When a mother gently places her hands upon her growing belly, contemplating the new child developing within, she is truly touching one of the great wonders of life. The creation of new human life is, indeed, a miracle. And more than a miracle—it is a miracle meant to point us further to the purpose of human life, itself!
Consider briefly just how much occurs in our first nine months of life.
All human life begins at conception—begettal—when an egg cell from a woman unites with a man’s sperm cell. Each miniscule component—an egg cell is roughly the diameter of a human hair, and the microscopic sperm cell is, by volume, the smallest in the human body—carries just half of each parent’s genetic material, or DNA. But these two cells unite and become one single cell; the two genetic halves come together to complete a full set of DNA and create a brand new human being! Bearing a mix of the genetic programming of both mother and father, the child now conceived will grow to resemble them both. Everything that is needed to guarantee years of hearing, “You have your father’s eyes!” or “You have your mother’s nose!” is already fixed and in place from the very beginning—from your very first cell!
At that moment, new life has come into being: new human life. Every human being who has ever lived, from the famous to the infamous—Leonardo da Vinci, Mohandas Gandhi, Joan of Arc, William Shakespeare, Eleanor Roosevelt, Napoleon Bonaparte—began life in this humblest of circumstances as one lone, almost microscopic cell growing in his or her mother’s body.
While a humble start, life as a single cell is only the beginning, as this brand new human life is about to undergo an amazing transformation in nine short months!
Even before the fertilized human egg has implanted in its mother’s uterus, the cell begins dividing furiously, multiplying itself over and over, crafting the machinery that will become its complete human body. The development of that body proceeds at a breathless pace.
Around three weeks after conception, the child is only about the size of the tip of a pen—and yet so much is already happening! The baby’s organs and nervous system—brain and spinal cord—are developing. Before the month is over, the child’s heart will begin beating and carrying blood throughout a rapidly growing body with a closed circulatory system.
Four to five weeks in, and facial features are beginning to develop, including eyes and jaws. Future arms and legs begin to bud from the main body design.
By only five weeks, when the child is merely the size of a shirt button, the baby’s brain begins to form the creased and crevassed look that is characteristic of the human cerebral cortex, so crucial to the advanced thinking of human beings. Brain waves have been detected in children after only one more week of this development!
Over the next couple of months, though still only reaching three or four inches in size, the child’s face develops eyes—protected by closed eyelids—lips and ears. Taste buds form, allowing the child to taste the surrounding environment, which reflects the mother’s diet. The unborn baby begins yawning, feeling, and even smelling—taking in more and more information from a rapidly expanding “world.”
The remaining time is spent with non-stop, continuous development, passing one milestone after another: organs mature, muscles strengthen and the baby begins moving and stretching, and lungs continually “breathe” in fluid, in anticipation of their first breath of air.
By the time the child is actually born into our world, he or she has already experienced a little more than nine dramatic months of life in the “world” of the womb! The child who began life as a simple, single cell, has grown within a wondrous “life support system” designed specifically to empower rapid development and nurturing, until—a mere 40 weeks later—a beautiful baby is born and ready to be embraced by the loving parents, whose muffled voices the newborn has been listening to and bonding with for months.
It is a beautiful process to consider, and one contemplated by virtually every married couple during the days of pregnancy. God’s wonders are truly demonstrated in such things.
Yet, God also uses the physical things He has designed to illustrate spiritual realities. And the picture of human reproduction depicts one of the greatest spiritual realities of all—God’s reproduction of Himself, and His very purpose for mankind!
The picture in Scripture is crystal clear. Just as a human father imparts part of his nature to his offspring through his sperm at conception, God imparts to us His own nature when we repent and are baptized, by giving us His very own Spirit at baptism (Acts 2:38)! The Apostle Peter makes this plain, explaining that we become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
And yet, this is only the beginning. Christians are only begotten with God’s Spirit at baptism—their actual birth into the fullness of the Family of God does not take place until the return of Jesus Christ and the resurrection, when they become “sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36). Just as a human child has much developing and growth to do between conception and birth, so too does a child of God!
A human child in the womb does not truly resemble the parents at first, and grows to do so day-by-day in the womb. So, too, does a child of God grow and develop in the womb of God’s Church, growing in grace and in knowledge (2 Peter 3:18) and through God’s Spirit developing the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). Christians learn to grow toward perfection, just as their Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48).
And just as babies in the womb cannot see the parents—cannot observe in their faces, form, or features the life destined for them—until after being born into the world, so also do Spirit-begotten Christians not see the fullness of their destiny until their birth! As the Apostle John described, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).
At the revealing of Jesus Christ, the children of God enter the fullness of their destiny, transformed into the full likeness of God, with Spirit-bodies of power and glory forever (1 Corinthians 15:42–45)—an event so wonderful and glorious that all creation cries out for it like a woman in labor crying out for her child (Romans 8:19–23)!
God’s creation is not wondrous only for its amazing features of design and engineering, but also for the manner in which He uses it to paint such beautiful pictures of His marvelous plan. Our Almighty Designer is also the Almighty Artist! And using the process of human reproduction, He does, indeed, paint a beautiful picture. In that process He depicts the very purpose of mankind, and allows us to see in the eyes of every newborn child a reflection of our eternal destiny in the very Family of God.