Editors’ note: Today marks the 43rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision which was rendered on January 22, 1973. The U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous ruling in that case legalized abortion on demand in our country.
In the beginning, God created mankind, body and soul, male and female, in his image (Gen. 1:26-28; Matt. 10:28). God made mankind for the purpose of mirroring him. In light of creation, the image of God in man is meant to be displayed physically in a physical world.
Created in the image of God
Body and soul exist in unity and they make up human nature. Natures do not act on their own; rather, persons act through their natures. This is not to say persons can be separated from their natures. They cannot be separated from their natures; persons are the acting subjects. Natures do not subsist in themselves, but in persons.
Human persons act in and through their natures, their souls and bodies, simultaneously to make up a human being in unity. One cannot act through his soul without also acting through his body unless the soul has been separated from the body, meaning that the body is dead. In other words, the soul is the incorporeal substance and the body is the corporeal substance, and these make up a single substance, a capacity known as the human nature. If you have a human nature, you necessarily have a person; if you do not have a human nature, you necessarily do not have a person.
To summarize, the person is the acting subject, and they act in and through their nature. To have a human nature on earth, one needs a human body (regardless of how minimal) and a human soul. If the body is ensouled, the soul is embodied, and a human nature exists.
So, with these truths as a necessary foundation, we ask: Does Scripture teach that human embryos are human natures that subsist in persons? Two important pregnancies in God’s Word build a strong case: Jesus Christ in Mary’s womb and king David in his mother’s womb.
Jesus Christ, a person from conception
For Christ to represent the human race, he had to come from Adam’s race (Gen. 3:15; John 1:1, 14; Heb. 2:14-17). Mary is treated as Jesus’s mother, not because she was a mere surrogate for the implanted embryo of Christ, but because it was her egg that was fertilized by God miraculously. The same process that you and I went through in embryonic stage onward to birth is the same process Jesus Christ went through. Yet, he was not conceived in iniquity like us because he was conceived sinless by his Father, the first person of the Trinity (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5).
Before Jesus was conceived in Mary, her cousin Elizabeth became pregnant with John the Baptist. John was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15, 41). An angel told Mary she would be pregnant by the Holy Spirit and that Elizabeth, her cousin, was already six months pregnant. Mary then hurried to see Elizabeth. Mary greeted her and John the Baptist jumped in Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1:26-41).
“And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord’” (Luke 1:42-45).
It had only been a few days or a few weeks since Mary had become pregnant. She was still very early in the first trimester, and it’s even possible that the embryo had not even attached to the uteran wall yet, a process that takes 6-10 days. Based on what Elizabeth said to Mary, Mary was already pregnant when she entered the room. Elizabeth referred to Mary’s embryo as tou kuriou—the Lord.
John the Baptist did not leap over what Mary’s “fetus” would become; he jumped for joy over what her embryo already was—God the Son incarnate.”
John the Baptist, filled with the Spirit while in the womb, jumped for joy due to his Lord and Savior entering the room as a divine person united with a human embryo (the God-Man). Remember, natures do not subsist in themselves; they subsist in persons. God the Son had already united with his human nature at conception, for Elizabeth called him “the Lord.” God the Son did not unite with a mere “fetus” or a mere “clump of cells.” That would mean there are two incarnations, God the Son Clump of Cells and God the Son Incarnate, which adds a heretical “nature” to Christ in addition to his full humanity and full deity.
Clumps of cells do not need saviors for they do not and cannot sin; only persons are sinners and only persons sin. Therefore, God the Son united with a human nature, embryo (body) and soul, not an inhuman clump of cells. John the Baptist did not leap over what Mary’s “fetus” would become; he jumped for joy over what her embryo already was—God the Son incarnate.
Jesus Christ’s human nature subsisted in his divine Person from conception. David was also a person in his mother’s womb.
King David, a person from conception
In Psalm 139:13-16, David wrote,
“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 (golem); in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
The Hebrew word golem (translated “unformed substance”) used in verse 16 is probably the only direct reference to a human embryo in all of Scripture. Notice that neither God nor David treats David in the womb as a mere fetus—a clump of cells that may become human one day. David refers to himself in the womb as “Me” and “I” in verses 13, 14, and 15. Even as a human embryo being formed by God, David says he was being fearfully and wonderfully made. The fertilized egg (embryo), is being “fearfully and wonderfully made” as much as the full-term baby before birth. In the words of Voddie Baucham, the only differences between a baby in the womb and a baby outside the womb are age and location.
The only differences between a baby in the womb and a baby outside the womb are age and location.”
Again, as referenced earlier, one only needs a body and soul on earth in order to be a human nature subsisting in a human person. David possessed a body and soul from conception onward, and he referred to himself as a person—an “I” or “me.” David, an adult human person wrote that passage and referred to himself in the womb as himself, not as something less than himself, as something less than a human person.
Furthermore, consider what David wrote in Psalm 51:3-6:
“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.”
David was conceived in iniquity. He refers to himself as “me.” Again, the reality is that clumps of cells did not sin, nor are they held accountable for sin. Human persons sin; human persons are sinners and are held accountable for sin. Jesus did not die for clumps of cells; he died for sinners, for human persons.
Abortion is murder
For the reasons outlined above, we may conclude that human personhood—human life—begins at conception. This means that abortion is the murder of human persons.
Not only must Planned Parenthood be stopped, but all the murder of unborn human persons must also be stopped. Abortion must be abolished, for it is the great sin of the United States. The blood of 55,000,000 aborted/murdered human persons cry out for justice. May we spend our lives giving a voice to the voiceless until this slaughter of the innocent is abolished.
Jared Moore has served in pastoral ministry in a Southern Baptist context since 2000. He pastors Cumberland Homesteads Baptist Church in Crossville, TN. He and his wife Amber have four children. Jared is the author of 10 Sacred Cows in Christianity That Need to Be Tipped and is also a Ph.D. student in systematic theology at SBTS and serves as a teaching assistant for Bruce Ware and Greg Allison. You can follow Jared on Twitter.