Capital Crimes

One of the first things Jesus makes clear during His earthly ministry is that the entire content of the Law (“every jot and tittle”) remains intact for the New Covenant Community (Mat 5:17-20). In the words of the Reformers, the Law changes not in substance, only in application. This includes also its jurisprudence (i.e. system of justice). What therefore Jesus establishes for the church as her means of carrying out such justice (or discipline) follows the same process/system we find in Numbers 15 and Deuteronomy 16-19. Again, the only difference is in application. And the perfect example of this, is as it relates to those sins historically known as capital crimes. Capital crimes represent those sins whose punishment (i.e. means of justice) is – according to the Law established under the Old Covenant, immediate physical death. Under the New Covenant, the crime is still considered a sin which requires death as the appropriate discipline, the application however has changed. Instead of being stoned to death (i.e. physical death), those guilty of capital crimes are to be “killed” spiritually. In practical terms, this means removal from the covenant community (i.e. excommunication) for a period of time that has been designated by the church. Support for this change in application – as well as the time-designation established by the church, is found in the examination of 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 and 2 Corinthians 2:5-11. Assuming Paul is dealing with the same capital offense in both, we have precedent not only for excommunication as the new application of justice/discipline for such cases, but also (again) an established period of time set by the Body during which the guilty party will demonstrate their repentance. Having said that, it is not my intention in this particular blog to delve any deeper into those various subjects, but rather to use this as the platform for providing the list of those crimes which the Bible places in that category of capital. Understanding then that these crimes are still relevant – and once more, demanding death (i.e. excommunication), the following are sins we must be carefully aware of—and diligently avoiding as they will mean separation from not only the benefits of the Body of Christ but also Christ Himself (until formal restoration):

  1. Murder (Exo 21:12-14; Lev 24:17, 21; Num 35:30-31; Deu 19:11-13)
  2. Wrongful death (Exo 21:29 w/option for ransom v30)
  3. Adultery (Lev 20:10; Deu 22:13-24)
  4. Kidnapping (Exo 21:16; Deu 24:7)
  5. Homosexuality (Lev 20:13)
  6. Idolatry: false gods, gospels or worship (Exo 22:20 w/Lev 27:29; Deu 7:25-26, 13:1-16, 17:1-7)
  7. Sexual acts with unbelievers (Num 25:1-8 w/1Co 10:8 w/1Co 6:15-20; 2Co 5:20-6:2, 14-18; Exo 34:12-16)
  8. Bestiality (Exo 22:19; Lev 20:15-16)
  9. Sorcery (Exo 22:18; Lev 20:27)
  10. Incest: sexual intercourse with parents, sons and daughters, sons and daughters-in-law (Lev 20:11-12, 14)
  11. Profaning/forsaking God’s holy day (Exo 31:13-15 w/Heb 4:6-11, 10:24-26ff w/Joh 13:10 w/Act 20:7)
  12. Rape (Deu 22:25-27)
  13. False prophecy (Deu 13:1-5, 18:20)
  14. Blasphemy (Lev 24:15-16)
  15. Child abuse (Lev 20:1-5)
  16. Falsely accusing another of a capital crime (Deu 19:16-20)
  17. Adolescent/Adult child rebellion in the home (Exo 21:15, 17, Lev 20:9; Deu 21:18-21)

For a more thorough study on New Covenant Jurisprudence please listen to this sermon and read the accompanying handout.