In looking at any subject, there are usually many perspectives from which it can be approached. More often than not, each has some reasonable points.
In this article I am going to examine the subject from what I prefer to term a Christ-like view.
The Old Testament is relevant today as much as the New Testament. The bible should govern the worldview and lifestyle of everyone who claims to be united with Christ.
Now, how the Old Testament is relevant to us today is something that needs to be established for us to make sense of Christ’s view that should guide us to follow him faithfully in our daily affairs under every circumstance.
The Old Testament is a canon of scripture as much as the New Testament and it is on those grounds that we view the bible as God’s infallible word. If that is correct, which I personally believe it is; then it means Christ is the Old Testament as much as He is the New Testament; given that in the beginning was the word but the word only came to be flesh in the new dispensation (John 1:1 &14). So, Jesus in the beginning (even in the old testament) was introduced to mankind as Law or commandments to be obeyed since the people at that time did not have Christ IN their spirit according to God’s plan (Col 1:26-27 & Eph 3:9).
God had planned to reveal Himself to Man in stages but Adam and Eve’s impatience and sin interrupted the smooth flow. However, God is still on course to bless man with the revelation of Himself not just outwardly but in man (Heb 10:16 & Jer31:33).
The Old Testament is the shadow of the real nature of God He is revealing to man (Col 2:17). As a shadow, the physical occurrences that God worked in the midst of the Israelites whom He chose to be His people pointed to his real nature. He was to ultimately reveal in Christ not as a code to be kept but life to be lived in the spirit (Rom 8: 4, 11 & 14).
For the above reason, those who are in Christ indeed, take instruction from the law of the spirit of life in Christ and not from the letter of the law (2 Cor 3:6). But knowing that the law of commandments is from God and as such is good (Rom 7:12), followers of Christ depend on Christ by the help of the Holy Spirit to find the fulfillment of the law of commandments in Christ Jesus.
I believe failing to find how the law of commandment is fulfilled in Christ leads man to attempt to practice the letter without the spirit and that will always lead to departure from God and His way of doing things that reveal his true nature which is love (2 Cor 3:6). It is for these reasons that the scripture tells us that God does not just do loving things but God Himself is love (1 John 4:16).
John’s exhortation in 1 John 4:16, speaks to us not just about doing loving things which is good but to better still possess Love as our nature the way God originally intended for us.
This understanding affects the spirit, soul and body of man. In other words, man’s thought process and physical actions get powerfully affected so much so that it reflects God’s true nature (which is higher than man’s nature). For this reason God did not mind to condescending to the level of man in order to suffer and die that man may finally be engraced to enjoy Him, live and reflect His true nature which Adam and Eve’s sin marred and introduced the devil’s nature which leads to murder.
All who fail to find the Old Testament in Christ, who is also The New Testament, will ever seek to reproduce the Old Testament law as a standard to live by-: that will mean nullifying the grace that Christ has suffered and died to bring to mankind for salvation and glorious living which reflects God’s true nature of love, mercy and reconciliation to God and amongst men.
I will be quick to point out that God having established this grace through Jesus His Son is still working out the process in men who are yet to embrace this established grace through the preaching of the gospel. For those who have accepted the grace, it is still a “work” in progress as He leads them to perfection in their walk of grace. (Titus 2:11-12, 2 Tim 3:16-17 & Eph 4:12-13).
I can understand how a man who has accepted the grace of God for salvation can still be ignorant and un-cooperative with grace and may still want to live according to the Old Testament practices e.g. advocate capital punishment which was lawful in the dispensation of sin and death.
I have taken time to read almost all the plausible reasoning for capital punishment and I can see that indeed it is laudable and maybe even more persuasive than the opposing view. But that is as far as we are limiting it only to our human reasoning. If we incorporate our maker’s view as revealed in the superior law of life in Christ Jesus, we can hear not only Abel’s voice crying for revenge with all the good reasons but more powerfully the voice of the purest blood ever shed innocently pleading for mercy to be shown to murders (Heb12:24 NLT, Rom 12:17).
What makes murder so outrageous, painful and sickening to us is not just that the murdered person is dead but also, how the murderer could intentionally be so cruel to their fellow man. We all get mad about murder even though the murdered person is not related directly to us but because they are human.
We all know that everyone will die someday; accidental or otherwise, we sorrow and weep for the dead and show disdain at the party directly responsible for the death of the other party. However, our bowels of mercy including that of the state, jury and judge is activated to act leniently in the case of manslaughter.
The question we Christians should meditate with our Lord is this,-: how can we turn around and be deliberate to advocate murder just because murder of a deliberate kind has occurred. We are not to deliberately sin, for among all of our sins; the deliberate ones that we persist on are the ones that God has not made any provision of propitiation. But even at that, He does not kill us but He waits till the appointed time when He will judge the living and dead (Gen 4:10-15).
Lex Talionis is cancelled in Christ Jesus
The above opens the door for forgiveness and discipline- what I mean is this, we forgive murderers and discipline them by separating them for all the plausible reasons including worry over re-offending. This is why we have the prisons (Heb 12:6-7). Though it’s not a perfect place, some murderers have come out from there changed and have not re-offended while some have come out and even committed more brutal murder.
We humans are fallible unlike God who is infallible. This point has left the state with a lot of regrettable and irreparable mistakes e.g., killing innocent people based on the law of capital punishment. The good plea will never cease to be; to abolish capital punishment but hold firmly to the prescribed jail term as practiced presently. While some may see it as a waste of money maintaining murderers in prison, it cannot be compared to the waste of funds in developing weapons to murder uncountable lives all in the name of war or can it be compared to the flow of cash that exchange hand in order to murder unborn babies in their mothers precious womb.
God wants us to acknowledge our inadequacies by leaving ultimate decisions like depriving anyone of life no matter the circumstance to Him who is infallible. This God’s advice goes to those who carry out criminal murder and those who will use state law to deprive life.
To make the above clearer, let us all remember that with Jesus- New Testament, he that hates his brother is a murderer and that carries death penalty but is not executed till the all knowing and infallible God has exhausted the chance for the person to repent before their time in prison (this world) has expired. Yes! This world is a prison in a sense and that is why it’s not the home of followers of Christ though they are in the world (John 17:16). It’s used by Christ’s people as a place to grow in grace and to reflect God’s goodness and that is why we reach out to the lost pointing them to the grace that has come to save us all in Christ.
In Conclusion, while the state may have the option to consider whether they will obey God or not, those who are in Christ do not have an option at all. Let us listen to the voice of Stephen, all the martyrs and most importantly the plea and command of the Lord Jesus Christ in the following scriptures (Rom 12:17, 1Thess 5:15, 1 Pet 3:9, Acts 7:59-60, Luke 23:34)
Our world will be a better place while we are waiting for the best place (the heaven of God) to come if we all HUMBLY OBEY HIM AND LEAVE VENGEANCE FOR HIM WHO IS IN FULL CONTROL OF ALL AFFAIRS OF THIS LIFE.