Who can resist the allure of a baby, especially in his first year of life? The frantic, helpless cry of a newborn needing comfort but not knowing how to express what he wants. The look of awe as a little one gazes at his hand, having just discovered that it is attached to him. The giggles and laughs as a 6 month old chortles his joy as his dad tickles his tummy. The dogged determination as the child discovers how to turn over, to sit, to crawl, to stand, to walk. The funny little grin of amazed discovery as he plunges his little hand right into a bowl of oatmeal and squishes all that wonderful gooey stuff through his fingers. The endearing hugs and kisses; laughs and tears; waves and words; as he learns to show affection to others and communicate with the world around him. The baby is overwhelmingly occupied with his body—how it feels, and how he can make it do the things he sees others doing. He experiments and explores; he tries and fails and tries again until he succeeds; and by his first birthday he has accomplished amazing feats of physical development. This is a time when he is completely focused on the physical reality of life—his bodily development now is key to his future success as he advances from the toddler stage to adulthood.
Throughout our lives we are intimately aware of our bodies. We know what they are capable of (or not!); we know what makes them feel good as well as what hurts. As young adults we may think or act like our bodies are invincible, but we soon discover the aging process as wrinkles appear, things start wearing out, and all of a sudden we can’t move a fast as we used to. We may not want to face it, but we also understand that death is an eventual certainty unless Jesus returns first. Most of us could bore others to tears either with tales of our physical prowess or our most recent malady. Yes, our bodies are a huge part of our physical reality; they are the part of our being that experiences the five senses, allowing us to comprehend the world around us. They are so very familiar that in our pursuit of spiritual things we may take them for granted at times, focusing instead on the soul and the spirit. Or, alternatively, we may become obsessed with our bodies and ignore everything else for a variety of reasons—for example, we may be so concerned about our appearance that we constantly chase after the newest treatment to maintain our youthful looks. Or, illness may distract us as we spend an inordinate amount of time seeking relief and health. Regardless of our experience, God has a lot to say about our bodies so let’s take a look, perhaps from a slightly different angle than usual.
Before we even look at the body in a personal sense it’s importance to God is evident in the way it is used in a more universal sense, referring to the church as the body of Christ, And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence…I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church. (Colossians 1:18, 24)
It becomes even more obvious that God considers our bodies to be very special as we read the beautiful words of Psalm 139:13-16 which tells how he lovingly hand crafted each and every one of us. For you formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. (Psalm 139: 13-16) How often do we read these verses without stopping to contemplate the enormity of what they say? How often do we complain about the things we don’t like about our bodies instead of praising God that we are unique and perfectly designed masterpieces of the Creator? Many years ago I wrote in the back of my Bible a quote from an unremembered source, “God made you exactly the way you are because he wants to spend eternity with someone exactly like you.” I must admit I haven’t always remembered those words but have, like many others, fallen into the trap of wishing I could change things about myself at times. But the bottom line is that while our bodies are obviously essential—in fact, you might say we can’t live without them—our lives are not to revolve around the physical needs of the body. Jesus himself said, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:25 & 33) OK, bodies are vital but we’re not to obsess about them, so how are they to be viewed and used? What is their purpose?
David must have understood that our bodies were created to be in relationship with God when he wrote, “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1) And Proverbs 3:5-9 instructs us to Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.
But let’s go back and start at the beginning. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth… God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Gen 1:26-28 & 31a) The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7) So, what conclusions can be drawn about our bodies as originally intended by God?
• Our bodies are physical entities, formed of the dust of the earth by God and brought to life by his own breath.
• We are not descended from other forms of life as various evolutionary theories would have us believe but, in fact, were created in God’s image and given the responsibility of ruling over those same animals, and indeed, over the entire earth.
• The male and female bodies were designed to come together and reproduce—to have a multitude of children who would inhabit a perfect world.
• That we were made in God’s image implies we were meant to look like him— perhaps like a sculpture, painting or photograph that portrays an original; or maybe as a mirror image in which the reflection is identical to the real.
But wait—how can we know what God looks like? Does he have hands and feet; a nose, mouth, and ears? Some might argue that it’s impossible to know—after all, how can we be certain? We can look to Jesus.
Jesus is identified both as the Creator and as a man with a physical body, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-3,14) And this man, Jesus—the Creator; the Word; God—said, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him…He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:7 & 9b) It follows that, since it is His image in which we were created, we do resemble Him in our bodies.
God’s original plan was for people to dwell in communion with Him on the earth that He had just created and declared to be good—to enjoy His company as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately, that perfect plan was soon corrupted when Adam and Eve chose to sin in their bodies by eating the forbidden fruit, thus wreaking havoc not only upon themselves but upon all succeeding generations, as death made an entrance and God declared, “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread. Till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17b-19)
Life in the body as we know it now began not only with the curse of physical death, but also with a curse upon the very ground we walk on, so that throughout all the days of our lives we must struggle to survive. Evidence of the impact of sin appeared swiftly with men using their bodies to dishonor God; committing such acts as murder, rape, adultery, theft, lying, idolatry and on and on. Indeed, only six chapters into the Bible we see that the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. (Genesis 6:5) And as sin increased, various forms of infirmity soon began eating away at the bodies God had intended to live forever—leprosy, blindness, deafness, boils, infectious diseases, chronic wounds, itching, lameness; and again, the list goes on.1 None of us are exempt—all of us have suffered illness of one kind or another and all of us have sinned with our bodies. So what are we to do? Like Paul, we may cry, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” It’s a valid question, and fortunately one that has a good answer. [Jesus] who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24) Time and again, we see that when we ask a question, Jesus is the answer, and it was his body that was physically tortured and killed in a plot designed by evil to keep mankind enslaved forever; it was his body that carried our sins to the grave; it was his body that was resurrected, providing us with hope, healing and a path to the redemption of our own bodies.
There are many questions and many belief systems regarding the body, and in particular, the resurrection of the body, and much has been written about the subject, so let’s just keep it simple. Paul urged us to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith2 as our example, for now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22) It’s important to note that Jesus was not the first to ever rise from the dead—in fact he called Lazarus back to life before he ever experienced death himself 3—but he was the first man who’s resurrected body would never die again and this is what makes him our firstfruit; and our example. Looking to Him then, we see some interesting aspects regarding His resurrected body.
• He was changed; transformed in some way that caused Him to be unrecognizable by those to whom he had not revealed himself; as in his appearances to Mary Magdalene and the two men on the road to Emmaus. 4
• He was not limited by physical barriers, as evidenced when he suddenly appeared in the room with his followers. It appears he could come and go at will, regardless of closed doors or walls. 5
• His body was tangible—physical—as evidenced by eating food. 6
• His body still bore the scars of his crucifixion, which implies that he didn’t have a brand new body but a perfectly restored and resurrected original. 7
• He ascended in his body to heaven. 8
• This same Jesus, in his body, will return again. 9
Even so, we remain with many questions. Does this mean our resurrected bodies will have the same characteristics? Will we be able to suddenly appear wherever we wish? If we have the same body, what will it look like? Will it be young or old? Will it carry scars? How can a body that has already turned back to dust be raised to become the same body it was at its demise? The fact remains that until we experience our own resurrection we will always have questions so perhaps our best approach is to agree with the Apostle John; 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) We don’t need to have all of the answers—just knowing that God has them allows us to continue on in faith, for our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)
Perhaps a word of caution should be injected here. While the wonders of eternal life in a resurrected body are available to all, they will not be received by all. It’s unfortunate, but many will not heed the instruction of Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” A terrible fate, of which many are hesitant to speak, awaits those who choose to reject Christ Jesus. But even before we reach our final destination of either eternal life with Christ or eternal damnation in Hell, our
bodies can be inhabited by spiritual beings, good or evil. Numerous biblical accounts tell us of demonic oppression, but how much better to choose righteousness, and to be filled by the presence of the Holy Spirit—how much better for our bodies to display evidence of God as the believers did at Pentecost—how much better for our bodies to manifest the fruit of the Spirit as we operate in the gifts of the Spirit! 10
So, what do we have so far? In the beginning God created man in His image and said it was good, but Adam and Eve sinned and our bodies were cursed with death. Then Jesus, the perfectly sinless Son of God, came in bodily form; lived and died, taking our sins upon his body; was resurrected and spent 40 days with his followers; and now lives eternally in a glorified and transformed body, thus becoming the firstfruit and making the redemption of our bodies possible. That takes care of the beginning and the end, but what about the in between where we now exist? God’s word gives us a lot of direction. We may be temporarily confined to bodies that are subject to the effects of sin—disease, destruction and death—but God still has a plan, and he has graciously let us in on it.
It is of utmost importance that we internalize the truth of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. It’s not uncommon for us to take great care of those things that are important to us—homes, cars, toys—because they are of value; they were expensive in terms of time, effort or money and we don’t want them damaged. But how often we forget the cost Jesus paid to allow us to be the dwelling place of the Spirit of the Living God. The more we comprehend the enormity of what He’s done for us, the more we want to honor Him in our bodies, and the more seriously we take scriptures such as:
• Proverbs 13:3—He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.
• Psalm 47:1—Oh, clap your hand, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph.
• Ecclesiastes 9:10—Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.
• Matthew 13:9—He who has ears to hear, let him listen.
• Romans 6:12—Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.
• Romans 10:9-10—that that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
• 1 Corinthians 6:18—Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.
• 1 Corinthians 9:27—But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
• Philippians 1:19-20—For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.
What was that last phrase? …so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. That sounds good, but what does it look like? Perhaps a few examples will help us understand more clearly.
Moses and the Israelites sang. Miriam and the women with her danced as they celebrated the deliverance of the LORD at the Red Sea. King David leapt and danced with abandoned joy in the streets of Jerusalem at the return of the ark from the Philistines. 10
Let’s take a look at Joseph—a handsome and gifted young man who was much loved by his dad and abused by his ten older brothers because they were so jealous. They thought about killing him but decided to dump him in a cistern until some Midianite merchants came by and they sold him into slavery. Hauled off to Egypt, he served in the house of Potiphar, the Captain of Pharaoh’s guard. There, his master’s wife tried to seduce him, but he refused her advances and ran away. Falsely accused, he was thrown into prison, but God was with him and he remained faithful to Him while, at the same time, earning the trust of the jailer and interpreting dreams for some of his prison mates. He asked one of them to mention his case to Pharaoh, but the man quickly forgot and Joseph remained locked away for two more years until Pharaoh had a dream and was desperate to know its meaning. The former prisoner remembered, and Joseph was brought to interpret the dream, gave an accurate word from the LORD, and was made second in command over all of Egypt. Joseph knew the truth—that God is a restorer of those who seek him. He knew what it meant to glorify him in his body, regardless of the suffering that was imposed upon it. 11 And finally, reunited with his brothers, Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” (Genesis 50:19-21)
Or how about Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? Young men ripped from their homes and taken into slavery in Babylon, they were selected for special service to King Nebuchadnezzar. During their three years of training and preparation, they were determined to honor God in their bodies and convinced the guard to serve them nothing but vegetables and water, rather than the rich food and wine from the king’s table. The result was that they surpassed all others in terms of wisdom and understanding, with the king finding them to be ten times better than all of the magicians and enchanters throughout his whole kingdom. Also, as time went on, each man was presented with the demand that they abandon their faith in God and worship the king or suffer the consequences. The results of those threats are well known—who hasn’t heard of the three men who survived the fiery furnace without even the smell of smoke on their bodies; or the account of Daniel in the lion’s den where his body was kept safe and well throughout an entire night, in great contrast to his accusers whose bodies were crushed before they even touched the floor.12
And then there’s John the Baptist who was beheaded for his faith? And we can’t forget Stephen who, as he was stoned to death, cried out to God for the forgiveness of his murderers. Certainly his example must have impacted a young man named Saul who stood by and watched over the clothing of the killers—a young man we know today as the Apostle Paul. 13
The list goes on and on as we examine the lives of biblical people who conducted themselves in such a way that attention was drawn to God; in such a way that He was magnified in them, whether in life or in death. Oh, but they were different—they were Bible heroes—some might argue. No, they were just ordinary people, very much like us, who undoubtedly had no clue of the impact their stand for righteousness would have upon the world.
The way we use our bodies matters. We can honor God by making wise choices in regard to what we watch, read and listen to, as well as to the activities in which we participate. We can bless others with the words of our mouth or we can destroy them with gossip. We can treat people with kindness; or strike out with violence and cause injury. The choices we make every day as to how we will use our bodies are not to be taken lightly, for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
Remember the baby whose life revolves around his body? Such actions are necessary and appropriate for a time, but we cannot remain babes forever—we must grow up. Let us not be slow to learn like those to whom Paul wrote, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14) Rather, let us follow the example set for us by our LORD who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:7-10)
1See Leviticus 19:14 & 21:8; Deuteronomy 28:27; 1 Samuel 5:6; 2 Kings 5:27; Job 2:7; Mark 9:17-22
2 Hebrews 12:2
3 John 11:43
4 John 20:10-18; Luke 24:13-35
5 Luke 24:36
6 Luke 24:41-42
7 Luke 24:37-40
8 Acts 1:1-9
9 Acts 1:10-11
10 Mark 7:24-30; Luke 8:26-39; Acts 2; Galatians 5:22; 1 Corinthians 12-14
11 Exodus 15; 2 Samuel 6:12-19
12 Genesis 39-41
13 Daniel 1,3,6
14 Matthew 14:1-12; Acts 7:54-60