John the Baptist was unique among men in that he was, as far as we can tell, making much of Jesus from before his birth. This is seen in Luke 1:39–45 where Elizabeth, the mother of John was overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit when her child, John the Baptist, leaped in her womb at the presence of the baby Jesus in his mother Mary’s womb. This passage is about the miracle of the incarnation. Jesus did not become the unique Son of God at his baptism when John and Jesus both saw the Holy Spirit descend and remain on him. Jesus was the unique God-Man from conception. Luke included this story in his gospel account to help build his case for the divinity of Jesus.
However, this passage in Luke also affords us a chance to discuss another important truth that is very relevant in the U.S. this year. You are probably aware that the U.S. Supreme Court is currently deliberating a case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that may overturn the precedent set by the 1973 decision in the Roe v. Wade case. These happenings in the world are likely to bring this long-debated topic to the surface again in your world sooner or later. Therefore, it is prudent for us to remember together what the Bible says that impacts our understanding of abortion.
First things first. This post presupposes the biblical command that prohibits murder. This includes but is not limited to the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament. The prohibition is explicitly carried forward into the New Covenant age by Jesus Christ Himself in the Sermon on the Mount.
As pointed out above, Luke chapter one was not written by Luke in order to establish the full humanity of babies in the womb. That is true. However, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t speak to the issue. Luke 1:39–45 certainly treats both Jesus and John as full human beings, and in Jesus’ case fully divine being, at their various stages of development. For John, it seems that was about seven months gestation, and for Jesus that was about four weeks. This should be enough, but it is certainly not all the Bible has to say.
One more example. Many of us are familiar with the beautiful lyrics of Psalm 139:
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psa. 139:13)
In the context of this passage, David is clearly pointing out the intimacy of Yahweh’s knowledge of his person. Yahweh has known David since before his conception, and when he was conceived God was intimately acquainted with David at every step of his existence. Notice that God is acquainted with David. It is not an amorphous bunch of body parts that will soon somehow become David. Even within his mother’s womb, God knew him as David.
In our contemporary discussion about abortion, it is important that we keep this one central truth in mind. We human beings are completely unique creations who are known divine creations from the moment of conception. This is where the discussion about abortion hinges. The argument of the pro-life position stands or falls on the full humanity of the child in the womb.
In my own experience, the central claim of the pro-choice argument is this: My body, my choice. This claim is a claim to an inalienable right to bodily autonomy, and bodily autonomy is certainly a good that we should advocate for. However, this reveals why it is the full humanity of the child in the womb that is the most important part of this debate. If the humanity living inside the womb is also a fully human person, then it is emphatically not the mother’s body. There are a myriad of issues that are raised by this post. However, it is imperative that we are ready with a gentle and godly response when we are pressed on this issue.
We should not be silent. What follows are a few of my own personal responses to common pro-choice rejoinders to the anti-abortion position. Please consider these as you listen carefully to loved ones who disagree and reply patiently and lovingly:
- We love all women, and we respect the bodily autonomy of every individual woman. However, one’s own bodily autonomy does not also include power over another person’s body. The result of human conception is a full human being, a whole person.
- We love and respect every woman who has been subjected to the horrible abuse of rape or incest. However, it is not justice to kill the child for the sin of the father. That is explicitly injustice. There is obviously a huge amount of care and help that should be lavished on a woman who suffers such a terrible insult to her person, but the child that she carries is not to blame. Also, we should not dare to involve a victim of such abuse in another act that will blacken her own soul through the taking of innocent human life. This is not love.
- We are sensitive to the needs of a pregnant woman whose life is threatened by her pregnancy. However, abortion is not a requirement to save her life. A pre-term child may be delivered by induction or cesarian at the necessary point in the pregnancy. This would relieve the life-threatening condition of the mother. At the same time, the baby would live for as long as God allows. If the baby is too little to save, then that is in God’s hands. If the baby makes it, then that is in God’s hands. We should treat all human beings with the same care and dignity that we ourselves would want to be given. This includes pre-term babies whose mothers are diagnosed with pre-eclampsia or some other life-threatening condition.
- If you or anyone you know has committed or influenced someone to commit an abortion, you should not despair. God is reaching out to you in mercy. You are like every other individual on the face of the earth. You are a sinner in need of mercy. Jesus Christ has come to grant you mercy. Turn to Christ and trust in Him alone. Throw yourself on him as your only hope and he will give you forgiveness, rest, and peace.
Praying for us all,