Questions & Answers

Harold S. Paisley

Question: Is capital punishment indicated in Paul's writing as recorded in Romans 13:4?

Answer: The reading of Romans 13:1-5 clearly teaches that every soul is to be subject to the civil authority. There is no power but of God and the powers that be are ordained or ordered by God. Paul clearly states that any who resist, withstand the ordinance of God and bring upon themselves judgment.

Regarding capital punishment for deliberate murder, God speaks plainly. "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man" (Gen. 9:6). The murderer has done more than destroy human life, for he has destroyed that which God made, His own image. Because of this, the sin of murder is the most serious and God therefore makes human government responsible to avenge the crime by the supreme penalty. To take away from the solemn edict of God shows the rebellion in government to God Himself.

In Paul's time, capital punishment was still carried out. "For he, (the officer of the law) beareth not the sword in vain, for he is the minister of God, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil" (Romans 13:4). It is evident that the Holy Spirit, given by God, caused Paul to write sanctioning capital punishment. The words "the sword" and "avenger to execute wrath" are strong expressions, pointing to the extreme punishment for deliberate murder. It is true today that many countries have abandoned capital punishment, but it is the belief of all who consider the subject in the light of God's unchanging word, to accept His mandate in the case of a willful murder which has been clearly proven.

Question: What is the meaning of the term used by Paul "blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in"? (Romans 11:25).

Answer: The expression "the fullness of the Gentiles" has reference to the entire company of all the believers in our Lord Jesus Christ from the day of Pentecost to the moment of the Rapture. Although the church which is His body is principally composed of Gentiles, there were many Jews saved at the birth of the church, and others all down through this age of grace. God's grand word "whosoever" takes all into account in the invitation. However, it is true that being mostly Gentiles in the period of divine grace, the words "the fullness of the Gentiles" appear in this section of Romans. When the present work of the Holy Spirit is finished and the Church of this age is complete, the Lord will turn His attention to Israel, the Jews specifically, and thus all Israel shall be saved. As it is written, "there shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them when I shall take away their sins" (Isaiah 59:20; Jeremiah 31:31).

Question: What is the purpose of the name "Christian" in Acts 11:21? Was it given by God or in derision by men?

Answer: As Antioch was known as a place for the giving of contemptuous nicknames, it has been suggested that the name Christian was given in derision. It is our belief that this was not the case, but rather the name given by God to the believers in Christ, His well beloved Son. The Greek work translated "called" means "called of God" (Newberry). The names given to the Lord's people in the Acts will enforce the beauty of the name Christian. Christian is the only proper noun and is the most precious of all. The others are descriptive words of the saints but Christian is their God-given name. Young's translation is meaningful. "That honorable name, which was called upon you" (James 2:7).

Christian is the name by which believers are to be known in the world, as the term "brethren" marks their link to one another in the family of God. Believers, as separated by divine grace from unbelievers, disciples as those who follow the Scriptures and the Saviour, saints as separated from the world, unto the Lord. The name Christian appears three times in the New Testament.

Agrippa said unto Paul "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian" (Acts 26:28). The king understood what a Christian was, had desires to be one, and sadly was "almost" but lost. Many follow this sad example. In Acts 4:26 "the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." These were once far from God, but became not only almost persuaded, but were fully persuaded to accept Christ and in following Him were given the God-honoring name, Christian. We also read "if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this Name" (1 Peter 4:16). This surely confirms the divine origin of the name as given by God, for how could one glorify God in a name given him in derision as a nickname by the ungodly?