"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY" The Work And Qualifications Of Bishops (3:1-7) by Mark Copeland

The Work And Qualifications Of Bishops (3:1-7)


1. Instructing Timothy as to proper conduct in house of God (1Ti 3:15),
   Paul discusses the work and qualifications of those who would serve
   as 'bishops' - 1Ti 3:1-7

2. The word 'bishop' comes from the Greek word episkopos...
   a. Translated 'bishop' in four passages - Php 1:1; 1Ti 3:1,2; Tit 1:7
   b. Translated 'overseer' in three passages - Ac 20:28; 1Pe 2:25; 5:2

3. Paul describes the position (office, KJV, ASV, NASB) as "a good work"- 1Ti 3:1
   a. What exactly was the 'work' of a bishop in the New Testament
   b. How did the required 'qualifications' prepare them for this work?

[Consider first...]


      1. A congregation that was completely and scripturally organized
         - e.g., Php 1:1
         a. Contained a plurality of qualified men serving as bishops
         b. They were assisted by qualified men serving as deacons
      2. The bishops were also known as
         a. Elders (Grk., "presbuteros", presbyter) for they were older
            men - cf. Ac 20:17,28; 1Pe 5:1-2
         b. Pastors (Grk. "poimen", shepherd) for their task was to
            shepherd and feed the flock of God - cf. Ac 20:17,28; 1 Pe 5:1-2
      3. Bishop, elder, and pastor were not three distinct offices, but
         different ways to describe the men and their work - cf.
         Easton's Bible Dictionary, Moody Handbook of Theology

      1. Bishops were 'shepherds' (pastors) of the flock (congregation)
         a. Taking heed to themselves - Ac 20:28a
         b. Taking heed to the flock of God among them - Ac 20:28b; 1 Pe 5:2
         c. Leading by example - 1Pe 5:3
         d. Watching out for trouble - Ac 20:29-31
         e. Depending upon God and His Word - Ac 20:32
      2. Bishops were to be 'teachers' and 'rulers' of the flock
         a. Able to teach - 1Ti 3:2
         b. Able to rule others well - 1Ti 3:4-5; 5:17
         c. Holding fast what they were taught - Tit 1:9
         d. Able to use the word to exhort and convict - Tit 1:9

[The work of bishops (elders, pastors) was to oversee the flock, leading
and guarding the sheep. This helps us to understand why Paul calls it 'a
good work'.  Such a work required qualified men.  The qualifications are
found in two places (1Ti 3:1-7; Tit 1:5-9)...]


      1. They describe what an bishop 'must be' - 1Ti 3:2; Tit 1:7
      2. A bishop must be 'a man' - 1Ti 3:1-2; Tit 1:6; cf. 1 Ti 2:11,12; 1Co 14:34-37
      3. A bishop must be 'blameless'- 1Ti 3:2; Tit 1:6,7
         a. One against whom no evil charge can be sustained
         b. Free from accusations that can be rightly proven - cf. 1 Ti 5:19-20

      1. The husband of one wife (i.e., married) - 1Ti 3:1; Tit 1:6
      2. Ruling his own house well - 1Ti 3:4-5
      3. Having faithful children, not accused of dissipation or
         insubordination - Tit 1:6

      1. Temperate (vigilant) - 1Ti 3:2
      2. Sober-minded (prudent, sensible) - 1Ti 3:2; Tit 1:8
      3. Good behavior (orderly, respectable) - 1Ti 3:2
      4. Hospitable (given to hospitality) - 1Ti 3:2; Tit 1:8
      5. Able to teach, exhort, convict - 1Ti 3:2; Tit 1:9
      6. Gentle (patient) - 1Ti 3:3
      7. Good testimony from without (well thought of) - 1Ti 3:7
      8. Lover of what is good (of good men, of goodness) - Tit 1:8
      9. Just (upright) - Tit 1:8
     10. Holy (devout) - Tit 1:8
     11. Self-controlled (temperate) - Tit 1:8

      1. Not given to wine (not a brawler) - 1Ti 3:3; Tit 1:7
      2. Not violent (no striker, not pugnacious) - 1Ti 3:3; Tit 1:7
      3. Not greedy for money (not fond of sordid gain) - 1Ti 3:3; Ti
      4. Not quarrelsome (not contentious) - 1Ti 3:3
      5. Not covetous (no lover of money) - 1Ti 3:3
      6. Not a novice (not a new convert) - 1Ti 3:6
      7. Not self-willed (must not be arrogant) - Tit 1:7
      8. Not quick-tempered (not soon angry) - Tit 1:7


1. The list of qualifications can be revealing about the work of
   a. Their work involves teaching, patiently guiding and leading the
      family of God
   b. Their work try one's patience (when there is murmuring,
      discontent, or apathy among brethren)
   c. It can place one in volatile situations (e.g., that faced by the
      apostles, cf. Ac 6:1-2)
   d. It can be tempting for those attracted by money (e.g., Judas, the

2. For the flock of God to be well-fed and well-led, it requires men who
   meet both...
   a. The positive qualifications (what a bishop must be)
   b. The negative qualifications (what a bishop must not be)

It is certainly a 'good work' for one to desire (1Ti 3:1).  May the
Lord raise up men to serve His flock in this way; for the need is
certainly great...!

Note:  For a detailed series of outlines on the work and qualifications
of bishops (elders, pastors), please see my series entitled "Shepherds
Of The Flock".<

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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God Hardens Whom He Wills? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


God Hardens Whom He Wills?

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Over the centuries, people have rejected Christianity for many reasons. Tragically, some have done so as the result of misconceptions regarding what the Bible actually teaches. They have heard individuals who claim to be Christians expound what they claim are Christ’s teachings. The hearers assumed that Christ’s teaching was being represented accurately, but recognizing the self-evident flaws in the presentation they heard, falsely concluded that Christ’s teaching was contradictory, when, in reality, the problem was in the one who purported to present correct Bible teaching.
One major cause of unbelief among those who have concluded that Christianity is false has been the advocacy of Calvinism. The rational, logical mind recognizes that a perfect, infinite God would not create beings in His own image (Genesis 1:27) that are not free moral agents responsible for their own decisions. Nor would He allow them to be subjected, through no fault of their own, to a condition of depravity, inherited from their parents, that makes them incapable of exercising their free moral agency to choose to accept or reject Him. Since a substantial segment of Christendom has promulgated Calvinism for over five centuries, multitudes of people unfortunately have assumed that the New Testament endorses Calvinistic tenets.
One passage that has been alleged to teach that God’s sovereignty means that He is free to override human will or do whatever He pleases (see Miller, 2003), though His actions interfere with human choice, is found in the New Testament book of Romans:
But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” (Romans 9:6-13, emp. added).
The parenthetical material is typically interpreted to mean that God decided to save Jacob and reject Esau before either was born, and without regard to any action of good or evil on their part. Of course, such an interpretation rips the verse from its context and places God in an unfavorable light.
In stark contrast, the context of the statement demonstrates that the apostle was referring to God’s plan to bring Christ into the world by means of the genetic line of Abraham and his descendants. Even though the bulk of the Jewish nation ended up rejecting Christ and the Gospel, God’s word concerning Abraham’s descendants was still fulfilled. How? “They are not all [spiritual—DM] Israel who are of [physical—DM] Israel.” In other words, Paul insisted unequivocally that the original promise to Abraham to bless the world was fulfilled in Christ, the Gospel, and the church of Christ—not in the fleshly, physical nation of Israel. To be physically descended from Abraham does not make one a spiritual child of Abraham. As John asserted: “And do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones” (Matthew 3:9). Genetic offspring are “a dime a dozen.” Only spiritual descendants—i.e., those who trust and obey God, are genuine children of Abraham.
Consequently, no person has a right to maintain that simply because he descended physically from Abraham, he shares in the promise of salvation in Christ. After all, Abraham had other sons who could claim the same genetic connection to Abraham (Genesis 16:15; 25:1-2). But it was through Isaac that God chose to bring the Christ. Abraham’s other fleshly sons were not “children of the promise,” i.e., through whom God promised to bring Christ. When a person today obeys the Gospel in order to become a Christian, that person becomes a child of the promise, and then is counted as the seed of Abraham, regardless of physical nationality (Romans 4:11-12; Galatians 3:29).
Further, a person might argue that God chose Isaac over Ishmael because Hagar was not Abraham’s real wife. But what about Isaac’s sons? They were full brothers, in fact, twins, and Esau was the firstborn. Yet God selected Jacob through whom to work out His redemptive plan—a selection that did not determine Jacob’s salvation status. Two quotations from the Old Testament prove Paul’s point—the first from Genesis 25:23, and the second from Malachi 1:2-3. In both, the focus is on the two nations that eventually descended from Jacob and Esau, i.e., Israel and Edom. God was not unjust when He made the selections He made to carry out His plans to bring Christ. The Jew might tend to feel that since God chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through whom to work, then every physical descendant should be spiritually acceptable to God. Here, indeed, is the number one misconception of the nation of Israel throughout Bible history, as well as a major point of confusion for the Calvinistic misrepresentation of the sovereignty of God. When it comes to personal, individual salvation, everyone is treated impartially, as an individual. Genetic descendants of Abraham have no spiritual advantage over anyone else. Paul continued:
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? (Romans 9:14-21, emp. added).
The words that God spoke to Moses, found in Exodus 33:19, were designed to encourage him not to give up on his leadership role. God had brought the nation out of Egypt, despite Pharaoh’s opposition. No one could keep God from doing what He deemed necessary to achieve His plan to bring Christ into the world. God showed the Israelites great compassion and mercy in His physical treatment of them through the centuries. But He shows spiritualcompassion (i.e., He imparts salvation) to everyone equally on the same gospel terms, i.e., on the basis of what Christ accomplished on the cross.
The Jews were constantly in a dither (“willing” and “running”—vs. 16) as they asserted their favored status to the exclusion of Gentiles. But God never intended to show gospel mercy on the basis of ethnic linkage to Abraham. His exclusive selection of Abraham was for the singular purpose of bringing Christ into the world that the entire human race might have access to forgiveness of sin. The Jewish nation misinterpreted the coincidental racial aspect of God’s dealings through them. To bring Christ, God had to make choices of people to use. But His choices had nothing to do with each individual’s own personal salvation.
Pharaoh provides a good illustration of how God worked in this regard. God purposed to show mercy to the people of Israel that they might leave Egypt, go to the Promised Land, and further advance God’s plan to bring Christ into the world. So God sent Moses to present God’s words to Pharaoh. The demand to release the people, however, only served to “raise up,” i.e., arouse, incite, or stir up Pharaoh (see Thayer, 1901, p. 222; Alford, 1877, 2:409; Vincent, 1890, 3:105; cf. Psalm 80:2). On his own volition, Pharaoh opposed God’s plan. His defiance created conditions under which God’s name was publicized to the world, alluded to in the quotation of Exodus 9:16.
Still, God gave Pharaoh opportunity after opportunity to change his mind—ten separate plagues and multiple visits from Moses (who repeatedly articulated God’s word to him). But this prolonged engagement (the longsuffering of God) resulted in giving Pharaoh more opportunities to be hardened in his rebellion—contrary to God’s will for him. Because God was the initiator and instigator of the circumstance, it may properly be said that He did the hardening. God confronts all people through circumstances and His Word, but each person is responsible for his or her own separate, individual reactions. [For a discussion of the sense in which God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, see Butt and Miller, 2003.]
But if God showed mercy to the Israelites by allowing them to escape Egyptian slavery, and if God destroyed Pharaoh for resisting His will, why then did God find fault with the Jews of Paul’s day? Why would God find fault with anyone whose heart is hardened by His demands? The answer lies in the fact that God has the divine right to use His own methods to bring about salvation for the world without interfering with our choices. Here is a marvelous feature of the sovereignty of God—His ability to work out His own purposes while simultaneously allowing the human agents involved to exercise their own free will and make their own choices. God can incorporate human beings into His overarching redemptive plans regardless of the personal choices humans make. Consequently, no one can rightfully accuse God of mistreating him or her. In fact, truth be told, human heartaches are often self-generated (cf. 1 Peter 4:15).
Thus throughout the context of Romans 9-11, Paul was not discussing personal salvation. Each individual decides salvation by the choices he or she makes. Paul was writing about how God can, and has, made use of people and nations in history to bring to fruition His grand plan of salvation. One Old Testament passage clarifies the concept:
“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it. Now therefore, speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.” ’ ” And they said, “That is hopeless! So we will walk according to our own plans, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart” (Jeremiah 18:6-12, emp. added).
This passage demonstrates that people make their own choices to do evil or good, to obey or disobey God. But God can work over, under, around, or through people—depending upon their personal choices. Either way, God achieves His will while simultaneously allowing each individual to make his or her own decisions and cinch his or her own fate. In that sense, and only in that sense, He is a potter with putty in His hands (cf. Isaiah 29:16; 45:9). Each individual decides their own conduct, and God then uses them accordingly.
God must show His wrath against sin and punish sin by His power (Romans 1:18). But He is longsuffering in that He does not want anyone to perish, as illustrated by how long He put up with Pharaoh’s stubborn resistance. Similarly, He tolerated Noah’s generation for many years before bringing the Flood, and He bore with the Israelites throughout their defiant history. They were “prepared for destruction”—in the sense that they chose to so fit themselves, and did everything possible to achieve it. But such was not God’s desire for them:
Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each one according to his deeds (Romans 2:4-6).
Nor is it God’s desire for anyone today:
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.... Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation (2 Peter 3:9,14-16; cf. 1 Timothy 2:4).
The nation of Israel had a long history of preparing itself for destruction—which finally came in A.D. 70 when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. In the meantime, God endured them with much longsuffering. Why? “That He might make known the riches of His glory.” That is, He was working out His scheme of redemption. He put up with the unbelieving Jews, allowing them to proceed down the pathway of their own self-appointed destruction (Matthew 23:32), until He could bring Christ, and then get the Gospel disseminated to the Gentiles (Acts 18:5-6; Colossians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). The church of Christ was launched in A.D. 30 in the city of Jerusalem, the heart of Israel, and consisted only of Jews for several years. God could not instigate due punishment upon the Jewish nation at that point without endangering the infant church of Christ. He waited until the Gospel went forth from Jerusalem to “the end of the earth” Acts 1:8), enabling the Gentiles to be introduced to the Gospel (Acts 10). This accounts for the “lag time” between A.D. 30 and A.D. 70.
The book of Romans cannot be used successfully nor legitimately to maintain the doctrine that God can do anything He chooses without regard to human decision-making and free moral agency. Unlike the imaginary deities conjured up in the minds of misguided men, the God of the Bible is shown to be perfect, possessing attributes of excellence to a perfect degree. He is the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.


Alford, Henry (1877), The Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1980 reprint).
Butt, Kyle and Dave Miller (2003), “Who Hardened Pharaoh’s Heart?,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2259.
Miller, Dave (2003), “Things God Cannot Do,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2292.
Thayer, Joseph H. (1901), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1977 reprint).
Vincent, M.R. (1890), Word Studies in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1946 reprint).

God and the Tsunami by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


God and the Tsunami

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The death toll is staggering: 150,000 and counting. On December 26, 2004, an underwater earthquake—which registered at 9.0 on the Richter scale—resulted in massive tidal waves from the Indian Ocean, wreaking death and devastation across portions of a dozen nations (Djuhari, 2004). Tsunamis are a series of very long waves generated by any rapid, large-scale disturbance of the sea. Most are generated by sea floor displacements from large undersea earthquakes (“Tsunamis,” 2004).
As shocking as this event may seem, many other natural disasters have occurred in human history that exceed the recent tsunami in their toll of death and destruction. For example, throughout China’s history, extensive flooding has occurred countless times as a result of the mighty 3,000-mile-long Hwang Ho River. Several of the most terrible floods, with their ensuing famines, have been responsible for the deaths of more than a million people at a time. The southern levee of the river failed in Hunan Province in 1887, affecting a 50,000 square mile area (“Hwang Ho,” 2004). More than 2 million people died from drowning, starvation, or the epidemics that followed (“Huang He,” 2004).
In reality, such events have occurred repetitiously throughout the history of the world, and continue to do so—constantly: hurricanes, cyclones, earthquakes, tornados, floods, tsunamis, droughts, and volcano eruptions. In fact, natural disasters kill one million peoplearound the world each decade, and leave millions more homeless, according to the United Nation’s International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (“Disasters...,” 1997).
This circumstance inevitably elicits the pressing question: “Why would God allow such loss of life, inflicted on countless numbers of seemingly innocent people?” The number one argument marshaled by atheists to advocate their disbelief in God is the presence of widespread, seemingly purposeless suffering. They insist that if an infinite Being existed, He would exercise His perfect compassion and His omnipotence to prevent human suffering (e.g., Lowder, 2004; cf. Jackson, 2001). Even for many people who do not embrace formal atheism, the fact that God apparently seems willing to allow misery and suffering to run rampant in the world, elicits a gamut of reactions—from perplexity and puzzlement to anger and resentment.
But the Bible provides the perfect explanation for such occurrences. Its handling of the subject is logical, sufficient, and definitive. It sets forth the fact that God created the world to be the most appropriate, suitable environment in which humans are enabled to make their own decisions concerning their ultimate destiny (Genesis 1:27; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). We humans have been provided with the ideal environment in which we may freely accept or reject God’s will for our lives. All instances of natural disasters and nature’s destructive forces are the result of specific conditions that are necessary to God’s providing humanity with this ideal environment.
God is not blameworthy for having created such a world, since He had a morally justifiable reason for having done so. Human existence on Earth was not intended to be permanent. Rather, the Creator intended life on Earth to serve as a temporary interval of time for the development of one’s soul. Life on Earth is a probationary period in which people are given the opportunity to attend to their spiritual condition as it relates to God’s will for living. Natural disasters provide people with conclusive evidence that life on Earth is brief and uncertain. [NOTE: For further study on this thorny issue, see Thompson, 1997, and Warren, 1972.]
Christians understand that no matter how catastrophic, tragic, or disastrous an event may be, it fits into the overall framework of soul-making—preparation for one’s departure from life into eternity. Likewise, the Christian knows that although the great pain and suffering caused by natural disasters may be unpleasant, and may test one’s mettle; nevertheless, such suffering is not intrinsically evil. Nor is it a reflection on the existence of an omnibenevolent God. The only intrinsic evil is violation of God’s will. What is required of all accountable persons is obedience to God’s revealed Word (given in the Bible)—even amidst pain, suffering, sickness, disease, death, and, yes, tsunamis.


“Disasters: A Deadly and Costly Toll Around the World” (1997), FEMA News, [On-line], URL: http://www.fema.gov/pdf/library/stats.pdf.
Djuhari, Lely (2004), “Asia Rushes to Bury 67,000 Tsunami Victims,” Seattle-Post Intelligencer, December 29, [On-line], URL: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/apasia_story.asp?category=1104&slug=Quake Tsunami.
“Huang He, or Hwang Ho” (2004), Britannica Student Encyclopedia, [On-line], URL: http://www.britannica.com/ebi/article?tocId=9274966.
“Hwang Ho” (2004), LoveToKnow 1911 Online Encyclopedia, [On-line], URL: http://32.1911encyclopedia.org/H/HW/HWANG_HO.htm.
Jackson, Roy (2001), “The Problem of Evil,” The Philosopher’s Magazine Online, [On-line], URL: http://www.philosophers.co.uk/cafe/rel_six.htm.
Lowder, Jeffery (2004), “Logical Arguments From Evil,” Internet Infidels, [On-line], URL: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/nontheism/atheism/evil-logical.html.
Thompson, Bert (1997), “Divine Benevolence, Human Suffering, and Intrinsic Value,” Reason and Revelation, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/198.
“Tsunamis” (2004), National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), [On-line], URL: http://www.noaa.gov/tsunamis.html.
Warren, Thomas (1972), Have Atheists Proved There Is No God? (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).

God and Human Sexuality by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


God and Human Sexuality

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Does God exist? Sufficient evidence exists to warrant the conclusion: “Yes, I know that God exists.” Has He spoken to us? Again, sufficient evidence exists to prove that the book we call the Bible is the inspired, infallible, inerrant, authoritative Word of God. Since God exists, and since He has given to us His divine will in written form, moral choices and human behavior are to be governed by that revealed will.
What is God’s will concerning human sexuality? That will was demonstrated originally in the creation of the first human beings: “Male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:27). God’s decision to create a female counterpart to the male was not coincidental. The female uniquely met three essential criteria: (1) “It’s not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18); (2) a helper suitable to him was needed (Genesis 2:18,20); and (3) the human race was to be perpetuated through sexual union (Genesis 1:28). Both Jesus and Paul reiterated this same understanding (Matthew 19:4-6; 1 Corinthians 7:2). So the woman was: (a) the divine antidote to Adam’s loneliness; (b) a helper fit for him; and (c) the means of the propagation of the human race. Here we see the divine arrangement for the human species.
Not long after God set into motion the created order—which He had pronounced as “very good” (Genesis 1:31)—man began to tamper with the divine will, and altered God’s original intentions concerning human sexuality. Polygamy was introduced into the world by Lamech (Genesis 4:19). God could have created two women for Adam. But He did not. Rather, He made one man for one woman for life. That is the divine will.
The next recorded departure from the divine will regarding human sexuality was Abraham’s foolish scheme to allow his wife Sarah to be taken by Pharoah (Genesis 12:10-12). That incident was followed by the determination by Sarah to offer Hagar as the means by which an heir might be secured (Genesis 16:1-16). Both of these actions obviously were contrary to God’s ideal of healthy, normal sexual behavior.
Genesis 19 now comes into view:
Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. And he said, “Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way,” And they said, “No, but we will spend the night in the open square.” But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.” So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.” And they said, “Stand back!” Then they said, “This one came in to sojourn, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.” So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door. But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door (Genesis 19:1-11, NKJV).
Moses already had described the spiritual condition of Sodom’s inhabitants as being “wicked and sinners against Jehovah exceedingly” (Genesis 13:13). God Himself stated that their sin was “great” and “grievous” (Genesis 18:20). The specific activity described in Genesis 19 involved the desire on the part of the males of Sodom to “know” Lot’s two visitors. The Hebrew term yada is used euphemistically to denote sexual intercourse (cf. Genesis 4:1; 19:8; Numbers 31:17, 35; Judges 11:39; 21:11).
Notice that the crime that was condemned in this passage was not the fact that the Sodomites were being violent and forcing someone to do something against his will (see Miller, 2002). Jude made that clear when he identified their sin as “giving themselves over to fornication and going after strange flesh” (vs. 7). Peter echoed the same thought:
[A]nd turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemning them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed with the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed; they are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries (2 Peter 2:6-10, NKJV; cf. Jeremiah 23:14).
The term “sodomy” has come into the English language because of the sexual activity practiced in Sodom. A standard English dictionary defines “sodomy” as “[a]ny of various forms of sexual intercourse held to be unnatural or abnormal, especially anal intercourse or bestiality” (American Heritage Dictionary, 2000, p. 1651). It surely is reminiscent of our day to observe that when Lot urged the sodomites not to do “so wickedly,” the men accused Lot of being judgmental (Genesis 19:9; cf. Deuteronomy 23:17-18).
In addition to the pre-Mosaic period of history, God made clear His will on this matter when He handed down the Law of Moses. In a chapter dealing almost exclusively with sexual regulations, His words are explicit and unmistakable.
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. Nor shall you mate with any beast, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before a beast to mate with it. It is perversion. Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who sojourns among you (for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled), lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you. For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people. Therefore you shall keep My ordinance, so that you do not commit any of these abominable customs which were committed before you, and that you do not defile yourselves by them: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 18:22-30, NKJV)…. If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them (Leviticus 20:13, NKJV).
A person would need help to misunderstand these injunctions.
Another graphic account is given in Judges 19, during the period of the judges, which was a time of spiritual and moral depravity and decay—the “Dark Ages” of Jewish history. “Sons of Belial” (i.e., wicked scoundrels) surrounded a house where travelers had taken refuge for the night. As in Sodom, they desired to “know” the male guest (Judges 19:22). The host, like Lot, knew exactly what they meant, as is evident from the fact that, like Lot, he offered them a sexual alternative (which, of course, God did not approve). Their sexual desire was labeled as “wickedness,” “outrage,” “vileness,” “lewdness,” and “evil” (Judges 19:23,24; 20:3,6,10,12,13, NKJV).
During the period of the kings, Josiah instituted sweeping moral and religious reforms. These included tearing down the homes of the Sodomites (2 Kings 23:7).
The New Testament is equally definitive in its uncompromising and unquestioned condemnation of illicit sexual activity. Paul summarized the “unrighteous” and “ungodly” behavior of the Gentile nations and declared:
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:26-32, NKJV).
This passage uses Greek terms that linguistic scholars define as “forbidden desire,” “impurity,” “unnatural vice,” “shameful passions,” “not in accordance with nature,” and “individuals of the same sex being inflamed with sensual, sexual desire for each other” (Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, pp. 28,118,119,240,583,877). Not only is God displeased with those who participate in such behavior, but verse 32 indicates that He is equally displeased with those who are merely supportive of such conduct—though they themselves do not engage in the activity. To the Corinthian church, Paul asked:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, NKJV).
The Greek word translated “homosexual” is a metaphorical use of a term that literally means “soft” and, when referring to people, refers to males allowing themselves to be used sexually by other males. Again, lexicographers apply the term to the person who is a “catamite,” i.e., a male who submits his body to another male for unnatural lewdness, i.e., homosexually (Thayer, 1977, p. 387; Arndt and Gingrich, p. 489).
The term “sodomites,” (“abusers of themselves with mankind” in the KJV) is a translation of the term arsenokoitai. It comes from two words: arsein (a male) and koitei (a bed), and refers to one who engages in sex with a male as with a female (Thayer, p. 75). Paul used the same term when he wrote to Timothy, and identified some behaviors that are both “contrary to sound doctrine” and characteristic of the one who is not “a righteous man” (1 Timothy 1:9-10).
When Paul said, “such were some of you,” he proved not only that those involved may be forgiven, but that they can cease such activity. We are forced to conclude that sexual activity between persons of the same sex is not a matter of genetics; it is a behavioralphenomenon associated largely with environmental factors.
Illicit sex is just one more departure from God’s will that American civilization is facing. God identified all departures from His will pertaining to sexual intercourse as “fornication.” The underlying Greek term, porneia, is a broad term that covers every form of illicit sexual intercourse, including adultery, incest, bestiality, bigamy, polygamy, bisexuality, necrophilia, and more. Our sex-crazed society is so promiscuous, and so estranged from God’s view of human sexuality, that our public schools consider it appropriate to teach children to simply “take precautions” when they engage in sexual escapades outside of marriage. But God never encouraged people to practice “safe sex.” Rather, He instructed people to exercise self-control, self-discipline, and moral responsibility. The Bible teaches that we are not to be self-indulgent. We are to put restraints on ourselves, and control our sexual urges and desires according to God’s will.
Encouraging young people simply to “take precautions” only encourages additional illicit behavior. It encourages more promiscuity. It contributes to an increase—not a decrease—in the number of pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases. Despite several decades of inundating our schools with sex education, and the promotion of so-called “safe sex,” the statisticians inform us that in the next thirty days, 83,850 unwed girls will become pregnantin this country (“Teens in Crisis,” 2001, p. 1). The handling of the issue by the social liberal has not worked. In fact, the problem has greatly worsened.
The Bible definition of “safe sex” is sex that is confined to a divinely authorized, scriptural marriage. The depths to which our country has slumped morally is seen in the fact that it is legal for public school officials to distribute condoms to students, but it is illegal to distribute Bibles or to teach Bible principles. The time has come for our nation to wake up. The time has come to face the fact that freedom requires restraint. Rights require personal responsibility. People must take responsibility for their choices, and accept the consequences of their own actions. Paul declared, “flee fornication” (1 Corinthians 6:18). He did not say, “engage in ‘safe’ fornication!” There is no such thing as “safe” sin or “safe” immorality. God said a person must run away from it, resist it, and reject it. To a youth, Paul said, “Keep yourself pure” (1 Timothy 5:22). The writer of Hebrews insisted that the marriage bed is to be kept “undefiled.” “[F]ornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4). Paul said there should not be so much as a hint of sexual immorality among Christians (Ephesians 5:3).
Please understand: God loves all sinners—regardless of the specific sins they have committed. The faithful Christian will do the same. But it is imperative that we be about the business of alerting those who are engaged in sexual sin regarding God’s will, in an effort to “snatch them out of the fire” (Jude 23), and to “save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).


Sexual sin undoubtedly will go down in history as one of the major contributors to the moral and spiritual deterioration, decline, and downfall of American society. One wonders how much longer such widespread unchastity can go on in our land before God will “visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:25). Every society in human history that has followed this course toward moral and spiritual depravity has eventually been destroyed by God. Indeed, in light of such moral confusion, our society cannot continue to survive indefinitely into the future—unless, of course, God is prepared to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.


American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
Arndt, William and F.W. Gingrich (1957), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Miller, Dave (2002), “Sodom—Inhospitality or Homosexuality?,” Reason & Revelation, 22:41-42, November.
Thayer, J.H. (1962 reprint), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
“Teens in Crisis” (2001), Teen Help (Las Vegas, NV: World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools).

God and Capital Punishment by Frank Chesser, M.S.


God and Capital Punishment

by Frank Chesser, M.S.

[NOTE: The author of the following articles is an A.P. board member.]
In 1984 leaders of 13 major denominational churches in Florida signed a joint document condemning capital punishment. They described the death penalty as being extremely harmful, immoral, an action that encourages violence and demonstrates disrespect for human life and is inconsistent with the love of God.1 The conduct of these religious leaders is a classic example of refusing to think right about God. Capital punishment is a principle that is divine in origin and permanent in nature. It embraces all of time. God intends for the death penalty to be employed as an act of justice by duly authorized authorities for as long as man should inhabit the earth.


It is incomprehensible that anyone with even a superficial knowledge of the Bible would object to the death penalty. The Bible is replete with examples of capital punishment with God as the executioner. Was God acting immorally, exhibiting disrespect for human life, and in defiance of His own nature when he destroyed the world of Noah’s day with a global flood? Can a man descend to a depth of sin and evil that he no longer deserves to live? The mind is the axis of life. The minds of the objects of God’s wrath were incessantly evil. They were barren of a single good thought (Genesis 6:5). They feasted on vileness like vultures on the rot of dead flesh and filled the earth “with violence” (Genesis 6:11). Had they forfeited the right to life? Is not God sovereign over all that is? Is He not the source of life? Does He not retain the right to decide when life should end? Is it possible for God to act in a manner inconsistent with His own nature? Is a man thinking right about God when, by implication, he accuses God of acting immorally? “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?” (Romans 9:20). The flood alone is proof of the moral justice of capital punishment and of its complete compatibility with the whole of God’s nature.
God executed capital punishment against Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim (Genesis 19). The inhabitants of these wicked cities had perverted the very core of man’s sexual being as designed by God. They were sick with sin. They coveted the unnatural and abnormal. They heaped dishonor upon “their own bodies” (Romans 1:24). They yearned after “strange flesh” (Jude 7). Their sexual passions were “vile” (Romans 1:26). They could not “cease from sin” (2 Peter 2:14). They had reached the point of no return. Did they deserve to live? God utterly destroyed these cities with burning sulphur and emblazoned the memory of them before the minds of men “for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7).
Was God acting improperly when He slew Er, Judah’s firstborn, because he was wicked (Genesis 38:7), killed his brother Onan, because he refused to submit to the Levirate marriage law and perpetuate his brother’s name in Israel (Genesis 38:8-10), or when “it came to pass at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock?” (Exodus 12:29). Does man have the right to call God into account for His actions? “Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘why have you made me like this?’” (Romans 9:20). Who is weak, frail, puny, sinful man to question the conduct of God? God destroyed the army of Egypt in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:26-28). He killed Nadab and Abihu because they “offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them” (Leviticus 10:1). He slew some in Israel who loathed the gift of manna, looked backward with longing eyes to the food provisions in Egypt, and demanded a change in diet (Numbers 11:4–34), and killed the ten spies who returned from Canaan with an evil report (Numbers 14:37). Is a man spiritually rational when he depicts such actions of God as immoral and dishonoring to human life?
God destroyed the families of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram in the heart of the earth and 250 princes with fire because they rebelled against the authority of Moses and demanded access to the priesthood (Numbers 16:1-33). He then slew 14,700 in Israel who accused Moses and Aaron of killing “the people of the Lord” (Numbers 16:41). He executed capital punishment upon a large number of Israelites who expressed contempt for the leadership of Moses and God’s provisions of grace in the wilderness (Numbers 21:5-6). He slew 23,000 in Israel for fornication and idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:8), commanded an additional thousand to be executed by the hands of judges (Numbers 25:1-9), and granted Joshua a victory over a coalition of five armies by killing more soldiers with hailstones than the army of Israel had slain in battle (Joshua 10:11).
God executed a host of men in Bethshemesh because of their lack of reverence for the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 6:19), killed Nabal for his wickedness (1 Samuel 25:38), and slew Uzzah for touching the ark (2 Samuel 6:7). He killed 70,000 men of Israel as an act of judgment upon David and Israel because of sin (2 Samuel 24:15), used a lion to slay a disobedient prophet from Judah (1 Kings 13:24), and slew Jeroboam, the first king of the northern kingdom (2 Chronicles 13:20). He executed 102 soldiers in Israel who refused to honor His authority through Elijah (2 Kings 1:1-12), used an angel to kill 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night (2 Kings 19:35), and slew Jehoram, the fifth king of Judah, with a bodily disease (2 Chronicles 21:18-19). God killed Ananias and Sapphira for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-10) and slew Herod for refusing to glorify God (Acts 12:23). Is a man thinking right about God when he arrays God’s love against God’s holiness, justice, and wrath and depicts capital punishment as harmful, immoral, and lacking in respect for human life?


God often used man to administer judgment upon men and nations whose sin and rebellion called for the cessation of life. He used the sons of Levi to slay some three thousand men who had sinned in worshiping the golden calf (Exodus 32:27-28). He used Israel to stone a man who blasphemed the name of God (Leviticus. 24:10-14) and a man who violated the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36) and to bring judgment on His enemies (Numbers 21), and He praised and blessed Phinehas for appeasing His wrath in slaying two adulterers (Numbers 25:6-14). God’s statement to Abraham, “for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16), points to the inevitable judgment that would befall the inhabitants of Canaan when their sin reached the full mark. At the close of his life, Moses reminded Israel of the end of God’s grace, mercy, and forbearance with the seven nations in Canaan, and said, “And when the Lord your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them.” (Deuteronomy 7:2). God used the nation of Israel to execute judgment upon the people of Canaan for their longstanding idolatry and sin (Joshua 1-12).
God used Israel to administer capital punishment upon Achan and his family (Joshua 7). The period of the judges was a spiritually tumultuous period in Israel’s history as the people “did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way” (Judges 2:19). They adopted the idolatry and wicked ways of the pagan nations. God utilized the king of Mesopotamia; Eglon, king of Moab; Jabin, king of Canaan; the Midianites, Ammonites, and Philistines to bring judgment upon them. As they manifested repentance, God would raise up judges to lead Israel in freeing the nation from the oppression of these heathen rulers and punishing them for their own idolatry and sin. Rivers of blood flowed across the land during this chaotic period as God used men to inflict capital punishment upon other men because of their impenitent sin and rebellion.
The Ammonites were descendants of Lot. They were pagan, idolatrous, cruel, and exceedingly corrupt. They refused to aid Israel in a time of great need and joined Moab in hiring Balaam to curse them (Deuteronomy 23:4). In the early days of Saul’s reign, they threatened to gouge out the right eyes of all the men in the city of Jabesh (1 Samuel 11:2). And the “spirit of God came upon Saul” (1 Samuel 11:6), and God employed Saul and Israel to kill the Ammonites until “it happened that those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together” (1 Samuel 11:11). The Amalekites shared kinship with the Ammonites in idolatry, cruelty, and wickedness. When Israel ascended out of Egypt, the Amalekites attacked them from behind, killing the most vulnerable: the elderly, weak, and feeble (Deuteronomy 25:17-18). God reminded Saul of this act of inhumanness and said, “Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them.” (1 Samuel 15:3).
David was a “man of war” (1 Chronicles 28:3). He was a sword of judgment in the hand of God to execute the penalty of death upon the enemies of God, whose corruptness of life called for their destruction. He often inquired of the Lord, seeking His will concerning battle engagements. He said of God, “He teaches my hands to make war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.” (2 Samuel 22:35). In a summary of some of his military victories, inspiration asserts, “And the Lord preserved David wherever he went.” (2 Samuel 8:14). God’s role for David’s life was for him to function as a hammer of God’s judgment upon heathen nations steeped in idolatry and iniquity and to secure and bring peace to Israel, thus creating a tranquil environment for Solomon to construct the Temple. It was this very point that David pressed upon the mind of Solomon in the closing days of his life (1 Chronicles 22:6-19).
God used Abijah, the second king of Judah, to render judgment upon Jeroboam and Israel because of their apostasy and idolatry. Five hundred thousand men of Israel perished in this conflict. Judah was victorious because “they relied upon the Lord God of their fathers” (2 Chronicles 13:18). Asa, the third king of Judah, faced an Ethiopian army of a million soldiers, the largest army mentioned in the Old Testament. He implored God for divine aid. “So the Lord struck the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah” (2 Chronicles 14:12). During the reign of Jehoshaphat, the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Edom descended upon Judah. In Jehoshaphat’s prayer before the congregation of Judah in Jerusalem, he expressed the nation’s helpless state and their total dependence upon God. God executed judgment upon the wicked nations by turning their swords against one another until “and there were their dead bodies, fallen on the earth. No one had escaped.” (2 Chronicles 20:24).
Idolaters and enemies of God, the Syrians affirmed that God was only a local Deity with limited power (1 Kings 20:28). God employed Israel to punish Syria and they “killed one hundred thousand foot soldiers of the Syrians in one day.” (1 Kings 20:29). An additional 27 thousand were killed by the weight of a wall that fell upon them in the city of Aphek (1 Kings 20:30). God utilized Jehu to judge the wicked house of Ahab. “So Jehu killed all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men and his close acquaintances and his priests, until he left him none remaining.” (2 Kings 10:11). He then killed all the worshipers of Baal until he had “destroyed Baal out of Israel” (2 Kings 10:28).
Israel descended into such depths of sin that God raised the sword of Assyria against them and destroyed their national identity in Assyrian captivity (2 Kings 17:5-23). Judah emulated Israel’s conduct and God utilized Babylon to execute judgment upon them. He later used the Medes and Persians to judge Babylon. Isaiah specifies ten pagan nations who suffered the judgment of God because of their grievous sin (cf. Isaiah 13-23). The New Testament closes with God’s answer to the martyrs of Christ who cried, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10). God administered judgment upon the enemies of His Son and the church and declared, “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!” (Revelation 18:20).
Is a man thinking right about God when he sees all of these biblical examples, yet still declares the death penalty to be harmful, immoral, disrespectful to human life, and inconsistent with the nature of God?


Following the global Flood, God reiterated the need for the increase of the human family (Genesis 9:1). Sin had changed everything, and the tranquil co-existence between man and animal had been supplanted with hostility (Genesis 9:2). The vegetarian status of both man and animals prior to sin had now been changed to allow man to consume meat (Genesis 1:29-30; 9:3).2 Divine permission to eat meat was accompanied with a prohibition regarding the consumption of blood. “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” (Genesis 9:4), because the “life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11). Since human life reflects the image of God, the most severe possible penalty is attached to the action of murder that brings it to an end. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.” (Genesis 9:6).
This principle and penalty embraces all of time. Civil government is ordained of God (Romans 13:1). It is an expression of God’s concern for man’s well-being, and when functioning faithfully, it discourages lawlessness and promotes peace and serenity. Romans 13:4 describes authorized civil authorities as ministers of God, persons who do not bear “the sword in vain,” and avengers divinely bound to execute “wrath on him who practices evil.” The sword is a symbol of capital punishment and, when wielded by the state, is an action authorized by God. Any man who attempts to sheathe the state’s sword is in rebellion to God and His will. He is resisting “the ordinance of God” (Romans 13:2). God placed the sword in the hand of the state, and no man has a right to remove it.
“He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.” (Exodus 21:12). The willful taking of life demands the life of the perpetrator. In ancient times, God granted the right of vengeance to the victim’s nearest relative, designated as the “avenger of blood” who shall “put the murderer to death” (Numbers 35:19). Cities of refuge were provided for accidental slayings, allowing one to live in peace and safety whose act of killing was unintentional (Numbers 35:6-15). Moreover, the taking of life for self-defense purposes is not murder, and such action is not subject to the death penalty. The need and desire for self-preservation is divinely implanted. It is as natural and inherent to life as food and drink. It would be wholly inconsistent with the nature of God to design man with such a potent need and then refuse him the right to exercise it. Preserving one’s own life or the life of any innocent victim from the murderous intent of evil doers is perfectly compatible with both the nature of God and the nature of man as designed by God. Exodus 22:2 envisions just such a case as a man kills a thief caught breaking into his home at night in defense of himself and his family and is rendered guiltless.
“And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 21:15). “And he who curses his father or mother shall surely be put to death.” (Exodus 21:17). Mothers descend into the depths of pain and anguish in order to bring life into the world. God’s mothers and fathers are heaven’s gift to children. Parents functioning according to God’s pattern for the home are children’s first insight into the nature of God. Parents are god-like in a child’s eyes. Parents who love God set the feet of their children on the road to eternal bliss. To strike or curse such a parent is an assault upon the heart. It inflicts mental and emotional pain that far exceeds physical suffering. It undermines the peace and joy of the home, the bedrock of society, and afflicts the heart of God.
“He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.” (Exodus 21:16). Kidnapping was punishable by death. Stealing a man for slave traffic invited the death penalty even when the victim was yet in the thief’s possession. Robbing a man of his personal freedom was a capital offense. Exodus 21:22-23 contemplates an expectant mother’s losing her life or the life of her miscarried child as she endeavored to shield her husband from an aggressor. The aggressor was to be put to death. Exodus 21:29-30 envisions the death of a man or woman by an ox known to have a violent nature. Unless the relatives of the victim agreed upon financial compensation, the owner of the ox was to suffer the death penalty.
“You shall not permit a sorceress to live.” (Exodus 22:18). Sorcery strikes at the very heart of the sovereignty of God. It is an attempt to circumvent God and take charge of one’s own life. As are all efforts to rid man’s mind and life of God and His restraining influences, it appeals to the lust of the flesh. It fosters defilement (Leviticus 19:31). The Canaanites were engrossed in every form of sorcery and it was one of the reasons God removed them from the land (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). Saul’s consultation with the witch of Endor is cited as one of the reasons God “killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David” (1 Chronicles 10:13-14). Sorcerers were to be put to death by stoning (Leviticus 20:27).
All forms of perverted sexual activity, such as incest (Leviticus 20:11-12,14), homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13), and bestiality (Leviticus 20:15) were subject to the death penalty. There are complexities associated with man’s sexual being as designed by God that transcend human comprehension. This truth is mightily reinforced by God’s law concerning even the touching of a man’s genitals. Foolish indeed is the man who refuses to perceive this truth and proceeds to tamper with this aspect of life. Perverted sexual conduct is an egregious assault upon the very core of a man’s being. There is no action of man that calls for more intense judgment. The homosexuality of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim incurred a judgment that God will not allow man to forget. It is a repetitive theme in both Testaments, a sign-post from God regarding His attitude toward this grievous sin (Jude 7), and the last book in the Bible holds it up as the epitome of sin (Revelation 11:8). A nation is doomed if it allows this sin to reach a level of national acceptance.
“The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.” (Leviticus 20:10). Heterosexual relationships outside of marriage were punishable by death. Adultery injures the marital relationship like no other sin. There is something unique about the one-flesh relationship in marriage, and there is something unique about the sin that severs it. The stringent nature of Matthew 19:9 bears witness to this truth. Relaxing the rigidity of God’s marital law is to man’s own peril. It is senseless to tamper with the things of God. Those who think right about God would never consider such conduct. There is nothing that creates more excitement in the halls of hell than for man to attempt to modify God’s marital laws intended to protect the sanctity of the home, the foundational unit of society.
Idolatry was a capital punishment offense (Deuteronomy 17:2-7). This grievous evil, the source of so many sins, plagued Israel for almost the whole of their national life until their return from Babylonian captivity. False prophets aiming to lure Israel into idolatry were to be killed (Deuteronomy 13:1-5). Family members, such as one’s wife, son, daughter, brother, or friend who endeavored to entice their family “secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods” (Deuteronomy 13:6) were not to be pitied, spared, or concealed but were to be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 13:8-10). Rumors concerning a city’s involvement in idolatry were to be thoroughly investigated, and if found to be true, the city in its entirety was to be destroyed, and even the spoil of the city was to be burned (Deuteronomy 13:12-17).
Acts of rebellion against decisions made by a tribunal of priests and judges in execution of God’s law were subject to the death penalty (Deuteronomy 17:8-13). Prophets who dared to speak where God had not spoken, or who prophesied in the name of an idol were to be slain (Deuteronomy 18:20). Harlotry by the daughter of a priest was punishable by death (Leviticus 21:9). Child sacrifice to an idol was subject to death by stoning (Leviticus. 20:2). Desecrating the Sabbath with work called for the death penalty (Exodus 35:2). Capital punishment was to be administered to any non-priest who attempted to usurp priestly functions (Numbers 3:10), to a non-Levite who encroached upon Levitical responsibility in performing the services of the tabernacle (Numbers 18:22-23), to any Levite who neglected or refused to give his own tenth of the tithe received from Israel (Numbers 18:25-32), and to any Kohathite charged with transporting the sacred furniture of the tabernacle, if he looked upon or touched any of it (Numbers 4:15,20).
A man proven to be a false witness was to be put to death if such was his intention regarding the accused (Deuteronomy 19:16-21). Capital punishment was to be inflicted upon an incorrigible son (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), a new bride who was verified to be guilty of fornication prior to marriage (Deuteronomy 22:13-21), a man who raped an engaged or married woman (Deuteronomy 22:25-27), and one who blasphemed or cursed God (Leviticus 24:10-16).


Capital punishment is ordained by God. God intends for the death penalty to occupy a permanent place in society for as long as the world stands. Opposing the death penalty is an act of defiance against God, the nature of God, and the will of God. Those who manifest aversion to capital punishment are refusing to think right about both God and sin.


1 Jon Nordheimer (1984), “Death Penalty Assailed By Florida Church Leaders,” New York Timeshttp://www.nytimes.com/1984/11/27/us/death-penalty-assailed-by-florida-church-leaders.html, November 27.
2 Eric Lyons (2003), “Were All Men Vegetarians Before the Flood?”, Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1257.