The following is the sermon manuscript from a message that I delivered a couple weeks ago on the sanctity of life. The full audio can be found here. I was urged and encouraged by many who heard it to provide the content online somewhere. My goal in doing so is to bring clarity and hope to this complex cultural issue. A special thanks to Skye Nosbisch for editing my sermon notes in order to make this available.
This morning, I want to speak to you about life in a mother’s womb, which inevitably raises questions about abortion. And I recognize that in a room this size, there are most likely mothers and fathers who have gone through an abortion, and mothers who are contemplating an abortion, and women who are for a woman's right to choose an abortion. So what I want to do today is address this topic with both compassion and conviction. And I think you should know that Christian mothers and fathers who have gone through an abortion are continually asking pastors to speak out on this to save others from feeling the same heartache, regret, and emotional pain. And you should also know that this sermon is not going be a political rallying speech for pro-lifers. I want this to be a rational presentation of the biblical doctrine of life. This isn't about being on the right side or the left side--this is about being on God’s side. I want to take this hot-button issue that can polarize people and demonize people, and I want to turn it into a positive and restorative and redemptive discussion this morning. With that said, let's take a look at these two verses, and then we'll pray and begin.
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." - Psalm 139:131-4
The biblical doctrine of life is that all human life has been created by God and in the image of God. Even our country’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence, states, that “We hold these truths to be self evident ... that all men are created equal and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” (unalienable meaning that it is intrinsic to who they are...no other person gives them or takes them away) “…and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
You see, before the mention of liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the right and the issue of life itself. There's no point in talking about someone's choices or desires if you take away their life. At that point, they no longer have the ability to choose anything or the ability to pursue anything in this world. And so we must be clear about the truth of life itself, a truth that at one point in time was considered self-evident—and still is, but now so many people have been self-deceived. And so this morning I want to share three things about life, and in particular ... life in a mother’s womb. Three key truths about life, and then the one hope for all of life. And my first point is this ...
First: Life Is a Gift from God
Life is a gift from God. In just these two verses, we can see David’s emphasis on God being the giver and creator of life. He says YOU formed my inward parts; YOU knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise YOU, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And he calls this creation one of the works of God. God uniquely and personally created each one of us. It was God who gave us life, and this life is a gift. The bible teaches that God is the author of life, that “in him we live and move and have our being,” and so James teaches us to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live tomorrow.” You are not an accident. You didn’t just happen. You are the direct result of the personal craftsmanship of God, who fashioned you in your mother’s womb. And you’re not alive today because things have just run their course. What this means is that because God created each human life, each human life has equal value and worth, because its value is intrinsic. Let me explain it like this ... I’m sure almost all of you have heard of this example, so I’m not actually going to do it, but what happens is that a speaker takes out a brand new $20 bill and says, “Who would like this $20?” All the hands go up--but then he tears the corner of it, crumples it up real small, smashes it, and steps on it, and then asks, “All right, who would still like this $20 bill?” ... And still, the hands go up. Why? Because its value hasn’t changed. Its value hasn’t changed because its value was never determined by its size, looks, or condition, but by who created it, who designed it. You see, the U.S. Treasury Department created it and ascribes worth to it.
It works the same way with human beings. It doesn’t matter what your size, color, condition, or looks are--you are valuable because of who created you. The biblical doctrine of life is not utilitarian, which declares that a person’s life is valuable based on the usefulness of that life. No--the Christian ethic of life is that the life of the homeless man in the gutter is just as valuable as the life of, let’s say, a neurosurgeon or some celebrity or politician, because he or she is also created in the image of God. Because life is a gift from God, all life is valuable and significant, no matter how small--whether that life is in a womb or about to be in a tomb. It has great value. Ex: Imagine that someone gives you a shirt for your birthday or Christmas. It’s just a regular green t-shirt, but then you’re told that this shirt was personally designed and made by Giorgio Armani himself, specifically as a gift for you…now how do you look at the t-shirt? Suddenly, you value it a lot more, but its value hasn’t changed--your view of its value has changed because you know who designed it and who gave it to you. Same with our lives. Because each life is a personally handcrafted gift of God, there is no ordinary, insignificant life--no matter its size, level of development, or level of dependency.
See, what David is doing here is something that we simply don’t do enough--and that is praise God and thank God for the very gift of life itself. We naturally look at our needs instead of our blessings, all the things in life we don’t have instead of celebrating the gift of life that we do have. Do we ever look back, like David is doing here, on the time that we were being formed in our mother’s womb, and get lost in wonder, love, and praise for what God did? As St. Augustine put it,
“People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, and at the circular motion of the stars – and they pass by themselves without wondering.” Human life at all sizes and levels is a gift from God. Does our soul, like David’s, know it very well? And the second truth about life that I want to convince you of, if you’re not convinced already, is that ...
Second: Life Begins at Conception
Many people who would affirm that life is a gift from God are not willing to affirm that life begins at conception. Yet here’s David and he’s describing himself as a person, a human being, being formed and knit together in the womb. And in Psalm 51:5, he says, “In sin did my mother conceive me.” He didn’t say my mother conceived “it,” but conceived “me” … a personal pronoun. At the moment of conception, “I was me!” There was life! In Jeremiah 1, the Lord says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you.” He doesn’t say I consecrated “it.” I consecrated “YOU“!--another personal pronoun, because, my friends, at the moment of conception, that baby is a personal life and a human being. And this is the level where this entire debate is being argued today. Is the baby in the womb a person? A human being? A life? At what stage is it considered a life? And I recognize that this text was not written with abortion in mind, but that’s not the point--what we see here is how the Bible views the unborn in the womb.
Let me illustrate it like this: I recently came across a lady’s comments on social media who claimed, “It is not considered a baby until it is born and breathing on its own. Until then it is just a fetus.” Just a fetus! And I had to engage her, and I said, “Then why do so many medical publishers, like WebMD, talk about using prenatal ultrasounds to see images of your baby?! Why do the science books in all major universities claim that an “embryo” is the beginning of a new human being? And why do you never hear expecting mothers say, ‘Oh, I can’t wait, I’m going to the doctor’s to hear my fetus’s heartbeat’?” They don’t send out fetus announcements; they send out baby announcements, because that’s what it is--a baby! And I urged her to read Abby Johnson’s story, a woman who used to work at Planned Parenthood until one day she was asked to help with an ultrasound-guided abortion. Abby explains how, at 13 weeks, she watched a perfectly shaped baby with a head, backbone, hands, and feet try to defend itself and coil away from the tool that was being used to kill it, but it had nowhere to go. It was defenseless, and in that moment, everything changed for her. She no longer could convince herself that this was a lifeless fetus that felt no pain … she saw it firsthand.
And why do we use this word fetus? Do you know what fetus means? It’s a Latin word that essentially means “unborn baby.” Here’s the Webster’s Dictionary definition: “a fetus is a human being in the stages of development before it is born.” But abortionists continue to use this term because it has a way of depersonalizing the baby. Ex: The late D. James Kennedy once pointed out that Martin Luther knew the importance of translating the Latin Scriptures into the everyday language of man so that they would know what was going on. And the abortionists know how important it is to translate the English words into Latin so that many of us don’t know what’s going on. Think about it … Scientists will find some bacteria on another planet and call it life--and that’s bacteria--but for some reason, refuse to affirm human life at the moment of conception. Why? What’s the reason? It’s not a matter of science; it’s a matter of politics. It’s inconclusive, they say. And yet they’re sure that there’s life on another planet millions of miles away because of some bacteria. Stop insulting our intelligence and spinning science any way you choose--at least have the courage to call abortion like it is. It’s the abortion of a human life, which counts as life from the moment of conception on.
When Roe v Wade was passed in 1973, there was no 3D sonogram, but ever since, science has only been confirming what the Scriptures teach--even the weaving of DNA strands look like they’ve been personally knit together by someone. You see, soon you begin to realize that this knitting language isn’t just poetry, it’s reality. From the moment of conception, God knit you together in your mother’s womb.
But some people will say, “Well, it might be a human life, but it’s not yet a person. It doesn’t yet have personhood.” But do you realize that that type of argument has always been used when people are attempting to justify mass murder?
For example, David Livingstone Smith in his book “Less Than Human” explains that before you enslave or exterminate some person or people group, you first have to depersonalize them or dehumanize them. It’s the same exact thing that happened with black slaves in the 1800s, it’s the same thing with Nazi Germany calling Jewish people sub-humans, and in the genocide in Rwanda, and it’s the same thing that is happening with the unborn babies in America. You must first semantically destroy them before you can physically destroy them.
And this is why you scroll through the comments on social media or you listen to some of the arguments made on the news, and over and over again, it’s: “The fetus is not a human. It’s just a clump of cells, it’s just fetal material”--because for the sake of the human conscience, you have to dehumanize them before you destroy them. But the Scriptures over and over identify personhood and life from the moment of conception.
THIRD AND FINALLY: Life Should Be Protected
The biblical ethic of life is that life is a gift from God--life begins at conception and, therefore, from conception on, as far as humanly possible, all life should be protected. It is our duty and our privilege to protect life in all types of cases. From the baby in the mother’s womb to the mother who is carrying the baby, we should seek to protect both … not just speaking about what’s wrong, but also sacrificing to help the mother do what’s right, giving resources and love and a home to help these women with unplanned pregnancies realize that abortion isn’t their only option. Are we doing what Proverbs 24 tells us--to “rescue those being taken off to death, and save those stumbling toward slaughter”? Let me share this…Ex: Sean Duffy – a Wisconsin congressman--pointed out the inconsistency in so many people who say “we stand up for the voiceless, the defenseless, the forgotten in our society”-- yet you don’t have anyone in our society more defenseless than these little babies. Are we giving children the chance to be born and to look back, as David is doing, and to celebrate the gift of life?
What About Protecting A Women's Right to Choice?
But someone is going to ask, “But what about the protection of a woman’s right to choose?” A woman should have the right over her own body--but it all depends on what you mean by that. Let me point out two things – 1) Even those rights of a woman are limited; a woman doesn’t have the right to kill her own body, to commit suicide, or to use her body for prostitution. But many say, “No one can tell me what to do with my own body!” Actually, yes they can--they do it all the time! It is just in our country that government has told women that they may kill the baby inside their body. Which brings me to the next thing, and that is …
2) Notice the distinction David makes here. He says, “You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” David speaks of himself as a distinct human being separate from his mother. There was me--and there was my mother. You see, the baby is inside the woman’s body, but it is not the woman’s body. It’s dependent upon the mother’s body, but is not the mother’s body. The baby is not the mother’s body ... it’s inside the mother’s body. It has its own unique genetic code and makeup. It is a distinct person and body. That’s why if someone murders a woman who’s with child, it’s considered a double homicide--because there’s two distinct people. But wait a minute--in that case it’s considered murdering the baby, but if the mother decides to kill it, it’s somehow her right?! That is illogical, inconsistent, and insane. The pro-life movement is not a war on women, it’s standing against the war on all the little women and men in the womb who never get a chance to breathe on their own.
And listen, we’re told that a woman has the right to choose, but what are the options presented to her? The statistics continue to show--and this is from a recent Planned Parenthood annual report, which you can read online--that for every 1 adoption referral, 149 abortions were performed. So the choice is not adoption or abortion, the choice is really whether you want to have the abortion on a Wednesday or a Thursday.
What About Rape and Incest?
Alright…BUT! What about cases of rape and incest? What about protecting the women who are victims of those types of situations? Let me just say that those types of situations are horrible, tragic, awful, and sinful, and I cannot begin to imagine the pain that is involved. As a the father of a 4-year-old daughter, my heart truly breaks thinking about those situations--but how do we solve it? We are never called to fix one tragedy by committing another. You can never fix one sin by committing another. Do two wrongs make a right? And I think most of us have heard the statistic that less than 1% of all abortions performed are cases of rape or incest, but I’m afraid we haven’t heard the statistic from a study conducted by Sandra Mahkorn that says that 75-85% of victims of sexual assault refuse abortion. Why? Because many of them know that it is morally wrong, and many of them view the baby as a good that can come out of the evil. Abortion is not some magical surgery which turns back time to make a woman “un-pregnant.” It’s a traumatic emotional event in real time that has devastating effects. And so what’s the hope?
THE ONE HOPE FOR ALL
The one hope for all of us--the hope for all mankind--was an unplanned pregnancy in a mother’s womb. From Mary’s perspective, when the angel announced that she would be miraculously with child at a young age, the pregnancy was not planned…In a culture of honor and shame, you can just imagine the thoughts that went through her head … What are my parents going to say? What are people going to think? We know that Joseph, her fiancé, didn’t originally believe her story. Think of the shame and the name-calling that she went through, and yet she went through with it; she embraced the baby that God had brought into her life, and that unplanned life in Mary’s womb was the plan of God to redeem the world. The hope for the world was a tiny little life in a mother’s womb. And that life was the author of life himself, who came for one purpose … They were told to name him Jesus, for he would save his people from their sins. The one who was once physically helpless would die for those who are spiritually helpless. Romans 5 says that “while we were yet weak, Christ died for us.” As someone put it, “Abortion is the anti-gospel. The gospel says, ‘I die for you,’ but abortion says, ‘you die for me.’” The hope for all of us is the author of life, who gave his life on the cross so that by trusting in him, every sin could be forgiven, every stain could be blotted out, and every past could be redeemed. If you are here and you are struggling with regrets, wondering if God could ever forgive you and use you and redeem your past somehow for good … look no further than the Apostle Paul. Here was a man who approved the murder of other human beings, made in the image of God, and he says that God’s grace overflowed for him in Jesus, and that he realized that God was using him as an example for all those who would believe in Jesus … that if Jesus could forgive him and use him, he can definitely forgive and use you! That because Jesus died and rose again … there is, therefore, now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in him! But Jesus’ words are not just “Neither do I condemn you” … He also said “go and sin no more.”
The statistics show that a little over 85% of all abortions that were performed were for women who had sex outside of marriage. That’s roughly 5 out of 6. And so what that means is that if men and women would simply follow God’s design for sexuality, many lives would be spared, and if more churches would practice the gospel of grace, more women would feel like they have a place to go. The sad truth is that many women don’t feel like they can show their faces in at home or in church after becoming pregnant outside of marriage, and that is a tragedy in itself. It’s time that Christians, instead of shaming the sinner, stood unashamed of the gospel for the sinner. We need to be a place of healing and love and support. For many women, abortion is not just a preservation of convenience but an attempt to cover over a sin. Like with David and Bathsheba. He committed one sin and tried to cover it up with another, but that never works, and so instead of covering a sin with another sin, we need to tell these women that their sin can be covered by the blood of the Lamb. That’s the solution that will always work. That’s the one hope for all mankind.
CONCLUSION – Let me close with this –
I realize that many people may be wondering, “All right, so what now? What can I do in response to a message like this? How can I actively respond?” Well, let me give you four ways--and they’re easy to remember because they follow the acronym of Acts. A.C.T.S.
ASK- Ask God. The Bible says that we have not because we ask not. Ask God to turn the heart of our country back to him, and that more moms would choose life. Ask God to pour out his mercy on all those who’ve been a part of the abortion industry. Ask God to heal the hearts of all the mothers and fathers who have experienced an abortion.
CONSIDER- Consider adoption, consider foster care, consider volunteering at local pregnancy centers such as First Care and supporting the work that they’re doing. Consider different ways that you can be a part of the solution.
TRUST– Trust in the work of Jesus that provides complete forgiveness, and trust in the word and ways of Jesus that provide the right path to follow.
SPEAK- Speak up. To be silent on this issue is to shout so loudly that human approval matters more to you than human lives themselves. Speak up for the ones who cannot speak at all.