A. The Image of God (Imago Dei): The stamp of the image and likeness of God has set apart human life as unique, distinctive and profoundly valuable. God demands that we preserve human life because it is the only form of life that He created in His own image. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26,27 NIV) Only human life can walk, 
talk and fellowship with the Creator, because it is the only life that possesses the image of God. This is the source of man’s great value and dignity, made astonishingly “a little lower than God and crowned with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:5 NAS) 

The value that we place on human life cannot be determined by one’s productiveness to society or by any other arbitrary standard set by man. The tendency of a technological culture to as-sign value to an individual based on his or her function (what he or she can do, rather than who he or she is) is totally unacceptable. We must look to our Creator’s declaration in Gen. 1:31 (NAS) “God saw all that He had made and behold, it was very good.” God reaffirms the value and dignity of all human life through the incarnation of Jesus Christ “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness 
of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:6-8) The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on behalf of His people and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit who now abides within all Christians also attest to the supreme value God has placed on human life. Can anyone doubt the dignity God has bestowed on human life, since He declares that the human body of believers is actually the dwelling place of God the Holy Spirit? (I Cor. 6:19-20 NAS “…your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God…you were bought 
with a price…”) 

B. The Right of God as Creator to Rule Over Life and Death: God, as our Creator, is the giver and sustainer of all life. Since God is the giver of life, He reserves to Himself along the  right to take it: ‘It is I who put to death and give life.” (Deuteronomy 32:39) “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” (Job 1:21) In Psalm 139:13 & 16 (NAS), David acknowledged the sovereignty of God in numbering the days of his life: “For Thou didst form my inward parts; thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb…in Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them” 

Former Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop sums up the problem of a culture which no longer looks to the Bible for its values: “Our society, having lost its understanding of the sanctity of human life, is pushing the medical profession into assuming one of God’s prerogatives, namely, deciding what life shall be born and when life should end.”1 The eternal Word of God declares that life is a sacred and priceless gift, beyond the purview of mere human beings to decide its beginning or end. 

God, as our Creator, has given life to us as a gift and a sacred trust. Therefore, it should be  received with thanksgiving and protected from those who would seek to usurp God’s control of life and death through abortion, suicide, assisted suicide and active euthanasia. 

C. The Prohibition of God: “You shall not murder.” (Ex. 20:13 NAS): Question and answer 136 of the Westminster Larger Catechism points out our obligations in fulfilling the Sixth Commandment: 

Q. What are the sins forbidden in the Sixth Commandment? 
A. The sins forbidden in the Sixth commandment are: all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or
necessary defense; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful or necessary means of preservation of life; …and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.

2 The Sixth Commandment clearly rules out the lawfulness of suicide, assisted suicide and active euthanasia. Suicide is the direct and intentional taking of one’s life: murder of self.

3 Assisted suicide is the enabling of one to take his own life and is considered assisted murder. Active euthanasia is the willful and active taking of someone’s life and is clearly a violation of this commandment. 

D. The Problems of Suffering, Death and Dying: Some argue that the motive of alleviating suffering justifies suicide, assisted suicide or euthanasia. But we can never justify the taking of life on the basis of suffering. The church must oppose any effort to terminate innocent life outside the natural process even though the motive may be a misdirected kindness. 

Because we live in a fallen world (Gen. 3), suffering is a harsh reality. But as we examine the gealing ministry of our Lord Jesus, we can only conclude that God is on the side of healing. We have a God-given drive to resist suffering and death and to seek to alleviate physical and 
emotional pain. It is right to seek to lessen the sting of suffering through pain-killing medications which help make those who are suffering as comfortable as possible. It is permissible in the case of terminal illness to use painkillers which carry the risk of shortening life, so long as the intent is to relieve pain effectively rather than to cause death. (Prov. 31:6 “Give strong drink to him who is perishing.”) The proper application of medical science, as demonstrated by much of our hospital and hospice care, can in most cases enable patients to live and die without extreme 

Hope and meaning in life are possible even in times of great suffering. As Christians, we must entrust our lives to a wise, king and loving heavenly Father who has promised that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His 
purpose.” (Rom. 8:28) While suffering is an intrusion into our lives, it is not without divine purpose; for it provides the opportunity for Christian witness, service, and godly character development as we share in the sufferings of Christ. (I Peter 4:12-13 & Philippians 3:10).Suffering often becomes the means by which Christians demonstrate to others the sufficiency of God’s grace. (II Cor. 12:9 NIV “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”) 

When death is likely to occur within a short period of time, we can look to the example of the patriarchs. When Jacob saw that he was in the dying process, he gathered his sons around him to deliver his final blessings and instructions (Gen. 49: 1-33). When Joseph was about to die, he  also called for his brothers and reminded them of God’s promises (Gen. 50: 24-26). 
It is rare in our times to witness this kind of deathbed gathering. Why? Because in the United States today, three out of four people die in a hospital or a nursing home surrounded by  strangers. Technological intervention in the process of dying could very easily undermine important ministerial functions of the terminally ill in a misguided zeal to prolong life at all costs. One of the great fears of dying patients is their being left alone or neglected. The environment of noisy machines and blinking lights of intensive care units is often substituted for the intimacy of loved ones.4

Since past generations did not have the technology to keep people alive artificially, most deaths occurred at home. Surrounded by family and friends, dying people were invited to repent of their sins, bless their children, ask forgiveness, bid farewell, and make recommendations. Of 
course, death remained then, as now, the most stressful of human events, but it “occurred as a natural experience, expected and understood.” 

Even though we now have the technological means to make dying easier, our society is increasingly seeking to make active euthanasia more palatable. Euthanasia, until recently, was commonly understood to refer to the practice of passively allowing the dying process to take place. Today, proponents of the “Right to Die” movement seek to differentiate euthanasia by blurring the distinction between “passive” and “active.” Passive euthanasia has never really been a moral problem, for it is simply allowing the process of dying to take its natural course as the medical team seeks to provide adequate pain management. Active euthanasia, on the other hand, means intervention that would hasten the patient’s death. The church must speak out against active euthanasia as it rapidly gains popular approval. 

Advocates of active euthanasia, suicide, and assisted suicide continue to point to man’s need to die with dignity. They argue that the lack of physical or mental abilities precludes death with dignity since they assume that man’s dignity is derived from mental and physical abilities. But the word of God clearly reveals that man possesses dignity and honor by virtue of the fact that he 
was created in the image of God. Man’s dignity does not depend on his mental or physical  condition. Each person, no matter how infirm or socially useless he or she may appear to be, deserves to be accepted as a person of dignity created in the image of God. 

At one extreme we find the proponents of active euthanasia, and at the other extreme we find vitalists who demand that in each and every case, life must be preserved at all costs. A biblical perspective of death and dying must be established in order to counter these extreme views. 

Question 85 of the Larger Catechism asks: ‘Death, being the wages of sin, why are not the righteous delivered from death, seeing all their sins are forgiven in Christ?” The answer gives us a wonderful summary of the theology of the death of believers in Christ: 

The righteous shall be delivered from death itself at the last day, and even in death are delivered from the sting and curse of it; so that, although they die, yet it is out of God’s love, to free them perfectly from sin and misery, and to make them capable of further communion with Christ in glory, which they enter upon. (WLC 85, emphasis added) 

Revelation 14:13 also tells us of the blessing of Christians when they die: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on! ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deed follow with them’” The curse of the fall of Adam and Eve has been turned  into blessing because of the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

The Apostle Paul tells us that he was willing to be absent from the body in order to be present with the Lord (II Cor. 5:8), for that is very much better” (Phil. 1:23) than continuing to live on this earth. Paul, already experiencing a deep and rich fellowship with Christ, clearly indicates that personal fellowship with Christ will be magnified at the death of the saints. Of 
course, this does not mean that one is not to seek to live out his life to its full extent as long as  God gives the opportunity. Paul’s longing for that “much better” estate does not undercut the  value and significance of the present life or by death. For Paul to live on in the flesh means  fruitful labor for him, and he is convinced that it is “more necessary” for his fellow Christians for  him to continue his early ministry. In the same way, we must regard this present life on earth as a great gift from God to be lived to its full extent in fruitful labor in serving others.

Unlike spiritual death, which is an absolute evil, physical death is only a relative evil in a fallen world. Physical death for the Christian is not an enemy always to be fought at all times. The conviction that physical life must be preserved at all times in fundamentally idolatrous from the standpoint of biblical theology. God tells us in Hebrews 9:27 that “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” In Ecclesiastes 3:1,2 the Preacher says, “There is an appointed time for everything…a time to give birth and a time to die.” Thus, there is no moral or biblical obligation to prolong death when one is clearly in the dying process. There is a time to resist death, but there is also a time to cease resisting. As Stewart Alsop said, “A dying man needs to die, as a sleepy man needs to sleep, and there comes a time when it is wrong, as well as useless, to resist.” 

The Bible teaches that we can glorify God by death as well as by life. According to  Philippians 1:20 our ultimate purpose in life or in death must be the glory of God. The first question and answer in the Westminster Shorter Catechism demonstrates this beautifully: 

Q. What is man’s primary purpose? 
A. Man’s primary purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.Our Lord Jesus Christ, in willingly laying down his life for His people, gives us the greatest demonstration and example of a death which was motivated by love and the glory of God. (John 12:27; 15:13)