Continuing with objections and answers to the death penalty.
4) You cannot teach people NOT to kill people by killing them.
a. This is the very opposite of God’s logic. In Gen. 9:6, we read: "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.” In other words, the death penalty does not “teach” murderers that human life is worthless. The murderer already believes that to some degree. On the contrary, the death penalty “teaches” the murderer (society, more importantly) that human beings are made in the image of God and therefore are so valuable that death is the only fitting punishment for murderers. The death penalty does not teach the devaluation of life. On the contrary, it reinforces the value of life by imposing the strictest possible sentence upon murder. It takes away from the murderer that which he values most – his own life.
b. Shall we dispense with spanking and corporal punishment because it doesn’t “teach” children about the wrongness of hitting others? I’m sure some would say yes. But God says no. In many places in Proverbs, God commands us to use corporal punishment for the disobedience of children. I think if God thought spankings would send the wrong message to children about “hitting others,” He wouldn’t have commanded it.
c. If those who make this objection are so concerned about a botched teaching moment for criminals, then how do they defend the disastrous rate of recidivism amongst criminals who are not put to death, but instead let out of jail after several years of incarceration? Has imprisonment “taught” them well? If so, why do they keep returning to their law breaking ways? Furthermore, if we were really believed that the purpose of the justice system was to model the right actions for criminals (as if criminals care about models), then why even imprison them? Is it right for me to imprison someone to teach them a lesson about their behavior? If not, then why is it right for the state to do it? Shall the state quit imprisoning kidnappers because “you can’t teach people Not to imprison others by imprisoning them?” What about fines? Shall the state quit fining people because “you can’t teach people to quit taking money from others by taking money from them?” This objection is full of nonsense.
5) It contradicts the sixth commandment, "Thou shall not kill." Again, shall we accuse God of contradicting Himself? It is amazing that people will use scripture, as if it is an authority to be followed and obeyed, to argue against other scripture so that it won't be followed and obeyed. People will take a verse from scripture about love to prove that another scripture about judgment and wrath is false. What kind of reasoning is this? Who gave them the right to attach divine authority to certain scriptures and then interpret them in such a way to allow them to sterilize other scriptures? All scripture is God-breathed. It all came from the same God. If your interpretation of one scripture emasculates another scripture, then you are interpreting it wrong. All scripture harmonizes because it all comes from a very consistent and clear-headed God. If you don't yet see how it harmonizes, then you need to pray for the Holy Spirit's help. You need to study more, meditate more and seek help from Bible-loving pastors, teachers and commentators. Be assured, God understands what you do not. Your duty is to submit to His understanding, not impose your faulty understanding on His Word.
Furthermore, what God allows and commands governments to do is a separate category than what God allows individuals to do. God did not permit individuals to carry out personal justice and revenge in the OT and neither does He allow it in the NT. However, God did ordain governing authorities to carry out the death penalty. This is as true in the NT as in the OT. Consider Rom. 13:1-5:
"Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake."
Notice that government is established by God. It is the ordinance of God. It is a minister of God. It bears the sword (which is a reference to capital punishment, NOT fines and prison sentences and slaps on the wrist). It is an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
Therefore, acting on behalf of the God-ordained institution of government, an individual in that government who puts to death a criminal is acting for God, not for himself and not for the church. He is NOT carrying out personal revenge. He is carrying out God's revenge (when it is done lawfully in response to a crime that scripture declares worthy of death). That individual is not murdering someone. He is enforcing justice. Murder is when I kill someone with malice in my heart. It is not murder when a policeman shoots a criminal in order to protect someone else. It is justice. Similarly, it is not murder if I kill someone in self-defense or in the defense of others. It is protection. It is not murder if I serve in the military and kill enemies who represent an unjust government or group who oppresses and abuses humanity. Rather, it is justice. The putting to death of another individual is NOT always murder, and it is a blind and ignorant reading of scripture that suggests otherwise. So to suggest that the government should not put criminals to death because God said "Thou shall not kill" is a profound misunderstanding of scripture and a profound misunderstanding of what God was specifically prohibiting in the sixth commandment. He was not prohibiting the government from exercising capital punishment -- something He over and over prescribed. He was prohibiting individuals from killing other individuals because of hatred or covetousness or some other wicked motive.
6) It contradicts the New Testament message of love and grace. It is a myth that the NT is all about love and grace, while the OT is all about anger and wrath. The OT is full of teaching about God's grace and love, alongside teachings about God's anger and wrath (Have such objectors read Revelation?). The NT is the same. The NT has plenty of references to the wrath of God. In fact, the doctrine of hell is primarily taught in the NT from the lips of Jesus Christ. The OT does not tell us much at all about hell. The doctrine of hell -- an eternity of torment in flames, day and night, without rest, forever -- is far more radical and far more shocking and terrifying than any OT references to physical death. The problem is that our culture does not believe in hell. Consequently, people are astonished and embarrassed by the OT references to God killing people or commanding Israel to do so, while they blissfully ignore the teachings of Jesus on hell and instead fashion Jesus into their own "love and grace" idol.
There is nothing about the gospel message, the grace of God, the love of God, the new covenant, or the cross of Jesus Christ that diminishes the biblical teaching about the death penalty. If it did, Romans 13:1-5 would not have been written.
The cross does not abolish goverment imposed capital punishment. The cross does not even prevent me from dying a physical death. Everyone dies. Why? As a penalty for sin. Romans 5:12-14 explains:
"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-- for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come."
How many people have you known that didn't die and go to the grave because Jesus died on the cross? No one. Why? Because the physical death penalty for sin remains. We all die because of sin. The penalty that Jesus took away was eternal death in hell. And that penalty has been graciously removed for believers alone. It is only believers that will escape the sentence of hell? Why? Because Jesus suffered their eternal punishment in His body on the cross. Why will unrepentant unbelievers suffer for all eternity in hell? Because Jesus did not suffer their punishment. John 10:14-15: "I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep."
This being the case, why would Jesus' death on the cross abolish the death penalty? It doesn't. If a person on death row desires to repent and has grace to repent, he may do so on death row. When he dies, He will pass out of this life into the everlasting arms of a loving Father in heaven. Being executed by the government does not preclude repentance or the possibility of eternal life for all who trust in Christ. In fact, it may provide motivation for such repentance that is often lacking in our prisons.
In short, the death penalty is as valid today as it was in the OT. Modern governments, the vast majority of which are not occupied by born again Christians, may not be able to impose the death penalty on ALL the very same crimes that were thus punished in the OT, but they may and should impose the death penalty for many crimes.