A Biblical View of the Body

ltbSo glorify God in your body. 
— 1 Corinthians 6:20 —

Last night our church discussed the book Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality by Nancy Pearcey. I cannot stress how important this book is.

In a room of 30 church-going men and women, few could remember a time when a pastor or church had taught a series on the body. Most instead reflected on the way churches have focused on the soul/spirit to the neglect of the body. Though Scripture has much to say about creation and God’s view of the body, many in the church have been fed a diet of Gnostic wisdom.

Gnosticism is the ancient philosophy that denigrated the material world and the body. It valued the spirit, the mind, the soul; it rejected the material as impure and unholy. Probably more by accident than intention, evangelicals have followed this way of thinking. We have not done a good job teaching a positive view of the body, and we must look to Pope John Paul II to find a robust theology of the body.

In a hyper-confused world that denies the significance of the body, Christians need to give attention to the body. This is why Love Thy Body is so needed, as it tackles all sorts of subjects related to the body. It gives a grid (Francis Schaeffer’s Upper Story and Lower Story House) for understanding why so many hate the body. And it helps Christians to embrace a unified worldview that appreciates the material and immaterial part of mankind. For all these reasons, I would recommend Pearcey’s book.

I would also encouraged believers to arm themselves with Scripture that speaks about the body. To that end, I share this four-fold list. Following the pattern of creation-fall-redemption-resurrection, it gives a number of key texts for appreciating what Scripture says about the body.

Take time to read these verses and what they mean for your body. I am not including any commentary on the verses, but let me encourage you to think about how they give us a realistic and comprehensive view of the body. Continue reading

A Brief Meditation on the Minister’s Rest

farmerWhen I lived in Indiana I was surrounded by fields and farmers. From spring planting to fall harvesting, these men and women worked hard to bring fruit from the soil. As Paul indicates in 2 Timothy 2:6, “It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.” In Paul’s day, like ours, farmers are known for their hard work. The same is true for those who sow and water with the word of God. Like the farmer, early mornings, long nights, and constant concern for the Lord’s harvest are a heavy burden.

Fortunately, God gives seasons to farmers. In the winter months, hard-working farmers receive a time of rest and recovery. But at the same time, these hard-working farmers take time to plan for the next year, for the increase of the harvest. I remember talking to them in the winter months as they would be making their seed orders, learning more about new techniques, and equipping themselves with the latest machinery. Sure, there were trips to the beach, holiday celebrations, and the ability to take an afternoon nap. But far more, these men and women spent their time preparing for the upcoming harvest.

This imagery is helpful when we think about a sabbatical. In the Old Testament, Israel was commanded to take a sabbatical from the land every seven years (Exodus 23:10–11). Following in the footsteps of their heavenly father (Genesis 2:1–3), they were called to rest. Rest in the Bible is never a time of inactivity or lethargy. Rather it is a time when God and his people enjoy one another. Such is the background for ministers of the gospel who occasionally take a season of rest and refreshment. The goal is not to pull away from the church, the Lord, or his work. But rather, it is a time of reflection, rest, and refreshment for future ministry.

Indeed, Charles Spurgeon spoke of the necessity for “holy inaction and consecrated leisure.” In his Lectures to My Students, the London pastor said,

It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less. On, on, on for ever, without recreation may suit spirits emancipated from this ‘heavy clay’, but while we are in this tabernacle, we must every now and then cry halt, and serve the Lord by holy inaction and consecrated leisure. Let no tender conscience doubt the lawfulness of going out of harness for a while.” (161)

This principle of rest is true for all Christians, and especially those who labor to feed and tend the flock.

Personally, rest is a difficult practice for me. That being said I am growing to see my need to schedule “holy inaction” and “consecrated leisure.” Though my go-go-go mentality fights against it, taking time to periodically unstring the bow and sharpen the axe does not steal away from productivity. It actually does the opposite—it ensures that I trust in God to give the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7), even as I labor in the strength he provides (Colossians 1:28–29). Yes, he gives spiritual strength, but such grace is not divorced from our responsibility to care for our physical body’s.

While the work of the ministry is a spiritual endeavor, it is not immaterial. Lest we deny our own created-ness or become neo-Platonists who pit the spirit against the flesh, we must learn how to pace ourselves as we run God’s race. This includes scheduling physical rest, sometimes even a prolonged sabbatical like we recently gave to one of the pastors at our church. Because we are vessels of clay, we must establish a rhythm of work and rest, lest we invite physical exhaustion and spiritual/emotional collapse.

Therefore, as we strive to abide in his rest (Hebrews 4:11), may God grant us strength through the appointed means of holy inaction and the spiritual discipline of consecrated rest. May we find Sabbath rest in Christ (Hebrews 3–4) and take time to let our physical bodies recover for more fruitful service.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

‘Body Language’ in 1 Corinthians

body languageE. Earl Ellis summarizes his article on “Soma in First Corinthians” (Interpretation, 44 no 2 Apr 1990, pp 132–144) by saying,

Paul’s concept of the “body,” so obscure for our modern way of thinking, nevertheless underlies the whole of his theology, and is decisive for understanding Paul’s teaching on ethics, sacraments, ministry, and the Christian hope. (132)

In this article he shows how ‘body’ is a significant concept in 1 Corinthians and in all Paul’s writings. Indeed, in our body-obsessed culture we need to recapture a biblical theology of the body. Ellis’s article is a helpful starting point.

Applied to the church, the term soma (“body”) is a significant metaphor (see 1 Corinthians 12:12–26) that informs the whole letter. As I argued in my sermon yesterday (“Body Life in Christ’s Household: An Overview of 1 Corinthians“), to be a member in Christ’s church is to fundamentally change the way we think about the body. Whereas the unbeliever is dead in their union with Adam (Romans 5:12–14, 18–19; 1 Corinthians 15:22), the child of God is made alive in Christ and baptized into his body (1 Corinthians 12:12–13). The implications of this union for ecclesiology—the doctrine and practice of the church—are manifold.

Following the content of 1 Corinthians we might say that when the modern individual is gripped by the reality of their union with Christ and his body, it produces unity and knocks down divisions (ch. 1–4); it produces holiness and empowers purity (ch. 5–7); it motivates love and self-sacrifice (ch. 8–11); and it builds the body in love (ch. 12–14) because individual members use their spiritual gifts for the common good of others (12:7) and not for themselves (14:4). Most significantly, when believers live self-conscious of their place in God’s body, they are ready to deny self and live in love, holiness, and unity with their brothers and sisters in Christ. In short, they display the resurrection power of God to raise the dead to manifest life as Christ’s body.

Next time you read 1 Corinthians keep an eye out for Paul’s body language. It unites the whole book. And provides a powerful antidote against selfishness and a motivation to live for the glory of God in all things.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

 

Christ’s Resurrection Confers Glory Upon Shameful Sinners (1 Corinthians 15:35-49)

gloryThis post wraps up a three-part meditation from our Resurrection Sunday Sunrise Service (part 1 and part 2).

The last thing to see about Christ’s resurrection is how God confers glory upon those who do not deserve it. In fact, this is again the difference between Adam and Christ: The first was created to glorify God, but failed. He led the human race into shame. By contrast, Jesus came into the world in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom 8:3). He took the form of a servant (Phil 2:5-8) and died shamefully so that he might arise gloriously and confer glory to all those who rise with him. Continue reading