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Summary: Life is a precious gift of God. Does that mean we cannot destroy it or that we must hold men accountable for destroying it?

INTRO: The death penalty receives much criticism from unbelievers and believers. Often those who claim to be Christians oppose it more vehemently.

People reach very different conclusions about this subject based on the same principle—the sanctity of human life.

Some say that because life is such a precious gift of God, no man has the right to take it away. Others say that because life is such a precious gift of God, we must honor it by holding the guilty person accountable for taking the life of the innocent.

Obviously the solution must come from God’s perspective. What has HE said about the death penalty?

I. EARLY IN MAN’S HISTORY

A) After the first murder, Abel’s innocent blood cried out for vengeance and justice. God confronted Cain saying, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10). Cain feared retribution for what he had done (Genesis 4:14-15). His fear seems to be justified.

B) After the flood, without any established government to carry out God’s justice, God placed that responsibility on the family of the slain victim (Genesis 9:5-6). The brother was not to take revenge in hatred, but was to deal out God’s retribution in justice. The murderer was to be put to death because of the sanctity of life, not in the absence of it!

II. UNDER THE LAW OF MOSES

A) By divine decree there were many sins which were worthy of death. These capital crimes demanded the death penalty (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).

1) Death penalty was a fair punishment (Exodus 21:22-27; Deuteronomy 24:16).

2) Death penalty was a strict punishment (Numbers 35:30-34; Exodus 21:14).

3) Death penalty was an effective punishment (Numbers 35:30; Ecclesiastes 8:11).

4) Death penalty was an effective deterrent to crime (Deuteronomy 19:19-21).

III. UNDER THE LAW OF CHRIST

A) Many argue that God’s vengeance has been relaxed, so that under the law of Christ mercy prevails rather than justice.

1) When Jesus stood before Pilate, He did not argue that Pilate did not have the authority to crucify Him. Actually, He said whatever authority Pilate had was given by God (John 19:10-11).

2) When Paul stood before Festus, he did not argue that Festus did not have the authority to execute him. Actually, he implied that Festus did have that authority, “For if I am an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I do not object to dying…” (Acts 25:11).

B) God has authorized governments to carry out His justice—not ruthless killing and torturing, but administering the complex demands of justice fairly. “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment upon themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil… For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:1-4).

C) The Bible indicates that there is such a thing as national righteousness (Proverbs 14:34; Psalm 9:17-20; Ecclesiastes 5:8). There is a standard of justice and morality that God expects (and demands) from any nation.

D) Vengeance has always belonged to God (Romans 12:19). If He chooses to administer it, it is because He is righteous.

IV. REVENGE OR JUSTICE?

God restricts man from taking his own revenge against wrong doing.

A) Revenge Is Personal. It is an angry response and is often sparked by hatred. God condemns that revenge, and the vengeful spirit that wants to “pay back” in anger and contempt (Matthew 5:38-39). This is not a restriction against justice, but against “getting even” and then justifying it by appealing to the Bible.

B) We Must Never Return Evil For Evil. Two wrongs don’t make a right “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:19,21).

C) God Doesn’t Need For Us To Take Matters Into Our Own Hands. He has already appointed an administrator of His justice. He has an authorized servant, an arm of wrath to carry out His sentence against the evil doer, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.” (1 Peter 2:13-14; Romans 13:4).

CONCLUSION: Here’s one final thought to help us make sense of God’s justice and mercy, and His ability to show both at the same time (Romans 11:22). If God is opposed to capital punishment and the death penalty—as many people claim He is—then why is HE preparing the ultimate place of capital punishment for those who disobey Him?

“Then He will say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41)

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