December - January 2023
Lighting the Darkness
The Giver of Life
By Barry Raper
Since the Supreme Court handed down its decision on Roe v. Wade in 1973, more than 60 million babies have been aborted in the United States. Keep in mind, this is the number reported; the actual number is likely higher. Thankfully, the average number of abortions in the U.S. has been declining in recent years. In 1991, 1.6 million abortions were reported in America. That number shrank to 900,000 in 2020. However, if we really believe abortion is taking the life of the unborn, that number still reflects nearly a million babies murdered in 2020.
The recent Dobbs decision was a great victory. However, much of the American public still doesn’t believe abortion is wrong. As Christians, we must continue to defend the rights of the unborn, to win over individuals to embrace the sanctity of all life, including life inside the mother’s womb.
My purpose in this article is not to consider the biological data that demonstrates clearly when life begins, but to consider the theology behind our defense of life. Our behavior and life choices as Christians should be driven by our underlying beliefs about who God is, what He is like, our beliefs about ourselves and humanity, and what is right and wrong.
Many say Scripture is silent on the issue of abortion. We must concede the Bible never uses the term abortion. However, the Bible is anything but silent because the entire Word of God demonstrates God is the Giver of life, and He stands for protecting innocent life. Consider Psalm 139, one of the most familiar and often-quoted psalms. Three affirmations in this passage speak clearly to this issue.
God knows me. Verses 1-6 describe the omniscience of God. He sees and knows everything perfectly. David rejoiced that God was intimately acquainted with all his ways. God did not create the world and then stand at a distance to watch history unfold. He’s not like far-removed family or friends who must be filled in on the events of your life at reunions. No! He is always present and involved in every area of your life.
It is beyond comprehension that God has this kind of immediate and perfect knowledge of all seven billion people on the planet—every single one. This was David’s conclusion as well: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it” (verse 6).
God is present with me. Verses 7-12 describe the omnipresence of God. God is present everywhere. David asks, “Where can I flee from your presence?” The answer, of course, is nowhere. You can go to the heavens and discover God there. You can descend to Sheol (the abode of the dead), and God is there. From East to West to the deepest canyons and trenches of the sea or ocean, God is there.
Remember Jonah? He learned this lesson the hard way. He set out in the opposite direction of where God instructed him to go and ended up on the most unusual ocean voyage ever—inside a great fish. Even there, he couldn’t escape the presence of God. People try to run from God all the time, but they soon learn He is everywhere.
My two youngest children still want to play hide-and-seek on occasion. When I really don’t want them to find me—please don’t tell them—I climb down into our storm shelter. I close the hatch and sit quietly in the utter darkness. Sure, I can hide from my children, but I know that even in the middle of the darkness, God is there. David reminds us: even the darkness isn’t dark to God. He is there. That brings us to an affirmation about David’s “life in the dark,” that is, when he was still in his mother’s womb.
God made me. In verses 13-16 David made some important observations: God made him, formed him “fearfully and wonderfully” inside the womb. God knew him inside and out, and even before he was formed, God had a plan for David’s life.
Obviously, David wasn’t making a scientific statement about the exact timing of when life begins. However, it is abundantly clear that his life began in the womb, and God was there in those moments, with intimate knowledge of all he would become. God saw him as an embryo, with all his life before him. At conception, God was there, because God is the Giver of life.
We find a similar statement from the prophet Jeremiah (1:4-5): “Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”
Jeremiah went even further than David, stating he was consecrated as a prophet to the nations before God formed him in the womb.
God uses the natural human reproductive process to produce, protect, and nurture children in the mother’s womb. Yet, make no mistake: God is the Giver of life. With advances in science and technology, today we can watch the development of the baby, even getting 3-D pictures that let us see their features before birth. These advances in technology confirm the pro-life view. The heartbeat, the formation of organs, and other important developments come early in the pregnancy. We see this truth reflected in laws like the various heartbeat bills passed.
The incarnation of Christ offers even more evidence life begins at (or even before) conception. Remember what the angel told Mary? “Mary, don’t be afraid…you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (my paraphrase). Once again, God’s plan for Jesus and salvation was in place before Mary conceived, before Jesus formed in her womb.
Scripture makes it clear children are gifts from the Lord. This was the perspective of the Old Testament Hebrews and continues into the New Testament. I love the way Psalm 127 phrases it: “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them (3-5a).”
This is not the mindset of the pro-choice position. If we are honest, most abortions performed in America aren’t due to the health of the mother or pregnancy by rape or incest. Most abortions are about lifestyle and choice. Overwhelmingly, the choice to end the baby’s life is about avoiding the responsibility that comes with bringing children into existence.
This attitude goes against nature itself. The Bible says the law of God is written on human hearts. No matter where you go—even places where people don’t have the Bible in their own language—they know it is wrong to murder, to kill. Why? Because they are made in the image of God, and His law is written on their collective conscience. People can choose to push God’s law aside, ignore it, or drown it out, but when a person acts against it, the impact is felt deeply.
How should Christians speak on this important topic?
Truthfully. We must arm ourselves with truth: biblical truth but also biological and scientific data that speaks clearly about abortion. God’s truth always sets people free.
Lovingly. We must speak truth in love, with healing and salvation as our motive. This is not easy, especially when those on the other side view your words, your stance as a threat.
Patiently. We must not set out to win an argument or debate but to win others to redemption.
Redemptively. God is in this business of redemption. While we affirm life begins at conception, and it is wrong to take innocent life, it is also crucial to remember the ongoing impact abortion has on the mother and father of the child aborted. Lingering guilt, shame, and pain can be devastating. But through the grace and power of Jesus, forgiveness, healing, and hope are available.
Perhaps you remember the Old Testament account when David’s infant son died—an awful consequence of David’s adulterous relationship with Bathsheba. During the baby’s illness, David mourned, fasted, and prayed. But upon learning of the child’s death, he got up, washed his face, and began to go about life. David’s servants were confused and asked him about the sudden change in behavior: David’s reply was short and to the point: “Nothing I can do will bring him back, but I can go to him” (my paraphrase; read the whole story in 2 Samuel 12).
Not long after my wife and I were married, we experienced several miscarriages. Those were heartbreaking days, but we found comfort knowing we have more children waiting for us in Heaven. I will meet them, and—though I can’t quite grasp this—Scripture makes it clear we will know them, and they will know us.
Through Christ’s grace and forgiveness, anyone who has gone through with an abortion can experience His forgiveness and embrace this hope: they too will see their precious child in Heaven.
God is the giver of life. I am so glad.
About the Author: Dr. Barry Raper pastors Bethel FWB Church near Ashland City, Tennessee. He also serves as program coordinator for ministry studies at Welch College.