Over the course of just a few years, the public abortion debate has gone from arguments over when life begins to lawmakers proposing legislation that allows a baby to be killed after birth.
A great public outcry resulted after it became known that Virginia Delegate Kathy Tran proposed a bill on January 9, 2019, that would allow a woman to receive an abortion at full-term and even while in labor.1
In explaining to a reporter how Del. Tran’s new liberal abortion law would work, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a former pediatric neurologist, said in a recorded and broadcast interview:
“If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated, if that is what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
In other words, infanticide.
Stunningly, the day Del. Tran proposed a bill that would allow a live baby to be killed or left to die, she offered a bill to protect the lives of moths.2
Tran’s abortion bill was defeated, but many states have passed or are considering legislation that essentially removes all penalties and restrictions and allows abortions through the end of the third trimester, up to birth.
The most glaring example occurred on the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal. On January 22, 2019, the New York legislature passed a bill that allows abortions into the third trimester and even during labor. When the bill was passed into law, legislators stood up and cheered, and, to celebrate, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo lit up the One World Trade Center and other landmarks in pink, which, until then, had been a symbol of the celebration of life, i.e., a woman beating breast cancer.
Yet another illustration is New Mexico’s Decriminalize Abortion Bill that would eliminate virtually all abortion restrictions, remove parental notification for minors, and allow abortion on demand for any reason, up to birth. Among other states that are considering such legislation are Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Vermont, which is proposing the most radical abortion law in the world with no limitations.3 It passed the House on February 25, 2019, and now moves to the Senate. The Vermont bill even stipulates that a “fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus” has no independent rights, leaving experts to warn that opens the door to gruesome fetal experimentation.
Most recently, nationally, on February 25, 2019, pro-abortion U.S. Senators blocked the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act which would have forced doctors to provide medical care to a baby born alive in a failed abortion.
Some clarity is in order. Legislators and judges alike need to understand when life begins from a biblical perspective — a truth that is written on the hearts of every human being (cf. Romans, chapter 1).
Here, then, is the case from Scripture relative to life beginning at conception and the surrounding case for governmental enforcement of that clear and consistent propositional truth in the Word of God.
Every Public Servant needs to know and ponder in their conscience the scriptural case for the Pro-Life position.
But before we go there, it is important to clarify that I intend a compassionate, pastoral tone. Many who read these studies do not attend the in-person Bible studies I teach to national political leaders in Washington, D.C., most every week, and are unfamiliar with my teaching style, so I am concerned that my tone may be misunderstood. I realize the abortion issue is a volatile subject in our culture today; it is an emotive matter, to say the least. And, in fact, in our sexually permissive society, millions of men have gotten women pregnant out of wedlock, and abortion has been the most convenient solution. Abortion has personally affected the lives of millions, but as I conclude at the end of this Bible study, there is a whole other side to this subject that is not readily apparent in the following exegetical treatise: The God who is Pro-Life offers abundant grace and forgiveness at the foot of the cross to those who have personally been involved in this matter. God the Father is loving, all-knowing and offers a restart — a cleansed pallet for those who come to Him in contriteness of heart and seek His redemption. He loves you, is gentle, and is willing to help you put the past behind. As the hymn writer put it, “Who can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Again, I believe these biblical truths are just as important to contemplate before we study what follows.
Another preliminary comment is in order before we dive in. This week’s study is meant to be a resource for use not only in one’s personal life and the formation of biblically based personal understanding and convictions, but also as reference material when one publicly speaks to this very important matter. In this latter sense, I am reminded of what the Apostle Paul said to his understudy, Timothy, in 2 Timothy 2:2: The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
There are many theological liberals — Scripture twisters — who would like you to believe that the Word of God is ambiguous and unclear about the subject of when life begins, but such is not the case at all. What follows is a logical outline as to why every citizen, public servant, and civil government needs to form and underscore personal convictions, lobby for, pass, and enforce laws that are consistent with life beginning at conception. Therein is the singular, repetitious proposition of the Word of God, and of this study. I trust and pray that the following simple outline will aid in the biblical and rational understanding of this premise. Summarily, here is the proposition of this study:
TO THE CONTRARY OF WHAT ABORTION ADVOCATES PROFFER, GOD’S WORD IS UNAMBIGUOUS, IMMUTABLE, AND PERSPICUOUS WHEN IT COMES TO HIS VIEW ON BABIES — INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE WOMB
II. MAN IS MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD
The Pro-Life argument begins with Imago Dei (lit. “Image of God”), which is the theological doctrine asserting the inherent value of all mankind being created in the image of God: Inherent value, independent of utility or function. The Pro-Life position is rooted in this concept. Why? If life has no intrinsic value, then why is it worth protecting? Is man’s value equal to that of a dairy cow, which is primarily sustained to serve an economic, utilitarian function to others in society?
In the whole of God’s creation, man is differentiated and stands preeminent; only man was made in His image and is able to embody His communicable attributes. All other animate and inanimate objects are of a lesser created order. This is seen in Genesis 1:26:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Unlike the remainder of creation, man possesses the ability to reason; he has intellect, emotion, and will. He possesses morality; prior to the fall, he was always good and sinless. Note also from this passage that man is appointed to be God’s representative over all else. He is to be the custodian, the steward, of God’s creation (cf. Genesis 9:1-2). Man is, therefore, definitively created to be above the remainder of creation, possessing unique and wonderful value from God Himself and for God Himself. This is the same biblical truth that informed Thomas Jefferson’s penning of “inalienable rights” in the Declaration of Independence — the idea that certain God-given rights cannot and must not be revoked by any outside force. Jefferson put it this way: every man is “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Mankind, in turn, is commanded to reciprocate by loving God and his fellow man: Mark 12:31 states the second of the two great commands:
“The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
It follows that those created by a loving God in His image will love and protect others created in His image, be they believers or not. All men, no matter their race
Every human being possesses inalienable worthiness imbued by their Creator, implying that no one can stand between a human being and his or her Maker in the sense of annihilation. It is only God who gives mankind life, and it is only God who can take it away. To in any way understand this premise differently is to make man the final determiner of human life; to in any way understand this premise differently is to open the door, not only to abortion, but to infanticide and euthanasia.
In summary, Imago Dei is biblically rooted theological doctrine that asserts the inherent value of mankind — the sanctity of human life — independent of and preeminent to utility or function. Imago Dei is therefore the fundamental and irreplaceable premise to building a case to protect human life.5
III. LIFE BEGINS AT CONCEPTION
There are a number of common-sense arguments for life beginning at conception, including, “There is no other time for life to begin except at conception,”6 and “The benefit of the doubt as to when life begins should always inure to the side of life,”7 and the vast, ever-increasing scientific compendium of evidence8 (which is beyond the scope of this Bible study per se). In addition to those reasons, there exists a strong, consistent, incontrovertible exegetical argument from the Word of God. That argument follows.
A. PSALM 139:13
For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.
David ascribes personhood to himself while in his mother’s womb. The Hebrew word for inward parts, kilyah, refers to the “innermost parts” of a person and is used elsewhere in the OT to describe one’s mind and thoughts in the following passages:
- Psalm 16:7 I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind (kilyah) instructs me in the night.
- Psalm 26:2 Examine me, O Lord, and try me; Test my mind (kilyah) and my heart.
- Psalm 73:21 When my heart (kilyah) was embittered and I was pierced within…
- Jeremiah 17:10 “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind (kilyah), even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.”
These supplemental passages testify to the meaning revealed in Psalm 139:13 — that God formed David’s thinking and emotions (the supposition here of emotions is further illustrated in the following point) while in the womb. This provides evidence of the biblical presupposition of life — the existence of intellect, emotion, and will — prior to birth.
B. LUKE 1:41-42
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”
In this NT passage, Jesus is in the womb of Mary, and Mary is visiting Elizabeth who is pregnant with John the Baptist. Notice first:
UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, LUKE CALLS THE PREBORN CHILD A “BABY”
Baby, (brephos), is the same Greek word used throughout the NT to describe an infant. Illustratively, note the following three usages:
- Luke 2:16, Jesus Himself is called a baby (brephos) lying in a manger.
- Luke 18:15, Scripture states regarding Jesus, And they were bringing even their babies (brephos) to Him so that He would touch them…
- 2 Timothy 3:15 Yet another illustration of the Greek word brephos is used in this passage wherein the Apostle Paul is speaking of his understudy, Timothy, … and that from childhood (brephos) you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Lastly, in regard to Elizabeth’s baby in this passage, also recorded by Dr. Luke is that the baby leaped in her womb, thereby exhibiting all of the very signs of life — intellect, emotion, and will, in accord with the aforementioned point that a baby can think in the womb. Scripture reveals that:
WHILE IN THE WOMB, JOHN THE BAPTIST RESPONDED INTELLECTUALLY, EMOTIONALLY, AND WILLFULLY TO MARY’S VOICE IN HIS PREBORN STATE OF PERSONHOOD
C. PSALM 51:5
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.
A quick read of this verse might seem to indicate that Scripture is teaching us that David’s mother sinned in conceiving him, but that is not what is in view here.
Psalm 51:5 is one of many biblical references to the curse of sin (cf. Genesis 3:16; Job 14:4; Psalm 58:3; and implied in Isaiah 43:27 and Hosea 6:7). Sin is endemic and infecting to all of mankind as a result of the fall; this is what is known theologically as congenital sin. Accordingly, Psalm 51:5 is primarily a hamartiological passage (hamartiology is the study of the doctrine of sin). The Bible repeatedly teaches that all are brought forth into the world as fallen human beings due to the curse of congenital sin and, therefore, in need of a Savior. The New Jerusalem Bible translation perhaps better captures the contextual idea than does the NASB (above): Remember, I was born guilty, a sinner from the moment of conception. The relevance of this passage (in addition to all that it teaches about sin) to the Pro- Life position is obvious:
DAVID, UNDER THE INSPIRATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, USES THE WORD “ME” IN THE SAME SENTENCE AND CONTEXT AS HE USES THE WORD “CONCEIVED”
The use of me underscores personhood — that is, personhood at conception. The word for conceived is the Hebrew word harah, and it means “to become pregnant, to procreate, to beget” (cf. Genesis 4:1; et al: harah is used 21 other times in Genesis): According to David, he became a person the very moment his mother became pregnant—when she procreated! States Schaefer in this regard, “He (David) is saying that from the moment of conception — as a person — he had a sinful nature. What is so significant about this passage is that David thought of himself as a distinct human being, a distinct person, at the moment of conception.”9
Being able to exist independently, what is commonly referred to as fetus viability, is not the biblical determinant or definition of when life begins. Conception is.
D. JEREMIAH 1:5
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Likened to David’s understanding above (point C) and Isaiah’s understanding below (point E), Jeremiah, too, believed that he was a person in the womb of his mother.
E. ISAIAH 49:1, 5
Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name…. And now the Lord says — He who formed me in the womb to be His servant … (NIV)
The Prophet Isaiah, too, in these passages evidences the hand of God as having named him Before I was born. The Bible clearly and repeatedly teaches that God views a person’s life as having begun prior to his passage through the birth canal.
F. GENESIS 25:22-23
But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is so, why then am I this way?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples will be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger.”
This passage is talking about Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, who was pregnant with twins, whose names would be Jacob and Esau. Notice the writer of Genesis (Moses) refers to the preborn as children (ben), which is used 4,900 times in the OT to refer to a son (when used in singular form) or children (when used in a plural form). In that they are struggling, a literary prefigurement of personhood (intellect, emotion, and will) is being attributed.
G. EXODUS 21:22-25
This passage is perhaps the most insightful and informative passage in the entire Bible relative to today’s abortion controversy. One need observe it carefully with its surrounding context. It also provides a segue into the next biblical matters of consideration on this topic.
“If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”
Under the Mosaic Law, if two men were fighting and one or both accidentally struck a woman with child (again, note the use of the word child as a descriptor for what is in the womb of the woman), two possibilities resulted: Either there is no harm to the child and a minor penalty is in order relative to the mother being injured to some degree, or there is harm to the child (or both). In the second scenario, the penalty is much more severe, and “just recompense” (what is known in jurisprudence as “lex talionis”) is in view. Interesting, under the Mosaic Law, if someone caused the accidental death of another adult, the “eye for eye” criterion was not applicable (cf. Numbers 35:9-15; 22- 29). However, the “just recompense” standard exists here in Exodus 21! To protect the life of the unborn, there was a higher legal standard!
If the accidental killing of a preborn child in ancient Israel is a serious matter in the eyes of God way back then — and this passage indicates that it was — is not the intentional killing of a defenseless person in the womb egregious to Him now?
GOD VIEWS A PREBORN CHILD AS A PRECIOUS PERSON — A HUMAN BEING — IN THE WOMB
IV. MURDER IS EVIL
We have just noted that Exodus 21 evidences that the killing of a preborn child is sinful in the eyes of God. Other passages speak of the evil of murder in general:
A. EXODUS 20:13 (NIV)
“You shall not murder.”
In the Torah, unintentional killing (manslaughter) required the guilty party to be banished to a city of refuge. But premeditated murder, ratsach, in the Hebrew Old Testament, and phoneuo in Greek New Testament, meaning “to slay or put to death,” indicates intention and mandated the civil death penalty (see next point in the outline).
Punishment for both unintentional and intentional killing or murder reveals the serious, serious mind of God relative to the taking of another human life. Why? Again, man is uniquely created in the image of God, Imago Dei. Other passages on the sin of murder include Exodus 21:12; Numbers 35:17-21; and Romans 13:9. Taking a life is a very severe matter in God’s eyes.
In fact, Exodus 20:13 defeats the pro-abortion argument that “A woman has a right to control her own body.” Abortion is not a decision that affects only her; in aborting her baby, the woman is making a decision for another person’s body and is ending the life of a separate and distinct human being.
DETERMINING WHETHER A BABY LIVES OR DIES IS NOT A “CHOICE” THAT A WOMAN HAS A MORAL RIGHT TO MAKE; IN CHOOSING ABORTION, SHE IS ENDING THE LIFE OF SOMEONE ELSE — A PRECIOUS AND UNIQUE SOUL CREATED AND LOVED BY GOD
V. THE PRIMARY PURPOSE OF THE STATE IS TO PUNISH EVIL
So far, this study has revealed that Scripture is sure-footed and redundant on the sanctity of human life which begins at conception. What follows is the biblical teaching for God’s intended medium of retribution for those who violate His divine standards.
A. GENESIS 9:6
“Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.”
Genesis 9 is the first mention of capital punishment. Because mankind alone is created in the image of God, God empowers man to shed the blood of a murderer. Further underscoring the premise of the sanctity of life, which is replete throughout Scripture, God invokes capital punishment not only on every man who murders another man, but even on animals that kill a human being (cf. Genesis 9:5; Exodus 21:28). That’s consistent. The concept of the state meting out God’s retribution for murder is seen in these passages:
B. ROMANS 13:4
… for it [the institution of government] is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
Stemming from Genesis 9:6, by man his blood shall be shed, as well as the way in which ancient Israel was to practice and manifest the principle lex talionis as previously cited in Exodus 21:22-25, the NT contains the same judicial concept wherein civil government is a minister of God…to bear the sword in terms of civil jurisprudence for wrongdoing: an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
This NT passage reveals God’s requirement of the State to be His mediator of His justice in a fallen world — to mete out punishment relative to wrongdoers. Important to one’s understanding, a more theological way of saying this is: The punishment brought by civil authorities is the mediatorial wrath of God. Civil government is God’s means in a fallen world to restrain evil. Wherein individuals are instructed to not seek personal vengeance (Romans 12:19), God insists on the State enacting corporate, corporeal punishment on His behalf; it is the primary reason why He created the institution of the State in a fallen world.
C. 1 PETER 2:13-14
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.
Again, this is another underscoring twin passage: God expects civil government to punish evildoers.
D. MATTHEW 26:52
Then Jesus said to him [Peter], “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.”
In this NT passage, Jesus is restating (another way of illustrating it) the same truths contained in the two previously cited ones: For the sake of Peter’s life, Jesus (who, as the second member of the Trinity, created the institution of the State) knew that if Peter were to slay those who wanted to crucify Jesus, that he, Peter himself, would be put to death by the State. Implied in Matthew 26 is that the State, both then and today, possesses this kind of authority: Jesus is authenticating capital punishment, the state’s authority, in essence, to perish those who murder other human beings.
VI. CONCLUSION: THE STATE MUST PROTECT BABIES
What the Bible teaches is that life does not begin at fetus viability, nor heartbeat, nor pain recognition capability: THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT LIFE BEGINS AT CONCEPTION!
Human beings are created in the image of God at the moment of conception, and the State is accountable in God’s eyes to shoulder the responsibility of protecting all human life. It follows that every individual and State must protect the lives of unborn babies from the point of conception forward lest the individual and State be chastened by God for not only shirking one of their/its primary, God-assigned roles, but also for allowing the murder of its most vulnerable family members and citizens.
Herein is where the worldviews of Secular Humanism and Biblical Christianity stand in sharp contrast:
IT IS THE STATE’S RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT ITS CITIZENS, ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO CANNOT PROTECT THEMSELVES
A study on God’s love of babies would not be complete without once again including the grace and forgiveness of God as it relates to those who have not been obedient to one or more of the aforementioned biblical truths pertaining to this subject: one should not conclude that this study is advocating the death penalty — or any punishment — for women who have had an abortion. Rather, it is this: There is forgiveness at the foot of the cross; God is a gracious, loving Father who, upon repentance of the individual, is forgiving. Come to Christ today for salvation and experience His love and gentle hand as you ask for forgiveness, receive His pardon, and clear your conscience. Ephesians 1:7 states, In