MESSAGE - 1/20/2019 - Gen. 1:27; 9:1-7; Mt. 5:21-22 - Sanctity of Life
INTRODUCTON: We live in a day and time when human life is no longer sacred. Since the case of Roe v. Wade was handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973, abortion of unborn babies has been available on demand, which at present, results in the death of approximately 1.5 million babies in America each year. To give you a frame of reference, that's equivalent to almost half of the entire population of Arkansas every year. On a related issue, some groups are advocating euthanasia and assisted suicide on the basis of "freedom of choice," the same premise upon which abortion was legalized. All of these problems stem from the erosion of the Bible as the standard of truth in our society. If you dismiss the Bible and accept evolution, then humans are just another animal, and there is no absolute standard for human morality other than social and cultural norms. Without the Bibles as a standard, there is no basis for affirming that humans are created in the image of God and that human life is sacred. Today, we will review the Biblical perspective on this issue.
Read Gen. 1:26-28 - GOD CREATED MAN IN HIS OWN IMAGE
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." 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
Observations on the creation of man in Gen. 1:26-28: Several things distinguish this creative account from those that preceded it. The creation of man is depicted as the capstone moment of the creation-the highest order of creation, for example:
Analysis of v. 27: This significant verse is the first occurrence of poetry in the OT. Notice the word structure, repeating "created" three times. Because humans are created in God's image, the phrase "sanctity of life" is the belief that the life of every human, born and unborn, is an inherently sacred attribute that should be protected and valued at all times. This truth extends beyond the unborn to all humans: Being created in God's image gives every human being value and declares we all have equal worth. Moreover, it means that we must oppose oppression and prejudice of all kinds, and for the people of God, this should include racism, bigotry, and other forms of hatred.
Read Gen. 9:1-7 - COVENANT OF THE RAINBOW
1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. 3 Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. 4 Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man's brother I will require the life of man. 6 "Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man. 7 "As for you, be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it."
Context of Gen. 9:1-7: When Noah and his family emerged from the ark, all human and animal life, except for that on the ark, had been destroyed. It was a new beginning for the human race which God had judged because of its corruption and violence (Gen. 6:11-13). It is significant that one of the first things that God affirmed to Noah was the sanctity of human life. God wanted to establish a foundation for the proper view of human life before the earth was repopulated. This text shows that since God values human live, so must we.
vv. 1 and 7: 1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 7 "As for you, be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it." - These two verses essentially repeat each other for emphasis. Here, starting after the flood, God repeated the blessing he originally gave to Adam and Eve in Gen. 1:28, "to be fruitful and multiply." Godly families are at the heart of what God is doing on this earth, because it is in this context that children are loved, come to know God, and are trained-up in His ways. Therefore, we can see from this that God ordained the propagation of the human race through families in order to promote His purposes.
vv. 2-4: "The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. 3 Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. 4 Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. - God gave wild animals fear of humans and put all animal life under human control. Presumably, prior to the flood, humans and animals had been vegetarians, but now God has expressly allows humans to eat them for their provision. People may choose to be vegetarians for various reasons, but there is no spiritual basis for it. Yes, we should protect animals from willful destruction and cruelty; however, the clear message here is that human life takes priority over animal life. It's ironic that in our society there are people who fiercely advocate protecting wildlife while they simultaneously support abortion of unborn human babies. In v. 4, "flesh with its life" refers to blood, and since "life" is the mysterious gift of God, Humans are forbidden to eat life of an animal, which is the blood. This prohibition was incur-porated into Mosaic Law in Lev. 17:11, though, I believe it applies mainly to the OT sacrificial system.
vv. 5-6: "Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man's brother I will require the life of man. 6 "Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man. - God Himself is the great protector of human life, which is precious to Him because man was created in His image. Because man is the God's earthly representative, God here ordains human government with the authority to protect human life. On one hand, this includes protecting the lives of unborn babies, but on the other hand, a person who is guilty of murder, will loss his own life as a consequence of his actions. v. 5 also commands that if an animal kills a human, its life will be forfeit. The contemporary Christian view on capital punishment of is mixed. Some, probably a minority, say it has been replaced by Christ's ethic of love for our enemies. But the weight of authority in the NT appears to support the view that secular governments should have the power to impose the death penalty in cases of premeditated murder as a means of protecting the value of human life and to deter commission of the crime in the first instance (see Rom. 13:1-4 and Acts 25:11).
Read Mt. 5:21-22 - YOU SHALL NOT MURDER
21 "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.'22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing' [or 'Raca'], shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
Note: The contrast that Jesus sets up in these verses is not a conflict between the OT and the NT, given the fact that He previously confirmed the validity of the OT Law in vv. 18-19. Jesus' contrast points to the differences in interpretation based upon rabbinic externalistic tradition, which places primary emphasis on outward forms and appearances rather than the true heart-personal attitudes-of the inner man.
v. 21a: "You have heard that the ancients were told" - This statement begins a section called the "antitheses" (or contrast) that extends to the end of the chapter. With it, Jesus doesn't invalidate the old commandment but raises it to a new level that tells us not only to obey the commandment but to also purge ourselves of the feelings and attitudes that might lead us to violate the commandment.
v. 21b: "'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER'" - This quotes the 6th Commandment as originally stated in Ex. 20:13 and Deut. 5:17. The word for "murder" (Heb. rasah) means to kill with the premeditated intention of taking human life. In the original Torah and even today in Western nation legal systems, murder is distinct from manslaughter (provocation without intention to kill) and accidental killing.
v. 21c: "and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.'" - This term, "liable to the court," can mean both liability to earthly legal action and to eternal judgment.
Note: In the next verse, to illustrate his thesis, Jesus cites three sinful thoughts and feelings: (1) being angry with a brother; (2) calling a brother 'good-for-nothing' ['Raca']; and (3) saying "you fool."
v. 22a: "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court;" - Here, Jesus extends the reach of the commandment way beyond the act of murder to the angry thoughts, feelings, and actions that cause people to commit murder. The term, "brother," includes a sibling, but in Jesus context it also extends to Christian brothers and sisters. Jesus challenges us to deal with the problem of anger while it still resides in our thoughts and feelings-i.e., in our hearts-before it finds expression in the evil works of our hands or the evil words of our mouths. Once our hearts are right-with God-we will no longer be tempted to murder, but will instead be motivated by love, which is the right response toward our neighbor (Mt. 22:39) and even our enemy (Mt. 5:44). In the final phrase, "shall be guilty before the court," means if you allow your anger to reach the point of intending or wishing evil upon another person, Jesus is saying we're already guilty and subject to judgment. And even in modern criminal codes, when anger rises to even an overt threat of harm, it becomes a crime.
v. 22b: "and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing' [or 'Raca'], shall be guilty before the supreme court [council]" - The Aramaic word "Raca" means empty-headed or wothless. Jesus is warning us that directing these kinds of offensive words toward another person is the kind of evil behavior that can cause circumstances to spiral out of control and lead to violent acts, even murder, and notice that Jesus puts such words in the same category as murder, just as bad. Think about it. The "council" refers to a body with judicial powers similar to the Sanhedrin.
v. 22c: "and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell' - The word used for "fool," (Gk. móros) is where we get the word moron. Notice that in these three behaviors, Jesus is being progressive in terms of severity and punishment. For calling a person a fool, the punishment is hell. In the OT and in some translations it's called Gehenna, which was a place where the wicked go to be punished.
ANALYSIS: Jesus' obvious concern in this part of His antitheses is the real damage we can inflict with our words. When a child says, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me," it's really a form of self-deception. The truth is that words have the power to wound us emotionally and spiritually just as surely as a sharp knife can wound us physically. We might allow ourselves to think that calling someone worthless or a fool isn't very significant, but Jesus strongly reminds us that God regards these and other hurtful and insulting words as highly significant-and blatantly evil.
James, the half-brother or Jesus, described it this way: "5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. 7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. 8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way." James 3:5-10.
And our Lord told us that, "It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man" (Mt. 15:11).