Steps Toward Failure
Lesson 1 in the series
Miscellaneous Lessons
Tim Temple

Introduction

When I was growing up, I spent quite a bit of time in the Bible Book Store here in Abilene. My dad was involved in that ministry for much of his life, and my mother was in the early years, too, so I wound up spending much time in there browsing and looking around. One of my early childhood memories is to see a little rack of booklets that would be entitled with questions. They would be questions like, “Are the heathen lost?”, or “Should women wear hats in church?”, or “Do you have to be baptized to be saved?” I often wondered why someone would have to write a booklet about that. Why don't they have it fixed where you could just open the cover and it would say, “Yes” or “No”. Why have to have a whole booklet about it? I feel somewhat that way about abortion. I would like to have entitled this message, “What the Bible Says About Abortion”. However, the reason I am not choosing that specific title is that I would be able to answer in one word–nothing. The Bible does not speak specifically to the subject of abortion. The Bible has something to say about some principles directly related to abortion, but the word “abortion” does not occur in the Bible anywhere. It would be much more comfortable if the Bible did say, “Thou shalt not commit abortion,” or “It is all right for thee to commit abortion”, something like that. But the Bible doesn't say that.

Four Principles of Scripture

What we need to do is look through the Scriptures at principles related to the subject of abortion. As I said before, I feel that it is very possible in the climate of our society, in the loosening of moral standards down through the years, that even here in Abilene, Texas, some of us may have to face directly the issue of what we are going to do, where we are going to stand, what action we are going to take if things become more volatile than they have already. On a much more personal level, it is very important for us to know what the Word of God has to say about these principles that have a direct bearing on the matter of abortion, so the subject today is that.

Open your Bibles to the book of Genesis, chapter 29. There are four principles of Scripture that have guided me in my thinking about abortion over the years. There are many, many factors in this subject that Christians bring into play in making their various decisions. I know that many of you have already decided where you will stand on this subject. Some of you have been actively involved in such a stand; others perhaps feel that this is something that you don't really need to worry about too much, but you really haven't taken the time to think it through. The situation that I have faced personally as a pastor through the years has been that I have been certain of my own stand and my own feelings; but I can honestly say that until this day, God has not led me to speak publicly about my understanding of these things and my view on these things. I also should say that you are certainly welcome to disagree with me if you choose to do so, but I trust that you will look at these principles that have settled my convictions in the Scriptures, and then it is your responsibility to decide what your convictions will be.

God Opens the Womb

The first principle that is an extremely important one to think about as we think about the subject of stopping the birth process is the principle that God opens the womb. The first instance of that terminology is here in Genesis, chapter 29, the story of Jacob and his two wives, Rachel and Leah. In chapter 29, verse 31, Jacob loved Rachel more than he loved Leah, and in verse 31:

Genesis 29

31And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.

Notice the phrase there in verse 31, “he opened her womb…” Then skip down to chapter 30, verse 2, we find that same statement:

Genesis 30

2And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?

We simply do not have time to review that Old Testament story. Assuming that most of you are familiar with the story, the one particular aspect of that story that I want you to notice is that God is specifically said to have opened the womb, and He is specifically said to have closed another womb. God is specifically said to have given children in one instance and to have withheld children in another instance.

God Closes the Womb

Turn to I Samuel, chapter 1, which contains the story of Hannah, who was the mother of Samuel. This, too, is a story which you are probably familiar with. The first few verses give the background of Hannah and her relationship with her husband. In verse 5, it says:

I Samuel 1

5But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb.

Again, the principle, that statement clearly made–God closed her womb. God caused conception not to take place in the body of this woman.

Turn to the book of Job. Job was greatly afflicted by Satan with God's permission. In the course of mulling over his problems, wondering what the cause could be, Job makes a number of very intriguing statements. Sometimes these statements are overlooked in the course of following the story of Job. In verse 10 of chapter 3, he commiserates with himself about how much easier it would have been to not have been born. Let's begin with verse 9:

Job 3

9Let the stars of the twilight thereof be dark; let it look for light, but have none; neither let it see the dawning of the day:
10Because it shut not up the doors of my mother's womb, nor hid sorrow from mine eyes.

This is Hebrew poetry, and Hebrew poetry is based upon thought and not upon rhyme, so that statement is more obscure in this particular passage, but it is the same statement that we have seen in Genesis and Samuel. Job is saying, “Why did God ever allow my mother to conceive me?” That terminology is used again.

Then a few pages over to Psalm 127. This is a verse that is familiar to us, and we read it in other contexts, and you will recognize it when we get there. Psalm 127, verse 3:

Psalms 127

3Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

Notice the phrase, “the fruit of the womb is his reward”. God gives children; God opens the womb; God closes the womb as well.

Go over a few pages to the book of Isaiah, chapter 66. In this chapter, God is speaking to the prophet Isaiah to reassure his people that He will not always abandon them. Isaiah's lifelong message has been that God is going to bring judgment upon them if they do not turn back to Him. But in the latter part of the book, he promises them that God will not forget them forever, that they are His chosen people. The fact that there are still Jews in our city today is a wonderful vindication of that promise of Isaiah and the other Old Testament prophets. The thing that I want us to notice particularly is down in verse 9. As God reassures His people about their continuing longevity, He says:

Isaiah 66

9Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the LORD: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God.

Again remember that the context is in the sense of a promise to Israel, and he is making this statement in verse 9 as an illustration of his faithfulness, as an illustration of what he can do. What I want us to look at is the statement of that illustration, because it is a truth even though that truth is being used as an illustration. God says, “I am the One who opens the womb; I am the One who causes birth; I am the One who allows a birth to come to full term and to delivery.”

These are verses which talk about God's sovereignty over not only the birth of children, but over the conception of children. He is speaking not of a physical closure of the womb, but He is speaking of the failure to conceive, that God causes conception to take place and God causes conception not to take place. That is in the hands of God.

The Miscarrying Womb

Incidentally, you might want to jot down Hosea, chapter 9, verse 14. It is a subject that is a little bit off this particular subject, and that is the reason that I am not going to take the time to look at it because we are looking at so many Scriptures today, but in Hosea, chapter 9, verse 14, it speaks of God causing the miscarrying womb. It speaks of it in that very term–the miscarrying womb.

I know that there are some of you who have had the heartbreak of what we call a “miscarriage”. You have had the sadness of a child not coming to birth, being conceived but not actually being born. I just want to point out to you that God says there in the book of Hosea that He is also that One who causes that. He causes a miscarriage to take place. There may be human factors involved in that; there may be something that you could have done or that you might not have done, but I want you to be assured today, you who have suffered that sadness, that God is also the God of the miscarrying womb. If God opened your womb and allowed you to have the beginnings of life in your womb and did not choose to let that come to fruition, that was God's doing too. It was not something that you did wrong; it was not some mistake that was made. All of those human factors are beside the point. God is the God of the womb.

God's Sovereignty In the Birth Process

I say that that is an extremely important principle to keep in mind as we think about the subject of abortion. As you can plainly see, none of those verses say, “Thou shalt not cause an abortion to take place,” but those verses do tell us that God is the One who controls the birth process. Some people say, “I am against abortion except in cases of rape or incest.” What I am about to say may be shocking to you, but on the authority of the Word of God in these verses that we have looked at just now, I would say that even in a case of rape or incest, God opens the womb and God closes the womb. Rape and incest are tragedies, and it is a mark of the decay of our nation that those things are on the increase. The figures on incest particularly are astonishing. I hear them with unbelief, and I hope desperately that those are not statistics that would apply across our population in general. I can't imagine that in this church family those kind of statistics would apply, but the point is that the statistics are staggering. Yet God is sovereign over the birth of children. So I personally am very, very leery of allowing abortion to take place even in a case of rape or incest.

I have no idea if I am speaking to someone who has been the victim of rape or incest. It is very likely, if the statistics are anywhere nearly correct, that there are some here today who have been the victim of one of those things. I want to say to you today that I speak these things with all of the love in my heart that I could possibly have for you. I do not speak condemningly of you; I speak compassionately to you. I speak today to those of you who have chosen to have an abortion. I speak with compassion to you, but I speak the Word of God. God is in control of the birth process. That is the first principle that I think is essential to keep in mind as you make a decision about the matter of abortion.

God's Oversight In the Birth Process

There is a second principle that is very similar to that and that is the fact that not only does God open the womb and closes the womb, but God causes conception or causes conception not to take place. Probably a Scripture that is familiar to all of you is Psalm 139. This is the fact that not only does God allow conception, but once conception has taken place, God oversees the birth process. Psalm 139 is the passage of Scripture that is most often quoted in that regard, but there are some others that I want to mention also, but let's look at Psalm 139, beginning with verse 14. The whole Psalm is beautiful, but because of the limitations of time I want to skip down to the essential point in verse 14:

Psalms 139

14I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
15My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

Let's stop there. The verses speak for themselves. You see, the Psalmist says under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “My being was not hidden from you. Though I was in the womb, though the doctors did not have the opportunities to make sonograms and do all kinds of wonderful tests that can be done today, God, You knew what I was like. My substance was not hidden from you.” In fact, he refers in verse 15 to the skillful working of God in the development of the human body.

Do you see what verse 16 is saying? God has a plan, a detailed plan, for the life of every child that He allows to be conceived. God opens the womb, and then when conception takes place, God oversees that birth process because when He, in His sovereignty and in His power, allows conception to take place, He has a purpose for that life. He has a reason, a plan, for that life that He has allowed to come into being, no matter what the circumstances of that birth might have been.

Turn with me to the book of Job, chapter 31. Again, you will remember that I said a few moments ago about the context of the book of Job, his sufferings and his reasonings with himself about his sufferings, his reasonings with his friends. In verse 15, he is talking about his own freedom from sin, his absence of guilt. He says, “I can understand if God let this happen to some other people.” Job was a lot like us, wasn't he? Look at verse 15. In the course of saying that, he says:

Job 31

15Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?

There again you see the principle though it is not the major point of this passage. In passing, this passage reminds us of the fact that God oversees that birth process in the womb. Job's terminology is, “He made me in the womb.” “He fashioned all of us in the womb.” So God oversees the birth, the conception itself, and the development within the womb.

Then turn back to Isaiah, chapter 44. Here we have God speaking through Isaiah to Israel. He says in verse 2 of Isaiah, chapter 44:

Isaiah 44

2Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.

He goes on to make some other promises to the people of God, but again the point I want us to notice is the Lord made you and formed you from the womb. We have looked at two principles thus far. First, God opens and closes the womb. He allows or disallows conception to take place. Second, He oversees the birth process, the months of gestation in the womb.

Reaction Within the Womb

There is third and a fourth principle that are probably minor corollaries to these two major principles, but they too have had a bearing on my thinking about abortion. Turn to Luke, chapter 1. If the verses that I want us to look at there were not supported by the other principles that we are talking about today, I would not give as much weight to them, but I think that a little incident that is mentioned here in Luke, chapter 1, must not be overlooked. Luke, chapter 1, is describing the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ and all of the details that were tied in with that. One of those details was the birth of His forerunner, John the Baptist. Down in verse 42, God had given Mary the information that she was going to be the mother of the Lord Jesus. Before that He had given her cousin, Elizabeth, the information that she was going to be the mother of the forerunner of the Messiah. So beginning in verse 39, we read:

Luke 1

39And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;
40And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
41[Now notice] And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

Then if you skip down to verse 44, Elizabeth is relating that story and her report of it was:

Luke 1

44For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

Here is a six-month pregnancy. The verses above this tell us that Elizabeth was about six months into her pregnancy when this visit took place, a late second trimester pregnancy, and the baby leaped for joy in the womb of the mother. The Holy Spirit tells us that it was not just a movement in the womb like we mothers and daddies love to feel, but rather God says that baby was leaping for joy to a specific stimulus, the entering into the room of the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ in the womb of His mother. Here is one baby in the womb of its mother leaping at the joy of the presence of His Lord.

Very often when we talk about these verses, people say, “You cannot take that as normative.” No, I would say that we can't take the virgin birth as normative. We can't take the birth of God's anointed forerunner of the Messiah as normative. On the other hand, we cannot overlook the fact that this took place. I do not believe either that we can take these verses to mean that this was the only baby in all the history of the world who had stimuli to which he responded in his mother's womb. In fact, medical science has verified that again and again. But here is a Biblical text that tells us that John the Baptist was alive and well in his mother's womb, and the Holy Spirit was able to work in his heart and cause him to leap for joy at the presence of his Messiah. Even though medical science can demonstrate that kind of thing, the Word of God speaks of it specifically, and we must not overlook that as we think about the state of babies within the womb, what their capabilities are.

The Levitical Penalties

Then the fourth principle that has very important impact on me is what I am going to call the “Levitical penalties”. Turn back to Exodus, chapter 21. There are a couple of other references to this, but let me just show you Exodus, chapter 21. This part of the book of Exodus is giving principles for civil treatments, things that can happen between people, and what God's laws were and what to do if this happens and what to do if that happens. Look down at verse 22 of Exodus, chapter 21. In the midst of all these various rulings, in verse 22, it says:

Exodus 21

22If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

That is an interesting statement, by the way, but it is beyond the scope of this lesson. How would you like to have the husband set the penalty?

Notice verse 23:

Exodus 21

23And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,
24Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

Overlooking the severity of God's judgment in the Old Testament, and remembering that God even in those days was a God of grace, the thing that I want to notice is not the severity of the penalty, but think with me for a moment what this is saying. What this is saying is that God prescribed penalties for injury to an unborn baby. God set the unborn baby apart as an individual just as He did people who had already come to birth. I believe that we cannot come to any conclusion but the fact that God says that the baby in the womb is a person with rights. Under God's levitical system, under God's legal system, the unborn baby was an individual who had rights, and the penalty varied based on those rights.

Personal Conviction

As I said in the beginning, these are four principles which have guided my thinking. I have come to the conclusion, and I want to say this boldly but lovingly because it is something with which many Christians do not agree: My personal conviction is that abortion is murder, that to perform an abortion is to take the life of an individual to whom God in His Word has prescribed rights. I know that sounds harsh to some of you, and if it hurts your feelings, if it disappoints you, I hope you will be able to forgive me. The charitable thing to say, and what I was strongly tempted to say, as I prepared this message and this is certainly true, was that whether it is murder or not, it is certainly something that we, with the most extreme caution, should be involved with. My conviction is that it is murder, and God would not let me get by with saying anything less than that. If you can't accept that, you certainly have the right to not agree with that. I am not the Pope, and I do not make pronouncements from the pulpit about what you must believe. I can tell you what I believe. Even if you do not agree with me that abortion is murder, then you must certainly recognize that abortion is something that must not be trifled with. It is not just something that people have a choice about. It is not just something that the mother ought to be able to decide. It is something that must be very carefully thought through.

As I have tried to think of an illustration of the status of abortion, it seems to me that a good comparison would be that abortion is somewhere probably within the category of suicide. There is a great deal of disagreement about whether suicide is murder. There are those who think that suicide is the unpardonable sin. Let me mention here that neither suicide nor abortion are unpardonable sins. God's grace forgives all sins. But suicide, at the very least, is a very questionable subject. There are those who feel very strongly that suicide is murder. There are others who feel that suicide is something that a human being, particularly a Christian, should not do. So if you are not willing to accept the fact that abortion is murder, at least you need to recognize that it is somewhere in that category of seriousness, that degree of seriousness, that we all tend to put suicide in. What amazes me is that there are laws in our society that very carefully regulate the matter of suicide, yet there are those who say that we shouldn't have any caution whatsoever about abortion, that it should be just another surgical procedure.

I cannot, except to recognize the activity of Satan in the minds of men, the darkness with which Satan can blind the hearts of men, understand how rational people could make those kinds of decisions. Suicide is a very serious, a very questionable activity, a fatal activity. Abortion is in that same category.

Taking a Stand

In conclusion what should we do with this information? How should we respond to this? In Kansas and in hundreds of other areas across our nation, there have been sit-ins, there have been demonstrations. God, in His mercy I think, has spared us that in Abilene though there have been plenty of confrontations, there has been plenty of discussion. But if the day comes when God calls on us as Christians to stand up for what we believe, and if your belief falls somewhere within the spectrum of what I am talking about, and let me say again that that is between you and God, what are we going to do with what we do believe, whatever that is, about abortion? There are those who say if it comes down to it, every Christian ought to come to the gates and stand defiantly and openly and be involved in sit-ins and demonstrations. There are others who say we can have much more power at the polls; we can have much more influence with our legislators if we take that route. Two things I want to say: One, on the basis of the scriptural evidence, I think that abortion is something that we must not sit idly by and watch take place. I don't know where to draw the line on that, and that is something that God will have to direct you in. I don't know whether we wait till it becomes a burning issue in our own city or whether we get involved actively at some other level, but at the very least when it comes to our own city, we will have to make a decision. We have to make a decision. We cannot sit idly by and let something that God has brought condemnation on other nations for take place in our nation. It is taking place in our nation already. That is the first thing. We must be prepared to stand for our beliefs.

The second thing that I want to say is that I believe that our involvement in the Christian life, the pattern of instruction in the Word of God, varies from individual to individual. There comes a time when we have to stand for our beliefs, but God does not necessarily call on everyone to take a physical, personal, outstanding kind of stand. I think it probably goes along with our personality profile and more particularly with our spiritual gifts. As we have studied several times over the years, the Word of God is explicitly clear that believers have gifts that are different from each other. We have different personalities; we have differing abilities spiritually. I am not sure that God calls on every Christian to go blockade the door of an abortion clinic. I feel that He does call some to do that, but God may have you more involved on a personal one-to-one level. God may have you involved strictly in a prayer ministry. God may have you involved in conversations and other kinds of influence with your legislators. God directs each of us individually, and that is a priceless truth that we must also defend.

Ministry to Victims of Abortion

The third thing that I want to say as we close comes back to something I touched upon a moment ago. That is that no matter where you may stand in the spectrum of belief about abortion, and I speak to myself as I say this, we must above all deal lovingly and graciously and forgivingly with those who are the victims of abortion. I don't mean the unborn babies. Obviously, they are victims. But I mean those mothers and those parents of mothers who have found themselves in an untenable situation. I think that most of us can't even imagine the horror of that kind of situation. Most of the time, particularly within the Body of Christ, the huge majority of the time, that is an emergency kind of situation. That is something that they never thought would happen, that they never intended to happen, and they have to deal with this crisis in a time of shock and in a time of deep sadness. I think God will hold you and me accountable for every critical word that we say of a fellow believer who makes a decision that might not be the decision that we would have made. I think it is important that we know the principles of the Word of God so that we can be prepared if, by God's sovereignty, we find ourselves in that situation where we have to make that decision. But be extremely careful of judging someone else who has already made that kind of decision or someone who makes a decision in the future different from the one you would have made.

The ones for whom I have the most compassion are those who perhaps made this kind of decision years ago before it was something that everyone talked about, before it was something that preachers preached about, before it was something that people had taken the trouble to search through the Word of God about. Those, I think, are the ones on whom we should have the most compassion. We don't know who they are in most cases because that was an extremely private thing in those days. Listen, if you were to find out today or tomorrow or next week or next month that someone whom you love or someone whom you only barely know some years ago had an abortion before it was the burning issue that it is today, by God's grace you must be forgiving and loving and compassionate and helpful in any way you can be to a person in that situation.

Conclusion

We all need to be quick to pray for and support those who find themselves in those situations. I have two daughters as you know, and I can't imagine the horror of having to face something like this, but I am not immune to that. My daughters are not immune to that. My son is not immune to being involved in something like that, and neither is yours. So above all else, we must be loving and compassionate and forgiving and helpful in every way that we can. At the same time, we must be alert to what the Word of God has to say and base our decisions upon the principles of God's Word, our decisions concerning our own lives and actions that we might have to take within our own families and our decisions in terms of the action that we may need to take as a part of a community, as a part of a nation that is faced with the threat of wholesale murder.


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