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The philosophers said that a living human being is made up of body and soul and it’s only the soul that matters. The body is meant to give the soul pleasure. Some members of the Corinthian congregation seemed to agree, and so do we. St. Paul says, “glorify God in your body.”
The philosophers said that a truly ‘autonomous person,’ that is, a person who’s got it all together, is not bound by social customs or restraints and is free to do whatever comes natural. Some members of the Corinthians congregation seemed to agree, and so do we. St. Paul says, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved to anything.”
St. Paul needs to address the issue of how Christians are to regard the human body. They’ve bought into the idea that it’s just their soul that really matters before God. They way they see it; the life of faith is a ‘spiritual’ thing, not a ‘physical’ thing, as if the one has no real effect on the other. ‘I’m free to do anything I’d like with my body, it won’t effect my spiritual life,’ they said, and so do we. “I’ll eat what I like. At least I’ll die happy.” “It’s what’s inside that counts.”
The particular issue for the Corinthians was their participation with prostitutes. Prostitution was common and accepted in Roman culture. Not everyone used them but no one considered it to be a moral issue. Their attitude was that the body has certain needs and this is one way to satisfy those bodily needs. The way they put it, “food is meant for the stomach and the stomach is meant for food.” It’s just a physical thing, not a spiritual thing. It doesn’t interfere at all with my faith.
Paul says, ‘you’ve got the wrong idea about what it means to be a human being and the wrong idea about what it means to be a Christian.’ He spells it out about as clearly as it can be said. “The body is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” Paul is touching on Genesis 2 here. When God made man, He made him with a body and a soul. “He formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” Man is body and spirit.
The body is meant “for the Lord.” That means, God gave us a body so that we may serve Him WITH OUR BODY. The person who consistently says, “I’m with you in spirit” and is never physically present or do any physical work, is missing the point. The person who says, “I can use my body to engage in sexual immorality” is also missing the point because you can’t break the commandments ‘for the Lord.’
But Paul goes much further than this and says, “the Lord for the body.” The reason that God gave us a body and didn’t make us ‘spirit beings,’ which is the way He made the angels, is so that the Lord might serve us physically, bodily – “the Lord for the body.”
The rest of this reading is a list of ways that “the Lord is for the body.” Let me point out here, that Paul’s approach to the Corinthians is not with sociology or psychology or biology. He doesn’t say, ‘do you not know’ how dangerous sexually transmitted diseases are? Or, ‘do you not know’ that there is no such thing as casual sex? He doesn’t say, ‘do you not know’ how the media and manufacturers are using sex to manipulate you purely for profit?
No, Paul preaches the gospel. The Holy Spirit works through the gospel. Look at how the “Lord is for the body,” your body. In just the seven verses that follow, Paul rattles off four ways that the “Lord is for the body.”
First, “God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.” Paul is talking about the resurrection of the body.
When God raised Jesus from the dead, the witnesses of His resurrection saw not just the ‘spirit’ of Christ but also the body of Christ. The body and soul of Jesus were one, whole person. The witnesses have a hard time believing what they are seeing. They saw His BODY crucified on the cross and wrapped in burial clothes and laid in Joseph’s tomb. They think that their seeing an angel. Couldn’t possibly be a physical body.
So Jesus comes to where they are gathered and says, “Why are you troubled and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Luke 24:38-39). He wants them to know that His resurrection is a BODILY, PHYSICAL resurrection.
Paul says, “God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.” Just as He was raised in body and soul, so shall we. For us, it’s the resurrection of the soul at the moment of death, and then the resurrection of the body on the last day when Christ comes again to unite body and soul back together again just as He created man to be in the beginning.
Later in this letter, Paul will explore the implications of the resurrection of the body in much more detail. “What is sown perishable is raised imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body… For the trumpet will sound and the dead shall be raised imperishable. This perishable body shall put on immortality.” (1 Cor.15).
To the Philippians, Paul writes, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philip. 3:20-21)
The Christian Church has always confessed this biblical truth by saying, in the Apostles Creed, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” In the Nicene Creed we say, “I look for the resurrection of the dead.”
The Lord is for our body, by raising our body from the dead.
Second, Paul says “your bodies are members of Christ.” The picture that Paul paints with just these few words of a physical union to Christ. Jesus put it like this, “I am the vine you are the branches.” (John 15:15).
The point here is that the members of the body, the fingers, toes, hands, feet, arms, legs, eyes, ears, don’t go anywhere apart from the body that they are joined to. This means that where the body of Christ goes, our bodies go too. He ascended bodily into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God. And “your bodies are members of Christ.” This means that when your body experiences pain, Christ suffers your pain because you are members of Christ.
This also means that where we take our body, we also take the body of Christ. When we take our body to visit someone who is lonely or who needs our help, when we give of our time to volunteer, when we go to work and do our job, when we are at home taking care of the children, when we are at school, we bring the body of Christ with us.
But the same is also true if we take our body to a prostitute, or use our body in an ungodly way. Let’s face it, in our day “sexual immorality” can be carried out physically or visually and the computer can become a prostitute. “Do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her?” Where we take our body, we take the body of Christ with us, because “your bodies are members of Christ.”
The Lord is for our body, by making us members of His precious and holy body.
Third, Paul says, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” That your body is a member of Christ and that Father made your body the Temple of the Holy Spirit means that the Trinity in perfect unity is FOR YOUR BODY.
The Corinthians had a problem with this and we sure do too. We have this natural tendency to worship the creation rather than the Creator. Rather than worshipping God in His temple, we worship the temple. We worship our bodies more than the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
Rather, we should worship the Holy Spirit within us. What this means is that proper worship of God is physical, bodily worship. You can’t separate the two. The body which is the temple is physically present in the sanctuary and with our body and we sit and stand and kneel and bow and sing as we listen to the Spirit speak to us by His Word.
The Lord is for your body by giving us the Holy Spirit who dwells in us bodily.
The fourth point concerning the proper Christian understanding of the human body is, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” We do think that we are our own and free to do as we please don’t we. The Corinthians were fond of saying, “All things are lawful to me.” We’re fond of saying, “no one tells me what to do.”
Talk about being “bought with a price” is slave talk. In the Roman economic system, if things got really desperate, a person could sell themselves into slavery to a master. The master would house and feed them and pay his slave with a gold or silver coin at the end of each year of service.
There was also a system in place whereby a slave could purchase himself back out of slavery. He would take the gold or silver coin he received each year to a nearby pagan temple and deposit it with the priest, and after 20 or 30 years, when he had saved enough, the priest would purchase the slave from his master with the gold or silver coins. And then the slave would become the slave of the god or goddess of that particular temple and render service to that god.
When Paul tells the Corinthians that they were bought with a price, he is talking about the price that Jesus paid to purchase them from their tyrannical master who is the devil, whom we have all sold ourselves to.
St. Peter has the same thought in mind when he writes to the church in Rome saying, “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Jesus uses His body to redeem your body. This does not set you free to do as you please. You do not belong to no one. You belong to God who has purchased you. Our life of faith is not a life of absolute, unqualified freedom. It is a life of slavery. But slavery under a new lord and master, a most gracious lord and master, a master who loves his servants so much that he humbles himself and becomes a servant to them, even to the point of laying down his life for them.
The Lord is for your body by redeeming you with His own body.
I am becoming more and more convinced that we are in deep need of a thorough review of a proper theology of the body, not only as it touches on issues of ‘sexual immorality,’ but also as it touches on issues ‘health care,’ ‘care for the elderly,’ and in the proper treatment of the body at death. I promise that we’ll take the time to cover these things in more depth.
But for now, let it be enough to simply say, “Flee sexual immorality.” “Glorify God in your body.”