MESSAGE FOR “SANCTITY OF LIFE” SUNDAY, JANUARY 19, 2003

           

            Americans are thoroughly divided on the issue of abortion.  A May 2001 Gallup poll found that 42% of Americans said that abortion is morally acceptable while 45% said it was morally wrong.  In a 1998 Gallup poll 48% said abortion is murder while 42% said it was not murder.  This week will mark 30 years since the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion on demand in Roe v. Wade.  In those 30 years the discussion surrounding abortion has become more and more complicated and convoluted, as seemingly every possible sector of society has weighed in on this issue.  The questions in the public arena surrounding abortion are seemingly endless.  There is the basic question of a women’s so called “right” to choose 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 occurring due only to unwanted pregnancies (according to the Guttmacher Institute) the whole issue of “wanted children” and the alternative of adoption has entered into the discussion.  There are complicated and evolving medical issues related to gestation and viability of the unborn child.  Because black women are three times more likely to have abortions than white women and Hispanics women are two times as likely there is a racial element to the discussion.  Then there’s the issue of publicly funded abortions here and outside the U.S. and all of this is part of the political discussion on this issue.

            In the overgrown jungle of legal and ethical and medical and racial and socioeconomic and political questions, the church of Christ has become increasingly silent.  The evangelical church is sheepish and self-conscious in its position on this critical issue.  Many of us are so concerned about being identified with abortion clinic bombers and other extremists who kill abortion providers we have lost our voice.  We have blushed with embarrassment as we have read editorials from people claiming to be Christians who do a shameful job of representing the truth of Scripture on this issue and so we have all too frequently become silent.  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 actually use your past for his glory.  Maybe more prevalent than any other reason is that we are people full of pride and our natural, fleshly response is to hate with a vengeance the idea that someone, somewhere might think that we are an intolerant, uniformed, judgmental fool.  Our flesh hates that more than just about anything else and tragically we fear the rejection of man more than we fear God.

Another reason for the silence of the church is the fact that we do not have a firm grasp on the basic biblical truths about what the Bible says about abortion.  We may have a general notion that the Scriptures argue against abortion but few of us could give bible references or cogently argue a solid biblical defense of the pro-life position.  If we are not grounded in the teaching of sacred Scripture, which is our ultimate authority on this issue, we will probably not have the strength of conviction we need in a culture that assails with demonic force the rights of the unborn.

            This morning our goal is modest.  That is, to go over the main biblical principles and the texts that teach them so as to equip us to know God’s will on this issue.  As we know and internalize the truth, we can increase our boldness to impact our world for Christ in this area.  This morning I want to break down the biblical perspective on abortion to what are arguably its three root elements.  This is not to say that the Scriptures don’t communicate principles that, when correctly applied can’t answer many of the other moral and ethical questions, but we don’t have time for that and I personally don’t have the capacity to speak with authority on all those other issues.  Beyond that, if you know and internalize these three truths, many of the other complex questions surrounding this issue become irrelevant.  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 murder is wrong.  Murder is wrong on several levels.  Its illegal in our country and in any civilized country—it causes tremendous hurt to individuals and it erodes the fiber of civilization in many ways.  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 it is 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 life animal life.  We may have countless genetic similarities to say, the chimpanzee but human life is essentially different than animal or plant life.  Only humanity bears the image of God.  We alone bear the stamp of the divine.  Theologians like to argue about how that image of God is manifest in man but that’s not relevant for this discussion.  The implication is that human life, because it bears God’s image is sacred—it is much more than a collection of bones, organs, chemicals and fluids.  Human life is immeasurably more than the sum of its physical parts because it has within it the mark of the divine.  Because God has uniquely invested himself in humanity by sharing his image with us that means that our lives have been given a sense of divine value.  That implies that to murder a human being is to do far more than end their earthly existence or commit a crime against the state or hurt their family and friends.  To murder is to destroy a person who bears the image of God.  It would be hard to imagine a more direct assault on the person of God than to destroy one who bears his own image.  You are not simply acting against something he owns or has created—you are attacking HIM.  Because life has transcendent value that means that murder is an act that greatly transcends the physical, legal and relational realms.  To kill a chicken or any animal is not fundamentally a spiritual act—it is a natural act belonging to the natural realm.  To murder a human created in God’s image is a fundamentally spiritual crime against God because that life bore his image and to murder him or her is to destroy that expression of his image.

            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 deals with 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 relate to the unborn?” Abortion is wrong only if the Bible speaks of the unborn child in the same manner as it does to everyone else.  If the Bible taught there was some sort of essential distinction between the unborn and the rest of us then that would leave room for abortion.  As we’ll see however the Bible makes NO such distinction and in fact teaches with great clarity 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.  There are several texts that teach or imply this but perhaps the most powerful is in Exodus chapter 21.  The Ten Commandments, God’s Old Covenant stipulations are given in chapter 20.  In the following chapters, other laws or statutes that apply these commandments to every day life are spelled out.  For instance, the sixth commandment says, “Thou shalt not kill.”  But what is meant by “kill?”  What if you accidentally kill someone or your ox, through no fault of your own, gets lose and gores your neighbor? Is that a violation of the sixth commandment?  Is the owner of that animal subject to the death penalty?  The law governing those kinds of questions is spelled out in this section following the Ten Commandments and one of those laws speaks directly to this issue of 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 then as a result has a miscarriage.  This text is a very strong statement against abortion in at least two ways.  First, the word the NASB translates “miscarriage” is a compound Hebrew word that is literally “child flows out.”  The NIV captures the spirit of the word by translating it “gives birth prematurely.”  The point is that the part of the Hebrew word meaning “child” here is “yeled.  That word, in the more than 70 other occurrences of it in the Old Testament is a common word for “child.”  There is no distinction in the text between the child in the womb and the child outside the womb—the same word is used for each. 

We see the second argument against abortion in the two different contingencies cited in the law. The first contingency is if the woman who has been struck miscarries but there is “no further injury.”  The word “injury” is more literally translated, “if no mischief happens” which is a way of saying, “if the mother or the child is injured or dies.” Know this--the wording includes injury or death to EITHER the mother OR the child.  If there is a premature birth because of the accidental striking of the woman but no resulting injury or death occurs to either the mother or the baby, then the matter needs to go before the court and a judge will decide damages based on the details of the case.  That is the first contingency.  The second contingency goes to the heart of this abortion discussion.  It says, in verse 23 “but if there is any further injury, [or, if mischief happens] 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 dies then the guilty party is subject to commensurate punishment and in the case of death that means, they will be executed.  Do you get this?  If two people accidentally injure or kill not only a pregnant mother but also her unborn child—they are liable for punishment. 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 you read a previous statute 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, [the scholars tell us the Hebrew here implies an accidental death] then I will appoint you a place to which he may flee.   Do you hear in this law that unintentionally killing someone is a different crime than intentionally killing someone?  That is the same as it is in our laws.  There is a different penalty for premeditated murder than there is for manslaughter.  If a Hebrew were to kill someone accidentally, he was shielded from the vengeance of surviving friends or family of victim by having the freedom to go to what was called a city of refuge.  That’s a place where people could run and be assured of protection until a court could rule on their case.  There is clearly protection here for accidental killing.  But 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 that are struggling calls for the death penalty.  

That means that not only is the unborn child given the same legal consideration as the rest of us, but in this law is actually given, if you will, more protection (along with pregnant mother) in the sense that this brings the death penalty on the striker.  The point of the law is clear—“don’t fight around mothers with unborn children unless you want to possibly face the death penalty.”  The point for us this morning is not to say that this Old Covenant law is, or should be, legally binding today.  The point is to illustrate that God’s law recognizes the unborn as of completely equal value as other human life.

If this text were the only text in the Bible that spoke to this issue, it would alone settle the matter as to where God stands on abortion.  But there are also other texts, which speak powerfully to 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.  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.  In this context do you hear how ridiculous a defense of abortion sounds? “God may have known Jeremiah and called Jeremiah as a prophet, but Jeremiah wasn’t a human when he was preborn.”  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.”  Sin is an essential part of fallen humanity and the sin is present with us from the earliest moment—conception.  This not only argues for pre-birth sinfulness, but since sin and fallen humanity are essentially linked, it also argues that the unborn are human and manifest that by being sinful from 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 in Job 10:8-13.  In the anguish of his suffering Job says to God, "Your hands shaped me and made me.  Will you now turn and destroy me?  9Remember that you molded me like clay.  Will you now turn me to dust again? 10Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese,  11clothe me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews?  12You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit.  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 shaping, molding like clay, clothing and knitting a human being.  Those are obviously metaphorical—God doesn’t use knitting needles.  But the point is to say in the most graphic terms that the creation process that occurs in the womb and which can now be captured in amazing detail by the new line of ultrasonic imaging devises—that process is not at its core fundamentally biological.  There is obviously a biological element to it 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 the developing baby or one of those new ultrasonic images, the caption at the bottom of the image, for anyone with eyes to see is, “GOD AT WORK!”

            God is directly superintending the 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?  Abortion is the violent barging into God’s art studio and taking one of His masterpieces—these fearfully and wonderfully made humans and tearing up his canvas and throwing the pieces out the window with Him looking on.  Its charging into his sculpting area and smashing his brilliant work at his feet.  But it’s even more arrogant than that because that creation is not only his work, it bears his very image—it in some way reflects him in a way that no painting could ever represent a human artist.

            What do you suppose God thinks about that?  When you think about that for a moment think about this--that insane, immeasurably arrogant act against the Creator occurs about 3500 times a day in the United States.   Thirty five hundred canvases ripped up and thrown out the window with him looking on—in one day in our nation.  That leads us to a third and final Scriptural truth about abortion.  That is This shedding of innocent blood brings judgment from God.  God hates the shedding of innocent blood.  One of the seven deadly sins in Proverbs 6—sins that are 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 right now the wrath of God is being revealed against sin—like the sin of abortion.  The way that Paul says His wrath is being revealed is seen in three verses in this chapter.  Three times Paul says the way the wrath of God is right now 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.

            Do you know what that means as it relates to our culture?  That means that Roe v. Wade was not only a disastrous landmark legal decision, it had an unseen spiritual dimension to it that should make us shudder.  In the spiritual realm it was something far more serious—it was an expression of God’s present tense wrath—a giving of our nation over 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 3500 daily abortions thanks to the legalizing of abortion on demand.  But also the removal of that legal restraint put in place by God is an expression of the present wrath of God on our nation. The wrath of God is not only coming to America because of abortion, Paul says it’s already here.  Do we hear this?

            What can we do about this?  First—plead for God’s mercy not only from the coming wrath but for mercy from Him that would put back in place the barriers to abortion so that 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.  Its not about a cause or a law or a Supreme Court—its 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. For starters, go down and do the Jericho March on Wednesday at the abortion mill or attend the prayer vigil at City Hall Wednesday night and regularly pray for the cause of the unborn and the glory of God in this.  Finally, if you have had an abortion 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, “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.”  May God give us the grace to know these basic biblical truths about abortion and live changed lives in response to them.

Pro-Life Action Ministries supports the alternatives to abortion.

Please, consider the options - not abortion.

Page modified 1/19/2002