Scriptural Basis for Defending Human Life

Where does the Bible speak about the "sanctity of human life?" I've noticed that the more widely a phrase or slogan gets thrown around, the fuzzier its meaning seems to become. This one is a good example. I'm forever hearing Christians talk about "the sanctity of human life" – in church, on Christian radio and television, and in fund-raising letters from non-profit ministries. In spite of this, I'm not sure I understand exactly what it refers to or where it comes from. Is there a biblical basis for this idea?

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

We would argue that the Bible is the one and only original source of the belief that human life is unique in all creation and sacred in the eyes of God. This concept in turn provides the foundation for such highly cherished ideals as human rights, human dignity, equality, liberty, and social justice. These principles are indispensable to democracy. We take them for granted in western culture. And yet the truth is that they flow directly from the Christian worldview and the scriptural teaching that undergirds it.

In theological terms, the sanctity of human life is rooted in the Imago Dei. According to Genesis 1:27, all human beings are created “in the Image of God.” Every individual ever conceived bears that Image. It doesn’t matter who or what he is or who his parents happen to be. This means that, in some mysterious way, each one of us is a “copy” or “graphic image” of the Creator. Every human being is a formal, visible, and understandable representation of who God is and what He is really like. It also implies that we’ve been designed to enjoy interpersonal communion with Him and with each other for all eternity. That’s because community, fellowship, and relationship are basic to the very nature of the Trinity.

Note that we said “every individual ever conceived.” That was intentional. The Bible clearly indicates that God knows and regards us as unique human persons while we are still in the womb (and even prior to that time): “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb … My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret … Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Psalm 139:13-16); “Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nation’s” (Jeremiah 1:4, 5).

It’s true that the Image of God in man has been marred by sin. But Scripture also makes it clear that man’s fall has not destroyed or removed the Imago. It has merely broken or disfigured it. The mirror may be cracked, but it still reflects. Though a sinner, man is still redeemable and worth redeeming. That’s why God sent His Son into the world to die on our behalf.

This is a crucial point, since it is precisely our redeemability and the fact that we still bear God’s Image that makes us different from the rest of creation. As theologian Louis Berkhof puts it, “The doctrine of the Image of God in man is of the greatest importance in theology, for that Image is the expression of that which is most distinctive in man and in his relation to God. The fact that man is the Image of God distinguishes him from the animal and every other creature” (Systematic Theology, p. 206).

If you think it might be helpful to discuss these concepts at greater length, call us. Focus on the Family has a staff of pastoral counselors who would love to speak with you over the phone.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

The Dignity and Sanctity of Every Human Life

The Case For Life: Equipping Christians to Engage In the Culture

Reaching Hearts On Abortion

For Such a Time As This

The Wonder Within You

Tim Keller on the Image of God

Scriptures Advocating for the Pre-born

The ‘Sanctity of Life’ Ethic

Why Should We Care About the Dignity of Human Life?

Copyright © 2011, Focus on the Family.

Talk to a Counselor

Focus on the Family offers a one-time complimentary consultation from a Christian perspective.
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.

If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.