The Casey Anthony trial captivated the nation. It serves to illustrate the value we place on life and the role the State need play in upholding that virtue. Further, the case serves to illustrate that we as a nation abhor infanticide. So then why do we not detest abortion? The solution to this conundrum is seemingly explained by the existence of the debate as to when life begins.
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 legislator needs to know the scriptural case for the Pro-Life position. This week’s study is meant to be filed away as a resource (like all my other studies) for use not only in one’s personal life, but as reference material when one publicly speaks to this (2Tim. 2:2).
TO THE CONTRARY OF WHAT ABORTION ADVOCATES PROFFER, MAKE NO MISTAKE: GOD’S WORD IS UNAMBIGUOUS, IMMUTABLE AND PERSPICUOUS WHEN IT COMES TO THIS SUBJECT.
What follows is a logical outline as to why every citizen, politician and government need to lobby for, pass, and enforce laws concerning the fact that life begins at conception. Therein is the singular proposition of this primer. I trust this simple outline will aid in the biblical and rational understanding of this premise.
II. MAN IS MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD
The Pro-Life argument begins with Imago dei (lat. “Image of God”) which is the theological doctrine asserting the inherent value of mankind 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 nothing more than a dairy cow which is sustained only to serve an economic, utilitarian function to others in society?
In the whole of God’s creation 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 of God’s creation (cf. Gen. 9:1-2). Man is therefore definitively above the remainder possessing unique and wonderful value from and for God. In this role, man 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 if someone is created by a loving God in His image, that they will love and protect others created in His image, be they believers or not.
All men are our neighbors, and we are to love them as ourselves. We are to do this on the basis of creation, even if they are not redeemed, for all men have value because they are made in the image of God. Therefore they are to be loved even at great cost…This is, of course, the whole point of Jesus’ story of the Samaritan: Because a man is a man, he is to be loved at all cost.1
If the life of mankind has intrinsic value superior to all other forms of organic and inorganic creation (which are not labeled with Imago dei) and is therefore worthy of protection, then 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. Summarily, again, Imago dei is the theological doctrine that asserts the inherent value of mankind — the sanctity of life — independent of utility or function. Imago dei is therefore the fundamental and irreplaceable premise to building a case to protect life.2
III. LIFE BEGINS AT CONCEPTION
In addition to the common-sense reasons for life beginning at conception (arguments like “There is no other time for life to begin except at conception”3 and “The benefit of the doubt as to when life begins should always inure to the side of life;”4 and the vast, everincreasing scientific compendium of evidence5 (which is beyond the scope of this Bible study) there exists a strong, consistent, incontrovertible exegetical argument from the Word of God. That argument follows.
A. 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, in Luke 2:16 Jesus is called “a brephos lying in a manger” (cf. Luke 18:15; 2Tim. 3:15).
Secondly, note that Elizabeth’s baby is also recorded by Dr. Luke as having leaped, thereby exhibiting signs of life via intellectual responsiveness to Mary’s voice.
B. PSALM 51:5
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
This passage is not supposing David’s mother sinned in conceiving him. Rather this is reference to the curse of sin (Gen. 3:16) which is endemic and infecting to all mankind as a result of the fall. The NJB translation best captures the idea of this passage: “Remember, I was born guilty, a sinner from the moment of conception.” All are brought forth from their mother’s womb as sinners. The point is this: “He is saying that from the moment of conception — as a person — he had a sinful nature. This means he thought of himself as a distinct human being, a distinct person, at the moment of conception.”6 David uses the word me right after being conceived.
C. PSALM 139:13
For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.
Again, 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 to describe one’s mind, thoughts and emotions (resp. Pss. 16:7; 26:2; 73:21; Jer. 17:10). That is to say this passage testifies to God having formed David’s thinking and emotions while in the womb. Herein is evidence of life prior to birth.
D. 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. 23 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 will 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, personhood is being attributed herein.
E. EXODUS 21:22-25
This passage is perhaps the most insightful one in the entire Bible relative to the abortion controversy. One need observe this passage carefully with added context.
“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. 23 “But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
Under the Mosaic Law, if two men were fighting and accidentally inflicted a woman with child two possibilities resulted: Either there is no harm to the child and a due, minor penalty is in order relative to the mother or there is harm to the child if not both, therein the penalty is severe, and “just recompense” is in order. Both mother and child are given equal protection under the law. Both are treated as persons, deserving of the full protection of the judges which implies State enforcement and oversight relative to life in the womb.
Interesting, under the Mosaic law if someone caused the accidental death of another adult, the “eye for eye” criterion was not applicable (cf. Num. 35:9-15; 22-29). But the “just recompense” standard does exist in this Exodus 21 passage: To protect the life of the unborn there was a higher legal standard. If the accidental killing of a preborn child is a serious matter in the eyes of God, then even more so is the intentional killing of a defenseless person in the womb.
In Moses’ day the unborn received governmental protection more so than other people. Existing American law has this backwards and needs to change.
SUMMARILY, ALL FIVE OF THESE PASSAGES INDICATE THAT GOD VIEWS A PREBORN CHILD AS A PRECIOUS PERSON FROM THE MOMENT OF CONCEPTION
IV. MURDER IS EVIL
Exodus 21 evidences that killing a preborn is sinful. Other passages speak of the evil of murder in general:
A. EXODUS 20:13
You shall not murder
In the Torah, unintentional killing (manslaughter) necessitated the guilty party be banished to a city of refuge. But premeditated murder (ratsach) (Heb.) phoneuo (Gr.) “to slay or put to death,” wherein intentionality is evident, mandated the civil death penalty (see next point in the outline). Punishment for both unintentional and intentional killing and murder respectively reveal the serious mind of God relative to the taking of life. Why? Again, man is uniquely created in the image of God. Other passages on the sin of murder include Ex. 21:12; Num. 35:17-21 and Rom. 13:9. Taking a life is severe in God’s eyes.
V. THE PRIMARY PURPOSE OF THE STATE IS TO PUNISH EVIL
So far this study/outline has revealed that Scripture is sure-footed on the sanctity of human life which begins at conception. What follows is the case for God’s intended medium of retribution for those who violate these divine precepts.
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. Underscoring the point, God invokes Capital Punishment not only on every man that murdered another man, but even on animals that killed a human being (cf. Gen. 9:5; Exo. 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, to bear the sword is also representative language (in addition to by man his blood shall be shed) indicative of God’s requisite of the State to inflict Capital Punishment upon murderers. The punishment brought on by civil authorities is the mediatorial wrath of God. This is God’s method in a fallen world to restrain evil. Wherein individuals are instructed to not seek personal vengeance (Rom. 12:19), God insists on the State to enact corporate, corporeal punishment on His behalf.
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, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.
Again, God expects Government to punish evildoers.
D. MATTHEW 26:52
Then Jesus said to [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 the truth of the two previously-cited passages: For the sake of Peter’s life, Jesus knew that if Peter were to slay those who wanted to crucify Jesus, that he would be put to death by the State. Implied is that the State today possesses this authority; Jesus is authenticating Capital Punishment, the State’s authority to execute murderers.
VI. CONCLUSION: THE STATE MUST PROTECT THE UNBORN
It follows that if man is created in the image of God, if life begins at conception, if murder should be punished, and if the State shoulders that responsibility, that every State need be pro-life, lest it be chastised by God for shirking from one of its primary, God-assigned roles.
1. Schaeffer, Francis A. The Mark of A Christian (London: Norfolk Press, 1970) p 9
2. In a stark clash of world views, the Humanist/Evolutionary outlook on life possesses not this foundational basis for protecting it.
3. Schaeffer, Francis A, A sermon delivered in Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 1982
4. Reagan, Ronald Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation (Nashville: Thomas Nelson; 1984) (my paraphrased summary).
5. Excellent books on this subject are available see me
6. Grudem, Wayne Politics According to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010) p 158