Does It Matter When Life Begins?
There has been a great deal of controversy in America over the question of when life begins ever since the Roe v Wade decision by the Supreme Court which legalized abortion in the U.S. For some it doesn’t matter when life begins at all, they just want the freedom to abort if they so choose. Others seek to protect the unborn from the point of conception.
We are not here to argue party politics or government policy, but we are interested in what God has revealed to us in the Bible. What does He say? Why does it matter?
When does life begin?
To answer the question, “Does it matter when life begins?”, we must first know when life begins. The Bible answer is that life begins at conception, in the womb of the mother before the child is ever born.
Genesis 25:21-24 Barren = without child (cf. Gen. 11:30 “Sarah was barren; she had no child”) and is set in contrast to conceived. At conception she had “children” in her womb (cf. Bathsheba who conceived and told David “I am with child” 2 Sam. 11:5), the same word used of those already born (cf. Psa. 113:9 contrasting a barren woman with a mother of children; Jer. 7:18 of children that gather wood).
Job 3:3 Job was a boy as early as conception. The night is personified and speaks as a witness to this event when the man and woman came together, and Job was first conceived. It reminds me of the song by Celine Dion, “If These Walls Could Talk”.
Job 3:11 Job had a spirit in his mother’s womb (cf. Jam. 2:26; also Jer. 20:17 “Because he did not kill me from the womb, That my mother might have been my grave, And her womb always enlarged with me.”).
Job 10:8-12 Poetic language describes formation by God how He pours out milk into container, suggesting fertilization, then stirs milk to turn it into cheese, the final product. Here we see God’s involvement and interest start to finish. Verse 12 indicates the unborn is granted life and possesses a personal spirit (cf. 33:4 “The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”)
Psalms 139:13-16 Here we see the Maker’s interest in His very special product. “Inward parts” is literally kidneys, used of mind or the most tender, deep seated emotions. Here we read of the process where man’s frame is covered (woven together) and laced by series after series of sinews, muscles, blood vessels and tissue. The unformed substance literally speaks of something folded into the shape of an egg and is probably a reference to the human embryo. David used personal pronouns to refer to himself in the womb and to let us know he regarded himself as a person in God’s hands throughout his time in the womb. From conception and through every stage of development God was there, interested and involved in the life of the unborn. God loves the unborn! David wrote, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. Today we can look into the womb and we have full color pictures to see for ourselves how marvelous are His works (cf. Ecclesiastes 11:5 “As you do not know what is the way of the wind, Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, So you do not know the works of God who makes everything.”)
Isaiah 49:1, 5 A prophecy concerning the Christ in the womb of His mother (cf. Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”; Galatians 1:15 “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace”.) God was working, preparing these for ministry before they were ever born.
Luke 1:41-44 Mary had just conceived Jesus when she came to Elizabeth now six months pregnant with John, who had a human emotion that resulted in a human reaction, not just at the appearance of Mary but the very tiny Jesus in her womb. The word translated “babe” is used of the unborn and the born thus making no distinction (cf, 2:12, 16 “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger… And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.”)
I am happy to say that the medical community agrees and has long agreed with the Bible that human life begins at conception. You will be amazed to research this topic and learn for yourself about the beginning of human life and its development in the womb. Beginning with one cell that divides and multiplies, at 8 weeks the child is about an inch long and looks just like a miniature person with his own heartbeat, finger prints, gender and brain. In time the child will be born, become a toddler, a youngster, an adolescent and finally a mature adult. There is no point from conception to adulthood that anyone can say before this point he was not a human but now is a human.
This past fall, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released their 2018-2022 plan, which unequivocally states that life begins at conception and deserves our protection and care. In the introduction it says, “HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception.”
What does it matter?
Now that we have established that life begins at conception, what does it matter? It matters because of the value that the Bible places on all human life.
Genesis 1:26-27 God is spirit (cf. John 4:24). Humans, unlike all the other creatures of the earth, have an immortal spirit. We are not mere animals, but spiritual beings. This is the very reason that it is wrong to murder another human being (cf. Gen. 9:6).
Leviticus 19:18, 33-34 Israel was to love their neighbors as themselves, even treat the “stranger in the land” with respect, not to demean him because he is not “like us.” Reminded of the fact that they too as a nation had been enslaved in Egypt and robbed of personhood and worth, they were not to mistreat their fellow man. Jesus warns that treating a person as less than human falls into the same category as murder itself (cf. Mat. 5:21-22 places anger on par with murder “in danger of judgment”; also 1 John 3:15 “whoever hates his brother is a murderer”). We learn from His life on earth that the unlovable, helpless and poor deserve extra care, not highhandedness and abuse (cf. Jam. 1:27).
Scripture thus affirms a person’s worth, dignity, and right of personhood because he is an individual member of the human race. For this reason, the unborn must be cared for and protected; because they are human beings. It doesn’t matter what their stage of development may be, what defects they may suffer, what inconvenience, expense or difficulty they may cause others. They deserve the right to life, just as any other human being. Our failure to recognize the humanity of the unborn will, like falling dominoes, lead to one evil after another, ultimately destroying our society and our souls in hell.
In America, it has led to the harm and death of untold millions of unborn children (cruelly poisoned, burned, stabbed and torn apart in the mother’s womb). Now that abortion has been legalized there are more abortions than ever (1.5 million/year, 4,000/day, 1/21 seconds or about 100 while I’m preaching this sermon). Each one of these abortions have other negative consequences as well, causing mothers physical injury and even death, nervous breakdowns, suicidal behavior. Mothers, fathers and other family members suffer untold emotional, mental and social injuries.
We were told that legalizing abortion would put a stop to dangerous illegal abortions but in every country, including America, where abortion on demand became a legal right, illegal abortions have increased rather than decreased. We were told that legalized abortion would reduce child abuse, instead it has climbed at least 500% since 1973 even though we have prevented the birth of millions of unwanted children. We were told that we would have better sexual morality, but instead we have tremendous numbers of teenage pregnancies and abortion has become the new contraceptive.
Abortion is not the only problem. Because many fail to appreciate the fact that life begins at conception, hundreds of thousands of human embryos made in the lab are callously being used for research, experimentation and reproductive applications and then are ultimately destroyed.
All this cheapening of human life has led to two other impacts upon our society: The first is infanticide, the killing of a newborn. It logically follows that if you can kill a child inside the womb, you can kill a child outside the womb. It has even been suggested that parents be given a few days after the child is born to decide if they want to keep them or not. It should not surprise us to know that some doctors are now practicing infanticide.
The second effect is the practice of euthanasia or so-called mercy killing, terminating the life of others for their own benefit or the benefit of others. I think we all understand allowing someone who is coming to the end of their life to go on, but this is taking a life because someone decided they should not live any longer. Let’s remember how that the Jewish holocaust happened because some deemed them less than everybody else and not worthy to live. Paul taught us to remember and honor God as “the Lord of the living and the dead” (Rom. 14:9).
Who knows what the next domino to fall might be, as we systematically cheapen human life and undermine the family structure so essential to the future of our society?
Will you choose life?
The fact that life begins at conception says that abortion is murder, that the unborn are not just a part of their mother’s body, and that they have a life that is worthy to be lived. May we never take it from them. Choose life!
Our choice between life and death matters even more when it comes to our spiritual life. We must all die physically, but we do not all have to suffer death eternally. God has made a way for us through His Son, Jesus Christ, to live forever with Him. Our sins have brought death, but the gift of God is eternal life (Rom. 6:23). He paid for ours sins with His blood, so we could be forgiven (1 Pet. 1:18-19). He was raised from the dead to give us the hope and assurance of eternal life. Those who reject Him will suffer eternal punishment in the tormenting fires of hell and those who receive Him will enjoy eternal life in the comforts of heaven (Mat. 25:46). You have a choice. No one can make that choice for you and no one can take that choice from you. Jesus encourages you to choose life (Mat. 7:13-14)!
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Robert Dodson is the Preaching Minister for the Northwest Church of Christ.
6059 Azle Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76135