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What Do You Think of When You Hear “Sanctity of Human Life”?

  • Liz Kanoy What topic related to Christianity, faith, and the Bible is trending online and in social media today?
  • Updated Jan 23, 2017

When you hear the phrase “sanctity of human life” what comes to your mind? How do you explain to someone why all human life is sacred? The answer to this question goes back to the very beginning.

Well-known pastor, theologian, and author, R.C. Sproul, provides his thoughts on the abortion and sanctity of life issue via an except on Ligonier Ministries titled “What Do We Mean When We Speak of the ‘Sanctity of Human Life’?” He writes,

In biblical terms, the sanctity of human life is rooted and grounded in creation. Mankind is not viewed as a cosmic accident but as the product of a carefully executed creation by an eternal God.”

From the beginning we see in the Bible that God has assigned a high value to mankind, a value that is higher than all the other creations.  Genesis tells us,

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” –Genesis 1:26-27, 31 Contributor Matt Chandler comments,

Verse 31a adds a compelling completion to creation, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (NIV). That's the first time those words are used. Up until this point it was good, it was good, it was good, and now we have man and woman, and it's very good.”

Man is the only creation where God says He is making the creation in His own image. There is a unique value that God’s has assigned to mankind, and a unique relationship that God forms with His creation of man. Chandler describes the process beautifully:

It was all of a sudden a conversation inside the Godhead: “Let us make mankind in our own image.” Us, Our. This conversation in the Godhead, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Out of the overflow of Their unity, joy and perfection, They began to paint Their glory on the canvas of creation. And then, in the vastness of this universe, on this tiny little dirt ball in one of the smaller solar systems in this expansive universe, God placed His crown jewel of all creation: men and women, made in His image and endowed with dominion and authority.”

Everyone born and unborn on this earth has been created according to the image of God; this is what our culture needs to hear from us.

R.C. Sproul explains,

Man may no longer be pure, but he is still human. Insofar as we are still human, we retain the image of God in the wider sense. We are still valuable creatures. We may no longer be worthy, but we still have worth. This is the resounding biblical message of redemption. The creatures God created are the same creatures He is moved to redeem.”

Here are five Old Testament verses that address the dignity of human:

  • Job 33:4, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
  • Psalm 100:3, “Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”
  • Isaiah 64:8, “But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
  • Job 10:11, “You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews.”
  • Psalm 139:13-14, “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.”

Sproul relays that it is Jesus in the New Testament who gives the best explanation for the Old Testament view of the sanctity of life when he addresses the religious leaders about murder and hatred. Jesus gives value to human life when He says in Matthew 5 that it is not only wrong to murder but also to hate or be angry with another person; He says this again in terms of adultery and lust proving that what we do in our hearts matters. Jesus commands us to avoid murder in all circumstances and to avoid the potential for murder by refraining from anger and hatred in our hearts.

According to Sproul,

When we link the discussion of the sanctity of life to abortion, we make a subtle but relevant connection. Even if it cannot be proven that a fetus is an actual living human person, there is no doubt that it is a potential living human person. In other words, a fetus is a developing person. It is not in a frozen state of potentiality. The fetus is in dynamic process—without interference or unforeseen calamity, it surely will become a fully actualized living human person.”

Simply refraining from murder is not enough according to how Jesus explains the law; you have to promote life as well. There are those who do not consider abortion to be murder; however, they cannot pretend that abortion comes close to promoting the life of the unborn child.

The Bible promotes the value of human life for the unborn, the poor, the oppressed, the widowed and orphaned, and the disabled. Sproul concludes,

When the destruction or the disposal of even potential human life is done cheaply and easily, a shadow darkens the whole landscape of the sanctity of life and human dignity.”

To read the full excerpt by R.C. Sproul please visit Or check out his book, Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue.

So if opposing murder means we must promote life for all who bear the image of Christ then, being pro-life doesn’t end with supreme court seats, anti-abortion laws, protest signs, or adoptions…pro-life is a stance relevant to racism, immigrants, refugees, the disabled, the poor, orphans, the downtrodden, marginalized, and the outcasts. Christians are commanded to love everyone, those we disagree with—even our enemies.

Matt Chandler summarizes,

We have an intrinsic value because of the image God has given to us. It's not a functional thing as much as a gift from God. And it shapes how we view humanity — those we live side-by-side with and those we’ll never meet.”

We cannot pick and choose who we see as made in the image of God; the Bible makes it clear that though the entire world is fallen and humans are by nature sinful, humans still have intrinsic value from their creator. Jesus commands Christians to promote life and to do so through love.

Related articles:
9 Myths about Abortion Rights and Roe v. Wade
What Actually Makes You Pro-Life?
What Does It Mean to be Made in the Image of God?

Related video: Is the Bible silent on abortion? - Kim Ketola from crosswalkquestions on GodTube.

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Publication date: January 23, 2017

Liz Kanoy is an editor for