Take your Bibles, please, turn to Genesis 9:6. We are reading from the King James Version of the Scriptures. The Bible says:"Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man."
I want to speak to you today on the subject: The Bible, Murder and the Death Penalty.
We live in a violent society and we live in a violent city. Memphis,Tennessee is consistently rated as one of the top 5 most dangerous cities in the country. It is a city bathed in the blood of murder victims. On average, one person a day is killed in Memphis every year.
The Bible says in Isaiah 1:21 - "How is the faithful city become an harlot! It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers."
In Jer. 4:31 The people of Israel cried out and said: "Woe is me now! For my soul is wearied because of murderers."
Let me say that I believe the average citizen is wearied by murder and murderers. Whether touched by this terrible crime personally or just enraged by what they have heard or read in the news, people are wearied because of murderers. We are wearied by serial killers like Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, the Son of Sam, Richard Ramirez, and Jeffrey Dahmer. We are wearied by mass murderers such as Timothy McVeigh, Charles Manson, and the teen-age murderers in our high schools. We are wearied by dictators who systematically and insanely kill millions of other human beings under their dominion, like Adolf Hitler who killed 6 million Jews; Joseph Stalin who killed 30 million of his own Russian people; Idi Amin who killed tens of thousands of his own people in Uganda and even cannabalized his victims' bodies; and Slobodan Milosovech who killed thousands in Bosnia. We are wearied when we hear of murderders who have their death sentences commuted to life in prison by a bleeding-heart jury. We were appalled at the murder of Mrs. Lee in Collierville in recent years who was carjacked, beaten, and then murdered in cold blood. The murderers said they debated whether to kill her before senselessly ending her life. We were enraged even more recently when an elderly grandmother was shot in the back of the head and murdered by bank robbers in a holdup.
First let me say that the death penalty is Debated by Man.
Liberals cite the "no cruel & unusual punishment" clause of the Constitution in reference to capital punishment and say that capital punishment is just that. But this is not a fair argument because the same Congress that put that in the Constitution also approved the "due process of law" whereby the state is authorized to deprive citizens of "LIFE, liberty, or property." They are the 8th and 5th amendments respectively.
Of the 10 commandments, the 6th commandment says, "Thou shalt not kill."And the liberals in religion and politics say that rules out capital punishment. But the Lord Jesus Christ interprets and defines that commandment for all. In Matthew 19:18, Christ quotes the 6th commandment and changes a word. He substitutes the word MURDER for KILL. He says "Thou shalt do no MURDER." So according to Jesus Christ the 6th commandment is not talking about self-defense or combat, and most certainly not about capital punishment.
There are those who say that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. That is an irrelevant argument because the death penalty is primarily a punishment - that is why it is called capital punishment. It is secondarily meant to be a deterrent.
Another thing the liberal will say is that we are becoming the murderer when we carry out the death penalty, that society is just as guilty as the convicted killer, and that our culture is lowering itself to barbarism. But that is not so according to the Bible.
John Stuart Mill was a British liberal of the 18th century who was for the death penalty. In a speech he made in favor of capital punishment he said it would not deter the "hardened criminal," but it most certainly would deter the average criminal and the normal citizen.
Secondly the death penalty has been Decreed by God.
In Genesis 9:6 God instituted the death penalty for murderers.
According to the Bible: 1. Murder is an attack on God's creation - Gen.9:6. 2. Murder is a work of the devil - John 8:44. 3. Murder is a work of the flesh - Gal.5:21. 4. Murder originates in the heart of man - Matt.7:21.
In Numbers 35:16 - 21 the penalty for murder is death. It says the murderer shall be put to death.
In Numbers 35:30, and in Deuteronomy 19:15 and 17:6, a murderer's guilt is to determined by a court of law, and that "by the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses..." the murderer shall be put to death.
Let me say that there are exceptions: anything other than pre-meditated, 1st degree murder, does not merit the death penalty. Mitigating factors are considered: For example - was it intentional, done with "malice aforethought" (hatred), or accidental?
Another interesting fact is that no one did life in prison in the O.T. for murder. There was no alternative to the death penalty for a murderer according to Numbers 35:31,32.
There are four categories of punishment mentioned in Ezra 7:26 - confiscation of goods, imprisonment for a prescribed time, banishment from the nation, and death. The Bible is clear that the death penalty is decreed by God Almighty.
Number three, let me say that the death penalty is Deserved by the Murderer.
The Bible speaks of those who are worthy of death in Deut. 17:6 - it says "...he that is worthy of death [shall] be put to death."
In Acts 25:11 the Apostle Paul said, "If I have committed anything worthy of death, I refuse not to die" - the greatest Christian of the N.T. church said he would not object to being put to death if he had committed a crime deserving of capital punishment.
For a modern-day illustration, do you remember Karla Fay Tucker in Texas? Gov. George W. Bush would not commute her sentence. She was due to be executed for murdering her lover with an ice pick. She was the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War. She had become a Christian while in prison, and many believed she had a genuine conversion to Christ. Pat Robertson & the Pope interceded for her; even policemen and some of the victim's family pled in her behalf. Yet Gov. Bush would not change her sentence, saying that the courts had decided her fate, and that she deserved to pay her debt to society with her life. Ms. Tucker did not protest her execution, but accepted it as the law of God and man determined it.
Even the Lord Jesus Christ did not protest His own death when He was falsely accused, framed and executed. If Jesus had protested His execution and succeeded in averting His death on the Cross, you and I could not even be saved. Think about that for a while.
Fourthly, capital punishment is the Duty of Government.
According to the Bible in Romans 13:4 the rulers and state officials "beareth not the sword in vain: for he [the officer of the state] is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."
Government is charged with the duty of carrying out God's decree. Government is to try them, convict them, and then execute them!
In the Bible and in the world there are various methods of capital punishment. There is hanging, the electric chair, the firing squad, the gas chamber, lethal injection, the guillotine, stoning, and the sword.
The word "capital" in capital punishment refers to the head of the executed criminal, the "cap." Just like in baseball "cap."
In the United States of America: 13,000 have been legally executed since colonial times. up to 150 people were executed annually until the 1930's. by 1967 the execution rate was down to zero. capital punishment was banned by the US Supreme Court in 1972 (the same court that legalized the murder of babies by abortion also banned the execution of killers!) in 1976, capital punishment was again legalized by the US Supreme Court and the states were allowed to decide.(At the end of 1997, 12 states still did not have the death penalty.)
Tennessee recently executed its first criminal since 1963. (There are still more than 90 on death row in Nashville.)
Ecclesiastes 8:11 is a Bible verse that gives a principle we all need to consider. It says: "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil."
Government is charged with the responsibility of carrying out the death penalty. And when the State doesn't fulfill its obligation under God and to man, it encourages the rampant crime and murder we see in our society today.
Lastly, capital punishment is Demanded by Justice.
The punishment must fit the crime; it must be equal to or greater than the offense, never less or none. According to Numbers 35:33 justice demands that the death penalty be enforced; justice demands that the murderer be punished with the ultimate penalty, in order to protect society, to prevent the murderer from any possibility of repeating his crime, and to cleanse the land that has been polluted by the act of murder.
We should say, "We're mad and we're not going to take it anymore! Let's CLEAN UP this country!!!" Let's do what the Bible says and "cleanse the land" by emptying death row in every state of the union.
As the blood of righteous Abel cried out from the ground for vengeance and justice, the blood of tens of thousands in America cries out from the ground for the same.
Man DEBATES it. God DECREED it. The Killer DESERVES it. The Government is DUTY-BOUND to enforce it. And Justice DEMANDS it.
I close this morning by saying this. In the Bible, all of us are charged with the murder of God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 7:52). We are guilty of death - eternal death, sentenced to a Lake of Fire for our sin (Rev.21:8). But God can do something that no man can do. He can pardon us if we repent. Our sins nailed Jesus to the cross. We are responsible for His death because of our sins. But if we will repent of our sins, and receive God's Son as our Saviour, we can be forgiven and saved.