Last updated on: 6/3/2014 | Author:

Billy Graham Biography

Evangelist and Chairman of the Board of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA)
Not Clearly Pro or Con to the question "Should the Death Penalty Be Legal?"

“To gain a clear understanding of God’s attitude toward sin, we only have to consider the purpose of Christ’s death. The Scripture says, ‘Without shedding of blood there is no remission’ (Hebrews 9:22). Here is a positive statement that there can be no forgiveness of sin unless our debt has been paid.

God will not tolerate sin. He condemns it and demands payment for it. God could not remain a righteous God and compromise with sin. His holiness and His justice demand the death penalty.”
“The Power of the Cross,” Decision magazine, Apr. 2007

[Editor’s Note: A plain reading of the quote may suggest that Mr. Graham’s quote above is pro death penalty; however, was advised by Mr. Stephen Scholle, General Counsel of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Organization and an authorized spokesperson for Mr. Graham, that such a reading would be inaccurate. We have provided Mr. Graham’s quote above and Mr. Scholle’s explanation below for greater clarity on this topic.

“Please allow me to explain why the plain reading of Mr. Graham’s statement taken from his message titled The Power of the Cross does not clearly support the pro death penalty position and is out of context as used on your website. The article that this quote was taken from is an article about mankind’s spiritual condition. As Mr. Graham states in his comments, he is referring to God’s attitude toward sin and what God says in the Bible about the death we all will face because of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve, God’s first creation of mankind, disobeyed God and sinned against Him He had to institute a punishment because He is just and holy and cannot allow sin to go unpunished. Otherwise, He would be going against His very nature. The punishment He instituted was death. Each of us are direct descendants of Adam and Eve and therefore, were born under their same sinful condition and the resulting punishment of death. But there is more. Hebrews 9:27 in the Bible states, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” We are made of flesh and spirit. Our flesh is appointed to die a physical death, which is considered the first death but our spirits are eternal. After each of us experiences the physical death of the flesh, we will stand before God and give an account for the lives we lived. Because our very nature is sinful, we will never be able to measure up to God’s standard of holiness and because God is just we must face His judgment and penalty for our actions. The good news is that God sent His one and only Son, Jesus the Christ, to take the penalty for us instead. Because Christ is God’s son and therefore perfect and holy in every way, He was an acceptable substitute in God’s eyes to satisfy His judgment. Christ took the sins of mankind onto Himself and satisfied God’s death penalty with His own life. Not only that, He then conquered the death penalty itself by raising from the dead on the third day and thus has reconciled mankind back to God. Those who put their faith in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross are considered justified by God and at the judgment will be appointed to live with Him eternally in heaven. Those who do not will suffer eternal separation from God and eternity in Hell, this is the second death. For further information, please see the information found at the following link

Hopefully, this explains the context of Mr. Graham’s quote and you can see he was not referring to the death penalty in a worldly, legal sense, but rather according to the Bible, as the physical and spiritual death of mankind as the result of their sinful condition.

The quote is referring to what the Bible says, not what Mr. Graham personally believes about the death penalty according to the legal system. We do not know what his stance is on the death penalty according to the legal system nor has Mr. Graham ever publicly stated his stance on the matter. What Mr. Graham is referring to in the article is the spiritual death penalty appointed by God, as found in the Bible.”

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Founder and Chairman of the Board, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), 1950-present
  • Recipient, Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE), 2001
  • Recipient, Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation Freedom Award, 2000
  • Recipient, Congressional Gold Medal, 1996
  • Recipient, Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion, 1982
  • Recipient, Big Brother Award, 1966
  • Recipient, George Washington Carver Memorial Institute Speaker of the Year Award, 1964
  • Ordained in 1939 by a church in the Southern Baptist Convention
  • BA, Anthropology, Wheaton College, 1943
  • BA, Theology, Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College), 1940
  • Legal name William F. Graham
  • Born November 7, 1918
  • Spiritual adviser to many US presidents, including Nixon, Eisenhower, Johnson, and Clinton