When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy (Luke 1:41-44).
As Mary and Elizabeth draw near one another, and with the two sons who represent the Old Covenant and the New Covenant in their wombs: the promise and the fulfillment, the prophet and the Lord. Their bellies come together—and John worships!
This is incredible.
John is in the womb, six months old, predestined by God, saved, elected, chosen, and named—all before he's ever seen the sunshine, felt the wind or breathed fresh air into his lungs. He is filled with the Holy Spirit, and we get our first glimpse of John as an in-the-womb worship leader. He is celebrating in the womb. I can't think of a stronger portrait for personhood in the womb than that. Elizabeth concludes her outstanding prophecy with these final words: "And blessed is she who believed, for there will be a completion to those things which were told her by the Lord" (Luke 1:45).
Luke is a medical doctor, writing under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit. What does it mean when he says of Elizabeth that, "the baby leaped in her womb"? What does the Bible mean by the word "baby"?
An examination of every time Luke uses this originally Greek word for "baby" shows a consistency. In Luke 1:41a, it says, "When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb." In Luke 1:44b, Elizabeth says, "the baby in my womb leaped for joy." It's the same word for baby. This is an unborn, pre-born baby: John the Baptizer.
As we keep reading, Luke 2:12 says, "You will find the Baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a manger." Luke 2:16 then says, "So they came hurrying and found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby lying in a manger." The same word for "baby" is used of the newborn Jesus Christ in a manger as is used for the pre-born John the Baptizer in his mother's womb.
In Luke 18:15–16, when Jesus is grown up, we read: "They also brought infants to Him [Jesus] that He might touch them. When the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, 'Permit the little children to come to Me, and do not hinder them. For to such belongs the kingdom of God.'"
The same word for John the Baptizer in Elizabeth's womb is the same word used for Jesus lying in the manger, and it is the same word used for the children brought for Jesus to pray over.
The last occurrence from Luke is in Acts 7:19: "[The godless Pharaoh] dealt deceitfully with our people and mistreated our fathers, forcing them to put out their young children, that they might not live." This verse is describing the infanticide that occurred while the people of Israel were enslaved in Egypt.
The same word is used for an unborn baby, a newborn baby and young children because God sees them all the same—as people bearing His image and likeness worthy of all rights and dignity. In Elizabeth's womb is a human being made by God, bearing the image and likeness of God, deserving of all of the dignity and value we ascribe to all other human life. This shows that a baby in a womb is a baby. A baby in a womb is known by God as John was, named by God as John was, can be predestined and chosen for salvation as John was, and can be filled by the Holy Spirit as John was (Luke 1:15).
Elizabeth's baby has a name. He is filled with the Holy Spirit. He worships. He is alive. God is the Author of life, and only He has the right to define when life begins.
Contrary to what God declares, many cultures, courts and countries try to differentiate between a newborn baby and an unborn baby. One gets full civil and human rights, but the other does not. But it is impossible to read the Bible and not see life in the womb as anything less than human being.
Of course, this is an emotional and devastating subject that haunts many who have an experience with abortion. For everyone who has participated in this act, there is grace, love, forgiveness, mercy and healing available through Jesus Christ as well as hope for an eternal reunion with their unborn child in God's presence.
Are you committed to the sanctity of human life? If not, are your convictions driven by God's Word, cultural pressure or your own painful experience?
Mark Driscoll is a Jesus-following, mission-leading, church-serving, people-loving, Bible-preaching pastor and the author of many books, including Spirit-Filled Jesus, which you can order here. He currently pastors The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Arizona, with his family. For all of pastor Mark Driscoll's Bible teaching, please visit markdriscoll.org or download the app. You can download a free devotional e-book from pastor Mark here.
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