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Death Penalty


Various church bodies have condemned capital punishment in recent years, however God’s Word supports capital punishment:

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:6).

Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 24:17).

Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death” (Exodus 21:12).

The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him” (Numbers 35:21b).

But if anyone hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him and attacks him and strikes him fatally so that he dies, and he flees into one of these cities, then the elders of his city shall send and take him from there, and hand him over to the avenger of blood, so that he may die. Your eye shall not pity him, but you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, so that it may be well with you” (Deuteronomy 19:11-13).

But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4).

If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar” (Acts 25:11).


The Lutheran Confession also supports capital punishment. “Therefore neither God nor the government is included in this commandment, yet their right to take human life is not abrogated. God has delegated His authority of punishing evil-doers to civil magistrates in place of parents; in early times, as we read in Moses, parents had to bring their own children to judgment and sentence them to death. Therefore what is forbidden here applies to private individuals, not to governments.” (Large Catechism I, 180 to 181 [Tappert, p. 389])


This does not mean that everyone who is a Christian or is a member of a Christian congregation is conscience-bound to support the death penalty. Individuals may, for various valid reasons, object to the usefulness and fairness of the death penalty as it is being used or considered within a particular governmental system. Although it is clear from Scripture that the government has the God-given right to use the death penalty, the church has not taken the position that the government must use this right if it determines that some other form of punishment would better serve society at large at a particular time and place.

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