Scriptural Authority For Killing

Warren E. Berkley

Now that I have your attention, this article is not about justifiable homicide, capital punishment, use of force by law enforcement, self-defense or combat warfare. Those issues deserve careful study, but they are not within the scope of this article. What I have in mind is not as dramatic yet fundamental, practical and personal.

In the letter Paul wrote to the Colossians, similar to his other writings, he gave Christians instruction for their use in continuing in the faith (Col. 1:23). People who have been converted to Christ must take action to keep their minds and bodies in the Lord’s service, and this means the daily work of combating sin. Being buried with Christ in baptism is the beginning of your life’s work being faithful to Christ. {When you read and study Colossians, don’t miss the description of conversion: dying with Christ [2:20], being buried with Him in baptism [2:12], and raised with Christ [3:1]. Every biblical conversion is here represented. In obeying the gospel, we personally participate in the benefits of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. For more commentary on this, read Romans 6.}

You must renounce all sin and error in your initial repentance (Rom. 6:1-13). Then, the converted person must continue to refuse and renounce sin after baptism and until death. In Colossians 3:5, here is that point as written by Paul: “Therefore, put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

One way to get this point is, focus on that phrase: “put to death.” What do you do when you put something to death? You kill it. This is not about simply expressing your distaste, indifference or any sort of diplomatic peace accord. You cannot carve out some sort of peace treaty with the devil, where you agree to consider what he offers or remain neutral until tempted. Colossians 3:5 is about protecting yourself by execution, by killing sins that solicit your participation. The “members” of the old man of sin must be killed, put to death. As a Christian, you must be armed for self-defense against the sins of the old life.

This is not about the literal killing of people, sinners or tempters. This is about putting to death the parts (members) of the old sinner that implore your present participation. This is scriptural authority for killing – in the sense conveyed in the text – and God has given us the instrument of execution: The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17).

This necessary execution of sin will lead to glory when the battle has ended, “when Christ, who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory,” (Col. 3:4).

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