Today is Sanctity of Life Sunday and we wanted to take one more week away from our study in Acts to address abortion from a truth-driven perspective. Though the abortion rate in America is declining, the rate has fallen by only about eight percent in the last decade. However, abortions among poor women have risen almost 20% in the last decade. The horrific truth is that in 2008, about 1,210,000 unborn children were killed. That’s approximately equivalent to the population of the state of Rhode Island or the city of Dallas, Texas—killed each year. This does not include the unknown number of abortions occurring from the so-called “morning after” pill. The discussion in the public arena surrounding abortion is multi-facetted. There is the basic question of a woman’s alleged “right” to choose abortion versus the unborn child’s right to life. But beyond that there are other moral questions about rape and incest, which is an issue in only about 1% of abortions according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute.
There are moral questions about whether abortion is morally permissible in cases where the life of the mother is at stake. With 93% of abortions due only to unwanted pregnancies (according to the Guttmacher Institute), the whole issue of “wanted children” and the alternative of adoption is part of the discussion. There are evolving medical technologies that impact issues related to gestation and viability of the unborn child. The development of much more vivid sonogram images has also had influence. Because black women are three times more likely to have abortions than white women and Hispanics women are two times as likely, there is also a racial element to the discussion. Then there’s the issue of tax-payer funded abortions and all of these facets of the discussion are part of the ongoing political debate on this issue.
In this deafening din of legal, medical, ethical, racial, socioeconomic and political discussion, the voice of the church has over the years become increasingly muted-especially when you consider what is at stake. The evangelical church is increasingly sheepish and self-conscious in its position on abortion. Many of us are too concerned about being identified with abortion clinic bombers and other extremists who kill abortion providers and have remained silent out of fear of guilt by association. Likewise, we have blushed with embarrassment as we read editorials from people claiming to be Christians, but who do a shameful job of representing Christ and the Scriptures on this issue. In our self-conscious desire to disassociate ourselves from those people, we have all too frequently become silent. Pastors are too often more concerned about growing large churches than being a faithful witnesses to the truth on what is the moral blight of our age. Another reason the church is muted is because there are many evangelicals who have had abortions. If you are here today and have had an abortion, know this—God’s grace can cover that—Jesus died for that sin too--his blood can cleanse that sin and even redeem your past sins for your joy and his glory. Encapsulating many of these reasons for our silence is our collective hatred of the possibility that someone, somewhere might think we are intolerant, uniformed, judgmental fools. Our flesh hates that and tragically we often fear the rejection of man more than we fear God.
Another reason for the silence of the church is the fact that many in the church do not have a firm grasp on the clear argument against abortion found in the Scriptures. We may have a general notion that the Scriptures argue against abortion, but too few of us could offer the main Biblical texts speaking to this issue or cogently argue a solid, truth-driven defense of the pro-life position. Our passion on this issue is more often fueled by emotion than stoked by the clear statement of Scripture. If we are not grounded in the teaching of Scripture, which is our ultimate authority on this issue, we will probably not have the strength of conviction required to remain faithful in a culture that assails with demonic force the sanctity and rights of the unborn.
This morning our goal is modest. That is, to go over some of the main Biblical texts and principles on this topic so as to equip us to know God’s revealed will on this issue. Our desire is that, as we know and internalize the truth, by God’s grace our boldness and our impact for Christ will increase in this area. This morning I want to unpack the Biblical argument against abortion to what are arguably its three root elements. If we know and internalize these three truths, many of the other questions surrounding them take care of themselves. The first and most basic truth of the Scriptures that can and should be applied to this issue is: Human life is sacred and therefore abortion is a murderous sin against God. Murder is sinful on several levels. Its illegal in our country and in any civilized country—it causes tremendous hurt and it de-sensitizes us to the preciousness of human life. But those reasons are all secondary. The first and most important reason murder is wrong is because the Scripture repeatedly teaches that human life is sacred because we are created in God’s image.
Genesis 1:27 says, “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them.” Human life is not simply another form of animal life as the evolutionists assert. We may have many genetic similarities to say, the chimpanzee but human life is essentially, qualitatively on a different plain than animal life. Only humanity bears the image of God. We alone bear the stamp of the divine. Theologians argue about precisely how that is manifest in humanity, but that’s not our point this morning. The implication is that human life, because it bears the very image of God, has embedded within it a God-like sanctity. We are infinitely more than a collection of bones, organs, chemicals and fluids. Human life is immeasurably more than the sum of its biological parts because it is at some level, an expression of God. The sinless angels don’t have this—only humans. Because God has uniquely invested himself in humanity by sharing his image with us, that means our lives have a value that transcends the merely mortal—our value as humans is rooted in the fact that we image our Creator. That means that to murder a man is to do far more than end his earthly existence or commit a crime against the state or degrade society. To murder is to destroy the very image of God in a person. It would be hard to imagine a more direct or more personal assault on the Person of God than to destroy his image in one of his creations. You are not simply attacking something he owns or has created—as if that weren’t evil enough—murder is a direct and personal assault against HIM. Because human life has transcendent value, murder is an expression of evil that transcends the physical, legal and relational realms.
In God’s covenant with Noah in Genesis 9:4-6, God tells Noah, “"Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5"And surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man's brother I will require the life of man. 6"Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.” [NASB] Notice that the ground of the prohibition against murder is the fact that man is created in God’s image. The second major truth that specifically addresses abortion is: Unborn life is sacred and therefore abortion is murder. This truth is an extension of the first one. Human life is sacred, but the question related to abortion is, “How does the sanctity of human life we have established from the Bible relate to the unborn?” Abortion is sinful only if the Bible speaks of the unborn child in the same manner it does everyone else.
If the Bible taught there was some essential difference between the unborn and the rest of us, that would leave room for abortion. The truth is--the Bible makes NO such distinction and in fact repeatedly and with great clarity teaches that the unborn bear the image of God just as much as the rest of us and therefore to kill the unborn is to be guilty of murder. Several texts teach or imply this but perhaps the most powerful is in Exodus chapter 21. The Ten Commandments, God’s basic Old Covenant stipulations are given in the previous chapter. In chapters 21 and following, other laws that apply these commandments to every-day situations are spelled out. For instance, the sixth commandment says, “You shall not murder.” That is the broad statutory law. But what is meant by “murder?” What if you accidentally kill someone or your ox, through no fault of your own, gets lose and gores your neighbor? Does that violate the sixth commandment? Is the owner of that animal subject to the death penalty? The laws governing those kinds of questions are in the form of specific case laws and are spelled out in the section following the Ten Commandments and one of those laws speaks directly to this issue of the value God places on the unborn.
In Exodus 21:22-25 we read, “"And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no further injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman's husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide. 23"But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, 24eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” [NASB] The case this law addresses is if two men are fighting and one or both of them unintentionally injures a pregnant woman who has a miscarriage as a result. This text is a very strong statement against abortion in at least two ways. First, the word translated “miscarriage” is a compound Hebrew word that literally means “her child flows out”—in a miscarriage a child is born, not a mass of tissue. The NIV captures the spirit of the word by translating it--if the woman “gives birth prematurely.” The point is that the part of the Hebrew word meaning “child,” in the more than 70 other occurrences of it in the Old Testament is used as a common word for “child.” There is no difference between the child in a womb and a child outside the womb—the same word is used for each.
We see the second argument against abortion here in the two specific contingencies cited in the law. The first contingency is if the woman who has been struck miscarries, but there is “no further injury.” In other words, “if the mother or the child is not injured or does not die.” The contingency is if EITHER the mother OR the child are not injured or killed. If there is simply a premature birth because of the accidental striking of the woman with no resulting injury or death occurring to the mother or the baby, then the law goes on to state that the matter must go before the courts and a judge will decide damages based on the facts of the case. That is the first contingency. The second contingency goes to the heart of this issue of the value God places on the unborn. It says in verse 23, “but if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, 24eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” You’ll notice the difference here. If the two men are struggling and a blow is unintentionally struck to the pregnant woman and either the mother or unborn child is injured or dies, then the guilty party is subject to commensurate punishment which, in the case of the death of the woman or child means--they will be executed. Don’t miss this. If a person accidentally injures or kills, not only a pregnant mother, but also her unborn child—they are liable for punishment. The fact that the law calls them to forfeit their own life for the life of the unborn means God values the life of the unborn equally to that of an adult. The penalty for killing an unborn child is the same as for killing the pregnant mother. What’s even more powerful about this is seen when we compare this statute with a previous one in 21:12-13 which says, “"He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. 13"But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, [implying an accidental death] then I will appoint you a place to which he may flee. Do you hear in this law that intentionally killing someone is a different crime than doing so unintentionally? Our laws recognize the same distinction. There is a different penalty for pre-meditated murder than for manslaughter. If a Jew were to kill someone accidentally, the law shielded him from the vengeance of the surviving friends or family of the victim by permitting him the freedom to flee to what was called a “city of refuge.” There were six designated cities in Israel where people could flee and be assured of protection until a legal court could rule on their case. There is clearly a level of protection here for accidental killing. By contrast, the statute in verses 22-25 that speaks to the accidental death of a pregnant woman or an unborn child in the case of two men fighting calls for the death penalty—there is no provision for flight to a city of refuge. That means that, not only is the unborn child given the same legal consideration as adults, in this law the child is actually given, if you will, more protection (along with pregnant mother) because their death brings the death penalty on the perpetrator even if its accidental. The point is to illustrate that God’s law recognizes the unborn as of completely equal value as other human life and is afforded an even greater degree of protection than children or adults.
Because this law speaks clearly and directly to the value God places on the life of the unborn, this text would definitively define God’s stand on abortion if it were the only text in the Bible speaking to this issue. But there are numerous other texts that also powerfully address this issue. Another one is Jeremiah 1:5. God is calling Jeremiah to be a prophet and he says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” God knew Jeremiah as a human being before he was born. God says to Jeremiah, “I knew YOU” not, “I knew you would be born” but “I knew YOU” before you were formed in the womb.” Before Jeremiah was conceived, God had already called him as a prophet to the nations. One implication of that is that God in some personal way knows every aborted baby before their conception—abortion is the killing of someone with whom God is intimately acquainted. David makes a similar point in Psalm 51:5 when he says, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Unfortunately, sin is an essential part of fallen humanity just as much as our skin, eyes or internal organs and our fallen human sinfulness is present with us from the earliest moment of existence—conception. This not only argues for our pre-birth sinfulness, but since sin and fallen human persons are essentially linked, it also implies that the unborn are human persons and express that human personhood that by their sinfulness at their conception.
Another group of texts supporting the sanctity of the unborn include ones like Psalm 139:13. David praises God saying, “For you created my innermost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." A similar text is Job 10:8-13. In the anguish of his suffering Job says to God, 8” Your hands fashioned and made me, and now you have destroyed me altogether. 9 Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to the dust? 10 Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? 11 You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. 12 You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit. 13 Yet these things you hid in your heart; I know that this was your purpose.” Do you hear some of the verbs the inspired writers use to describe the creation process in the womb? In the womb God is at work fashioning, making like clay, clothing and knitting a human being. Those are obviously metaphorical—God doesn’t knit. The point is to say in the most graphic terms, the creation process occurring in the womb is not at its core fundamentally biological. Biological development is surely occurring, but the Bible says that this process in the womb of the mother is the shaping, molding, clothing and knitting work of the Creator. When you look at one of those photographs of a developing baby in utero or an ultrasonic image, the caption at the bottom of the image, for anyone with eyes to see is, “GOD AT WORK!”
God is directly superintending the creation process in the womb. John Stott said, “…the growth of the fetus is neither haphazard nor automatic but a divine work of creative skill.” Do you hear the implications for abortion within that context? As we have said before—aborting an unborn child is like violently barging into God’s private art studio (with him looking on) and taking one of His unfinished—and shredding his canvas before throwing the remains out the window. It’s storming into his sculpting area and smashing at his feet his brilliant but uncompleted work. But it’s even more arrogant than that because that creation is not only his work, it bears his very image—it reflects him in a way that no painting could ever represent a human artist. Its destruction is as much an act against him as it is his creation.
What do you suppose God thinks about that? When you think about that for a moment consider this--that violence, that immeasurably arrogant act against the Creator occurs about 3300 times a day in the United States. Daily in America, 3300 human canvases are ripped up and expelled with their Creator looking on. That leads us to a third and final Scriptural truth about abortion. That is: This shedding of innocent blood brings the judgment of God. God hates the shedding of innocent blood. One of the seven deadly sins in Proverbs 6—sins that are specifically mentioned as being detestable to God--is the shedding of innocent blood. God judged Israel for this and his character has not changed.
Abortion brings the wrath of God on a nation and what is even more sobering about that is what we read in Romans one. You may recall that in Romans 1:18 Paul writes, “The wrath of God is being revealed [present tense] against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth [like the truth about the unborn] by their wickedness.” Although the wrath of God clearly has a future element to it, Paul here reveals that today the wrath of God is being revealed against sin—like the sin of abortion. One way Paul says His wrath is currently being revealed is seen three verses later in this chapter. In verses 24, 26 and 28 Paul says one way the wrath of God is today being revealed is by God “giving people over” to the sins they want to commit. In other words, the wrath of God is seen when God removes his restraining influence from a culture and allows people to sin without restraint. As a side note--this wrath is not to be confused with the alleged expression of God’s vengeance and wrath trumpeted by the intensely self-deceived people of Westborough Baptist church in their shameful and self-righteous response to homosexual sin in America.
Do you know what this present-day expression of the wrath of God means to our nation? It means that Roe v. Wade was not only a disastrous, landmark legal decision; it expresses an unseen spiritual truth that should make us shudder. In the spiritual realm Roe v. Wade was something far more serious. It was an expression of God’s present tense wrath—a giving over of our nation to its sinful and selfish desires. Do you hear this? What this means is that not only are we as a nation storing up the future wrath of God by these 3300 daily abortions thanks to the legalizing of abortion on demand. But the removal of that legal restraint on abortion is even more importantly--an expression of the present-day wrath of God on our nation. We are not simply a nation awaiting the wrath of God; we are a nation under the wrath of God because of abortion, according to this text it’s already here. Do we hear this?
What can we do about this? First—plead for God’s mercy not only for the coming wrath, but for mercy that he would graciously put back in place the social and legal barriers to abortion and our nation would no longer be given over to our sin. Second, ask God to show you his heart on this. We must be God-centered in this and unless that happens, you will be just another person with a cause. It’s not about a cause or a law or a Supreme Court ruling—as we’ve said, abortion is about GOD! Ask Him to forgive you for not having his heart on this and pray for him to give it to you. Third, do something to express his heart on this and the opportunities are many. Do sidewalk counseling down at the abortion clinic, work for a pro-life organization like Jim Tuttle’s. This afternoon go downtown and attend the Pro-Life Rally at First Presbyterian Church at 4pm—then join others in the Candlelight Prayer walk to the Building for Women at 5:30. Finally, if you have had an abortion or helped or influenced someone else to have an abortion, call it what it is and confess it to God. He is a God of great mercy and he will forgive you if you humble yourself before him.
Proverbs 24:11 says, “11 Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.” May God give us the grace to know these basic Biblical truths about abortion and live faithfully in response to them.
Page last modified on 1/22/2012
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