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Bible Search
The Wages of Sin is Death
Voting Our Christian Values
“The Wages of Sin is Death”
Matthew 5:17-19; Genesis 9:6
 
One of the issues we are being asked to consider in this year’s general election is State Question 776 which is a proposed constitutional amendment that affirms the state of Oklahoma’s right to perform executions. It gives the Legislature the power to designate any method of execution, prohibits the reduction of death sentence due to an invalid method of execution, and prohibits the death penalty from being ruled “cruel and unusual punishment” or unconstitutional according to the Oklahoma Constitution.     
 
The situations that sparked this proposal was the “botched” execution of Clayton D. Lockett in 2014 and the case of Charles Warner in early 2015 where the wrong drug was used sparking an outcry against the death penalty in general, not just here but across the country. Currently, 31 states have the death penalty.  We have 2,905 on death row awaiting execution in America, 47 of those in Oklahoma. 
 
Some are suggesting that rather than dealing with the methods of execution, the greater question is should the death penalty be used at all. Even though 62% of Americans support its use, the more important thing to consider is what God says and thinks about it. So to that end, we again turn our attention to His Word
 
Matthew 5.17-19
                 
 
 
Now when Jesus said that He didn't come to "destroy the Law but to fulfill it," what law was He talking about? What law did Jesus fulfill? I would answer by saying, “Any law that existed.” He fulfilled the moral law of God. He fulfilled the ceremonial laws of Judaism. He fulfilled the societal laws of the Old Testament. He lived in perfect fulfillment of all that God required.  
        
Now even though we are not bound to Jewish societal and ceremonial law, they are still great models for any society.  In fact, much of our judicial system is modeled after a Biblical point of view. 
 
However, in God’s moral law, we find absolute truth.  One of the primary problems we see in American life today is that we have turned away from God, therefore we have turned away from truth. And when you turn away from truth, you always turn toward error. And when you turn toward error, you turn away from morals and law!
        
We are now being told that the Bible no longer fits.  The times have changed. This book is no longer relevant. You have no right to impose your convictions on anyone else. 
 
But the truth is it’s not that the Bible no longer fits our society, our society no longer fits the Bible. Society may change, but His law doesn't change because He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
        
So with that understanding established, with God's Word in our hands and the question of capital punishment in our heads, I want us to consider God’s mind on the subject.
 
Let's begin by considering
 
1.      The Principle of Capital Punishment
 
The first recorded execution in the colonies that would later become America took place in 1608 when Captain George Kendall of the Jamestown Colony in Virginia was executed for spying for the Spanish government in the Jamestown colony, which was the first English colony in America.  But to find the source of the principle of capital punishment, we have to travel back much further in history. In fact, what we discover is that capital punishment didn’t originate with man, but with God.
 
Let’s go back and begin where God begins. Now I’m guessing most people familiar with the Bible would place the origination of capital punishment with the Mosaic Law.  But while capital punishment is in the Mosaic Law, it didn’t begin there. In fact, God instituted capital punishment in the Garden of Eden. Even before man sinned, listen to what God said to Adam and Eve.
 
Genesis 2:17
 
Now you may choose to call it by some other name or title, but that is capital punishment at its most elementary beginning.  And the truth is man did the crime and had to pay the time. 
 
Man disobeyed this commandment, and God carried out the penalty, so much so that all the children of Adam from that day down to the present are under the sentence of death, including you and me. The truth is repeated in 1 Corinthians 15:22 where we are reminded that in Adam, all die. 
And just to be clear, God assumes responsibility for carrying out that sentence and no one escapes or gets clemency. So capital punishment roots back all the way to the Garden of Eden.
 
Now, once sin entered the picture, we begin to see all kinds of expressions of it. Once he is outside the Garden of Eden, it doesn’t take long for man to become a murderer. Cain, the child of Adam and Eve, killed his brother Abel.
 
Now the immediate thing that comes to mind is that God will certainly move in judgment on this man because he has committed a crime for which he should be executed. But one of the strangest things imaginable took place instead. God put a mark on Cain to protect him. 
 
Listen to Genesis 4:15. 
 
Now this is very strange. Why would God protect this man? Well, even though God has declared that disobeying His law will bring death, no societal law or human government had been established at that time. 
 
In fact, when man was moved out of the Garden of Eden, the one thing God said would cause death is no longer an issue.  Man doesn’t even have access to the tree of life. Eden is inaccessible. 
 
So the question is no longer will man live by God’s law and not eat from the tree, but rather will man, since he has the knowledge of good and evil and has a conscience, follow his conscience, and where will that conscience lead him?
 
 
Now, because Cain was under the curse of Adam, in time he did die also, but God did not execute him specifically for the crime of murder. Instead, He let Cain live to see the fruit of his own sin.
 
The day came when Cain's sin began to bear fruit. Beginning in Genesis 4, verse 16, the Bible tells us that he moved out away from the other children of Adam and Eve to establish a civilization of his own, apart from God. The Word of God mentions something of its city and pastoral life, the development of arts and commerce and manufacturing.
 
And apparently, life as they knew it was very similar to our civilization today. However, even in the midst of this civilization with all of its benefits, another murder takes place. 
 
Genesis 4:23-24
 
Lamech must have been thinking, “I have killed a man in self-defense. Cain did not kill his brother in self-defense. It was cold-blooded murder. Surely if he got by with it, I can get by with it.”
 
So Lamech attempted to salve his conscience and justify what he had done by comparing himself to Cain.
 
Well, that civilization marched on until finally the entire race was polluted and full of sin and we come to the time of a man named Noah and there we discover that not only did God give us the principle of capital punishment, for the very first time in Scripture, we see
 
 
 
2.  The Practice of Capital Punishment 
 
Genesis 6:5-8
 
Apparently man is now living on the assumption that God would not punish sin. The spirit of Lamech has invaded the earth.  Cain got by with it. Surely I’m not as bad as he is, and besides that, God is not going to judge anybody anyway.
 
A great many people live by this today. They will not turn to God because they do not believe that He will punish sin. But there came a day when God sent mankind to the gas chamber. It was mass execution, and it included the entire line of Cain. Perhaps you are saying, "Now wait a minute, preacher. You're going a little too far. He didn't put them in a gas chamber." Yes, He did.
 
Genesis 7.11-12, 17, 21
 
Now somebody says, "I don't read anything here about a gas chamber." Well, you better look again. 
 
The two most potent gases known to man are oxygen and hydrogen and when you bring together two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen, you have water which was the "gas" that God used to execute man.
 
So the first time capital punishment was practiced was by God when He sent an entire generation into a gas chamber. You see, God did not let Cain get by with it; Lamech failed to get by with it; and none of mankind got by with it. There came a day when man, who wanted to follow his own conscience, had to pay for his disobedience. God judges man and makes no apology for it.
In fact, the Lord Jesus referred back to the days of Noah with no apology, and you will find that the other writers of Scripture refer to the days of Noah with no apology at all. God used capital punishment, and He brought it to bear upon a sinful race at that time.
 
After the flood God put down some new regulations. In fact, God moved man into an altogether different period and placed him on the foundation on which the race has been from that day to this. God gave to man human government. He also put down the basis of that government and we find it in
 
Genesis 9:6
 
Now it is important to note when this happened.  God gave the after the flood and before the Law. In reality, before the flood there was no law and order. There was no restraint for human behavior and it resulted in immorality, murder and violence and that's why God sent the flood. 
 
Abut after the flood, God established the Law, and notice, the giving of the principle of capital punishment is directly tied to man being created in God’s image.  That is a reminder that, to God, human life is a sacred, precious thing. 
 
And notice, God didn’t call capital punishment murder; He didn't call it obscene; He didn't call it uncivilized. He said in substance, "You are permitted now to establish government, and the highest power that a government has is capital punishment and they are to use that power as a reminder of the value and sacredness of life that is created in My image.”
 
 
That means if a government doesn't use this power, it is sinning against God.  And beyond that, it has no power whatsoever to control behavior because it cannot beg a fallen human race to be nice little Sunday school boys and girls and wash their faces and blow their noses and everything will be okay. The human family is made up today of a fallen race and that race requires that controls be imposed upon it.
 
And in order to protect mankind, when one man dares to take the life of another, that man is to be executed, and God gives that power to human government.  Unless a government uses the power that God has given to it, it will have riots, revolution, and finally it will be overthrown.
 
And at the top of the list of those crimes worthy of death is premeditated murder because God's image is destroyed and the murderer must pay with his own life. 
 
Someone says, “But what about Exodus 20:13?  Doesn't God tell us in the Ten Commandments that we shall not kill? In reality, God says we are not to murder. And that verse is not talking about justified warfare or accidental homicide or self-defense.  Nor is He including capital punishment.
        
You ask, "Pastor, are you sure?"  I am sure and I'll prove it. 
 
Listen to
 
Exodus 21:12
Leviticus 24.17
 
 
God makes it very clear that premeditated murder is a crime worthy of death. And just so we’re clear, we need to remember that the commandments are for individuals, not governments. They are the expression of the mind of God relative to what the individual man ought to be. It is the norm for human conduct.
 
So while at the same time God says to individuals “don’t murder”, He also gives to the nation of Israel the authority to execute anyone who does.  And to say that capital punishment is immoral is to accuse God of being unrighteous. 
 
We find another place in the Bible where the death penalty was practiced in
 
Genesis 18.20-21
                                                          Well, God did know and because of the sexual perversion and immorality taking place, the death penalty was handed down from Heaven. 
 
Genesis 19.24              
 
And by the way, Peter tells us in the New Testament that the death sentence that was handed down from Heaven to them was meant to be a warning to us! 
 
2 Peter 2.6
 
So for the nation of Israel, God gave the Mosaic Law (as found in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy) which interpreted many of the details of the Ten Commandments. He gave to them that which we know today as "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." And we find in the Mosaic Law that the death penalty was invoked.
Now some would say, “But that was all Old Testament and when you get to the New Testament all of this is changed and you have a different spirit altogether.”
 
Well, I’m glad you brought that up because you are right! Things did change in the New Testament, but it was made higher and more demanding, not lower and less.
 
See, Jesus took the same position as the Jewish law and made a distinction between personal conduct and the God-given authority of government. 
 
Listen:  trying to abolish capital punishment by carrying a sign around which reads: "Jesus said, 'Thou shalt not kill'" reveals a sad lack of information and a woeful ignorance of the Word of God.
 
Jesus was talking about individual human life, not capital punishment. Do you want to know what He really said? This is more extreme than anything under the Mosaic system:
 
Listen to Matthew 5:21-22
 
That is a higher demand than anything ever given under the Mosaic system. Jesus never lowered the Law, nor did He adopt some sentimental notion about this matter.
 
In fact, Jesus provided us with a parable that I would like you to notice. The parable refers to Himself, and He is making it very pertinent and pointed to the nation Israel.
 
Luke 20:9-16
 
Now catch what is happening.  Even in that day there were those who opposed capital punishment and their response to the story Jesus told is, “Surely that’s not what happened! You don't mean God would do that?”
 
But that’s exactly what Jesus meant. If they kill His Son, He will come and destroy them as a nation. And Israel did kill His Son and God did God carry through with His threat.  Read their history and you will discover in A.D. 70, Titus the Roman came with his army and carried through that execution. He leveled Jerusalem and slaughtered the inhabitants without mercy.
 
God says that He practices capital punishment. When you kill God's Son, when you reject Him, you have to bear your own sins, pay your own penalty, which is what the nation Israel did. 
 
So what about today?  What should be the New Testament position regarding
 
3. The Purpose of Capital Punishment
     
In my opinion, the finest statement we have in the Word of God regarding this subject is found in
 
Romans 13:1-2
 
You see, the church was never ordained to rule in this world. Our position as a church has always been to be obedient to the ruling power.
 
Verses 3-5
 
 
 
We have just about succeeded in turning everything upside down in our country. For instance, we now live in a society that considers the police officer to be the criminal and the criminal is the hero.
 
But scripturally speaking, the police officer is to be a terror to those who do evil works! The ruler is to be a terror to those who do evil works. There is something wrong when the police force gets to the place where people are not afraid of it.
 
Our entire psychology is wrong. I believe that when a man does wrong and breaks the law, he ought to be afraid of the police officer, and he ought to be afraid of the law. The gun is not to be carried as a decoration; the electric chair is not to be used as a cry of "Wolf, wolf!" when there is no wolf. They are to be there as a terror to the evildoer.
 
I hope that they will be a terror to the criminal so that we can walk the streets of our cities in safety. The New Testament endorses capital punishment, if for no other reason, than to be a deterrent to crime. I know the liberals will try to tell you it doesn’t work, but God says it does and you can take your pick on which you will believe.
 
I promise you for every person executed, if no one else is affected, their potential to break the law is deterred!  Never again will the world be affected by their crime! 
 
In closing, I want to remind you that not only does the New Testament teach that capital punishment is an appropriate tool in the hands of the government, it tells us the story of the most famous capital punishment trial in history. 
It is the trial of Jesus Christ Himself.  You will recall that the religious rulers, those bloodhounds of hate, got on His trail very early, and they didn't let up until they folded their hands beneath His cross.  They hated Him, and they tried to get a charge against Him. After waiting a long time, the best they could get was that He had blasphemed. They said, "He has made Himself equal with God."
 
And, may I say, if He is not who He claimed to be, He was guilty of blasphemy, because they understood Him correctly - He was making Himself equal with God. They would have executed Him (which means they would have stoned Him to death), but they were then under the Roman government which forbade the people the use of capital punishment.
 
They had to maneuver so that the Roman government would execute Him, and they had to have a charge that would stick in a Roman court. Since that of blasphemy would carry no weight at all in a Roman court, they began that night to try to work out a charge that would stand before the Roman governor.
 
And their charge was that Jesus had attempted to stir up a rebellion against the Roman government, that He had attempted to set Himself up as a king and intended to establish a kingdom. This would make Him guilty of treason. They brought Him to Pilate, and the charge was made.
 
Now, Pilate was a puppet of Rome. He had paid a handsome sum for his job. After hearing the charge against Jesus, he obviously wanted to let Him go. But, as you read the record in the Gospels, you have the feeling that Pilate, not Jesus, is on trial. And history has proven this to be accurate. Pilate was on trial.
The fact of the matter is that at one point in the trial he called Jesus aside and in effect, said, "If You'll cooperate with me, just deny these silly charges, and I'll let You go."
 
Our Lord wouldn't do it. And Pilate, in one last fruitless effort, said, "Whom shall I release unto you? Barabbas or Jesus ?" - giving as an alternate the worst criminal they had. At that season, a holiday season, a holy season, it was the custom of the Roman governor to release a Jewish prisoner. Pilate saw this as a way out for himself.
 
To escape condemning an innocent man, as he was being pressured into doing, he would let the mob get him off the hook. He chose Barabbas because he was absolutely sure they would ask for Jesus to be released since Barabbas was a condemned murderer and criminal. And do you know, that mob began to howl for Barabbas to be released! Pilate was shocked.
 
Honestly, I have always wondered why they wanted Barabbas to be turned out. He was a hardened criminal, a murderer - so why did they ask for him to be delivered and Jesus to be crucified? I don’t understand that and I don’t understand those today who cry for leniency for criminals and ignore the families and rights of victims. I guess things haven’t changed much!
 
And in a startling, surprising course of events, Barabbas was released and Jesus was crucified.
 
As one considers all that happened there as perfect, sinless Son of God was executed, you can’t help but ask, “Why in the world did God permit it?”
 
Do you know why God permitted it? God permitted it because you and I were sentenced to die. We deserved capital punishment and the Lord Jesus Christ loved us enough to take our place.
 
I promise you that is one thing you will never see happen with the bleeding heart liberals and judges that decry the death penalty. They may carry a sign in the parking lot, but they will not take the place of one of these criminals on the gurney with the IV in their arm.  You won’t find them in front of the firing squad. 
 
But Jesus Christ volunteered. He came down from heaven for the joy that was set before Him, and He took our place on the cross.
 
You see, the truth of the matter is, in God’s eyes, we are as guilty a sinner as any one of the 2,900 on death row in America today. We have the same human nature as them and nothing but the death of Christ paying the penalty for our sin could spare us from eternal punishment.
 
When you think about it in that way, the whole plan of salvation is based upon capital punishment. Ezekiel 18:4 says, “The soul that sins, that soul shall die.”   As Paul said to the Romans, “The wages of sin is death.” 
 
And you can write protests on placards, you can march around heaven's gates all you want to, and you can appeal to the Supreme Court, but you won't change that in heaven. Our sin requires a death.  But Jesus stepped up and died for us. He paid the penalty, and you can go free because He loved you.
 
 
In the Word of God we read:
 
Romans 5:8
 
One final warning and I’ll be through. Don't count on God being softhearted. He does not compromise with evil. God is righteous. God is holy. He maintains His holy government.
 
But God loves you, and that is the reason He gave His Son to die for you. If there had been any other way, He would have taken it because this way cost Him so much. But He was willing to do it because He loves you.
 
Have you accepted the forgiveness and mercy that He offers you as a guilty sinner before Almighty God?
 
Let’s pray.
 
 
 
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