By Matt Honeycutt
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Psalm 127:3
Since the landmark legal case in 1973 known as Roe v. Wade, the termination of unborn children known as abortion has been national law. For 50 years America has been killing unborn children without blushing. In that amount of time, more than 63 million babies have been aborted.
The good news? On June 24th the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade striking down abortion as national law. “We end this opinion where we began,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court’s opinion. “Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated [claim without justification] that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”
To clarify, the U.S. Supreme Court does not have the authority to make laws. They can only interpret laws through the lens of the Constitution of the United States. Thus, abortion law on the national level is now considered unconstitutional. Even though abortion is no longer national law, it’s now placed into the hands of each individual state to decide if abortion is a legal act. According to some sources, over half of all states will decide to outlaw abortion since the Supreme Court overturned the abortion law. But as great as this win is, the fight for life is not over. Abortion is still legal in some states. Additionally, this win still does not alleviate our national sin, but it is a start toward repentance.
The question remains, why is aborting (i.e. terminating/killing) a fetus in the womb morally wrong? Why is it considered a sin?
To many people, there seem to be a lot of gray areas surrounding this issue. For instance, the debate centers on when a human becomes a human and not just a clump of cells, an embryo, a fetus, or a potential human. Does a fetus become a human at birth? At a certain week of pregnancy? At conception?… Without getting bogged down in all of the confusing arguments we hear and read, I want us to simply consider 3 fundamental truths from the Bible that can help us answer these questions and navigate others.
Unborn Children are Created in God’s Image
“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” (Genesis 1:26-27).
From a biblical standpoint, human beings are understood to be the greatest of God’s creation. We are the only created beings made in the “image of God.” Essentially, this means human beings are “like” God and “represent” God. This is one reason why God gave Adam and Eve dominion over all the earth.
The Hebrew behind the words “image” and “likeness” in Genesis 1:26 means we are similar to God, but not identical. He is far above us in many respects. What does it mean to be made in the image of God? According to Leroy Forlines, being made in God’s image or likeness means “human beings are rationally (Col. 3:10) and morally (Eph. 4:24) constituted.”[iii] For example, the animal kingdom is neither rational nor moral.
All human life, whether still in the womb or out, is created in God’s image and after His likeness. We are His representatives on earth and have been given stewardship over the earth. Therefore, all humans have worth because they are God’s most precious creatures.
Consider what Jesus said in response to the scribe in Matthew 22:35-40:
“Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. ... 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”” What Jesus says proves the value of all human life. Not only are we told the greatest commandment is to love God, but we are also told the second commandment, “loving others,” is “like it.”
Loving others made in God’s image is to love God, and loving God is to love others made after His likeness. This principle applies to all questions regarding human life. Anything harming human life in any way breaks these two great commandments. And as Jesus says in (v.40), “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” In other words, these two commandments are the bedrock foundation the Law and the Prophets are built upon.
Also consider what Jesus said in Mark 9:36-37, “Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”” In other words, if we reject little children then we have rejected God since they too are all made in God’s image. Being made in God’s image is one fundamental truth concerning all of humanity, born or unborn, child or adult.
Unborn Children are Persons at Conception
“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13
What is many times at the heart of the debate over abortion in America today centers on when a human becomes a human. Some say a human becomes a human at a particular week of pregnancy. Others say a human becomes a human at birth. Regardless of the arguments that focus on when a human becomes a human, life conceived in a human womb is still human.
Psalm 139:13 answers this question for us; that humans are in fact human in the womb. David is the author of this psalm by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. David considered himself a distinct person (human) when he says “my” and “me” while he was growing in his mother’s womb. Also, David mentions his “inward parts” literally “kidneys.” In this context, the original behind “inward parts” means much more than kidneys here. It refers to the innermost parts of the person such as a person’s deep inward thoughts and emotions.
The same word for “inward parts” is used elsewhere in Scripture to refer to the human mind and emotions, the core of what makes us persons. For instance, in Psalm 16:7 the Psalmist records, “I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; My HEART also instructs me in the night seasons.” And, Psalm 26:2, “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my MIND and my heart.”
Another verse similar to Psalm 139:13 is Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” In Psalm 51 David is confessing his sin and referring to his sinful nature reaching back to not only the time of his birth but also before his birth. He says, “in sin my mother conceived me.” David is not referring to his mother’s sin, but his own sinful nature. He is thinking of his sinful nature he had at the moment of his conception when he became a distinct human being, a distinct person. This is what he has in mind as he confesses his own sin in this psalm rather than the sin of his mother. David considered himself a person at conception and therefore this means it is morally wrong to destroy a person in the womb going back to the time of conception.
This also speaks to the argument of a woman’s right to abort her child as if the child is a part of her own body, her own person. According to these psalms, the fetus is a “separate, distinct person” and is not a “part” of the mother. Therefore, no mother has any right to take another human’s distinct human life in the womb.
Unborn Children are Forbidden to Be Killed
“You shall not murder.” Exodus 20:13
The Hebrew word behind the English word “kill” or “murder” in Exodus 20:13 means “murder, slay.” In the OT, the word refers to “the unlawful taking of a human life.”[iv] In addition, the Hebrew verb behind the English word murder has a broad meaning and could also speak of “causing human death through carelessness or negligence.”[v]
Applying this understanding to the abortion issue let’s consider Exodus 21:22-25, “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”
Thus, if two men are fighting and they even accidentally hit a pregnant woman and kill the baby in the womb, they will forfeit their own life. Notice how God takes this commandment very seriously because of the extremely high value he has attached to human life, even unborn human life in the womb! It does not matter what stage of development a fetus is in, the fact of the matter is that the fetus is still a human being made in God’s image, it is a person even in the womb, and a person shall not be killed either deliberately or carelessly. God has a plan for all human life.
To the Christian, abortion should be unthinkable in almost every instance. The Bible tells us that every person born and unborn is made in God’s own image. The Bible also tells us that at conception a distinct human being is formed. It does not take a certain week of pregnancy to establish that a human being is a distinct person. We have also considered the seriousness of harming a child in the womb and the prohibition against it.
The abortion issue is not new. For our political leaders to claim that the overturning of Roe v. Wade (and its subsequent rulings Planned Parenthood v. Casey) takes us back 150 years sounds counterproductive, yet this very way of thinking may be a good thing. Maybe we need to go back to 1868, the time when the 14th Amendment was established in our country. During that time, according to Justice Samuel Alito, “three-quarters of the states outlawed abortion at every stage of pregnancy, and the remaining states soon followed suit.”[vi]
Even long before 1868, in the ancient world, Jews and Christians of all times protected children. This still holds true today, because, like our Christian brothers and sisters before us, we too should protect children. After all, children are a gift. As Psalm 127:3 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” To destroy our children not only brings judgment on us; it also forfeits our heritage and our reward.
[i] Grudem, Wayne. Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning (Kindle Locations 14353-14354). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
[ii] Grudem, Wayne. Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning (Kindle Locations 14317-14320). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
[iii] F. Leroy Forlines, The Quest for Truth: Theology for Postmodern World (Nashville: Randall House Publications; Worldwide Ministries, 2001), 33.
[iv] Wayne Grudem, Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), loc 12551, Kindle.
[v] ESV Study Bible.
[vi] As quoted by Kevin DeYoung in Let the Little Children Come to Me. World Opinions. Accessed July 2, 2022. https://wng.org/opinions/let-the-little-children-come-to-me-1656085512.
One response to “A Heritage of the Lord: A Biblical View on Abortion and the Reversal of Roe v. Wade”
[…] various actions are constitutional or not (Read Matt’s post about the reversal of Roe v. Wade here). One reason I disagree with living constitutionalism is because I am troubled by the hermeneutic […]