“Should Gays receive the Death Penalty?”

The other day it was reported that a pastor who introduced Ted Cruz at a rally quoted parts of Romans Ch 1 regarding homosexuality and said that the bible says they are worthy of death. Then he went on to say he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.

To quote his words, “yes, Leviticus 20:13 calls for the death penalty for homosexuals,” Swanson said.

“Yes, Romans chapter one verse 32, the Apostle Paul does say that homosexuals are worthy of death. His words not mine. And I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I am not ashamed of the word of God. And I am willing to go to jail for standing on the truth of the word of god.” (Click here to watch it.)

This blew me away for several reasons.

One had to do with the lack of wisdom of doing this before introducing a man he wants to be president in a day and age replete with social media, as well as this man’s he lack of theological understanding.

If I were Ted Cruz, I would immediately distance myself from this man’s comments as well as give an explanation as to why he did not disavow these comments when he came to the stage (Perhaps he wasn’t paying attention and did not hear everything?)

Theologically, I have given my life the last thirty eight years to studying the Scriptures, and I have written books (Kingdom Awakening and Kingdom Revolution) dealing with the application of biblical law to culture.

It amazes me that this pastor singles out homosexuals as being worthy of death in Romans (1: 32) when the context of this chapter also says that idolaters, the boastful, gossipers, the envious, the faithless, those disobedient to parents are also on the list that deserve death, hence most people in the world deserve to die!

Then he equates this with the gospel when in essence the whole book of Romans, in context, states the opposite. Paul says later on in Romans 3:23 that all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God; then in 6:23 he says, that the penalty of sin is death. Thus, the point of this book is that the gospel of Christ saves all sinners by faith. It is not about instituting a civil death penalty. Furthermore, this passage actually shows the opposite of what he claims. He said they are worthy of death (like all of us sinners), but he never calls on the Roman government or the church to execute anyone.

In another passage when dealing with homosexuality, 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11, Paul also lists idolaters, adulterers, the greedy, drunkards and revilers; hence, he did not view that sin as greater than the sins most people in the world practice (including many in the church!)

What was Paul’s point in this passage? It was that everyone in the church once lived in some of these sins listed; however, he never called for the death penalty because in the New Covenant there is hope that we can be saved, sanctified and cleansed by the blood of Jesus. This is the gospel Paul preached, not calling for the death penalty. Furthermore in chapter five, Paul never called for the execution of a man who had sex with his father’s wife (in violation of Leviticus 18) but that he is to temporarily dis-fellowship. Also, Paul puts this grievous form of sexual activity (possibly incest) in the same category as greed, idolatry, being a drunkard, and swindling (1 Cor 5:12). In the next chapter when calling for a Christian Adjudication process, Paul had a perfect opportunity to call for the execution of the immoral person mentioned, but he did not even mention his case; instead, he called for an end to lawsuits between believers.

Quoting Leviticus to call for the execution of gays seems to be convenient for this pastor (who is probably living in a homogeneous cultural bubble). However, the Old Testament also called for the death penalty for adulterers, rebellious children, idolaters, those practicing witchcraft, those worshipping other gods and those who blaspheme and take the name of the Lord in vain – quite a list!  According to this list, hardly anyone living in today’s world would be left to be saved by Christ if they were given capital punishment!

What this pastor doesn’t understand is that the New Testament clearly modified the application of the moral and civil law regarding sanctions and punishments. Jesus made this clear when He did not call for the woman caught in adultery to be stoned to death (John 8:1-8)

Although Jesus did not change the ethical standards of the Mosaic Law, He did not apply the punishment for adultery even though He was without sin and could have cast the first stone! By this one action, He clearly revised the application of the law for punishment when He inaugurated the new epoch of the gospel.

The New Testament modified the penalty but not the ethical standards for sexual sins, idolatry, rebellion, and other sins that previously, in theocratic Israel, would have resulted in the death penalty. The reasons for this are numerous; however, one clear reason is because the post resurrection world can now have regenerated humans who are transformed from within while the pre Jesus world God had to strictly protect and insulate the Jewish people so they can be preserved as the nation/progenitor who would give birth (through Mary) to the promised Messiah.  Fortunately, since the advent of the Holy Spirit, there is now hope for all of us, irrespective of our past, to be saved and sanctified.

On the other hand, one can possibly make a case for capital punishment regarding murder since Genesis 9:5,6 (which first instituted civil government during the post flood Noahic age) was pre-Moses and pre-law and seemed to be the most fundamental and embryonic expression of human government rooted in natural law. However, the New Testament also put murder under the rubric of hating a brother in your heart (Matt5:22, 1 John 3:15) which should extend our definition of murder, albeit Genesis 9:5,6 deals with the  civil application of a serious crime and Jesus and John the Apostle were most likely referring to a sin of the heart that only God can bring to light on the Day of Judgment (2 Cor .5:10)

So in conclusion, it takes great skill and study to rightly divide the Word. Thus scripture cannot be merely interpreted by perfunctory reading and proof texting. It is my prayer that the reader of this article will not be quick to come to conclusions by isolating passages and taking them out of context. My prayer is that we will uncover the whole council of God and reflect His heart to this world.

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Joseph Mattera Joseph Mattera says:

My dear friend Steve-what a great surprise to hear from you! We have not spoken for almost five years or longer is my guess! So sorry but I did not even know you responded to this article until a few days ago and I have not had the time to even review your lengthy critique until just now! Of course I realize that an article on capital punishment that was less then 1000 words in length will not be able to comprehensively deal with the matter fully; I will attempt to respond after each particular point if my time allows me; my responses will be in italics to make it easier for you to distinguish your words from mine
Joe Mattera

My Dear Brother, There is much of value in your comments and they are welcome as refreshing challenge to what might be called extreme views. But if you think your comments unlock the great knot the churches have wrestled with for a loooong time concerning the relationship of OT Law to NT Spheres of life, you are very, very mistaken. It sure would be nice if you did solve the difficulties, mind you, but alas… This is not the best forum for a full exposition of the flaws in what you regard as the self-evident teaching of the New Testament, but I can assure you, the flaws abound. Let us narrow our comments here to three areas, and these to be treated ever so briefly. 1) How was the sanction applied IN the Old Testamental period? 2) The woman caught in adultery. 3) You ignore entirely key contextual considerations which will relieve you of the greater part of your argument when recognized. // First, while I imagne you believe your answer has provided you a comfortable place to stand during this tumultuous time God has assigned us, I think you’d agree tha comfort is not the first goal we ought to place before us in our hermeneutical enterprise.

Do I need to prove that from Scripture? I suppose it should be enough to say that King Ahab seemed to be guided by that very principle. That is why he regarded Elijah as his personal enemy and Israel’s enemy, too. “Did I not tell you he hates me,” complained the infantile emblem of regal folly, evil and weakness of Micaiah to Jehoshephat. “He never says anything good.” I don’t know you to be a man who would deny that a great deal of Scripture brings hard sayings, even things we might wish were not true, but that is hardly a standard for sound interpretation.

I think my track record in ministry shows that I do not shy away from hard hermeneutical truths – especially given the fact that I helped lead the charge for traditional marriage for a decade between 2003-2012; as well as being intimately involved with opposing Mayor Bloomberg when he wanted to oust churches from public schools; Also my numerous articles that attack Commercial Christianity as well as many of the standards of contemporary Christian worship leaders has not given me the most popularity in some circles

Fearing I will run out of space or gas before making this important point, I’ll just stick it in here, right now: Sometimes the best interpretive plan is to WAIT, to be patient. I doubt very much if our Lord expect all of us to master every question or smooth every knot three years–or three hundred years–after conversion. But if you stay at it, you may EVEN find that your instinct was pretty good about what wasn’t required, but by forcing passages to say what you wanted instead of what they said, you paid far too high a price. With that, I say, as to 1) You might better have begun with what is knowable about the way the capital penalties were received, interpreted and practiced by God’s people until the time of our Lord. And, it would sem, with certain exceptions, as a rule, they were very loathe to execute, and moreover, felt no particular angst as if they should. Example of the case: Joseph, upon learning news which cast Miriam (Mary to you Gentiles) in the light of being worthy of death, yet, for being a RIGHTEOUS MAN, decided to put her away quietly. Which, incidentally, raises the matter of another Jewish value often highly spoken of by them: Not shaming people, often going to stupendous lengths to avoid it.

Yes of course this is very true and also a very good point that shows even the Jews under the O.T. law did not follow it to the letter but allowed compassion to rule the day

(It is imperative to bear in mind that there were Jews worthy of every malediction uttered by Messiah against them [Matthew 23], and Jews worthy of His commendation, who believed on Him fervently, even Jews who were Pharisees or Priests. I say this so we don’t rush out and paint another area with a too broad brush, like you criticized a man for doing!) Yet it would be a clumsy error to conclude from Joseph’s (or any other single example) that one has come upon the hidden fountain of truth about ALL Old Testament sanctions. I haven’t–and brother, neither have you. But this first point is simply that, we would do well in seeking an answer to the abiding validity of capital sanctions in the New Era to AT LEAST discover if what WE THINK had been required under the Old administration is the same thinking as those who had actually lived under it. Novel idea, eh? And though we know of several occasions where my people had clearly levereged the sanctions to be applied hastily, rashly or out of a guilty conscience, rather than a principled conviction concerning a Divine will calling for invariant application, the evidence suggests that NORMALLY there was anything BUT a belief that God’s Law required judicial bloodbaths, even seasonally. Were they on to something?
Yes, I continue to concur with your conclusions thus far – it did not seem to be the case that there were judicial bloodbaths

Why not check it out instead of allowing partial–and plainly WRONG–reasoning to lead you into publicly declaiming a fellow preacher–not to mntion hanging yourself. [Of course, you checked with him first to make sure you were not being Facebooked, or contextually teased, i.e., you KNEW there were no edited-out modifiers or qualifications, AND you knew HOW he had concluded what he concluded? I say “of course,” but actually, I suspect you made no contact with the good brother. Why? Because you attribute to him a use of the word “gospel” which he manifestly did not intend, and moreover, I think you know he didn’t. He did NOT mean “I support death penalties as equivalent to the good saving news!” He meant “gospel” as equivalent to “the Word of God.”

– I took his use of the word gospel to mean the saving gospel and the word of God together however there was a video to substantiate what was reported regarding his statements – of course , I have no idea if those videos were edited but anything stated even close to what was reported was unwise because the context was not a theological message but introducing a good man hoping to be the next president – something I thought was very unwise ; Also , I make a distinction between the gospel (kerygma) which is the proclamation of the good news and the teachings that apply the gospel such as are found in the epistles ( the didiche ) If he used the word gospel my thoughts are he is connecting his statements with the good news of salvation

apologize for my prolixity. The rats cut me off! As I was preaching….uh, saying. 2) or rather, what YOU were saying, to whit, “What this pastor doesn’t understand is that the New Testament clearly modified the application of the moral and civil law regarding sanctions and punishments. Jesus made this clear when He did not call for the woman caught in adultery to be stoned to death” (John 8:1-8). And worse, “He did not apply the punishment for adultery even though He was without sin and could have cast the first stone! By this one action, He clearly revised the application of the law for punishment when He inaugurated the new epoch of the gospel.” Joseph, Friend and Partner, you cannot possibly believe what you just said! There are many ways to prove how fundamentally flawed it is to draw conclusions that have no antecedent connection to your imagined premises. It’s like saying, “When Jesus refused to turn the stones into bread, He proved conclusively that He wasn’t hungry.” Huh? Reasoning like this says way more about the reasoner than about the passages. You simply CANNOT make a universal deduction based upon what someone DIDN’T do. If you really want to defend that method, I have about 2,371 questions that you will find yourself forced yourself to answer in a way you hate, as your “method” will leave you–and I’ll follow it step by step–with answers you know to be false. Come now, let us actually reason.”By telling Peter to pay taxes with money from the first fish’s mouth, Jesus was CLEARLY telling us our tax obligations in the New Era are limited to miraculous provion of any tax authorities demand. Clearly? Or how about, based on Mt. 17:24-27, “Jesus clearly taught we are ONLY obligated to pay tax when not paying would offend the tax collector. So try cheesecake to soften them up.” Or, “Jesus clearly taught that our tax obligations are limited to CAESARS. When there were no more Caesars, we had no more obligation to pay. That’s CLEAR. He said, “TO CAESAR,” not to just any government. // Besides all that, if you’ll just read the passage again, Jesus actually SAID exactly what you insist He did not say! You say, “Jesus made this clear when He did not call for the woman caught in adultery to be stoned to death.” I beg your pardon? Are we reading the same Bibles? It seems to me He CLEARLY believed she was worthy of death, and He invited her accusers to execute her, right there on the spot. Because THEY refrained, therefore HE changed the Law?

That is my very point – she was worthy of being put to death but was not put to death – the application of the law was not followed exactly
Also you are bringing up other instances like performing miracles with the coin in the fish’s mouth, paying taxes to Cesar; Your examples are not good ones; One has to do with the application of the law of Moses- the other had to do with paying taxes to the government – in both cases – He was upholding the law in the way He saw fit; in the one case He did not execute an adulterer and in the other case He paid the tax – what is the point? He was showing when He paid the tax that in fact we are supposed to still pay taxes to Cesear (also Matthew 22) which represents the civil government (romans 13) we are called to submit to given the nation and or region – in both cases you can say it was an application of the way He expected us to live as Christ followers
In it’s literal sense , Jesus as an ordinary man would not be able to throw the stone and or be the judge or be a witness – but He was not then or ever acting like an ordinary man – He was the God Man Messiah and His actions demonstrated a new inauguration of the Kingdom age

How does that work? Whenever Jesus was in the vicinity of people who didn’t carry out the RIGHTEOUS requirements of the Law, those requirements automatically ceased being — what? ceased being righteous?

You neglect to admit that Jesus was involved in this particular case in that He could have inserted Himself in the act of approving of her execution and He did not ; it was not just others not following requirements but He, being part of the narrative and did not follow these requirements ; of course I admit that the point you made about Joseph being a righteous man by not wanting to execute Miriam can also be applied here in the opinion of some – I believe that is a stronger argument then the ones you have brought forth in the previous paragraph – however, you can say that Joseph was a type and shadow of Jesus who would inaugurate the fullness of the spirit of the N.T. application of the moral law

Or ceased being requirements? Be very careful, my beloved brother. Hebrews says that the message we got from Angels through Moses was a package in which “every violation and disobedience received its just punishment.” Okay. So which part of that has changed? Are you sying (because I didn’t hear you say it) that the proscribed punishments in Moses’ Law are no longer just? If they WERE just when Moses received them, when did they become unjust?

Who said they were unjust ? They are just whether or not the application of the law regarding punishment is the same or not

I know you don’t want these nuisance questions. You want to go back to the taken woman. Okay. Your problem, if I may say, is as stated: I put a ridiculous conclusion, viz., that Jesus’ refusal to do “Hocus Pocus” MEANT He was not hungry. But we KNOW He was hungry (the Bible expressly says so). therefore…what? Wll, we all know what. His refusal to do magic for His own appetite had to do a) with His mission–the reason and scope his His mission as per the Father, and b) that the context was an attempt by the lord of flies to catch Him in a trap. Apply THOSE VERY REASON to the woman caught in the act and you will discover, in its entirety, the REASONS our Lord did what He did and didn’t do what He didn’t do. As it turned out–as it did in every single marvelous instance when men and devils were sure they had come up with the perfect trap, He busted it to shreds in their faces and walked away PERFECTLY Holy, righteous, and very, very, very beautiful, our HERO!

The fact that He did not allow Himself to be trapped by the evil one is true but doesn’t prove the point you are trying to make about the woman caught in adultery

Did our Lord say, even about a lesser matter, “Man, who made me an arbiter among you?” So these dudes who dragged that wife before Him, was He supposed to perform for them like a circus clown? Like Herod demanded? Sorry, wrong Jesus! They caught her IN THE ACT? With whom? The law cited BOTH as worthy of the penalty. Was he a buddy? Were they lying? Was Jesus going to be diverted? My Master and my God blew them all away. First, He ABSOLUTELY affirmed what you IMAGINE He denied (that is a rather large error, Bishop Joe). “You’re right. The Law says it. It also says other things–about judge’s qualifications, etc. It says the witnesses were to be the first (thus, even though He met the criterion of sinlessness, He did NOT meet the criterion of being the first to cast the stone, for He had not witnessed her crime. They did, allegedly. Oops!

As always you make great points my brother ; however I am familiar with these laws and their criteria yet I still disagree with you in this matter; Jesus as the righteous judge , the one who knows all things and who answered what they were thinking continually to show He was God and to catch them in their guile – could have thrown the first stone and refused ; I believe it went deeper then not wanting to play their games and perform for them – I believe He was indeed showing a change in the application of the Law regarding capitol punishment because He was demonstrating that He was bringing in the fullness of grace , hence, the need for capital punishment was no longer necessary ; He still told people like this adulterer “to go sin no more” which showed He kept the standard of the moral law –even without the other guilty party (which by the way , if that was His main issue for not allowing her to be executed He would have surely said “bring the other adulterer here and then we will commence with the stoning ) ; I truly believe He was upholding the original standard of holiness without compromise even though He did not allow an execution .
Hence, I believe He was changing the application of the moral law but not the essence of the law which reflects His holy nature and character because, while He did not allow her execution- He still told her to sin no more
Also why do you say changing the application of the law was not yet His to fulfill? I disagree also with that statement as He was already walking and modeling the new kingdom order even before His resurrection . I am also certain you are not a hyper pre-millenialist who is awaiting Jesus to reign 1000 literal years before He can enact the fullness of His teachings

We come now to 3) Interestingly, the error you commit in not recognizing that Jesus can at once refuse to play a role not properly His yet fully enter a role that is. That he refused to be pushed into petty traps by usurping a role He hadn’t been assigned, does NOT AT ALL mean or imply that He was removing from the hands of those who WERE CALLED to those roles, the infinitely precious gift of a measure of justice and righteousness. Interestingly, you are also reluctant to let the Law go as a standard, but what good is it at all in the form you’ve reduced it to? And where, my friend, is your authority for reducing it? Need I remind you that it was our Lord Jesus Himself who said, I have not come to abolish? He who breaks one of the LEAST commandments and teaches others to do the same will himself be knocked down an appropriate number of pegs in the Kingdom.
Jesus came to fulfill all of the righteous requirements of the Law is true (Matthew 5:17-20; Romans 8:3,4) by faith in His blood His righteousness is now imputed to me based on Romans 3,4; 6 :1-14
You say, “Quoting Leviticus to call for the execution of gays seems to be convenient for this pastor (who is probably living in a homogeneous cultural bubble). [Wow! That’s quite an assumption! Did you ask him?
I did not ask him but I assumed it by the way he spoke in an unwise way as a person would who is not used to being around people not in accord with him and his views. Of course this is an assumption which I thought I made clear was an assumption and not a fact – if my assumption was wrong- I am indeed sorry however , whether my assumption is true or false – I was not maligning his character –I was merely making an observation related to his surroundings and experience – I meant no harm to him in my statements except to correct him for making an unwise statement (even if what he said was true it was still unwise in my opinion given the context)

And by the way, it is not one drop more convenient for him than your misappropriation of ALL your passages, imagining in all of them something that appears in not one of them.
But perhaps I should cut people off from a hasty conclusion they might be tempted to make: I am NOT saying the civil magistrate must execute everyone who is guilty of A, B, C, D, E, or F. But that is only because I have a case that begins with a credible premise, namely, that no magistrate was EVER required to so do. If I’m right, I’m left with the continuity between the covenant administrations which allows for integrity in our faith and consistency in our beliefs and our Bible reading.

Yes I agree with this last paragraph – magistrates were expected to rule with integrity and in a way that accord with the spirit of the word of God in both testaments
orry, got bumped again for maxing out. If at second you don’t succeed… I want to say something now that I wish sincerely OT be misunderstood. It brings us perilously close to seeing our Lord Jesus as actually the trickster Satan and Herod demanded if we fail to see how Divine, how incredibly perfect, appropriate, obedient, honorable, redemptive and loving Jesus was here and (here comes a tough part for some of you)–all this WHILE UPHOLDING NOT ONLY THE LAW BUT THE PENALTY. I recommend reading it 10 or 11 thousand times. Forgive me for rsorting to my favorite commentator (Marcus Dods), but I think he absolutely NAILS it here on the passage we’re discussing: “Had they taken her before their ordinary courts He would have raised no word in her favor; did her husband after this [incident with the ‘Let him who…’] prosecute her, he could have feared no interference on the part of Jesus. His answer (to the trappers) is the answer not of one pronouncing from a judgment-seat, nor of a legal counsel, but of a moral and spiritual teacher. In this capacity, He had a perfect right to say what He did. We have no right to say to an official who is condemning culprits or in prosecuting them is simply discharging a public duty, See that your own hands be clean and your own heart pure, before you condemn another. But we have a perfect right to silence a private individual who is officiously (but) not officially exposing another’s guilt, by bidding him remember that he has a beam in his own eye which he must first be rid of, a stain on his own hands he must first wash out.” GLORY! But while these clowns tried to railroad Jesus into playing a role He had not been assigned, His utterly perfect equilibrium, balance, wisdom and burning purity, became unbearably clear to the woman! His purity was like a mirror, one in which she beheld something more fearful by far than the accusing scribes. She now feels upon her something much worse than the accusations of men–now she feels the awful weight and filthiness of her own irrevocable sin. Nobody forced her to stay. Everyone else had left. Why did she remain. No more accusers! Run! But you see, when the voices of others stopped, Christ’s PERFECTIONS moved her conscience to speak. And it spoke so as to freeze her in total perplexity. She had come to the place where, perhaps for the first time, she could feel that the worst part of her sin was the steeling of a heart that had become cold and bitterly opposed to God, whose only part in her sin was being HURT by it. Has no one condemned you? No, Sir. Well, that’s not what I’m here for. Go–others may expect you to sin when you return home. But I expect you not to.” We may be asured that we have before us the commissioning of an evangelist like unto Samantha of John 4. She went away forgiven, and as truly forgiven people do, she left with an imag of Jesus Christ in her heart that would be the object of thought and devotion more and more every day of her life. At least, I hope so. I don’t know. What I do know is, your proof of the death penalty dropping out is the farthest thing possible from the actual teaching of this passage. In fact, it is not WORTHY of the passage. I’ll come back for the final round.

I agree with this commentary – I think it would be a hard to make a case that the N.T. demands that Christians attempt to ( forcefully or otherwise) stop magistrates from carrying out the execution of criminals anymore then we can make a case that God expected the church to openly oppose Roman slavery in the first century ; However, the implicit teachings of scripture was enough in the next few centuries to cause great movements both in the church and in society to pressure governments to end slavery ; While I believe that I would be hard pressed to using Scripture to pressure governments in Aftica, Latin America, Middle East …. To follow my interpretation of the application of the law of God – I still believe that it is clear from the application of the gospels in the epistles that Paul did not advocate the death penalty for homosexuals since that was what some of us were but we were washed , sanctified ……(1 Cor 6) His treatment of a sexually immoral man in 1 Corinthians 5 amounted to excommunicating him – not calling for any other punishment – Romans 1 in the context shows that not only are homosexuals worthy of death but so are gossips, idolators , slanderers , covetous ….. if one says that the context in Romans 1 shows that all these attributes were soley the attibutes of homosexuals-that person is blind to the fact that what goes on in the church with heterosexuals also fits these descriptions

Compare that to what you have done. Well, let’s do that comparison AFTER we say, your argument against Brother Swanson finds you ignoring a very important distinction which, I have reason to believe, in other contexts, you clearly and loudly recognize and affirm. What is it? CALLING. You are very aware of the differing spheres in which we live our lives. You have preached tirelessly on the similarities and differences, the overlapping complexities involved in God’s directives for order in one’s personal life, in family life, in civic life, in the business world, in the university, etc. You have noticed and pointed out that we are always living in many spheres simultaneously. Yet you’ve insisted we can discern God’s will for us in specific spheres so that a Boss may know how to be a God-pleasing Boss, and employee a God-pleasing Employee, a Wife the same, a Husband the same, a King the same, a Subject the same, etc. Does “Wives, submit to your husbands” mean wives must submit to neighbors’ husbands too? Why not? Because he is NOT ADDRESSING that question. Does the command to fathers not to exasperate their children tell a child everything he needs to know about being a good student? Of course not. If Paul is addressing people in one sphere, we cannot willy-nilly make cross applications just like that. Our responsibilities in each sphere must be measured according to the standard for our behavior IN THOSE VARIOUS spheres.
So then, WHY, when you are reading a letter Paul writes to a CHURCH to you assume that anything Paul might have to say to a Christian legislator or judge is going to be found IN THAT LETTER. I don’t understand why you think it would. Because what you do is, you say “There are several crimes death-worthy. SOME people in churches were guilty of doing those things. Yet Paul doesn’t TELL THE CHURCH TO EXECUTE THEM.” I should say he does not! Peter, put down thy sword. The sword has NOT been given to the Church (other than of the Spirit). BUT, the received interpretation of Romans 13 tells us the SWORD has indeed been given to the magistrate. Then why are you looking for instructions to execute being given to the churches where guilty sinners hear something quite different from what they’d hear in court.

You make great points here that has much validity ; There are different spheres and callings assigned to us However, at this point I would still say that since the church –as a holy nation (1 peter 2:8,9) , has in the content of the N.T. teachings that are implicit regarding how we as a nation are to function as well as how we are to disciple the nations (Matthew 28:19,20) . I believe the body and spirit of the writings of the N.T. in both the gospels and epistles show the death penalty for sexual and other sins have been abrogated – however, since the bible is not specific in how we are to carry over the teachings of the moral law into a contemporary nation – it is extremely difficult to know our boundaries and how much leverage a nation has regarding the application of the moral law in regards to punishment . Even in the first testament , Nineveh was not judged (Jonah) even though there is no record of them adhering to the ceremonial law of God (they were not circumcised) yet God saw their actions as repentance . In the book of Amos, the first two chapters show that God expected Judah to follow the whole law while the Gentile nations for judged for things that violated the things they should have known in laws of creation or natural law (Romans 2:25-29)– which also reflects the fact that even in the first testament God had different standards for different peoples based on what they were accountable to know ; In discipling nations today , it would be very difficult to have a one size fits all for the application of the moral law regarding punishments – however the 10 commandments are always universal , transhistorical, transcultural and multi-generational because they reflect the character and nature of God which is rooted in the created order
Furthermore, 1 Corinthian 6 gives the seed of a judiciary process in the local church as it matures which Paul stated at that point was already expected to mediate between beleivers to avoid lawsuits before the gentiles. Surely , one can build upon this passage and say that eventually the church was called to have its own judicial process regarding the application of the word of God in both church and personal affairs – something normally relegated to the civil magistrate. Hence, the teachings of the N.T. can possibly be applied within the holy nation of the church without the civil authorities getting involved in many aspects of life (perhaps like the Vatican in Rome and even the Hassidic Jewish community in Borough Park does today)

You know, you really come into conflict with the spirit of the New Testament when you compare what you say to what we actually hear Paul say: “If I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die.” I think you have a big problem because, according to you, he SHOULD HAVE SAID, “If I’ve done something worthy of death, thank God there’s no more death penalty!”
You know as well as I that he was speaking to a Roman leader in the context of what that Roman leader would deem worthy of death which is much different from what the Jews were asserting regarding his worthiness to die ; however , you can also say he was saying that he was willing to get the death penalty if he violated the Jewish law of blasphemy and making the temple unclean with bringing gentiles into it’s arena
You also go too far in painting a picture where we find churches stuffed with people who belong on death row. You say, “However, the Old Testament (not only required death—in certain instances—for perversion—it) also called for the death penalty for adulterers, rebellious children, idolaters, those practicing witchcraft, those worshipping other gods and those who blaspheme and take the name of the Lord in vain – quite a list! So are we to take it you are correcting Paul? He said “Such were SOME of you. But you know he REALLYMEANT “such were most of you.” No? No. And I’ve given you just a sample of the profound difficulties you will end up with when you try to force the Bible to say what you WISH it would say. You have introduced not a single proof that the capital penalty no longer expresses God’s mind for SOME crimes (NOT all). In your anxiety to offer no offense to the culturakl leaders who HATE Jesus Christ, you have been willing to put your handle on Scripture at such an obtuse angle that it is likely in short order to lose its character as a Book and become a collection of verses from which anyone may pick out anything at any time to suit his tastes or desires.
This sounds like Theonomy – something I thought you moved away from based on the fact you told me that you disagreed with Greg Bahnson when he built his theonomy on Matthew 5:17-20 and that if you take that one verse away his theonomy would fall like a house of cards.
As I said previously , I have stood against the populism of both secular culture and contemporary Christianity so I am not motivated as far as I am conscious by avoiding what culture hates
The problem with many theonomists is that they try to have an exact handle on God and scripture because they are afraid that anything else demonstrates autonomy . I believe in their zeal to glorify our sovereign God they constrain God in a box in a way that causes them to miss many nuances of Scripture that would go against their view;
Also , I think believing (the way I do) in building public policy upon the 10 commandments and using the 613 laws that apply these moral laws is still going much further then most evangelicals and Roman Catholics and is hardly merely using the bible as a collection of verses –
Also , regarding capital punishment- I think there is a far better case to insist on this for murder as it is rooted and grounded in the image and nature of God and was the first ( pre mosaic law) instance of human government (Genesis 9:5,6) The N.T. doesn’t seem to put the act of physical murder (not murder of the heart as found in 1 John 3) in the same category as sexual sin in my opinion . But that is another discussion

Remembering our Lord’s scathing rebuke on those who SHOULD HAVE been better interpreters, I think that puts a weight on us to be as careful as you insist Brother Swanson ought to be.

It is still my belief that you have something valuable to bring to the party where these questions are discussed. That’s my belief. But it’s beyond mere belief, it’s a plain fact, that what you set forth as an answer above, is nothing—nothing—of the kind.

I love and respect you my dear brother and I trust that my responses have only furthered your resolve to debate my points and expose my theological “flaws”
Also , I did not have much time to respond to you with the crazy schedule I keep , as I could have brought up many other passages and points that were not mentioned in our exchange and in my article
I also know that because of my “rush job” I may have not fully answered your rebuttal
Since it is so difficult to have the time to write – I suggest we catch up and do lunch together to further our discussion ; Also , I think we agree in over 95 pct of our positions when it comes to the need for the law of God in culture and the application of the gospel regarding our discipling of the nations . Also I highly respect Rushdooney , Gary North , Bahnson , Van Til and others who may disagree with me on these points – I continue to read their works and learn from them because they are among the few theologians who take the first testament seriously .
Finally , I am eager to learn from you my brother , as well as from any of my theologically minded brothers as we are called to be iron that sharpens iron

I will also pray and consider more about your points and am open to changing my views if I am proven wrong in anything
I also understand how difficult it is to determine what in scripture is for civil authorities and what is assigned to the church and how and when the two are to blend together – especially I take serious your concern how this differs as it relates to the application of the law of God in the church and in the civil government; Although I am still convinced of my position, I will take serious your opinions and concerns regarding my article
Every blessing pursues you and your fabulous family.
Irving Tremelius
and Steve schlissel
Archbishop of Brooklyn
When did you become an archbishop? Love to you and yours – please call me! Joseph Mattera