R.C. Sproul Jr. is a wise man and a wonderful preacher. January 18th, 2015 was Sanctity of Life Sunday, and in his church, Pastor Sproul Jr. gave a stirring message on the importance of preaching against abortion, saying that, “Preaching against abortion is not a distraction from the Gospel, but is preaching the Gospel.”
We as a nation face great condemnation for the horrible sin of abortion. We have committed genocide against an entire generation, killing some 56 million people while they lie helplessly in their mother’s wombs. If we are to end this national calumny, we must have every pro-life voice speaking out in one accord. As people of faith, this means that we absolutely need our pastors and other religious leaders leading the way.
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Preaching the end of abortion from the pulpit is not hindering the Gospel… it is preaching the very reality and practicality of the Gospel.
Among the many hats that I wear, the many roles that I fulfill, I am a Pastor. And as a Pastor, I know of no greater passion that I have than for preaching. And it is because of that passion, and that zeal, and that commitment to the preaching of God’s word that I want to tread lightly on this question of what duties do we have with respect to our preaching.
Despite that desire to tread lightly, I’d like to consider this question today: is it an obligation of churches to observe, what we call, Sanctity of Life Sunday. And to do so I’d like to address another issue. I think it is a legitimate and important question to ask, the appropriateness of celebrating the Incarnation. That is, rejoicing over Christmas. My conviction is that it is fitting and appropriate to do just that, but I am always a bit uncomfortable disagreeing with brothers that I perceive to be on my right. I understand their concerns, and appreciate their passion for what we call the regulative principle of worship. On the other hand, one cannot rightly argue that the birth of the Savior is off limits in the pulpit. The Bible talks about it. And so we may preach about it. Given that, I cannot embrace a position that suggests we can preach about it, but not in December. If we are allowed to preach the promises in Genesis, in Isaiah, if we are allowed to preach the first few chapters of Luke, it seems we ought to be allowed to preach them any time of year.
The same, it seems to me, applies to not only to the church calendar, but to church history. That is, we can preach on the Lord’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem and in turn about the resurrection, and so ought to be allowed to preach consecutive sermons on these events each Spring. In like manner, if we are right that the Bible teaches the solas of the Reformation, it seems that it would be safe to preach on them the last Sunday in October. One is not, in so doing, becoming Romish in imposing a church calendar, or constructing “holy” days without biblical warrant. One is instead remembering the grace of God in space, and in time.
Now there are many, and they may have very good reason to do so, but there are many who would suggest that December 25 is almost certainly not the anniversary of the birth of Jesus. But, when it comes to January 22, 1973, we know with certainty what happened on that day. On that day the Supreme Court of these United States handed down its decision in the case Roe v. Wade. The men of the Court determined that every state had a duty to protect a woman’s unfettered access to abortion up until the birth of the child. It was a day whose infamy overshadows December 7, 1941 in the memory of the church in America. Since that time 50,000,000 babies have been murdered in the womb with the full protection of the state and the full knowledge of the church.
Abortion in America is, in the judgment of my very wise father – whose perspective I agree with, it is the greatest evil, not just in our day, but the greatest evil in our history. The American holocaust dwarfs the evil of Nazi Germany in both numbers of the dead, and, equally important, in the numbers of we who know what is happening. Can we then impose an obligation that every pulpit should speak against this great evil on the third Sunday of every January? Of course not. The pulpit, like the bearers of God’s image, is sacred. We cannot rightly impose any obligation not explicitly found in Scripture. We no more ought to impose Sanctity of Life Sunday on the church than we should impose the observance of the birth of Jesus.
On the other hand, Sanctity of Life Sunday is as fitting, as sensible, as reasonable as observing the Incarnation from the pulpit. Just as we must preach the glory of the incarnation, sometime, if not in December, so we must preach the horror of this evil sometime, if not in January. To be silent, friends, is to be complicit. It is to tell our children and grandchildren that we were as guilty as those Germans who knew, and were silent. Of course our pews are filled with the guilty. Of course the same is true of every sin we preach against. Of course the grace of God in Christ trumps even this great evil.
But, friends, the same Jesus who died for our sins calls on us to suffer the children to come unto Him. When we are silent, when we treat abortion as a mere social problem, a mere political issue, we expose our complicity. So preach faithfully. Proclaim not the sanctity of life, but the holiness of God, whose image the least of these bear. Call for repentance from the pulpit God placed under your care. Preach the same good news that He preached, that the captive are to be set free, that those marching toward death are to be rescued. Preach, and take the heat. For Jesus says such will make you most blessed. Walk by faith, preach by faith, in season and out of season.
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