Summary: Paul is trying to get his readers to take a holistic approach to faith and to recognize that we don’t just honor God with our words, or our songs, or attitudes, or our spirits – but honoring God also has to do with how we manage our bodies.
“Honor God with your body,” says the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:20 (NLT)
I don’t know how many times I’ve read through and studied 1 Corinthians over the years – dozens, hundreds? I’ve preached on it and led Bible studies through it. But as I was reading it again this week, this verse, which I had never really noticed, jumped out at me.
“Honor God with your body.”
This is a startling, grabbing, really radical command.
Another way of translating the verse might be:
“Worship God with your body...”
“Glorify God with your body.”
“Praise God with your body.”
The word here for praise or honor is “doxazo” in Greek, which is the originallanguage of the New Testament. “Doxazo” is the word from which we get our word doxology.
Paul is saying, "Turn your body into a living robust rousing round of doxology."
And this is a wild and radical thing to say.
In the ancient Greek world the human body was an encumbrance to be overcome. The only thing that really mattered, in the Greek world view, was the SOUL.
The Greeks always considered the body to be irrelevant to anything significant.
There was a Greek proverb: “The body is a tomb.”
Epictetus said: “I am a poor soul shackled in a corpse.”
So, the object of Greek religion and philosophy was to help a person get beyond the body and to the only thing that really mattered – the soul or the spirit.
And this underlying Greek assumption led to two schools of thought. Some people argued that since the body was a tomb you need to do everything you could do to deny it and all of it’s passions. Discipline. Structure.
As much as possible deny yourself of food, wine, and sex.
“Mortify the body” was the war cry of this group.
The second line of thought said, “Well, since the body is unimportant and what you do with it is irrelevant to the soul, why not become an all-out stark raving hedonist?”
“Deny no pleasure! Indulge yourself in everything.”
And as we read through 1 Corinthians we start to see that there were Christians from both of these schools of thought who were causing trouble in the Corinthian church.
Paul is trying to get his original Greek-world readers to see that as followers of Jesus our approach is totally different. You see, we don’t view the body is superfluous to the soul or even secondary -- something to be overcome so you can get to real spirituality.
Jews and Christians alike don’t separate the body from the soul. It’s all a package deal. The state of your soul affects your body and what you do with your body affects your soul.
Sure you can distinguish between the two but you can’t separate them -- pry them apart (which is what the Greeks wanted to do).
As a matter of fact, “You can actually honor God with your body,” says the Apostle.
You see, honoring God isn’t a matter of denying the body but of using your body to glorify him. And this really brings religion down to earth.
A few of your are scratching your heads and saying “Okay... your point being? Will you please cut to the chase?”
Well, think about it a minute. Our culture – our world is very much into the body. We go to the gym, we indulge ourselves with fine food, and we even the
most restrained person tends to pursue pleasure in some form. Vacations. Roller-coaster rides. Skiing. Snow-boarding.
The only reason we would deny ourselves anything is so we can better our bodies. So we diet. We exercise. (Some of us!!!) All, because we want to improve the body... make it heathier.
In someways we have the opposite problem of the ancient Greeks. We almost worship the body! We see the body as an end in and of itself. And while this is the opposite of the Greek problem the irony is that Paul’s word to these early Christians is really right on the mark and applicable to us and our body-obsessed world.
So why is Paul so concerned about what we do with our bodies?
Well, first of all, IT IS A MATTER OF CREATION! OUR BODIES WERE MADE FOR THE LORD AND HE CARES ABOUT WHAT WE DO WITH THEM.
Take a look at verses 12-13. “You may say, ‘I am allowed to do anything.’ But I reply, ‘Not everything is good for you.’ And even though ‘I am allowed to do anything,’ I must not become a slave to anything. You say, ‘Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food.’”
This is a quote from an ancient proverb. “Food is for the belly and the belly is for food.” Therefore, the implication is eat as much as you can.