The Gospel for Life: Biblical and Theological Foundations for Standing for Life
My name is Kevin Smith. I pastor in South Florida, and I am so happy to have an opportunity to speak about the gospel for life, biblical and theological considerations for us. Often when you hear the word pro-life in our particular cultural moment, people immediately go to political considerations and cultural considerations.
And I want to recommend and suggest as we think about the value and the dignity of human life from conception to the womb, to the tomb, excuse me. I want to suggest as we think about the value of human life from conception to the tomb, that we would think in biblical and theological categories.
Yes, we do work out our ethic in the public arena. And we do seek to love our neighbor, which involves interacting with the culture around us, but the motivation and the drive for the follower of Jesus Christ ought to be rooted in the Scripture, certainly in the great commandment that we would love the Lord God with all our everything soul, our strength, our mind, our heart. And also, that we would love our neighbor as ourself.
And as we think about loving our neighbor, it leads us to considerations of the value and the dignity of life. Further, as we think about the Great Commission, as we love our neighbor, as we have salt, light influence in our communities and in the cities around us, we have further opportunity to speak the gospel of Jesus Christ and to demonstrate the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And so, that the Christian would stand on a biblical and a theological foundation is essential for these matters. Further, as we think about the gospel in totality, we are reminded of the nature and the character of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that governs our engagement in these issues.
For even as we engage in things that are community-oriented, sometimes politically-oriented, sometimes economically-oriented, all these things we still must remember as followers of Jesus Christ. As Paul says in the letter to the Corinthians, we do not wage warfare as the world wages warfare or as the natural man or woman wage warfare. We wage warfare based upon the truth of God, the Spirit of God, as we seek to engage not just people, but principalities and powers, as Paul discusses in Ephesians.
And so, I just want to encourage us for a moment to think about life as it relates to the gospel, to the word of God, to the kingdom of God, to the glory of God, and make sure we enter these matters as we seek to equip the Church. We enter these matters on a strong biblical and theological foundation. I think one of the easiest and the clearest starting points is just in the narrative of creation as laid out in the Scripture, as God is creating.
The beautiful creation that the psalm writer says testifies to His glory. The heavens declared the glory of God. Then the scripture opens us up to the creation of humans themselves. And the Bible says in Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God, He created him male and female. He created them.”
This particular biblical foundation is necessary for us to contend for life, to declare the gospel in a life-giving manner, to even be a witness to the dignity and the value of life around us. As we engage all kinds of people, a merely political motivation will not drive us to seek the glory of God. A merely political motivation will not drive us to do these things with the love of neighbor as a priority, and things like speaking the truth in love and being patient and kind and tender as a witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. A movement or an energy or motivation without the biblical foundation that is merely rooted in cultural things and political things will not necessarily have the love that is necessary as we seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 9, Jesus is criticized by the religious leaders for being a friend of sinners and publicans, but He reminds them that Hosea 6:6 says that we need to understand that mercy and righteousness can run parallel. And they certainly do in the outreach of God to sinful Israel and Judah and other tribes in the Old Testament and certainly in the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as He says, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” And so, He’s criticized.
We’re being a friend of sinners and publicans, but it’s clear that a Christian and a biblical understanding mandates that mercy accompany our call to righteousness as we seek to contend for the value of life. And so just the very nature of human beings, male and female being created in the image of God is essential for us to have a biblical understanding of the value of life.
Another good biblical anchor is at the end of the New Testament, where we consider James’s letter, which many consider to be a strong ethical letter and one that gives us exhortation to live and think and talk and act in ways that would honor the Lord. James says in verse 27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
A biblical basis of understanding the gospel and understanding the love of God for humanity (for God so loved the world) a biblical basis of the gospel of life must be anchored in God’s love for the vulnerable, for the weak. And for those who are not in and of themselves, always able to make what our society would consider to be contributions or bring benefits.
Sometimes in the transactional nature of relationships in our culture, I’ll hear people talk about so-and-so, what do they bring to the table? Or if you’re considering a relationship with someone, do they bring something to the table? That type of transactional understanding of relationships, that type of transactional understanding of a desire to interact with another human being is very far from the biblical mandate and from the biblical picture of human relations. We need relationship with one another. We interact with one another relationally because we are designed by the Trinitarian God to be in relationship. Our culture sometimes puts utilitarian or functional parameters around relationships.
When I was younger, there was a famous, it was a popular song. It said, “What have you done for me lately?” That is not the biblical ethos. That is not the theological understanding of relationships that we develop from the Scripture. And so, James says true religion is certainly to keep oneself unspotted from the world, certainly to live according to the laws and the commands of God as regards righteousness and godliness and truthfulness and goodness, but it also is to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.
A biblical foundation for understanding life must be rooted in a desire to serve the needy, to serve those who are vulnerable, and to serve those who are not in and of themselves necessarily provide any type of reciprocity in the relationship. Many times, our understandings of relationships are far from the loving, human-honoring, human-dignifying way that Scripture describes how humans ought to relate to one another.
So when we have this biblical understanding of life, where God has concern and love for the vulnerable, when we have this biblical understanding of life where God has created male and female in His own image, then we have a theological and a biblical basis to be strong and clear with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and strong and clear about our message concerning the value and the worth and the dignity of every human from conception to the womb, regardless of where they’re born, regardless of socioeconomic status, regardless of any of the things that we use to mark and value people.
For example, as a Christian, the Bible says in Christ Jesus, there’s neither male nor female, nor Jew, nor Greek, nor bond, or free. All these things that have previously divided people and sometimes stratified them even along value and worth, those things are absorbed within the regenerating work of Christ as the Church becomes one new people, one new family.
We need to look at human beings like that. Those who are not valued just by these man-made categories of worth and value. And so, Genesis 1:27, that God created us in His image is a strong biblical basis for how we think about life in the gospel. And James 1:27 is a strong biblical basis for how we think about life in the gospel, particularly the life of those who are vulnerable. And the example in the Scripture, of course, being widows.
If you think particularly about issues of life and particularly about an issue like abortion, the devaluing of children, the devaluing of babies, the dehumanizing of babies, is not new. If we look at the beginning of the Old Testament, in the early parts of Exodus, particularly Exodus 1:16, Pharaoh began to desire to kill all newborn boys, and you’d see that as we think about the opening narrative describing the life of Moses.
Then, if we jump to the New Testament, for example, Matthew chapter 2, that talks about the early life of the Lord Jesus Christ, Herod was seeking to kill all newborn and young boys. And so, the dehumanizing and the devaluing and the violence against the unborn or the newborn or the young and the vulnerable is not new in human history.
And any survey course in world history can show you what violence has been done against children.
And so, part of the gospel of life and the message of life is us clearly understanding that Christians and those who love God, those who follow the God of the Scripture, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who in the beginning created the heavens and earth and created male and female in His likeness.
We are advocates for life. Biblically, we believe every life matters. Biblically, we believe every life has value and dignity. I want to say something about theology, certain theological terms that I think are helpful as we seek to encourage men and women about the value of life, particularly in the context of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Those two doctrines would be the doctrine of humanity or biblical anthropology and the doctrine of the Fall or how is humanity, why is humanity the way they are right now in time and in space. And so, the doctrine of humanity would be rooted in the Scripture and our understanding that humans are created for the glory of God.
Humans are created by God, and they find their fulfillment in God and that God-centered approach to understanding humanity that would contrast to anything that would understand humanity in any kind of mechanical form or any kind of utilitarian form or any kind of merely physical-observation form, how a woman looks, how a man looks, their physical strength, their physical beauty, handsomeness, anything of that external superficial nature.
No, a theological understanding of humanity from the Scriptures roots humanity in the image of God and in God as creator without any kind of lesser valuing of that person. The doctrine of humanity. It says that humans were created, and they breathe and they live by God. The Scripture says, for example, in Genesis, that God breathed into man and he became a living soul.
And so, we reject any type of dualism that would separate the physical of a person and the invisible of a person, or the material and the immaterial. No, we are living souls. We are embodied souls. In the New Testament, in the Gospels, Jesus will say, don’t fear him who can just destroy your body, but fear God who can destroy body and soul because we are holistic people. Life is holistic human beings, body and soul.
Very important that we understand that theological doctrine because we live in a culture that is seeking to turn human beings and to think having human beings think of themselves in merely mechanical categories, and everything that we’ve been speaking about from the Scripture as a biblical and a theological basis has purpose and order and design by the holy God of all creation.
And many elements of our culture would have us to think of humanity, even as just random. So, the doctrine of humanity, biblical anthropology, matters tremendously. One more theological doctrine term that might be helpful for us as we consider the gospel of life. And that term is the Fall or fallenness or brokenness.
Some people like to say, what is wrong with us? What’s wrong with us? When I’m trying to sometimes get into gospel conversations or get to know people, I’ll ask them what they think about the world. What do you think is wrong with the world? And people come up with a variety of answers. And sometimes I enjoy the privilege to just talk to them about God’s original design.
Sometimes I use this bracelet here to help me. And I’ll talk about God’s design, that we were created in His image and likeness, and creation was designed by God and humanity was given the command to be fruitful and to multiply. And I’ll speak about sin entering into the world. Genesis chapter three, when Adam and Eve sin, the serpent deceived them, and they took of the forbidden fruit and God’s curse came to pass. “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shall surely die.”
And so everything that we see in humanity now is the outworkings of the brokenness that affects our lives, and the things that we see going on day by day, whether it is things of sexual sin, things of personality sin, things of arrogance and pride and racism and sexism and classism, things of violence.
All the ways we see sin working out in our society are the results of humanity rejecting God’s design, not just historically and theologically in Adam as our federal head for all humanity, but also functionally in our lives day by day. Not only are we born in sin and shaped in iniquity, as David says in Psalm 51, we demonstrate that thing and work that thing out in a regular basis in our lives.
And so, the doctrine of the Fall informs us that we need to be redeemed. The doctrine of the Fall gives us understanding of what’s wrong with humanity. So, as we talk about the gospel of life, as we think about biblical and theological foundations, we certainly must remember that if people are thinking in ungodly, unrighteous, sinful ways about life, if they’re thinking in ungodly unbiblical, sinful ways about humanity, even about themselves, that is a consequence of the Fall.
And the resolution to that is for us to declare the truth of God’s word and by God’s Spirit, may people’s minds and convictions and actions be changed. So, when we find ourselves in this state of brokenness, when we find ourselves in this state of enduring all kinds of sin and the consequences of our sin, what is the answer?
And certainly, that answer is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of life because it helps us address the fallenness, the brokenness, yea, even the sin that leads to death that exists in humanity. And so, when we have that gospel, if we would repent and believe, that would allow us to recover and pursue God’s design.
Life is precious. People matter to God. People who are old and declining in their health. People who are developing in their mother’s womb. People who are poor and hungry. People who are fleeing violence and destruction. People matter to God. If we will be faithful Christian witnesses, we must have a gospel for life with biblical and theological foundations that pushes people and challenges people to think about themselves and think about other people as image bearers of God.
We are humans created in His image. We are humans, subject to the Fall. That is the biblically, theologically true anthropology of all of us. I would encourage us as we equip the church for greater faithfulness and greater service that we march out with a gospel of life that is not motivated strictly and primarily by politics or motivated strictly and primarily by cultural things, but motivated primarily by the Word of God, by the Scripture and by the affirmation and the encouragement and the motivation of the Holy Spirit.