“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”– 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
“It’s my body and I can do whatever I want with it!” How often have you heard this as an underlying reason for a person’s autonomy to make whatever health choice they want? I regularly hear this in my career as a physical therapist as a reason for individuals to make horrendous choices regarding their health that have real world implications. For instance, I care for many people that have Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and despite being given a plethora of cause and effect data regarding how to manage their disease with diet and exercise they continue to eat poorly and remain sedentary as the disease ravages their bodies. However, while most of my patients are not Christians, are we followers of Christ any different? Is there any reason or divine responsibility for us to take care of ourselves regarding our health or are we free to do whatever we want as long as it isn’t sin? My hope in this article is to give a biblical framework for how God views our bodies and the responsibility He has given to us.
The first thing we will need to do is set a biblical definition of what are bodies are in God’s eyes. To begin with we must first agree that who we are in our essence (our souls) is different from our bodies. We are a body/soul hybrid. Now before you start screaming “Gnostic heretic!” at me let me first explain. When we use language to describe ourselves we normally intermingle our first person descriptions of the body/soul union by using the pronouns “me” or “I”. However, if you were to say, lose a limb to amputation or get your haircut you would say “I lost my leg” or “ I cut my hair”. You immediately use juxtaposing language that shows your body is different than your soul. We all intrinsically know that our bodies are separate from our souls. I meet a lot of soldiers who have lost multiple limbs in battle and they are no less of a person because they no longer have legs, arms, hands, etc.
So where does this dualistic nature between our bodies and souls come from? I believe the Bible shows that it starts at conception and that the knowledge is built into us. In Psalm 139:13 David states:
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” God exclaims in Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
In Ephesians 2:10 Paul writes:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
And finally, in Genesis 2:7 it reads:
“…then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
All of these verses show the same thing. God has formed our bodies FOR us to be used BY us FOR Him. Now don’t just gloss over that because it is so key. I believe that the Bible shows throughout that God created each nucleic acid bond, each DNA strand, each cell, each organ and all the cumulative functional systems that make up our bodies as beautiful biological “machines” for our souls to inhabit during our time on Earth to be utilized for our good and God’s glory. David continues in Psalm 139 14-16: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
How wonderful are our bodies! If you operate in healthcare or have taken any anatomy and physiology or cell biology class you know how profoundly complex and simultaneously elegant we are. Take a look at this video I first saw in my cell biology class during PT school that shows a computer rendering of the common, every day happenings going on in just one of your millions of cells
You see brothers and sisters in Christ; God has made our bodies for us and given them to us for both our enjoyment and to glorify Him. Yet, you may be thinking “ Yeah Josh, I get that, but you don’t know how broken down my body is and how difficult things are.” This is where we add another element into the mix: sin. When Adam sinned the whole world was subjected to death and futility; including all of his biological offspring. Our bodies do not work how they were intended to nor are they immune to the sinful temptations that plague us every single day.
James 3:5-12 states “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” James here is obviously talking about our tongues which would include our vocal chords, larynx, naso-sinuses, lungs, diaphragm; all the necessary components our bodies use for vocalization also being complicit in sinning with our language.
Not only has sin eroded and destroyed our bodies but it has also subjected our bodies to special types of sin that God takes very seriously. Sexual sins (sins committed using the bodies given to us by God) seem to carry a heavy sentence of condemnation and repercussions. 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 says “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Now that we understand what our bodies are and how sin has corrupted it, we can now looks towards the solution: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As with all things in the Christian life, the Gospel is foundational. When we are placed in Christ through His redemption by grace through faith in His atoning work on the cross, we are made into new creations. We have a new mind, with new desires and aspirations. Yet, paradoxically, we still remain in our current broken bodies where we must deal with the effects of sin daily. Though while this is a present reality, we cannot lose hope, for the same Gospel that promises us a future inheritance also gives us motivation in this life. As Romans 8:8-11 boldly proclaims:
“Those who are in the flesh cannot please God .You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
Through the power of the Holy Spirit we can now please and glorify God with our heart, mind and bodies because we have been redeemed.
We have now established a few foundational principles regarding the theology of health and our bodies:
- Our bodies are made by God and given to us for our benefit and his Glory.
- We have a special mandate to steward our bodies in a way that glories God.
- Sin has profoundly affected our bodies.
- The answer to sin (even sin with our bodies) is found in the Gospel.
I pray that through this article you have been given a new insight into how special your body is and how important God takes its stewardship. My hope is that through this series you will contemplate how you can better glorify God with your body and how the choices you make with your body impact not only your relationship with Him but also your family, church and community.
Dr. Joshua Trock is a doctor of physical therapy with a home-based practice that focuses on geriatric disease management. Dr. Trock lives in San Antonio, Texas with his wife and daughter. He attends Wayside Chapel and enjoys reading theology, outdoor activities and discovering how to get the most out of the amazing bodies God has blessed us with.