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The Sanctity of Human Life

Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man. (Gen. 9:6)

Human life, therefore, while not in itself serving as God’s likeness, is precious and valuable because man bears the divine image.  In this context, human life is clearly different and superior to animal life because of the special circumstances of our creation.  This text also shows by its historical context that humans bear something of the divine image in spite of our fall into sinfulness.  It also condemns murder of those made in God’s likeness, without respect to gender, verifying that both sexes share His image.

Of all of the implications of God’s image in mankind, the sanctity of human life has historically been the most universally accepted.  Even the disagreements of brethren over the years on the subjects of capital punishment and police or military service, have presupposed a high view of human life.  The rise of secular thinking and the advances in medical technology have shattered our society’s unanimity on this subject.  The issues of abortion and euthanasia spawned the greatest moral debates in our nation’s history since slavery, dulling society’s appreciation of all human life and promoting a culture “without natural affection” (Rom. 1:31; 2 Tim. 3:3).  Changing views of medical ethics and modern options for life support and genetic engineering, however, have created moral quandaries even for those striving to do God’s will and demand our thought and prayer and studies such as those provided this week.

Christ as God’s Image

As is seen in Genesis 9:6, even sinful men are said to bear God’s image.  But the New Testament also clearly teaches that Christians resemble God more than non-Christians.  Paul, in several scriptures, emphasizes the process of conforming more perfectly to the image of God and His Son.

…and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him. (Col. 3:10)

In 2 Corinthians 3:18 he also states,

But we all…are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

In Romans 8:29 this process is explained in the following terms,

For whom he foreknew, He also predestined (to become) conformed to the image of his Son.

In Ephesians 4:24 he also identifies the “new self” as the likeness of God.  Therefore, while our humanity gives us the birthright of being created in God’s image, there is a sense in which we resemble God only by living in a godly manner.  So while we retain the image of God we do not live up to our spiritual potential of truly being like Him when we live apart from a relationship with God.

God supplied this moral deficiency in us by sending Jesus Christ to earth.  In John 1:14 we see that this was done by making Him flesh in our image.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

By becoming flesh like ourselves He was able to show us the perfect image of God in himself so that in a world in which God’s image had been clouded we might have a perfect icon of Deity.  In 2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul used this word to identify Christ as this perfect image.

in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

While we are created in His image, Christ is the image, just as He told His apostles.  “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9).  Therefore, that part of our birthright which was squandered in sin, can now be renewed in Christ as he makes it possible for us to both respect that spark of the divine in all men while become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4)