Sanctity of Life Sunday


I. Human Life had its origin in the will of God and by the special creative power of God Genesis 1:26, 27

A.  “Then God said” indicates a deliberate choice of God, arising from a purpose intrinsic to his nature. Scripture teaches that the words of the mouth indicate the purposes and values of the heart. So it is here with God. His purpose from the beginning, now expressed in this image of rational deliberation, was to bring into being creatures that had the capability of knowing and enjoying him.

B. “Let us make man . . .” This speech shows that God has the principle of deliberation, communication, and fellowship. Much more will be revealed before we can see the reality of the trinitarian existence of God, but this statement is consistent with that doctrine. This simulated discussion does not indicate that this is a late thought on the part of God, but that all the actions of the deity are the result of internal agreement among the persons united to each other in the single divine essence.

C. “In our image and after our likeness (26) . . . so God created man in his own image etc [27]” – Of the created things that inhabit the earth, humanity is the only one that is made in the image of God. This image consists of two constituent elements. It is possible that “image” and “likeness” refer to these two elements—a natural image and a moral image. The natural image is permanent, cannot be removed, and constitutes the very mannishness of man, permanently distinguishing him from every other form of animate life. James 3 refers to this unchangeable natural image when he reminds his readers of the incongruity of blessing God with the mouth while we curse men “who are made in the likeness of God.” The natural image includes rationality, communication, desirability of society, creativity, the unity of internal motivation with purposed action. These natural abilities remain even after the fall. That they are natural, as opposed to moral, does not mean that they have no moral implications inextricably connected with them, but only that the original existence of a love of the divine moral excellence is gone. The moral images, however,–righteousness, holiness, and joyful knowledge of the divine glory—was destroyed by the fall and is only in the process of being restored in those that have been regenerated, justified, and are in the process of sanctification. See Ephesians 4:23, 24: Colossians 3:10

D.  “Let them have dominion” – Humanity, in the persons of Adam and Eve, were the highest of the creation and were created for the purpose of dominion over all other things. This dominion was not for the purpose of misuse and destruction, but for preservation and to harness its intrinsic energies for production (“work and keep it.”)

E.  If God chastens those that would use their tongue against a man made in his image, how much more would he abominate the one that would take the life of a man into his own hands and with no warrant destroy that life. Abortion is perhaps the most egregious invasion of the divine purpose and order in creation for it takes the life—the life given by God and maintaining the natural image of God—of  one that is in a condition of utter helplessness and in complete dependence on the care and nurture of others.

II.  God honors those that work for the preservation of life because they fear God and refuse to usurp his prerogative over life. Ex. 1:15-17

A.  The multiplication of the Hebrews to such numbers that the people of Egypt feared them (Exodus 1:9-12) was due to their respect of life indicated by the attitude of the two Hebrew midwives, Shiprah and Puah. Probably the story of creation and the concept of being made in the divine image had been passed down more clearly through the line of Shem and through Abraham, than through the line of Ham, one of whose sons was named Egypt (Genesis 10:6).

 B. They feared God more than they feared the Pharaoh, and thus sought a stealthy means of avoiding carrying out his mandate to kill the Hebrew Males when they were born.

C. God was pleased with their determination to value life above the favor of Pharaoh. We should seek every possible means that does not involve destroying the property and lives of others, to intervene to save the lives of the unborn—counseling, protests, offering alternatives, adoption, publishing literature, working for a change of the laws, giving information and expressing our convictions to those that are in positions to alter the permissive conditions of our culture.

III.  The Present and intimate involvement of God in the birth of every child renders any attempt on the part of a mere human to end that life an atrocious and morally reprehensible presumption of illegitimate power (Ps. 139:13-16)

A. The Psalmist affirms that God by his providential involvement is present in the process of the child’s growth in the mother’s womb (13). Nothing about the physical life, the mental, life, and the rational soul comes into being apart from God’s sustaining and upholding power. The process of procreation of the race naturally arises from the man/woman relationship of physical intimacy, but even with that God does not remove himself from the care of those made in his image. He loves with a complacent love the natural excellence of the human form and mind. Even though we are conceived and born in our moral nature children of wrath, God’s delight in the elements of his image and the goodness of all the parts, physical and non-physical, of the human remains. He is actively involved with the process of the development of the fetus in the womb. Not only did he create man in the beginning, he nurtures each person in their entire process of development from conception to birth.

B.  The Psalmist recognizes that the inter-relationship of all the parts of human existence are a matter of marvel and wonder (14). No human invention even of the greatest complexity can match the beauty, power, and inner working of any element of the human body. The sustaining and operation of one cell, to say nothing of the operation of the eye, or heart, or brain is more fearful and wonderful than even the most complex and intricately arranged thing that a human can imagine. Our knowledge of the greatness of God’s creative power when observed in the beauty and wonder of the human body and life is a matter of intuitive perception (“my soul knows it very well”).

C.  God’s intimate involvement in the entire development of human life from creation to procreation means that the beginning and continuation and step-by-step development of each life are not hidden from him (15). His involvement means that all the intricate steps of bringing every tissue, every organ, every limb into the whole person, though hidden  in an unseen place (“intricately woven in the depths of the earth”) is a matter of immediate and thorough observation with him. Our ability presently to observe through various techniques the babe in the womb never ceases to marvel those that observe this tiny but vibrant life. God always sees this being from the moment of its conception as the bearer of his image; his ownership of the process and the person is total. Abortion is a direct assault upon the immediate workings of God, an assumption that we have greater knowledge of the worth of the fetus than he does, and is a destruction of his personal property.

D. Any destructive invasion of that place of God’s workmanship violates the sole authority of God in the planning of the person’s life. We cannot understand the mysteries of God’s providence that allows abortion, even as his providence saved Moses while other Hebrew males were thrown into the Nile, and scores of infants were slaughtered as martyrs to the cause of Christ while Joseph and Mary escaped with Jesus into Egypt. What we can say, however, is that Pharaoh and Herod were villains of consummate evil in taking the present and future of those infant lives into their hands to destroy according to their own autocratic power out of fear of how the infants might change the political structure of the future. In God’s providence and according to his purpose, he did deliver up his own son to death; but the days of the lives of all people are not to be determined for death by sinful and selfish humans, but God alone has the prerogative. Our days are written in his book and no human dare take the place of God in shutting off such a life, ending the days that are the sole property of God to give before they are begun. How vile we should see the entire abortion industry.

IV. Jesus personal love for children and his welcome of them into his presence should show us that Children are not to be seen as burden to be avoided, but a blessing to be desired – Mark 10:13-16.

A. When parents brought their children to Jesus that he might touch them, the disciples felt that he had more important things to do. Children could be seen as a nuisance, or a bother, or an interruption of his busy schedule.  Jesus rebuked the disciples for this attitude. (13)

B. verses 14, 15 – His response to their attitude was, in fact, intense. The Scripture said, “He was indignant.” The unvarnished and unsophisticated willingness of children to come to one whose warmth and compassion drew them was a picture of that attitude to which hardened sinners must be brought before they can be saved. “To such belongs the kingdom of God.” In their natural state of trust and even aggressive desire to be near a person that clearly cares for them and loves them, children picture the spiritual quality that must be present if one is to come without pretension and reservation to trust in Christ alone for salvation. Without such unembarrassed rest in the goodness of Jesus, one shall not enter the kingdom of God.

C. Then to show how far he was from considering children an unwelcome interruption he stalled his time of teaching to receive them, took them in his arms and even laid his hands on them in a blessing. We do not know what blessings were bestowed by this action of Christ, but we can see clearly that Jesus would not allow anyone to treat a child as a wearying  encumberment to life.

D.  The attitude that frequently is the foundation to a decision to abort is the consideration of a child as a burden that can easily be cast aside. Just shoo them away with the surgeon’s scalpel. They shall not make me redefine my life. I have it planned out just perfectly, thank you. Who wants a child around when I am just on the verge of reaching my professional potential, or about to finish my college degree. In the sentiments  of a powerful figure in our country, “Why should our young daughters be punished with a child?” I think that at such attitudes we will again find Jesus to be indignant; in fact we will find him as a lion that roars over his prey or a she-bear robbed of her whelps. Jesus does not share our minimizing of the importance of children but knits them together in their mothers’ wombs, and commands us, not to protect the privacy of our lives, but to be fruitful and multiply. We should love children, not hate them; not abort them, but increase their number.

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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