Romans 13 teaches us that the law is put into place by men under the authority of God. So if the death penalty is already in place for a particular offense, is it not the criminal who chooses his punishment when he commits the crime? I refer to Deuteronomy 21:20-22. Or is it that when man's law conflicts with God's law it is considered null and void, and that we should not take away a man's chance at salvation regardless of the crime? -- Raymond Roske (Washington DC)

According to the New Testament, we should not be surprised that the state may enforce capital punishment, based on Romans 13. If, as I suspect, you are asking about the permissibility of a Christian's carrying out the death penalty (viewing himself as an extension of the state and not as a private citizen taking the life of his fellow man), that is another matter. Opinions will differ. Extremely few Christians will feel comfortable executing anybody, even if authorized by their government.

The main factors to consider in the discussion are the teaching of the scriptures and the conscience of the government agent who is asked to execute. (I have never met a Christians in this unfortunate dilemma). Any times we go against our own conscience (Romans 14:23), we sin. And you are right: God's law supersedes man's law.

For further consideration, listen to this podcast on the subject.

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