What does the Bible say about corporal punishment?

Corporal Punishment

Corporal punishment is defined as the infliction of physical injury on someone convicted of committing a crime. Corporal punishment can be administered in a family setting (Proverbs 13:24; 23:13,14; 29:15), school setting or in a prison setting by the legal authorities (Deuteronomy 25:1-3; Proverbs 20:30; 26:3; ).  

Bible Instruction 

Paul in Romans 13:1-7 instructs Christians to be subject to the authorities of their lands. He says, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1,2).

Likewise, Peter gives the same message, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good” (1 Peter 2:13-14).  

One of the main duties of a government is to suppress disorder by administering corporal punishment (Romans 13:3, 4). Public officials have a responsibility not only to stop the forces of evil but to inspire persons and actions that contribute to the well-being of society.

Christians and the Civil Laws

Jesus fulfilled all of the civil duties, even submitting to injustice rather than oppose established authority (Matthew 22:21; 26:50–53). The Christian is to carry on his civic duties not from fear of corporal punishment, but because of the example of his Lord while on earth.

Paul and Silas submitted to corporal punishment in Philippi, though unfairly, for preaching the truth. The magistrates of the city commanded that they be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison” (Acts 16:23). Paul endured similar suffering on two other occasions (2 Corinthians 11:25).

God’s people are not to make the law and order difficult for those charged with this duty. Rather they are to submit to authorities for no human authority exists except by God’s permission and under His control. The Old Testament often affirms that God sets up a government and puts down another (Daniel 4:17; 2:21; 4:25, 34, 35). 

Except where Biblical truth would be broken, the believer is to obey the laws of the society in which he resides.  He should not use force against the legal authorities of his land. He would adhere to the laws of the land because God requires him to do so. And he will not abuse his freedom and ruin his reputation as a law-abiding citizen.

Christian liberty does not free a person in any way from his responsibility to abide by the constituted authority. Paul wrote, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:12 also 10:23). The good name of God is at stake in the way a believer behaves himself. Therefore, Christians should never give people a reason to assume that God’s standard of behavior is lower than that generally accepted by non-Christians.

 In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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