Looking at the Scriptural Support for Nurturing Your Body

Keith KettenringBible Insights, Christian Living, The Uncommon Journey2 Comments

Having come to the conviction that God is everywhere present and filling all things, Randy sat with Pastor Bill at lunch where they randomly talked about what they were eating.

Randy: “I sometimes wonder if I’m too casual about what I put into my body. After all, isn’t this the place where God lives?”

Pastor Bill: “I don’t think you need to be concerned about food. God dwells in your heart and soul. They are all that matter.”

Randy: “I hear you but I’m not so sure they are all that matter….super-important for sure. I was reading 1 Corinthians 6 the other day where Paul challenges us to glorify God with our body and spirit because the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It seems that the body is important, too.”

Pastor Bill: “I’ve seen too many people get overly concerned with their bodies to the point where how they look and feel takes priority over their relationship with God. I’m not buying it.”

Randy: “Of course, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m wondering since we have a body, shouldn’t it be used as a vehicle to honor God like everything else we have? Shouldn’t it be as pure and clean and devoted to God as all the rest of our stuff is supposed to be?”

Pastor Bill: “You may be on to something. But, I still get a bit antsy about too much focus on the body. People go crazy with that stuff – diets, slaving away at the gym, skipping church to run marathons, and even saying essential oils are the cure for all ailments. It gets crazy.”

Randy: “For sure! Yet, I wonder if there’s a way to not to go crazy and with our body and soul live a healthier relationship with God. I’ve seen a whole lot of really overweight and unhealthy Christians claiming to follow Jesus as Lord who eat crappy food and too much of it. Honestly, I’m one of them. Something’s got to be done.”

Pastor Bill: “A little judgmental, Randy? You’ve just gone to meddlin’…too convicting. Let’s get back to our Quarter Pounder and fries before they get too cold.”

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There is more and more evidence that our bodies play a pivotal role in our relationship with God. For Christians, there is loads of evidence from scripture about God’s concern for our bodies and our need to learn the body’s significance to godly living. Today, we’ll look at Scripture which highlight the importance of the body to our overall spiritual life.

Though the Father, Son, and Spirit at one time did not possess bodies, they knew it was necessary for the salvation of humanity to incarnate the Son not only to redeem the human soul and body but to demonstrate what being truly human looks like. When the time was right, God the Son came to earth taking on a body like yours from the flesh of the Virgin. He became like mankind so that mankind could become like Him. That is salvation. And, it took a body to do it.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ

To become like Christ always means a body has to do it.

In other words, you can’t simply have good or accurate thoughts about Jesus to become like Him. You can’t only think your way into Christlikeness.

Neither is Christlikeness solely a matter of spiritual formation or soul-care. As important as spirit and soul are to our journey in Christ (and they are essential!), God has also sanctified our bodies to be essential instruments for godliness.

Let’s read what He says about our human bodies and how our bodies have been designed as a place for the Trinity to do a beautiful work on earth.

The eye is the lamp of the body  (Matthew 6.22)

What we do physically with our eyes affects our bodies. You know that’s true. What you watch on TV or your computer screen can arouse hunger or a desire for sex. Our passions are stirred by what we see.

Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. (Romans 6.13)

This verse is clear. Every part of the body is to be given to God for godly living. Offering the hands, feet, brain, eyes, and ears seem obvious, though we all struggle with using them for righteousness. But what about our muscles, physical heart, arteries/blood vessels, cells, DNA, skin, mouth (tongue, teeth), liver, sex organs, bones, voice, face, lungs, and hormones? If God had control of these parts of our body, what a radical difference it would make in how we eat, move, relate, rest, think, deal with stress, work, do leisure, and develop habits.

I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.  (Romans 12.1)

We may think of worship primarily around what happens when we’re at church or at home in prayer. But here we discover that worship involves giving up our whole body – every part and faculty – at all times, in sacrifice and surrender, fully devoted and well-pleasing to God. It’s for God that we “live, move, and have our being.” Period. No exception. By God’s mercy. Everything you do (eat, exercise, sleep, drive, work, breathe) is either an act of worship towards the One True, Triune God or towards some other lesser god.

“Everything is permissible for me” – but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me” – but I will not be mastered by anything. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food” – but God will destroy them both. The body…is meant for the Lord, and the Lord for the body…Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?… Do you not know that your body is a temple 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 body. (1 Corinthians 6.12-20)

Read that again. What insights are we given about the body from St. Paul’s Spirit-inspired words? 1) God is to be in command of what you do with your body. 2) Though given the freedom to eat or act as you will, remember, your body is God’s possession. 3) Your body is literally a part of Christ’s body. 4) Your body is the sacred temple where the Holy Trinity dwells. 5) You are not free to do whatever you want with your body. 6) Your body is designed as a vehicle of “doxology” – your bodily being and every physical component is for the expressed purpose of honoring God. I fear we are far from realizing these truths. We function as self-governing beings casually uncontrolled in satisfying our own comforts and desires. No wonder we are undernourished yet overfed, self-satisfied yet stressed, surviving yet not thriving, relaxing yet not rested. We cannot violate God’s design for the body yet expect good physical results.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9.24-27)

Here is St. Paul’s strategy for obtaining an everlasting crown: 1) Live life (run and fight) with a specific purpose and 2) Discipline (train, control, “pummel,” crush) the body into submission and obedience. Wow! If that’s what it took for Paul, how about you and me? Our body is not to rule over us; we are to have charge over it. Isn’t it easy to give in to what our body wants – comfort, food, pleasure, attention, and ease? The great ones take another path of intentional struggle, challenge, discipline, and training. Apparently, these bodily efforts are necessary for eternal fulfillment.

But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” …There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another…So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable;…it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body…And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven… (1 Corinthians 15.35-58)

This is a long and complex passage. However, we can glean these truths about the body when resurrected: 1) You will have a body at your resurrection, 2) As glorious as your earthly body is, your heavenly body will be even more glorious, 3) At the resurrection, your natural body will be transformed into a spiritual body – but still a body, 4) Your body is not extinguished at the resurrection but is transformed. My point: the body is so important that it will be ours all through eternity. Thus, care for it now.

Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the Church… (Ephesians 5.28-29)

Properly feeding and caring for our bodies is related to Christ’s care for his Church. Think about Christ’s faithful, sacrificial and compassionate nurture of His own body, the Church, and compare that to how you nurture your body. Even more pointedly, a married man is to care for his body as a way of loving his wife. You can say “I love you” by getting good exercise, eating wholesome food in moderate amounts, sleeping well, dealing effectively with stress, and fostering life-giving relationships. I promise, your wife will respect and love you more when you do this. Words are needed. But, actions like caring for your body, for her sake, speak volumes.

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me…  (Philippians 1.20-22)

St. Paul is debating whether it is better that he remain in his body on earth or die and gain eternity. Either way, he says, “Christ will be exalted in my body.” He sets a lofty bar for all of us. In our body, Jesus Christ is to be gloriously displayed. Yipes! So, here’s a difficult question: When people look at your body do they see Jesus Christ? I’m not even sure what that means or how that might happen. However, developing a body in which Christ’s presence is amplified to those around us, is worth exploring diligently.

…men live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their appetites, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who…will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.  (Philippians 3.18-21)

One characteristic of the enemies of Christ is that they worship their appetites. Sad to say, I think many Christians struggle with this as well. And I’m not just talking about food, though food might be the primary culprit. We struggle with controlling any kind of appetite – pleasure, greed, wealth, attention, laziness, envy, control, or self-satisfaction. Is St. Paul also teaching us that our “glorious body” will not be controlled by these appetite gods? How wonderful will that be. Yet, like so much of the Christian journey, what we deeply long for in eternity can become ours now to some degree.

Train yourself to be godly, for physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy statement deserving full attention. (1 Timothy 4.7-8)

St. Paul does not dismiss physical training as wrong or a waste of time. He supports it as having “some value.” Some might say that exercise of any kind is useless…”What’s the point?” The Apostle seems to think its value is only surpassed by training for godliness. I believe one can lead to the other and that they are synergistic in reality. In other words, when done properly, physical and spiritual training can be unified in developing you into a godly person. This is not an “either/or” situation – either train for godliness or train for physical health. No! Both are important to becoming the person God designed you to be.

For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.  (James 2.26)

Dynamic faith involves faith and works. Dynamic living involves both body and spirit. The body is necessary for true life. When the body is hitting on all cylinders, life has the potential to be full. You’ve probably known what it’s like to have the body break down and experience a less full existence.

Since Christ suffered for us in his body, arm yourselves with the same mind for he who has suffered in the body has ceased from sin.  (1 Peter 4.1)

Suffering in the body is an essential means to deal with sin. When our body is hurting or stressed, we learn much about our passions, like impatience, gluttony, pride, greed, anger, and laziness. That’s why the Apostle Peter instructs us to (lit.) “arm yourself in mind” with suffering. We are to develop a perpetual understanding, a settled way of thinking, that bodily suffering is normal and necessary to our being human and being Christlike. Enjoying a life of ease harms us spiritually. If your life is too comfortable, create some bodily stress (not emotional) to improve it. If you are currently suffering, let it be your teacher for the development of a mind like Christ (who also suffered in his body). Let bodily suffering be your guide to new life in Christ.

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This turned into a much longer post than I’d planned.

Perhaps this proves that we need to take our body seriously since God does. It is not just a troublesome shell housing our vital soul.

Your body is an essential component of your relationship with God and your spiritual progress.

Treat it like it matters.

What has been your understanding of the body? How do these scriptures shed light on your understanding? Please leave your responses below.

Dr. K/Keith 

2 Comments on “Looking at the Scriptural Support for Nurturing Your Body”

  1. I agree God wants us to be mindful of all areas of our lives body, and spiritual life. But thank you for the reminder.

    1. Hi Debbie. Thank you for your comments. Battling the passions of our body is a daily challenge, right? Thanks for joining me in the battle. Blessings! Keith

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