Should Bible Believers Kill Sinners?

If you pick up your Bible and open to the Old Testament, you’ll read things like:

  • “For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death” (Lev. 20:9)
  • “That [false] prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God” (Deut. 13:5)

And so forth. Definitely not light reading.

Rightly Interpreting

I do hold that such verses are truly God’s word, and so should any who claim to follow Christ (for He taught that the whole Bible, including such passages, are part of God’s word).

What I see is this in such Old Testament passages:

  1. Someone offends God (i.e. sins)
  2. They must be fairly judged
  3. If charged as guilty, they were killed

Now open your Bibles to the New Testament (the part that was written after Jesus died on the cross, taking on God’s judgment for sins [hint, hint]). And go to Romans 1 (or similar passages). What do you read?

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness…they are full of…deceit…they disobey their parents…Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death

Romans 1:18-32

This passage lists a litany of sins (and, sadly, every human can identify with at least one of them, and likely many more than one). However, I just pulled out 2 sins: (1) deceit, (2) disobeying parents. Simply because those are the 2 Old Testament verses listed above as deserving of death.

But if you look at the Old Testament passages deserving death, I’m pretty sure you can find it listed in Romans 1.

And, in fact, at the end of Romans 1 we read that, indeed, these sins do deserve death.

This passage tells us:

  • people offend God for such things as dishonoring parents and deceiving others
  • they will be judged by God
  • When found guilty, they will be killed [and, even more alarming, die eternally in their sins]

So far, there is no difference between what the Old Testament says and the New Testament.

Jesus’ Sacrifice

However, something happens between God’s wrath bringing death to sinners in Romans 1, and God saying: “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (in Romans 8:1).

Between the wrath of God on sinners in Romans 1 and the forgiveness to sinners later in Romans, we have the sacrifice of Christ spelled out. Namely, Jesus as righteous died in place of us sinners. So God’s decree was fulfilled: our sins deserved death (as shown in O.T. and N.T.) and Christ paid that death. Everything spelled out in the Old Testament as deserving of death was paid at the cross by Christ.

However, for those who refuse to repent and believe Christ and his sacrifice as paying for their sins, they will (in the future) receive death and eternal death (suffering in hell) for their disobedience (as the Old Testament spells out should happen).

Essentially, you get to choose:

  1. Repent and trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection as paying for your sins
  2. Face God on your own and receive eternal death for your sins

Passover Feast

Let’s illustrate this in another way. In Exodus 12 we read about the Passover feast. In this feast, all those in Egypt would be judged at midnight for sin. If you killed a spotless lamb, then presented the blood of this lamb at your door, the judgment was finished for your house. However, sadly, if you were not covered by the death of the spotless lamb, then your firstborn would die instead. So come midnight, every house had death in it. Sin always ends in death, and every house had death. Either you had:

  1. A dead lamb
  2. A dead human

As you may already realize, Jesus is the conclusion and fulfillment of that spotless lamb (see 1 Cor. 5:7). He died for our sins, so on judgment day, if we plead His death on our behalf, God won’t kill us for our sins. The death penalty was already paid. If we don’t, we must incur the judgment of death we deserve.

The Point

The point of all this is that God has never changed his mind on what our sins deserve. In the Old Testament they deserve death. And in the New Testament they deserve death.

The main difference in the New Testament is:

Jesus paid the full penalty of death for our sins, so we now point people to Jesus’ sacrifice to bring sinners to death; we don’t kill them with our hands.

What if they don’t repent and believe the gospel?

So far, this is all well and good for the sinner who repents and believes the gospel. But what about those who don’t? Is there a place for Old Testament type of judgment where there is unrepentance this side of Jesus’ cross?

There are a couple other differences this side of the cross in thinking through this:

  1. Some of the prescribed judgment in the Old Testament is meant for Israel-as-government, and not for individuals to take on themselves. In Romans 13 (and 1 Peter 2), similarly, we are told the government is a delegated authority of God and they don’t bear the sword in vain. In other words, there may be arguments for capital punishment in gross delinquencies, but this is at the discretion of the government, not the church or individual Christian.
  2. Further, Christians are told in 1 Cor. 5 that they are “not to judge” the unbeliever – God Himself will judge them. We preach Christ to the unbeliever and lovingly explain God’s judgment to come, but we are not to mete out any judgment to them who continue resisting Christ in this life. This is no different than the Old Testament where Israel was to judge the sins of fellow Israelites, and not those of other nations.
  3. For professing Christians who persist in disobedience, however, the church is commanded to “judge” in the sense of confront the sin. In fact, one passage that spells this out is 1 Corinthians 5. And at the very end of that chapter, in making the case that the church is to judge Christians who live in sin (i.e. deal with and discipline the offender), Paul writes: “Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?…’Purge the evil person from among you.'” (1 Cor. 5:12-13). Here he is quoting from the Old Testament. If you take your Bibles and go to Deuteronomy 17:6-7 you’ll see that it uses the same phrase in reference to judging and killing offenders in the Old Testament. Paul is clearly showing that the principle of judging unrighteousness remains, but the application of actually killing them is no longer active in light of Christ’s sacrifice. Instead, in 1 Peter 2, Christians are called “living stones”, so there is a different sort of stoning that happens when Christians confront sin in their midst. This sort of confrontation is meant to put to death the sinful self (i.e. the “flesh” and “old nature”), and certainly not bring the physical death prescribed in the Old Testament. As it says in 1 Cor. 15, “first the natural, then the spiritual”. In other words, God set forth a natural example of killing sin in the Old Testament that is ultimately fulfilled spiritually by Christians confronting (and putting to death) sin (but not the sinner) today.

Christ already took care of putting the sinner to death when He was crucified. And that includes all of us being spared that penalty.

Glory be to God!

Brian

God’s Teachers 3: Imparting Doctrine

Video: God’s Teachers 3: Imparting Doctrine (2 hours, 1 min)

Review

  • Lesson 1: Character: 1 Tim. 4:11-16; 2 Tim. 1:12-14
  • Lesson 2: Imparting Life: Psalm 128:1-4; 2 Cor. 3:1-3

Impart Doctrine

  • God is THE only Teacher: Matt. 23:8-10
    • Via Bible: Psalm 119:99-100
    • Via Holy Spirit: 1 John 2:27
    • Via Humans: Acts 8:26-40
  • Eph. 4:7-16: Christ teaches through teachers 
    • 4:11: 1 of 5 ministries
    • 4:12: for equipping all
    • 4:15: Speak the truth in love
      • KNOW THE TRUTH
        • God’s Spirit: John 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:6-16
        • God’s Word: John 17:17; cf. John 10:35
          • Scripture = authority, interpreter: Matt. 4:1-11
          • Think & Study: Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 2:7, 15 
          • Pray: Psalm 119:12, 18, 125, etc. 
        • Jesus: John 14:6 (cf. John 1:14; 16:14; Luke 24:27) 
        • Love the truth: 2 Cor. 3:12-4:6 (cf. Gen. 44:33-45:3)
      • TEACH THE TRUTH
        • Goal = reveal Jesus (John 4:42; S. of S. 3:3-4)
          • Light → Life (Gen. 1:3ff; 2 Peter 1) 
        • Plainly: 2 Cor. 4:2
          • faithfully: 1 Cor. 4:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Peter 4:11 
          • may use: Outlines, Writing, Repetition
        • The whole truth–no more, no less: Rev 22:18-19
        • Acts 18:24-28: Apollos Example

Doctrines to Impart (modified from Discipleship Curriculum)

Principles:

  1. Spend time in proportion to time spent in Scripture on subjects
  2. Begin with clearest principles first
  3. Teach what has been revealed to you

Scripture Prioritizes:

  1. The Gospel: The Person and Work of Christ
    1. Theme of the Bible, especially spelled out in Gospels and N.T.
  2. Loving/Discerning Truth 
    1. “Parable of Sower” given most attention in gospels
      1. Claimed as a sort of starting point in Mark 4:13
    2. If mechanism to discern truth is flawed, ministry and life will fail
  3. Authority and Power of Scripture
    1. This is heavily taught and assumed by Jesus/Bible
    2. John 12:47-50: Standard by which we are judged
  4. The Nature of God
    1. At the beginning of God’s written word to Israel (Ex. 20:1-6)
    2. Essential to worship, judgment, salvation (Ex. 20:1-6; Mark 12:32-33; John 8:24; etc.)
  5. Ministry of the Holy Spirit
    1. Fruit, Sanctification, & Gifts of the Holy Spirit
    2. This is key to all ministry (Zech. 4:6; Phil. 3:3; etc.)
  6. Growth and Discipleship
    1. Begins with baptism (Matt. 28:18-20)
    2. Acts 2
    3. Church
  7. Prayer
    1. Seen as essential in Scripture; taught repeatedly by Jesus/Bible
  8. Resurrection of the Dead & Eternal Judgment
    1. Listed as foundational/elementary doctrine in Hebrews 6:1-2

Write a Teaching Outline

Why Write an Outline?

Often when I’m teaching the Bible I will provide some sort of outline. This practice began when I was in college doing Bible studies, and a friend suggested that a written outline be given because people were having difficulties retaining what I was saying. And ever since then, that philosophy kind of stuck.

Further than this, I think we do see the power of the written word in Scripture itself. Though Paul spoke many things in his ministry, we only retain and remember what he committed to writing through the Holy Spirit (which is now Scripture). Of course, our writing will not be Scripture, but it does show us a principle that the written word has value to preserve teaching even long after the teacher or spoken teaching pass on.

So, I’d definitely recommend writing an outline or something of the sort if you want extra reinforcement of your teaching.

How to Write an Outline

Now, to explain how to write a teaching outline is honestly more difficult for me. I think it just comes naturally/supernaturally, so it’s difficult to teach. I also think there is clearly no right/wrong way on doing this. Rather, whatever works best for you will be the best.

With that said, here are some principles that work best for me in writing my outlines:

  • pray for revelation and the Lord’s wisdom and care BEFORE starting to type
  • keep in mind this goal: the outline can stand on its own as a skeleton even when people don’t hear or forget your teaching
  • use Google Docs (or similar thing) that can easily be accessed from other devices, so you can refine it during your day as God reveals more to you
  • start by writing down anything that seems relevant to the teaching to come (at this point, it only has to make sense to you)…this is your brain dump
  • start giving shape to these thoughts by writing down main points / headings
  • then place subheadings and supporting points under these
  • add Scripture references that support your main headings (refer to the “brain dump” mentioned above)
    • if you have only 0-1 Scripture references for a heading, lose that as your main heading and get one that is more Scripturally supported
    • if you have a lot of references (which is good) you probably want to disperse these passages in the subpoints/subheadings rather than dump a ton of Scripture in the main heading
  • write out the entirety of any Scriptures or quotes that you wouldn’t want them to miss (these are the things that if they don’t remember anything else they NEED to know these) – there shouldn’t be more than 3 of these
  • try to keep it to 1 page (if some content needs to be longer, consider writing an article and attaching it to the 1-page outline)

Again, these are just some general principles I might think about (while occasionally breaking all of them myself :). So please see principle #1 and abide by that first and foremost: “pray for revelation and the Lord’s wisdom and care BEFORE starting to type”

Dr. Peter Williams vs. Dr. Bart Ehrman: Are the Gospels True?

Ladies and gentlemen,

I thought this was an excellent debate from 2 respected gospel scholars who have come to completely contradictory conclusions regarding the gospels. Peter Williams has done tremendous work (in my humble opinion) showing why it is very reasonable to trust the gospels as authoritative. In contrast, Bart Ehrman is a self-professed Christian-turned-skeptic. The debate is a little academic, but worth it to mine through (praying for Ehrman to have a “Saul of Tarsus” moment!):

Peter J Williams & Bart Ehrman – The story of Jesus: Are the Gospels historically reliable? (1.5 hours)

God’s Teachers 2: Imparting Life

God’s Teachers 2: Imparting Life Video (1 hour, 33 min)

Review

  • 1 Tim. 4:11-16: faithful in doctrine and life
  •  2 Tim. 1:12-14: by dependence on God’s Spirit

Impart Life

  • Psalm 128:1-4; Acts 20:28: You
  • 2 Cor. 3:1-3 (cf. Acts 9:1-2): Others

Grow Yourself in Christ

  • Acts 2:37-41: Begin
    1. Repent
    2. Be baptized
    3. Receive the Holy Spirit
  • Acts 2:42-47: Continue
    1. Study Scripture
    2. Fellowship
    3. Prayer

Grow Others in Christ

  • 1 Thes. 1:4-2:12 (especially 1:5): 
    1. Speak (Eph. 6:18-20; Col. 4:2-4: with prayer)
    2. Holy Spirit conviction
    3. By example

2 Timothy Notes: With Attention on Teaching/Discipling Principles

  • 1:2 – focus on individuals at the end of Paul’s life, not “projects” or “movements” directly
  • 1:3 – constant prayer/praise for Timothy
  • 1:4 – intimate bond with those he disciples–tears when he left; joy when together
  • 1:5 – knew his family
  • 1:6-7 – impart Spirit —> ultimately for ministry
  • 1:8-12 – God’s teachers suffer–it’s our high calling
  • 1:12 (compare with 1:14) – God entrusts and guards the deposit in us
  • 1:13 – follow what I taught you
  • 1:14 – we guard by the Holy Spirit the deposit
  • 1:15 – MANY departed from Paul
  • 1:16-18 – praises 1 who was loyal
  • 2:1 – sees Timothy as his child
  • 2:1 – strengthened by God’s grace
  • 2:2 – faithfully share and entrust to others good deposit
  • 2:3-6 – you must suffer–endure it well
  • 2:7 – think + God’s help = understanding
  • 2:8-13 – I endure; we endure —> salvation for others, salvation for me: 
    1. look to Jesus without
    2. trust Jesus within
  • 2:14 – Pass on what Paul teaches
  • 2:14 – Pass on: don’t argue over words
  • 2:15 – rightly handle God’s word
  • 2:16-19 – reckless teaching leads astray in doctrine and character
  • 2:19-21 – only holy vessels honor God, though all vessels serve their purpose
  • 2:22 – pursue holiness with others who are pursuing holiness
  • 2:23-26 – God’s servant = kind, patient, gentle to all; able to teach
  • 3:1-5 – avoid those rejecting God’s ways
  • 3:6-9 – some with depraved minds will keep learning but not find truth – stay away from them!
  • 3:10-17 – persevere in doctrine and life – see me + Scripture as teachers in this
  • 4:1-5 – patiently and persistently preach God’s word (even when less want to hear it)
  • 4:6-8 – Paul about to die and be crowned with all Christians
  • 4:19-22 – greet some, and some greet you; Jesus be with you

“Is Thy God Able…?”

This is one of my favorite poems of all time, I have it affixed to my Bible.

Poem by M.E. (Margaret) Barber (a mentor to Watchman Nee):

Thou servant of the living God,
Whilst lions round thee roar,
Look up and trust and praise His name,
And all His ways adore;
For even now, in peril dire,
He works to set thee free,
And in a way known but to Him,
Shall thy deliverance be.
Dost wait while lions round thee stand,
Dost wait in gloom, alone?
And looking up above thy head
See but a sealed stone?
Praise in the dark! Yea, praise His Name,
Who trusted thee to see
His mighty power displayed again
For thee, His saint, for thee.
Thou servant of the living God,
Thine but to wait and praise;
The living God, Himself will work,
To Him thine anthem raise.
Though undelivered, thou dost wait,
The God who works for thee,
When His hour strikes, will with a word,
Set thee for ever free.
(Dan. 6:20)