Valuing Those Not Yet Born
by Bob Burridge ©2019
The basic question is, “When does a human life begin?” Is it the moment of conception? Is it when the newly formed heart begins to beat, or when the developing baby first moves in the womb? Is it when the baby takes its first breath of air after birth? Some have argued that one becomes a human when the baby is able to survive on its own outside the mother’s womb, but though it no longer receives nourishment from an umbilical cord, it relies upon the mother’s milk and care, therefore the baby has many months to grow before it’s able to truly care for itself. Opinions are no real help in defining when a human life begins. Thankfully we have the word of our Creator himself to tell us when we become living human beings.
God created humans to produce more humans (Genesis 1:28). Those in their mother’s womb are referred to in the Bible as actual people. In the New Testament we have the direct statement that while John the baptist was still in the womb of his mother, he was a real person stirred by the Holy Spirit to recognize Jesus the Promised Messiah who also was still in the womb of his mother Mary (Luke 1:41-44).
All those conceived are living human beings. When we observe the biology of humans as God designed them, it’s clear that they have their unique and complete DNA code the moment they are conceived. In that first human cell lies all the biological information needed to produce the person they will be when they are born and grow up. Their gender is determined, their eye and hair color, their body structure, the shape of their face, and the structure of their brain are all there in the code. Though the cells have not yet differentiated into bones, skin, muscles, and organs, it’s all present in the DNA pattern. A whole unique individual person is there at the moment of conception.
The teachings of the Bible about how we inherit Adam’s sin confirms that we inherit our lost nature at conception. King David sinned horribly when he committed adultery with Bathsheba. Then he plotted to cover it up by having her husband killed in battle. When God’s Prophet confronted him with his sin he humbly repented and admitted that he was a sinner from the moment of his conception. He wrote in Psalms 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” There is no evidence that he meant that his parents were sinning when they conceived him. That’s totally out of the context of that Psalm. He was speaking there about his own inheritance of his sin nature. Sin is a congenital disease of the soul.
In Romans 5:12 the Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men …” Then in 1 Corinthians 15:22 he explained, “For as in Adam all die …” . Sin is passed on to every person at the moment of his conception. David at that first moment of his life was not some neutral potential human. He was a real living person already bearing the sin nature inherited from Adam who represented us all in Eden.
A human life begins at conception when a body and soul are joined to become an individual. Each person has great moral value because all are made in God’s image, both elect and reprobate, regardless of physical age and development. Genesis 1:26-28 records the creation of humans, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ ”
The 6th Commandment forbids ending the life of a human being unjustly. There are nine Hebrew words commonly used in the Old Testament for killing.
– Four of those words are mainly used for the killing of animals for food or as a sacrifice. They are like our words “to hunt”, “to slaughter “or “to butcher”. Those words are not used in this commandment. God has never forbidden hunting or killing animals for food and clothing. In fact the Bible actually commands these things. God made clothing out of the skins of animals for Adam and Eve. The diet God mandated for the Jews specifically included beef and lamb. Jesus sent his disciples out to get a lamb to be eaten at the Passover meal. Those who use this 6th Commandment to teach moral vegetarianism, or to oppose hunting for food, contribute to the modern confusion about the meaning of the commandment.
– There are also four very general Hebrew words for killing. They’re like our words “to kill, put to death, execute, and massacre.” These words have a very broad meaning. Their use in the Bible ranges from killing in war, to the destroying of crops. These words are not used in the 6th commandment. God does not forbid executing convicted murderers, or killing when necessary in defense of family or country, or killing destructive or harmful insects in our house. Genesis 9:6 prescribes execution for the unjust killing of a human when it says, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.” People who picket executions or meat markets with signs saying “Thou shalt not kill” horribly distort the meaning of this word of God.
– The Hebrew word God used in this commandment is “ratsakh” (רצח). Unlike the other 8 words, it has a very specialized and limited meaning. It always means the unjust killing of another human being. It’s used 43 times in the Old Testament. A look at each of the 43 uses shows that it’s always used narrowly. It’s very much like our English word “murder”. The most accurate translation of this Commandment is, “You shall not murder.”
Abortion is the taking of a human life which has done nothing to deserve it’s death. To end a human life intentionally before it’s birth is to violate God’s clear moral commandment.
There are some who accept an unborn as “human” but still justify aborting a child based upon certain challenging situations. Some will abort a child because it has physical limitations which would limit its ability to live as others. Humans of all ages sometimes struggle with deformities or other challenges, but we don’t see this as a reason to end their lives. Many children born with defects and limitations have been a wonderful blessing to their families and have lived joyful lives. These who begin their lives with challenges like that often bring out the love and kindness in others who have the opportunity to care for them and show the kind of love our God shows toward us.
Some say that having that child would be a hardship to the mother or that it’s simply unwanted. There are other solutions for the care of an unwanted child. Adoption is a blessing to families who take them in. These are not justifiable reasons to end a human life before it is born.
There is the amazing grace of God who forgives the truly repentant who have performed abortions, encouraged them, or who had an abortion. Our Savior Jesus Christ died a horrible death to pay for the sins of his people. Some have engaged in or promoted this procedure unaware that it was a sin. They can come to our Lord humbly confessing what they have done and embracing the work done on the Cross. The truly repentant should rest assured that their sins are fully paid for. They can become champions for the lives of the unborn.
All of us can be promoters of human life by our prayers and the spreading of God’s truth in a time when it has become tragically confused.
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)