Is capital punishment contrary to the Word of God?

Scripture tells us that human government is ordained and set up by God. It is very clear in Romans 13:1, “For there is no power but of God: and the powers that be are ordained of God.” And the powers that be are to act for God in the administration of human affairs.

While no individual is allowed to take vengeance for himself (Rom. 12:19), government is ordained of God to act for God as a minister to take vengeance. The Bible says in 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 government is ordained of God and one thing that the government does is to bear the sword. Look if you will in Rom. 13:4, “he beareth not the sword in vain.” He is talking about the instrument of death. Is capital punishment, therefore, ordained of God? May I say it is.

Some have the idea that capital punishment would contradict the Ten Commandments. But it does not. Exodus 20:13 says, “Thou shalt not kill.” But Genesis 21:12 says, “He that smiteth a man so that he die, shall surely be put to death.” When the Bible says, “Thou shalt not kill,” it is literally translated, thou shalt do no murder. It does not mean that you should not execute a murderer. The Bible is quite clear on this point. We need to understand that the Bible does not forbid capital punishment. As a matter of fact, God has ordained capital punishment because He loves us.

Romans 12:9 says, “Let love be without dissimulation.” That means real love is without hypocrisy. God is a god of love, but not of weak sentiment. God realizes there must be a restraint upon sin. Softness to the criminal is cruelty to the community. God loves people and because God loves people, God hates sin and God hates crime. God is too good not to punish crime. If God ceased to punish sin, God would cease to be holy. And God would cease to be good. Because God is love and because of the welfare of society, God has ordained capital punishment.

Taken from Adrian Rogers' weekly newspaper column. Used by permission. 2001, The Commercial Appeal.