Stoning in the New Testament

Are people supposed to be getting stoned to death in the new covenant? The Moral laws of the old testament, still apply because they preexisted in the Sinaitic covenant (law of Moses). Adultery, murder, stealing, etc, were sins in Genesis, so rather than being specific to Israel, these laws apply to all people, through the Adamic (Adam’s) and Noahide (Noah’s) covenant. However, under the new covenant judgment for moral laws is saved until final judgment (Matt 13:24-30). This is why Jesus didn’t engage in immediate judgment (like calling fire from heaven) when Samaritans rejected him in the first century, even though James and John suggested it (Luke 9:51-56). Christians don’t stone people in the new covenant because Jesus will judge them at the end, until then they have time to repent and get saved by receiving the holy spirit.

This is why he says what he says in Matt 13:30 about the wheat (righteous) and the weeds (unrighteous). He says (NLT) “Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.” This is the last verse of the parable about the Wheat and the Weeds (or Tares) that he gives in Matt 13:24-30. In Matt 13:36-43 Jesus explains the parable’s meaning. This parable is a metaphor for judgment day. Starting from verse 40 he says, “40 Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”

The death that we deserve as believers for our sin was taken on the cross, meanwhile, unbelievers are still given time to repent and receive Jesus. Everyone has until they die to leave the side of the “weeds” and join the “wheat”. Instead of stoning people when they commit sins that affect the community Jesus taught ex-communication. In Matt 18:15-20 Jesus gives an illustration about an unrepentant believer who harms another believer. He says that first, the victim must confront the person in private about an issue. If they refuse to repent, bring two or three witnesses (Deut 25:4), and if they still refuse to repent, the church leaders will reason with them. If they refuse then they are to be excommunicated before the whole congregation. Then Jesus says when two or three witnesses are gathered together in these situations, God is with them.

In the previous verses in Matt 18, Jesus talks about having humility like a child and that condemnation will happen to those who lead children towards sin (Matt 18:1-11). Children are humble, ignorant of the knowledge of sin, and often quick to forgive, so we are to be humble, free from thoughts of sinful schemes, and quick to forgive others like children. When we are like children then we can are counted as the greatest in the kingdom. Then Jesus talks about the parable of the lost sheep, which is about a shepherd who leaves behind 99 sheep to find the one that wandered away (Matt 18:12-14). This is like the prodigal son parable (Luke 15:11-32), which is about a man who runs away to live in sin but then returns in repentance. Jesus makes it clear that God wants to bring that person back. In Matt 18:15-20 Jesus then explains this parable with a scenario about a person in the body of Christ (the church) who refuses to repent for his sin. In Matt 18:21-35 Peter asks how many times the church community should forgive someone, 7 times? Jesus replies, no 70×7, and uses a parable about a King forgiving a servant’s debt but reneges that forgiveness when he finds out the servant refused to forgive another person of their debt. This indicates that forgiveness is separate from ex-communication and that we have to be merciful if we want God to be merciful to us, this idea has been taught before in Matt 5:7 and Matt 6:14-15.

Rules about stoning people to death in the old testament only applied to those living in Isreal, including foreigners (Leviticus 18:26), so the Israelites did not go out and stone people living in other countries for doing things that go against the bible because those people did not have God’s covenant. Gentiles were judged by God directly on their adherence to the moral laws and many gentile nations had divine legal codes similar to the 10 commandments like Hammurabi’s code (Babylon), the Mandate of Heaven (China), etc, each with their own form of capital punishment. Mosaic laws are Israel’s equivalent of the divine legal code that gentile nations had. Plus it has special laws for them to set them apart so that they could represent God on earth to the nations. Likewise in the new testament, judgment for individual sin within the church is judged by the church, the church is not responsible for dealing with the sins of unbelievers. Paul explains this in 1 Cor 5:9-13 when talking about the ex-communication of people who refused to stop sinning.

1 Corinthians 5:9 When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. 10 But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. 11 I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people. 12 It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. 13 God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.”

Christians are simply supposed to teach the gospel so that people know what they are being judged on and how to be saved from condemnation by entering the covenant that Jesus offers, where he takes their sins and punishment for them. If people receive it great, if they don’t then believers are to “shake the dust off their feet and leave”, (Matt 10:4) not threaten, enslave, or murder non-believers. No one can truly be forced to believe anything, people believe things when they are convinced. So killing anyone outside of the covenant for their sin doesn’t make any sense because they won’t have any time to change their minds. For those within the church, they are simply excommunicated, because there is no need to die since Jesus took the death penalty for us (Romans 8:1). This is what Jesus died for, the option to be redeemed, and everyone has until expiration (death) to exercise that option.

The death penalty for moral laws was necessary to function as a deterrent from sin and limit sin’s spread in Israel. They had to stop in this way because they didn’t have the holy spirit inside of them to help them overcome sinful nature, which causes them to be hard-hearted toward God’s teachings. On multiple occasions, they violated God’s laws, which lead to disasters, plagues, and conquest. So when capital punishment was being ignored, sin would spread. As a nation in sin, they would reap the consequences of their sin according to the promises of blessing or curses based on whether or not they followed instructions. (Deut ch. 28) This is because the wages of sin is death. (Rom 6:23) The Holy Spirit was prophesied in the OT, to circumcise human hearts (Deut 30:1-5, Colossians 2:11, and Romans 2:25-29) and give us the power to overcome sin nature by turning our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19, & Ezekiel 36:26-27).

The laws of the land (like the Roman law in the 1st Century), government moral issues outside the church, the church is only to deal with things on a spiritual level. Paul says in Ep 6:11-12, that we don’t fight against flesh and blood but rather dark spiritual forces. So ex-communication suffices if someone needs to be removed. In the new testament because we have the holy spirit, stoning church members to death is no longer necessary, because the holy spirit gives believers the power to overcome sin and follow God’s will and instructions for our individual lives. Paul says walk in the spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Gal 5:16-26), those who so into the flesh reap corruption but those that sow into the Spirit reap eternal life (Gal 6:7-10). Jesus explained the purpose of the advocate (the holy spirit) in John 14:15-17 and John 15:26-27, to help believers overcome the world, remind believers of his teachings to they can overcome sin nature, and share the gospel effectively by testifying about him. God will judge those who rebel against his ways on judgment day, they don’t need to be stoned under the new covenant. No stoning is allowed or required.