The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

John 10:10 ESV

Saturday, January 31, 2015

How Should I Respond to the Shedding of Innocent Blood?

Genesis 3:15; 4:8-10; 9:5-6
Deuteronomy 21:1-9 
(I gave this message on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, January 25, 2015, at Pines Baptist Church in Pembroke Pines Florida. You can listen to the message online or download it here. See 01-25-15 James McGarvey, "How Should I Respond?"in the sermon file.)

Before we begin I want to acknowledge that for many abortion is a controversial subject and may be difficult perhaps even painful for some to think about. I know it is likely that someone here this morning has been touched by an abortion. If that is your experience, while you cannot escape the truth about abortion nor some of the consequences of your abortion, please know there is hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We will never understand God's grace apart from God's truth. But God's truth will always lead us to God's grace.

It is my personal conviction that abortion is a gospel issue. In other words, you cannot address abortion from a Biblical perspective without acknowledging that God has made every provision through the death of His Son Jesus Christ to forgive, heal and restore those who have been involved in the abortion of a child. The blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient to cleanse us from any and every sin through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

I'll never forget what I heard from your Pastor, probably eight years ago now when I took him to visit the Hope Women's Center in Miramar. That center was closed in 2008 due to lack of finances to keep it open. Hope is a pregnancy resource center that provides free pregnancy tests, free options counseling, free limited obstetric ultrasound, the Gospel and more for women and men facing an unplanned and often unwanted pregnancy. I introduced him to the center director, Hope Remy, and this is what he said. "If you ever have a girl who is pregnant and has no where to go, call me and we will take her in." That's the heart of you pastor.

If your life has been touched by an abortion in any way, or if this morning you face an unplanned pregnancy and don't know what to do, there is help here. Share you need with one of the leaders here. You are in a safe place in this church. I am personally so glad this morning that the gospel is God's powerful remedy for my sin and yours.

I intentionally made the title of this message personal, hoping each of us would take the responsibility that the Lord wants us to bear for the shedding of innocent blood, in our community, realizing that as we look at a Biblical response to the shedding of innocent blood, there is value if not, a desperate need, for us to see how God would have each of us respond not just as a community of believers but as individuals committed to obey the gospel and Biblical truth.

Last year, Pastor Rusty Lee Thomas in his pamphlet, Field Manual for Abortion Ministry, raised these two questions that have continued to trouble me for months now.

"What does Christianity look like in a nation that murders its own children?"

If you are a Christian, how would you answer that question?

Question number two,

Has the church failed to be prolife or have we failed to be Christian when it comes to rescuing our neighbors scheduled to be dismembered?"

These are weighty questions. Perhaps the fact that there is even the need to ask the questions, should concern us. Doesn't it seem almost counterintuitive that one would need to ask these questions of the church? It reminds me of God's response to his people, the nation of Judah, as they sacrificed their own children to the pagan demon god Molech. The prophet Jeremiah in two places records God's words of disbelief, 

“…they have filled this place with the blood of innocent children. They have built pagan shrines to Baal, and there they burn their sons as sacrifices to Baal. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing!"  (Jeremiah 19:4-5 NLT)

Pastor Rusty Lee Thomas writes, "...I believe this cruel act is so foreign to God's commandments, character, and will that he refuses to acknowledge it. In other words, this despicable practice is so far off the charts, so beyond the pale, that God will not dignify it with any sense of rationality. For parents to sacrifice their own children in order to obtain a better life is unthinkable in the mind of God." (Abortion Violation, pg. 28)

Shedding innocent blood is the Biblical term for the unjustified taking of a human life. It is the Biblical term that best describes abortion. In 1973, two U. S. Supreme Court decisions, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, legalized abortion in all 50 states during all nine months of pregnancy for virtually any reason.

This plunged America into a national tragedy that has proved to be unparalleled in our 329 years of history, as the abortion death toll in America is estimated to be approaching 58 million unborn children. (57,762,169 - estimate by Dr. Randall K. O’Bannon National Right to Life Committee education director.)

As we seek to answer the question before us, we begin where the Scriptures begin, with creation. The creation account  identifies who man is. Understanding this is critical to understanding how to respond to the shedding of innocent blood.

The creation account indicates that man was created by God. Genesis 1:26a (ESV) Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..." Genesis 2.7 "then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." This is the consistent and repeated declaration of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Man was created by God.

According to the apostle Paul it is the foundation of a Biblical worldview. In Romans 1:25, he writes of the consequence of rejecting God's disclosure of Himself in creation or natural revelation, and the refusal to honor Him as God, "...they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen." In other words according to Paul, there are ultimately only two worldviews. One denies there is a Creator and therefore worships the creation. The other acknowledges the Creator and worships that Creator. As Peter Jones writes,

"To speak in postmodern terms, there are only two 'metanarratives'---an ultimate story from within the universe, or an ultimate story from outside the universe. A word from within, or a Word from without. Either creation is divine or the Creator is divine. It is one or the other, but cannot be both. To claim that creation is divine is to deny true divinity to the Creator." (One or Two? pg. 89)

You see, modern evolutionary theory, that governs the thinking of 21st century America, denies the existence of the Creator and therefore postulates that man was the product of a meaningless, random evolutionary process over billions of years, the result of a cosmic accident. Therefore man is just another animal who has risen to the top of the evolutionary chain having succeeded in the survival of the fittest.

Man has no intrinsic value by virtue of his origin, because he has denied the existence of the Creator. That is secular America today. He is therefore accountable to no one but himself. In essence this is the self-deification of man. Having denied the existence of God, man becomes his own god and answers to no one but himself. This is the prevailing worldview of 21st century western civilization. It is the worldview that makes room for the shedding of innocent blood.

This was illustrated by an article written by Mary Elizabeth Williams in the online website, salon.com. Perhaps you remember I shared it with you two years ago. The title of her article says it all. "So What if abortion Ends a Life" Subtitle: "I believe that life starts at conception. And it's never stopped me from being pro-choice." In the article she acknowledges that the children she aborted were human beings, nevertheless she goes on to say, "All life is not equal....a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always."

Despite acknowledging that life begins at conception and that the unborn are human beings she defends her right to kill her unborn children based on the survival of the fittest, the basic and necessary tenant of atheistic Darwinian evolutionary theory. No accountability to transcendent moral truth because of the denial of a transcendent Creator.
 The creation account also indicates that man was created in God’s image and likeness Genesis 1:27 (ESV), "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them." Pediatrician, Dr. Rendle-Short identifies some of the Godlike qualities man shares with God. As human beings, we share these Godlike qualities: language, humans can communicate. Sometimes when I leave the house I say to my dog, "Good by Maggie." She has never yet responded to me by saying , "See you later, Jim!" She's not created in the image of God with the capacity for language to communicate. Intelligence, man can think. Creativity, man can create complex products. Think of that the next time your are forty thousand feet in the air flying across the country. Love, man can live in relationships, have fellowship, live in community. Holiness, man has a moral conscience, can tell right from wrong.  Immortality, man is eternal and will live for ever; freedom, man can make choices. This is “because he is human, made in the image of God.” (John Rendle-Short, M.D, “Man: The image of God”)

In other words, man resembles God. This is what gives us the capacity to know God. It is why God could communicate personally with Adam and Eve in the Garden. It also gives us the ability to represent God, in his creation as we see in verse 28 that follows. "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1:28 ESV) Oswald T. Allis has said, “Man is made in the image and likeness of God. This sets him apart from all the other creatures and entitles him to have dominion over them. He is the climax of the creation...”

The Biblical record also verifies the personhood of the unborn. This speaks directly to the issue of abortion. We see personhood in God’s relationship to the unborn. This is just one of multiple examples found in Scripture. God said of the prophet Jeremiah “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5  (ESV)

Do you see the personhood of Jeremiah while in the womb? God viewed him as a distinct and unique person with a specific calling on his life all before he was even born. In fact God says He knew Jeremiah before he there was even any physical manifestation of him in the womb.

The biological and scientific evidence is consistent with the Biblical case for life. Science verifies that human life begins at conception. That debate ended years ago with the discovery of DNA present in the first cell of human development. Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth, M.D. of Harvard University Medical School writes, "…It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception…”

Friends, the Biblical evidence is clear. Man is created by God and for God. Man is created in His image and likeness. The unborn are recognized by God as distinct and unique persons from the moment of conception. Man is charged with exercising dominion over creation. Understanding this truth is critical in forming a Biblical worldview that informs and shapes our response to the shedding of innocent blood. The Biblical creation account then, provides us with the foundation for cherishing and protecting human life from the moment of conception.

The doctrine of "blood guilt" emerges very early in man's history. Genesis chapter four records the first crime in human history, the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. "Cain spoke to his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said, 'Where is Abel your brother?' He said, 'I don't know, Am I my brother's keeper?'" (Genesis 4:8-9 ESV)

Years earlier Satan had deceived Adam and Eve and the world was plunged into sin. God then had no recourse but to separate himself from Adam and Eve as sin cursed His creation and paradise was lost. God cursed Satan saying, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring, he will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel." (Genesis 3:15 ESV) This is the first announcement of the gospel. The first prophecy of the coming Messiah who would provide a means of reconciliation between man with his Creator. A day would come when the seed of Eve would strike a decisive victory over sin and Satan on the cross. But God also identified the efforts Satan would make to attack the seed of Eve. And with this the epoch struggle between good and evil began. And Satan has been involved in an unrelenting attempt to kill the offspring of Eve ever since beginning with Eve's second born son. With the very first shedding of innocent blood we see the hand of Satan carrying out his agenda, Jesus later exposing him as a "a murder from the beginning" in John 8:44. And down through history Satan has continued to be the propelling force behind the taking of human life.

The story continues, verse 10 of Genesis four. "And the Lord said, 'What have you done?' The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground." The shed blood of Abel had a voice that cried out to God! What is the  significance of Abel's innocent blood crying out to God? It is God's way of expressing both his displeasure with the shedding of innocent blood and implies that He is bound to respond to the taking of innocent human life in a manner consistent with the value He has placed upon human life having created it in His image and likeness. When you take human life created in the image of God, it is a very personal attack upon God Himself. In essence you kill God in effigy.

This passage established the doctrine of blood guilt. As the German commentator Delitzsch has written, "Innocent blood has no voice, it may be, that is discernable by human ears, but it has one that reaches God, as the cry of a wicked deed demanding vengeance."

John Ensor writes, "'Blood guilt' is a blunt, almost vulgar term. It hits rudely, like a slap in the face. It is God's chosen term to arouse godly fear and compel decisive action. It is a word awakening, forcing us to recognize an unbreakable linkage: God's image is debased and his wrath justly incited every time a person made in God's image is unjustly destroyed. There is no debasing of God's image without consequences. Blood guilt requires God's vengeance and vindication. It stands as an indictment against the sin of shedding innocent blood, but it is also a promise, of sorts, to victims." (Innocent Blood, pg. 39-40)

In Revelation 6:9,10, of the martyred witnesses under the altar, John writes,"...I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, 'O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on earth.'" (ESV)

Rusty Lee Thomas commenting on the cry of the martyrs, "Do we grasp the magnitude of this appeal? Innocent blood when spilt on earth, creates a voice with a demanding message. Though human ears cannot discern it, the blood cries out to God for vengeance against those who are culpable." ,  (Abortion Violation, pg. 94,95)
Bible commentator H. C. Luepold writes, "That a voice should be attributed to blood is not strange inasmuch as the soul is regarded as lodged in the blood of the man (Lev. 17:11) and the death of God's saints is precious in His sight (Ps. 116:15)....God requires blood, that is, seeks out and avenges all instances of unjust shedding of blood....Men may esteem souls or blood lightly. Not so God." (Genesis, pg. 205) The shedding of innocent blood results in blood guilt that must be atoned for.

In the opening verses of Genesis chapter nine, we have God giving Noah instructions as civilization makes a new beginning after the flood. Notice verses five and six, "And for you lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of a man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image." (ESV)

Notice that God formally announces His demand for an accounting for the shedding of innocent blood. If a man takes another man's life, God said, "I will require a reckoning." In other words, God saw the need to restrain evil behavior so he makes provision for civil government to act as a protector of human life. Martin Luther writes, "This was the first command having reference to the temporal sword. By these words temporal government was established, and the sword placed in its hands by God."

" Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed." Romans chapter thirteen teaches that one reason God instituted government was to restrain evil. This is consistent with Genesis nine. Theologically, the depravity of man provides the moral necessity for the institution of government. Paul writes that those who govern are God's servants given the responsibility to exercise lethal force if necessary in their restraint of evil as they secure the safety of human life. Of the civil authority he writes, "...for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer." (Romans 13:4 ESV)

We have a problem in America at this point. Our government, charged by God to protect the innocent from the threat of murder in the womb has betrayed their trust. Many of our civil officials, mayors, judges, congressmen, senators, presidents have themselves threatened the safety and security of our unborn children by denying them their right to life. Just this past week, our President observed 42nd the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and re-affirmed his commitment to the right of a mother to kill her own preborn offspring. He defended the U. S. Supreme Court decisions of 1973 that have resulted in the loss of almost 58 million unborn children.

Roe v. Wade is an example of what is known as "legal positivism" or moral relativism in government. This happens when those in authority abandon transcendent truth and govern in a moral vacuum. Dr. Del Tackett explains, "The claim that the state is the ultimate authority for creating, interpreting and enforcing law. All legal truth is based on the decision of the state." (Dr. Del Tackett, 2006 Truth Project, Focus on the Family)

The Psalmist described it this way, asking a rhetorical question of God. "Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who frame injustice by statute? They band together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death." (94:20-21 ESV) Those words could have been written for this day. They describe what the Supreme Court has done in legalizing the killing of the unborn.

Isaiah gave this warning, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." (5:20 ESV)

Back to Genesis 9:6. Notice the reason God demands justice for the shedding of innocent blood. " Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image." We are back to Genesis one. The preservation of innocent human life, the protection of innocent human life all stems from the fact, that human life bears the image of its Creator and when we unjustly extinguish that life it constitutes a personal affront to a Holy and Righteous God.

But as we've already seen, early on God reveals to Adam and Eve and all of their offspring that he has a plan to atone for man's sin. We turn a few pages forward from chapter nine, to chapter twelve and find God revealing more of that plan this time to Abram. After calling him to leave his home and go to an unfamiliar land, God makes this remarkable promise, Genesis 12:2-3, "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing, I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."

From Abram's offspring would come a Savior through who the families of the earth would be blessed. Do you see how intricately and purposefully God the Creator has bound Himself to His creation? Do you see the love message woven into His dealings with mankind from the very beginning?

Blood atonement was the central principle of God's plan of redemption. Leviticus 17:11, "For the life of a creature is in the blood...it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life.' This truth is central to the Biblical doctrines of both incarnation and atonement. Jesus' incarnation was the pre-requisite to His work of atonement. The writer to the Hebrews understood this, writing, "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin." (9:22)

Theologically you cannot separate salvation through atonement from the sanctity of human life because the life, the soul of man is in the blood. John Ensor writes,

"Is there anything more valuable than human life and the redemption of human life? By virtue of our salvation, Christians have inherited from God a profound commitment to the sanctity of life and a devotion to make Christ known. Both come from holding blood (life) precious."(Innocent Blood, pg. 32) With the incarnation we come full circle. The God who created a human life in His own image, Himself becomes a man so that through an act of love He could bear their sin on the cross so they could live in fellowship with Him for eternity. That is the Gospel of Life. That is the greatest reason there is to be prolife.

How should I respond to the shedding of innocent blood? In Deuteronomy 21: 1-9, instruction is given to Israel regarding what to do when innocent blood is shed in the land. The body of a murdered man is found in a field, and no one knew who murdered him. The elders and judges were instructed to determine by measurement what town was located nearest the body. Then the leaders of that town were to lead the community in a process of atonement for the shedding of the innocent blood.  Since the unknown murderer could not be punished, a heifer or young cow was killed to atone for the blood guiltiness in the land. The elders of the town washed their hands over the heifer declaring that "Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it shed. Accept atonement, O Lord, for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, and do not set the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of your people Israel, so that their blood guilt be atoned for." (Deuteronomy 21:7-8 ESV)

Notice the result, verse nine "So you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood, from your midst, when you do what is right in the sight of the Lord." How should I respond to the shedding of innocent blood? We cannot ignore the shedding of innocent blood in our community or nation. In other words, we are not to go on day after day business as usual when innocent blood is being shed down the street from where we live and work.

This map shows the 23 abortion clinics, represented by blue triangles, in Broward County with 3 more just to the north and six more just to the south of the county line. The five red hearts, Hope Women's Center locations. Can we say, as the elders of Deuteronomy, "Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it shed."?

Then, there is a role leadership should play in the community in efforts to end the killing of the unborn. John Ensor writes,

"Whenever the innocent are killed, no matter who they are, known or unknown, big or small, the Deuteronomic law instructs the spiritual leaders of the community to rearticulate the pro-life ethic. The people are to hear that the taking of innocent life or the passive acceptance of the death of the innocent is horrifyingly unacceptable." (Answering the Call, pg. 75)

This speaks to the silence of America's pulpits. Last year (2014) Dr. R C Sproul, Jr. in an article entitled, "Are Evangelicals Pro-Life?" wrote, "...one in six abortions in America is procured by a confessing evangelical. That means that if only professing evangelicals secured abortions since Roe v. Wade, [1973] we would account for roughly 9 million dead babies, more than Nazis killed in the Holocaust." Iwonder what role the silent pulpits of the church have played in this tragedy. Each of us can respond in some way to the bloodshed in our land. Michael Spielman, he as a website called abort73.com. He writes,

“It is unreasonable to suggest that everyone in the church should be working relentlessly to end abortion, but it is not unreasonable to suggest that everyone in the church should be doing something to end abortion.” (Michael Spielman, “A Biblical Mandate to do Something About Abortion”)

You can volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center like Hope Women's Centers that this church has supported for many years. You can give financially to keep their doors open.
 You can pray for those at risk for abortion. I've left a few cards from Hope out on the foyer literature table their phone number where the help can be reached.

And you can pray for those who've had an abortion. Your pastor can help you if you've had an abortion. You can call Hope. They have small groups that meet confidently to help men and women whose lives have been touched by abortion receive the healing and the grace that God extends to them.

You can prayer at the abortion clinics, standing against the spiritual forces of darkness at work within. In the foyer I have provided copies of a prayer guide to assist you in praying to end abortion.

You can provide sidewalk counseling at abortion clinics for those being misled by the abortion industry.

You can vote for judges and political candidates who value human life. In one of the recent presidential elections around 25% of voting evangelicals voted for the pro-abortion candidate, and I believe about four million did not even bother to vote!

In Luke chapter ten, Jesus helped a lawyer understand what it meant to love his neighbor. The lawyer was evidently hung up on exactly what that looked like, so he asked Jesus, "Who his my neighbor?" Jesus then tells him the story of a man on his way to Jericho from Jerusalem who was robbed and beaten and left half dead alongside the road. Three different individuals had the opportunity to come to his rescue, in all likelihood to save his life. Two of the three did not respond to the needs of the man bleeding by the side of the road. Those two were the church leaders of that day a priest and a Levite, responsible for the spiritual care of their nation. And Jesus points out that not only did they fail to respond but, they "passed by on the other side." In other words they consciously and deliberately distanced themselves from the needs of the man dying by the side of the road. Jesus then pointed out that the one who proved to be the neighbor to the dying man was the one who showed mercy to the badly beaten traveller. He then said, "Go and do likewise."

In his book Innocent Blood, John Ensor defines "Samaritan compassion " this way,

"Doing right in the sight of the Lord means acting to stop the shedding of innocent blood.
The only person in Jesus’ parable who is pro-life according to the demands of love is the Samaritan.
Only he was willing to make the nearly dead man’s problem his own.
Only he was willing to see the victim’s suffering as his own.
Only he was willing to act according to what he would cry out for if their positions had been reversed." (page 54)

The Church in America is struggling in its response to America's abortion crisis. We have failed to expose the shedding of innocent blood and proclaim that repentance brings full pardon through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We have failed to grasp with regard to the killing of over 3,300 preborn children each day. According to Jesus' parable salvation has a moral imperative built into it with regard to the needs of those around us, our neighbors, including the unborn whose lives are threatened by abortion. Again, John Ensor, "Loving my neighbor will occasionally arrest me, and maybe even require me to help prevent someone from being murdered."

The writer of Proverbs said something very similar. He could very well have written it for us today.

"Save those who are being led to their death; rescue those who are about to be killed. If you say, 'We don't know anything about this,' God, who knows what's in you mind, will notice. He is watching you, and he will know. He will reward each person for what he has done." (Proverbs 24:10-12 NCV)  

© James P McGarvey All Rights Reserved



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