When does human life begin?

When does human life 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. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. -Psalm 139:13-16

Because human beings are God’s image bearers and bestowed with particular dignity, value, and worth, the question of when life begins is incredibly important. The importance of this question is amplified because of the widespread practice of abortion and the issue of whether it is in fact the taking of a human life and therefore murder.

Scientifically and medically, it is beyond debate that human life begins at conception. From the initial joining of sperm and egg, the tiny baby is alive, distinct from its mother, and living and growing as a human See Douglas Considine, ed., Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia, 5th ed. (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1976), 943; Keith L. Moore and T. V. N. Persaud, Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth Defects, 6th ed. (Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 2001), 2; Bruce M. Carlson, Patten’s Foundations of Embryology, 6th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996), 3; Jan Langman, Medical Embryology, 3rd ed. (Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1975), 3; Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 2nd ed. (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996), 8, 29.].

Scripture confirms human life does begin at conception and an unborn baby is an image bearer of God. Psalm 51:5 says we are both image bearers and sinners from conception. God called both Isaiah and Jeremiah for prophetic ministry from their mothers’ wombs [Isa. 49:1b; Jer. 1:5]. Furthermore, Luke 1:15 said that John the Baptizer “will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb”. Perhaps the most extensive section of Scripture on human life in the womb is Psalm 139:13–16. Christians have always followed the teaching of the Old Testament Jews, that abortion of a preborn child and ending the life of a born child are both murderous sins.]

The medical doctor, Luke, writes more of the New Testament than anyone. The Holy Spirit who knows life in the womb says the following through Dr. Luke who uses the same Greek word in every verse below:

  • …when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby [John the Baptizer] leaped in her womb. [ Luke 1:41]
  • …the baby [John the Baptizer] in my [Elizabeth] womb leaped for joy. [Luke 1:44]
  • …you will find a baby [Jesus] wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. [Luke 2:12]
  • …they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby [Jesus] ​lying in a manger. [Luke 2:16]
  • Now they were bringing even infants to him [Jesus] that he might touch them. [Luke 18:15]
  • He [Pharoah] dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, ​so that they would not be kept alive. [ Acts 7:19]

Scripture uses the same word (brephos) for Elizabeth’s unborn child (John the Baptizer), newborn baby Jesus, and also for the children brought to Jesus along with kids killed in the Old Testament. A child in the womb and a child singing and dancing around Jesus in worship are equally human beings who bear the image of God. Not to extend legal protections to preborn children because of age, size, or phase of development is a grievous discrimination and injustice akin to racism, sexism, and ageism.

Which of these Scripture verses are your favorite and the most convincing or encouraging?

This is an excerpt from Pastor Mark’s booklet Real Faith: Answers to the Top 100 Questions About Christianity. You can get a free digital copy HERE or a physical copy for your gift of any amount during the month of April HERE.

Mark Driscoll
hello@markdriscoll.org

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