The Difference Between a Death Sentence and the Death Penalty


November 1, 2017

Colossians 3:5-6

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 


Whether you are a supporter of the death penalty or not I need you to think through the metaphor for purposes of today’s Daily Text.

There’s the death sentence and then there’s the actual death penalty. See what I mean? Once a person is given the death penalty they are exiled to death row, where they wait to be taken to the execution chamber at which point they are actually “put to death.” People can wait on death row for years, exhausting a long appeals process and such, before they are actually put to death.

It’s an apt metaphor, for isn’t this exactly the way we deal with sin in our lives? Because Jesus has died to sin once and for all, sin is now on death row. It has no power other than the rogue power we grant it in our own lives.

In death penalty parlance, the distance between death row and the death chamber is called the last mile. And though it is undoubtedly much shorter than an actual mile, it must feel like the most difficult mile of them all.

It has me thinking today about what it would mean to visit death row in my own soul and walk past the prisoners. What sins are locked up there awaiting execution? I think I know, but have I identified and named them? That’s what Paul is doing in today’s text:

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

What would it mean to walk that last mile, escorting my sins to the death chamber? How many times have you walked your sins to the death chamber only to walk them back to the cell again?

Part of the problem is the way we are conditioned to think about the death penalty. We tend to think in terms of something quick and relatively painless, like a lethal injection. When Paul speaks of “putting to death” he’s thinking of the Cross. We must crucify our sins, which can be a slow, arduous and agonizing death.

I am convinced the main reason we fail to put our sins to death is we try to walk that last mile alone. Condemned, cancelled sin can be so wiley and deceptive, and it can keep us shrouded in so much shame that we can’t bear even the thought of opening up about it to someone else. That is what a band is for—not to put you down but to lift you up; not to shame you, but to honor you in the struggle.

There’s that fantastic scene near the end of the the last epic of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Samwise and Frodo had come to proverbial “last mile.” Frodo carried the horrifically deceptive ring of power all this way and was finally collapsing in failure on the brink of victory. The immortal words of Samwise Gamgee to Frodo Baggins capture what it so often takes to get us through the last mile from death row to the death chamber, “Then let us be rid of it, once and for all! Come on Mr. Frodo. I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!”

You’re welcome. ;0) 

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature


Abba Father, we thank you for your son, Jesus, who not only carried our sin to the Cross but who carries us. Awaken me to the deception in my soul about my own sins. Thank you for exiling my sins to death row. Now come Holy Spirit and help me finally put them to death, one by one. And raise up a band around me to help. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.


  1. How do you relate to this metaphor of the last mile between death row and the death chamber?
  2. Can you name the inmates (sin) on death row in your innermost self? Are you tired of visiting them? Are you ready to be done with them once and for all?
  3. Would you be willing to share these struggles with your band in confidence? Would you be willing to pray about starting or joining a band? You will be in good company with many who are already on the path.

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.


Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.