in religious and secular societies around the globe. In the last few decades Europeans have decided to abolish capital punishment along with several US states, but why, and is there scripture to defend capital punishment? For those of you who have already committed yourself to the fight against capital punishment I would ask you to reconsider examining the scripture verses and reasoning I provide.
The above verse in Romans is a favorite of many police and military departments and institutions. The idea that a police officer is a minister of God is very appealing to Christian police officers. We however must consider that police officers in other countries have neglected their duties allowing corruption and genocide. This verse specifically implies a government that is overall “good” in nature. I can conclude this through various psalms. Psalms 140-143 all provide hope for those suffering under the wicked. If truly the government is wicked I would doubt Paul would endorse it.
But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
Peter in this verse is not talking about those rebelling against a repressive, wicked, and immoral government but rather people who oppose the common good for their selfish ambitions.
Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
Christ himself speaks against leaders who lead their people astray from the Lord. The whole purpose of Romans Chapter 13 is that we should obey the authority in charge of us given of course that it is not totally corrupt and repressive. We can draw comfort that leaders are chosen by God for a purpose and that purpose is to serve the populace and God. Christ confirms this in:
Joh 19:11 - Show Context
Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.
So while the Roman governor and the Jewish authorities were appointed by God they are still capable of sinning regardless of their position.
In a democracy the government is a reflection of the people. We may consider special interests groups, unions, and corporations, but when it comes down to Election Day we vote and we decide. Thus if we conclude that our government is wicked we must also conclude that the American people are wicked. While the current administration is capable of mistakes and even misjudgments that may or may not lead to sin, we as a society are not a wicked nation to be shunned by Christian world community.
If we could also look into Romans 13: 6-7 we will find that Paul commands that his followers pay taxes to the government. In the times of Jesus the tax collector was seen as an enemy and sinner. There is an apparent difference between a tax collector who steels and a tax collector who serves the Christian community or government under Christian principles. Regardless of whether the tax collector (IRS) is efficient Paul advises us to pay our taxes and to give “honor to whom honor is due.” Paul advises us to honor the police officer, tax collector, and other government officials. T-shirts, media, bumper stickers, and behavior deemed disrespectful to police officers is not advisable under the text. That is to say we have the rights of citizens to object to government actions, but we should respect those who work for the benefit of the people.
Thus I conclude that Romans 13:4 does apply to our government and all other societies that are not considered “wicked.” The police officer is good but he bears the sword not in vain. The sword (9 mm, 45 cal, etc) is not carried by officers in the field for no reason. It is used to protect citizens and to defend oneself. The officer is a “revenger” to “execute wrath” on those that do evil. In today’s society the police officer is not judge, jury, and executioner. We can assume that this verse not only applies to police officers but the court system as a whole.
And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death: