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Question and Answer

I have heard it said that the Bible doesn’t really address the issue of abortion at all. In fact, some people have told me that Exodus 21:22 proves that the Bible does not equate a fetus with fully human life. How would you respond?

There are many good reasons to support a pro-life position regarding preborn babies. Beyond the moral, legal, ethical, and medical evidence for life in the womb, this answer will just focus on four biblical reasons to support the pro-life position and oppose abortion.

First, God is at work as the designer of life in the womb. In Psalm 139:13–16, the psalmist maintains that God formed him in the womb, including his immaterial, spiritual aspect. God’s fearful and wonderful creation included ordaining all the days of the preborn baby’s life. Clearly, the psalmist recognized that God was forming life while a child was yet in the womb.

Second, God sets people apart for service to Him from the womb. God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5). God sees the totality of a person’s life and has plans for a baby even before formation in the womb. Paul described his call from God as an apostle as ordained from the time he was in his “mother’s womb” (Gal. 1:15). How could Jeremiah and Paul be appointed to service if they were not yet fully alive? Calling in the womb indicates life in the womb.

Third, God is at work spiritually in an unborn child. For example, the angel Gabriel revealed to Zechariah that his son, John the Baptist, would “be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born” (Luke 1:15). And indeed, John had not yet been born when he first responded to the presence of the Messiah Jesus, who was Himself still in the womb: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb” (Luke 1:41).

Fourth, and just as importantly, God cares as much for the life of a preborn child as He does for any other life. Some use Exodus 21:22 to maintain that a preborn baby is considered less valuable than a fully born baby. The verse states, “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows.” Some versions of the Bible translate “she gives birth prematurely” as “she miscarries.” Abortion proponents therefore argue that since capital punishment isn’t required for the life of the baby, then God did not consider an unborn baby as fully alive. This would be a strong argument—if it were not based on a mistranslation. The Hebrew word here literally means “to go out.” So if a man strikes a pregnant woman and the child comes out—in other words, a premature birth—the offender still has to pay a penalty. This translation shows that God is concerned for the rights of preborn children and is in no way a justification for considering a baby in the womb as less than a human being. The Scriptures are clear that preborn babies are truly human life. Therefore, believers must use all their influence to defend those lives.

Since Jesus taught that we are to be merciful (Matt. 5:7), would it not be obedience to Him to assist an aged, suffering, or terminally ill person in dying?

Although mercy is certainly a commendable virtue, with regard to euthanasia (literally, “good death”), it allows a fallible person to usurp the prerogative and responsibility of God alone. Believers must remember the following biblical principles when considering “mercy killing.”

First, all people are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), and therefore God demands that all human life be treated as sacred. Taking a life without cause rejects the sacred nature of life. Therefore, the image of God in humanity is the basis for forbidding murder (Gen. 9:6).

Second, according to the Scriptures, God alone is sovereign over life and death. For example, Deuteronomy 32:39 says: “See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal.” God alone creates life, and He alone has the authority to take it. The psalmist also marvels at a God who is so sovereign that He determines not only the beginning of our lives but the end of them as well: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Ps. 139:16). Human beings are not to shorten God’s determined lifespan in other people.

Third, God uses suffering to accomplish His purposes in our lives. “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom. 5:3–4). Even in all his suffering, Job did not attempt to cut short his life; instead, he used the occasion of his physical and emotional torment to beseech God. We are not to short-circuit God’s purposes in our lives.

In light of the above perspective, how should we care for the suffering and the terminally ill? One step to take is to provide painkilling medications to limit their pain and suffering (see Prov. 31:6). We should also distinguish between “mercy killing” and “mercy dying.” Mercy killing wrongly puts people to death to alleviate suffering. Mercy dying allows people to die by not taking extraordinary measures to preserve life. It allows God to take someone mercifully rather than artificially prolonging life. In the end, it is the One in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) who determines both the beginning and the end of our lives.

BY Dr. Michael Rydelnik

Dr. Michael Rydelnik is professor of Jewish Studies at Moody Bible Institute and the Bible teacher on Moody Radio’s Open Line, answering listener Bible questions on over 200 stations nationwide across Moody Radio. The son of Holocaust survivors, he was raised in an observant Jewish home in Brooklyn, N.Y. As a high school student, Michael became a follower of Jesus the Messiah and began teaching the Bible almost immediately. He is the author of Understanding the Arab Israeli Conflict and The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? He is the co-editor of the Moody Bible Commentary, a commentary on the whole Bible by the faculty of Moody Bible Institute. Michael served on the translation team of the Holman CSB Bible and contributed to several other books and study Bibles. Michael is a regular contributor to the Day of Discovery television program and appeared in the Lee Stroebel video The Case for Christ. Michael and his wife, Eva, have two adult sons who call and write all the time. The Rydelniks live in Chicago, Ill., and enjoy leading study groups to Israel and hiking with their two collies.

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