The church has often emphasized the soul to the exclusion of, or the minimizing of, the body. As a result, neglecting the body is sometimes seen as a virtue or a mark of super-spirituality. One pastor explained his struggle with this to me:
Somewhere along the way I equated recreation with worldliness. If it wasn’t directly advancing the Kingdom I didn’t need to be doing it. I secretly thought that God would look down and see that I was taking ministry so seriously that he would bless me. But I wasn’t living like a human being. I didn’t realize how much I needed these things. I needed to experience beauty and creativity. I needed to enjoy God’s gifts without guilt. It was a matter of survival.
He’s right. And such errors can be defeated only with truth, with the Bible’s theology of the body. Yes, the Bible does have a theology of the body, much of it is contained in 1 Corinthians 6:9-20:
1. Your body is damaged by sin (vv. 9-11).
Though sin begins in our souls, we sin in and with our bodies. That’s why Paul begins his Body Theology by confessing the sin that damages and even destroys our bodies.
2. Your body is saved by God (v. 11).
“And such were some of you” (past tense). You were that—but you are now this. You were defiled, damaged, destroyed, but now you are washed, sanctified, justified. Yes, we can take our dirty, damaged, dying bodies and souls to God, and he sets his Son and Spirit to work on them. This is a full-body and full-soul salvation.
3. Your body remains vulnerable (v. 12).
Although he knows he has experienced a body-and-soul salvation, the apostle is conscious of his remaining spiritual and physical weakness and vulnerability. Many things are permissible, but he doesn’t want to hinder his re-creation by doing what is not beneficial or helpful. He is not free from the need for daily discipline of his bodily appetites.
4. Your body is for the Lord (vv. 13-14).
The apostle replaces a false slogan the Corinthians were using to abuse their bodies—“foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods”—with a true slogan to bless their bodies: “The body is . . . for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”
“The body is for the Lord.” God has given each of us a body to give back to him. He did not give us a body so that we can give it to anybody and everybody in immoral sexual relations. He did not give us a body so that we can give it to overwork or sloth. He gave us a body to give back to him. The body is for the Lord.
“The Lord is for the body”. He made it, cares for it, and maintains an eternal interest in it. He even took on a body and suffered in a body, and rose again in a body. He has a body to this day. The Lord is for the body. This is not of minor importance. Our future resurrection shows how much honor God puts on the body and how much we should honor in the meantime what he will honor for all time.
5. Your body is a member of Christ (vv. 15-17).
Yes, our souls are members of Christ’s body. But so are our bodies! And that has huge implications for how we view and treat them. When my father was a dentist, he told me that by looking at a person’s teeth, he could tell how much money that person earned and whether he was in good overall health! One little part of the body revealed so much about the whole person. Paul is using this reality to motivate all members of Christ’s body to view and treat their bodies as revealing something positive or negative about Christ.
6. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (vv. 18-19).
Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Menards are always busy, thanks to people repairing, upgrading, and beautifying their homes. No one is buying tools and equipment to damage or destroy their homes. And yet, are we damaging or even destroying the Holy Spirit’s home by our overactivity or inactivity
7. Your body was bought with a price (v. 20).
How would you respond if I said to you: “Could you take a bit more care of my back, please? You’re not sitting very well in your chair, and I don’t want my back to suffer a herniated or prolapsed disc!” Or what would you say if I interrupted your ice cream with: “Do you think you could eat a bit less sugar and a bit more whole wheat? It’s really much better for my stomach.”
You might well respond: “Who do you think you are?” “What right do you have to tell me what to do with my body?” or “What do you mean by your back and your stomach? They’re mine, not yours.”
I then answer: “Actually, you are not your own. You don’t own your body. I’m your body’s owner. I bought your body a few weeks back, and I’m just taking care of what’s mine.”
That’s really what God is saying here through Paul: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. Therefore, please take much more care of my body.” And the more we calculate the price paid for our bodies by the precious blood of Christ, the more we sense an obligation to our new owner. We’ve been bought with a price. We are not our own.
Therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (v. 20). Paul’s argument is: God created us body and soul and redeemed us, body and soul, so we are to serve him body and soul. Our souls and bodies are his and for his glory. That should make a difference on how we view them and treat them.
David Murray (@davidpmurray) is the author of Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (2017), The Happy Christian (2015), Jesus on Every Page (2013), and Christians Get Depressed Too (2010). Married with five children, he is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Seminary and Pastor of Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church. He blogs at headhearthand.org.
This post is adapted from Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture by David Murray. Used with permission from Crossway.