Occasionally people email me asking for my opinion on various personal or church issues. I recently received the following question which I have reprinted below, followed by my response.
“Bob, radical Muslim’s believe the Koran instructs them to engage in violent jihad that results in death for non-believers of Islam.
In the Judeo-Christian Old Testament God requires death, stoning or other violent punishments for a variety of transgressions. Do those Old Testament instructions apply to Christians or Jews today?”
Those Old Testament instructions do not apply to Christians today. And I’m not aware of any serious Bible student who is attempting to appropriate them. Those commands to the Israelite nation were given to a specific people at a specific time and place. The Old Testament specified that the leaders (not individuals) were to administer justice, and then only if the accusations were proven in court by at least two reliable witnesses.
More importantly, Christians are no longer living under the Old Testament law. Colossians 2:14 makes it clear that Jesus nailed the law to the cross. Christians are now under a new covenant. Romans 6:14 says we, “… are not under the law but under grace”.
(1) The New Testament nowhere says we are to kill those who are unbelievers. On the contrary we are to love our enemies and do good to those who mistreat us.
(2) The New Testament acknowledges that the government authorities exist to administer justice, “Rulers hold terror for those who do wrong”. (Romans 13:3) God granted government authorities the right to punish wrong-doers as a last line of defense against the evil nature of man. Christians disagree as to whether the government authorities ever have the right to administer the death penalty. I personally think capital punishment is still Biblical and appropriate in extreme cases.
God instituted the death penalty for murder long before Moses was given the law. After the flood, God instructed Noah, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” (Genesis 9:6) In the New Testament, The Apostle Paul said the authorities do not “bear the sword in vain”. (Romans 13:4) But again, it is the government authorities, not individuals who are to administer justice.
Paul set down guidelines for the individual Christian’s response to evil in Romans 12:18-21 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[a] says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”