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A Biblical Understanding of Human Life
As Created in the Image of God

The Bible teaches that human life is sacred because human beings are created in the image of God.[1]   “When the Creator of the universe wanted to create something ‘in his image,’ something more like himself than all the rest of creation, he made us . . . We are the culmination of God’s infinitely wise and skillful work of creation.”[2]

The Word of God declares that life is a sacred and priceless gift, beyond the purview of mere human beings to decide its beginning or end.[3]  Human governments have at times denied the personhood of certain groups of people,[4] but the Bible does not distinguish between life inside or outside the womb.  God’s Word does not make a distinction based on race, ethnicity or gender, but attributes human personhood to all.[5]  God reaffirms the value and dignity of all human life through the incarnation of Jesus Christ.[6]  The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on behalf of his people, and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit who now abides within all Christians, attests to the supreme value God has placed on human life.[7] Though we deserved rejection and condemnation, his great love for us – demonstrated by his passion, death and resurrection – confirms that sacred value for all.[8] 

To undervalue or take a human life without a clear biblical warrant is expressly prohibited, as it defiles the image of God.[9]  God declares this truth in the sixth commandment:[10]  “You shall not murder.”[11]  “The sixth commandment requires us to do our best to make every lawful effort to preserve our own life and the lives of others.  In the pursuit of that goal, we must defend others from violence,[12] patiently endure the afflictions from God’s hand . . . harbor charitable thoughts, love,[13] compassion,[14] meekness, gentleness, and kindness.  We should provide aid and comfort to those in distress as well as protect and defend the innocent.”[15]  Further, “the sixth commandment forbids taking our own or anyone else’s life, except in the pursuit of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense.  It forbids neglecting or withholding the necessary means for the preservation of life.  It forbids sinful anger, hatred,[16] envy, or desire for revenge . . . and forbids oppressing, quarreling with, hitting or wounding others, and anything else conducive to the destruction of anyone’s life.”[17]

It is a serious concern to observe how the medical profession is complicit in devaluing human life.  “Our society, having lost its understanding of the sanctity of human life, is pushing the medical profession into assuming one of God’s prerogatives, namely, deciding what life shall be born and when life should end.”[18]  Elective abortion, suicide, assisted suicide, and active euthanasia unjustly take the life of an innocent human being.  Because intentional killing of an innocent human being is wrong – and elective abortion, suicide, assisted suicide, and active euthanasia is the intentional killing of an innocent human being – these acts are therefore moral wrongs.[19]  “Every single human being, no matter how much the image of God is marred by sin, or illness, or weakness, or age, or any other disability, still has the status of being in God’s image and therefore must be treated with the dignity and respect that is due to God’s image-bearer . . . People of every race deserve equal dignity and rights . . . Elderly people, those seriously ill, the mentally retarded, and children yet unborn, deserve full protection and honor as human beings.”[20]

God, as our Creator, has given life to us as a gift and a sacred trust.  Therefore, it should be received with thanksgiving and protected from those who would seek to usurp God’s control of life and death through murder, abortion, suicide, assisted suicide and active euthanasia.[21]  We as a church family must seek to provide compassionate biblical and spiritual guidance to those who might contemplate any of these actions.  Our guiding principles must be the words of Jesus:  “As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them” (Luke 6:31 ESV), and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31 ESV).


[1] 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. (Genesis 1:26-27 ESV)

[2] Wayne Grudem, “The Creation of Man.”  Systematic Theology.  Grand  Rapids:  Zondervan Publishing House, 1994, p. 449.

[3] Position paper on the Value of and Respect for Human Life by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church

[4] Tim Challies.   Abortion:  Making the Case Power point presentation / “In the eyes of the law, the slave is not a person” (1858 Virginia Supreme Court) / “An Indian is not a person within the meaning of the constitution” (1881 American Law Review) / “The Reichgericht itself refused to recognize Jews as persons in the legal sense” (1936 Germany Supreme Court) / “The law of Canada does not recognize the unborn child as a legal person (1997 Canada Supreme Court)

[5] Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you (Jeremiah 1:5 ESV) / 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; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them (Psalm 139:13-16 ESV)

[6] Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8 ESV)

[7] Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV)

[8] Position paper on the Value of and Respect for Human Life by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church

[9] Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. (Genesis 9:6 ESV)

[10] The Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith

[11] Exodus 20:13.  The Hebrew word for murder – tirzach (תִרְצָח) - also covers causing human death through carelessness or negligence; to slay with or without intent.

[12] Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.  Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. (Psalm 82:3-4 ESV)

[13] Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:10 ESV)

[14] But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.  He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.  Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. (Luke 10:33-34 ESV)

[15] Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Open your mouth, judge righteously; defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9 ESV)

[16] You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.  You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself:  I am the LORD (Leviticus 19:17-18 ESV) /  Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him (1 John 3:15 ESV)

[17] The Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith

[18] Koop, C. Everett.  The Right to Live, the Right to Die.  Wheaton:  Tyndale House Publishers, 1976, p. 143.

[19] Tim Challies.  Abortion:  Making the Case Power point presentation

[20] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 450.

[21] Position paper on the Problems of Suffering, Death, and Dying by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church

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