What Does God Say About Our Bodies?
Some mistakenly think that God only cares about our spiritual well-being and the condition of our souls. In making this false assumption, they minimize or completely ignore the great significance Scripture places on God’s concern for and interest in our bodies. In New Testament times, many Greeks believed the body was evil—a type of prison from which death would bring welcome deliverance. Some concluded that since physical life on earth was temporary, what they did with their bodies was really of no significance. It was a radical idea to them that God’s eternal plan and purpose would not just involve the immortal soul, but would also include their bodies. This is exactly what is revealed in the New Testament.
While we are not to worship our bodies or focus exclusively on the physical and material dimensions of life, the Bible has some tremendously positive things to say about the purpose and significance of our physical bodies. Consider the following powerful scriptural principles:
1. We are to love our bodies.
Some have thought that they should hate and despise their bodies. For example, certain ascetic groups throughout history have advocated self-flagellation and abusing their bodies as a form of attaining greater spirituality. Some would put dirt or ashes in their food to make sure they did not enjoy eating it. However, the New Testament does not promote this type of behavior. Instead, Paul teaches:
So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.
Something is wrong with our perception and thinking if we hate or desire to harm our bodies. Before Jesus set him free, the profoundly tormented man described in Mark’s Gospel was “always shrieking and screaming and beating and bruising and cutting himself with stones” (Mark 5:5, AMP). A healthy person who understands his body is a gift from God desires to care for and nurture it, not to damage it. Scripture teaches we are to love our bodies.
2. Our bodies are to be presented as offerings to God.
Paul teaches clearly that our bodies are to be expressions of worship to God.
ROMANS 12:1 (NIV)
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
Paul had shared a similar thought earlier in the same letter.
ROMANS 6:13 (GW)
Never offer any part of your body to sin’s power. No part of your body should ever be used to do any ungodly thing. Instead, offer yourselves to God as people who have come back from death and are now alive. Offer all the parts of your body to God. Use them to do everything that God approves of.
Countless times, preachers have issued the invitation, “Give your heart to Jesus.” I understand their intent. When they use the term heart, they are essentially inviting people to surrender their lives to God from the core of their being.” Who can find fault with that? But at the same time, is it possible that preachers have inadvertently communicated that God is interested in the souls of people while seemingly disregarding the claim that God makes concerning the whole person? God’s plan is for the entirety of who we are—not just one part of us. That’s why Paul writes the following to another group of believers:
1 THESSALONIANS 5:23
Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.
3. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.
Again, the teaching Scripture is explicit and clear. Paul writes:
1 CORINTHIANS 6:19-20 (NLT)
Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
In the Old Testament, the temple was built according to a divine pattern and was the habitation of God. It was the place where God walked, a place of holiness and peace. It was a place of strength and beauty, and a place where God’s glory was revealed and poured out. Shouldn’t our bodies—which are now God’s temple—be viewed and treated as the same?
4. Our bodies are vessels.
A vessel is a container (such as a pitcher) into which something is poured for some use. It can also refer to a boat that carries cargo or passengers. It might be argued that the contents of a vessel are what matters the most, but without the vessel, the treasure inside of it can never be delivered. The Apostle Paul teaches that we (our bodies) are treasure vessels. He writes:
2 CORINTHIANS 4:7
We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
2 TIMOTHY 2:21 (ESV)
If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
It is important that we not despise the vessel. It is what enables the “contents” to be present and to be delivered. We have the gospel and the glory of God inside of us, but without our bodies, they cannot be expressed in the earth.
5. Our bodies are resurrection seeds.
Some think that our bodies are temporary, and in a certain sense they are. However, in another very real sense, because of the resurrection, our bodies (in their transformed and glorified state) will be very much eternal.
1 CORINTHIANS 15:39-42 (MSG)
Just as there are different kinds of seeds, there are different kinds of bodies—humans, animals, birds, fish—each unprecedented in its form. You get a hint at the diversity of resurrection glory by looking at the diversity of bodies not only on earth but in the skies—sun, moon, stars—all these varieties of beauty and brightness. And we’re only looking at pre-resurrection “seeds”—who can imagine what the resurrection “plants” will be like! This image of planting a dead seed and raising a live plant is a mere sketch at best, but perhaps it will help in approaching the mystery of the resurrection body—but only if you keep in mind that when we’re raised, we’re raised for good, alive forever!
Because our bodies, in this sense, are eternal, what we do with our bodies now really does matter. Many years ago, B. F. Wescott wrote:
The moral significance of such a doctrine as the Resurrection of the body cannot be over-rated. Both personally and socially it places the sanctions if not the foundations of morality on new ground. Each sin against the body is no longer a stain on that which is itself doomed to perish, but a defilement of that which is consecrated to an eternal life.
God values our bodies enough to ultimately resurrect them, transform them, and glorify them. If he values our bodies that much, then we should respect them, care for them as best we can, and honor God with them.