The Sanctity of Human Life

 

Sunday School Lesson for Sanctity of Life Sunday

 

January 19, 2003

 

Background Passages:  Genesis 1:27; Deut. 18:10; Psalm 139:13-16; Mark 10:13-16

 

Focal Teaching Passage:  Psalm 139:13-16

 

 

Introduction

 

This Psalm, authored by David, is composed of a hymn of gratitude for God’s watch-care over those He has created in His very own image and likeness.  More specifically, it is a Psalm in which we see “the intensely personal relationship between the psalmist and his God” and, consequently, that which exists between the Creator and each of His redeemed children [Willem VanGemeren, Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Psalms. 834].  Additionally, in these verses, we discover the dignity and significance which each human shares by virtue of God’s loving and gracious providence. 

 

In light of the Southern Baptist Convention’s special emphasis upon the sanctity of human life we will carefully explore this Psalm in light of its teaching on this most vital subject. 

 

 

Overview of the Context (139:1-12)

 

 

This section contains truths that relate directly to the subject under consideration—the sanctity of human life in God’s image—and serves as the foundation for what follows in the Psalm.  We may divide this passage into two major headings:  The Lord’s Infinite Knowledge of Those Whom He has Created (139:1-6); The Lord’s Continual Presence With Those Whom He has Created (139: 7-12). 

 

God Infinitely Knows the People He has Created

 

According to the psalmist, the Lord has “searched me and you know me” (v.1).  He is intimately acquainted with every facet of the lives of each of His children from the time of their rising up each morning (v. 2), to every thought present in their minds (v. 2), or word resting on their lips (v. 4).  In short, the psalmist boldly declares, “you know it completely, O Lord” (v. 4).  Thus, in these words we see the truth that the knowledge which God has of His children (and all men) is comprehensive and relational and personal in character.  A. Weiser agrees:

 

These verses express the astonishment of a man who discovers that in all his ways he is involved in relations which remain hidden from the natural eye; that he no longer belongs entirely to himself or lives life exclusively for his own sake, because it points everywhere to those invisible bonds which unite him to the reality of God [Psalms, OTL, 803].

 

As a consequence, one can confidently conclude that, according to the Scriptures, each human life finds its significance and meaning in the fact of its endowment with Creator-given dignity.

 

 

God is Continually Present With the People He has Created

 

In view of God’s perfect knowledge of His creatures, David asks a profound question:  Where can I go from your Spirit? (v. 7).  The obvious and comforting answer is found in the verses that follow.   In short, Scripture declares that there is no place in the universe shielded from God’s watchful eye and loving concern.  Thus, as VanGemeren notes, “The knowledge or discernment of God can never be limited to any particular place, because God’s sovereignty extends to the whole universe” [837].  With this in mind, the conclusion is once again supported that the Creator does indeed “know” us in all dimensions of our existence, from cradle to grave. 

 

 

Now let us turn to our Focal Teaching Passage to further amplify this point concerning the precious and sacred nature of human life.

 

 

Praise to God for His Creation of Human Beings  (1:13-18)

 

 

Verse 13

This verse sets forth the fact of God’s personal and direct involvement in the creation of human beings.  The psalmist makes two dramatic statements regarding the origin of life:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Verse 14

In the light of this grand knowledge of God’s overarching sovereignty and providence, the psalmist engages in a prayer of thanksgiving and praise.

 

·         I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made”- This indicates, “the wonderfulness of the human mechanism is so great that if realized it produces a sensation of fear”  [G. Rawlinson.  Pulpit Commentary.  Vol. 19, 314].   In other words, the Lord’s making of mankind represents His most glorious creative accomplishment.  To contemplate such truth, therefore, is to be led to assume the posture of worship and adoration of the God of all creation.  

 

 

·        “your works are wonderful”-  All of God’s creative works are declared to be good, wonderful, and extraordinary in nature.  That is, the divine fingerprint has been indelibly etched upon all that God has made so that all those beholding the creation have some knowledge of His reality (note Paul’s presentation of this truth in Romans 1:20). 

 

 

Verse 15

Here again David refers to the formation of the embryo in the womb.

 

 

 

 

 

Verse 16

The psalmist closes this paragraph with a beautiful depiction of the sovereignty of God over those He has made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary Statements

 

 

 

Judg 16:17  So he told her all that was in his heart and said to her, "A razor has never come on my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother's womb. If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I shall become weak and be like any other man."

 

Job 31:15 Did not He who made me in the womb make him, And the same one fashion us in the womb?

 

Psa 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth.

 

Isa 44:2  Thus says the LORD who made you And formed you from the womb, who will help you, 'Do not fear, O Jacob My servant; And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen.

 

Isa 49:1 Listen to Me, O islands, And pay attention, you peoples from afar. The LORD called Me from the womb; From the body of My mother He named Me.

 

Jer 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.

 

Luke 1:15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother's womb.

 

Gal 1:15  But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother's womb, and called me through His grace, was pleased

 

 

 

Gen 1:26  Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

 

Gen 1:27  And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

 

 

 

Acts 17:26  and He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation,

 

Acts 17:27  that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

 

Acts 17:28  for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His offspring.'

 

 

 

Major Themes for Reflection and Application

 

 

One:  Creation or evolution? In terms of our understanding of human beings and their origin, what difference does it make whether one holds to an evolutionary model or to the biblical creation account? In what specific ways does it matter?  What are the implications of each model?

 

 

Two:  All men created in God’s image: How should the knowledge that mankind—each individual person—was created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:27) practically impact our lives?  In other words, in what way(s) does this truth make a difference in how we conduct our every-day lives?

 

 

 

 

 

Three:  The sanctity of human life and Christian ethics: In the light of our focal passage and other Scriptures how should a Christian view the following?  Should the church have a strong opinion on these ethical issues?

 

 

 

·        Euthanasia