“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.
Or to apply the proverb to the issue at hand, “Sex is for the body and the body is for sex.”
“These urges we have to eat and procreate are natural - therefore we should indulge them as though they were in end in and of themselves. If there is nothing beyond what we do with our bodies we should maximize our indulgence.”
Or so argues your neighbor who has this unending stream of sexual partners – who works out endlessly so he can feel good about himself and how he looks.
And if this is all there is to life -- who can really blame him!
We’re not here to make fun of people for being body obsessed. This is very understandable in a mechanical material-only world.
But the Apostle says: “You say, ‘Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food.” This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them. But our bodies were not made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies.”
“Our bodies were made the for the Lord,” he says. They were made to be in union with God so that we may become more godlike. Your purpose in life isn’t to have as much fun as possible – to experience as much pleasure as possible or to enjoy as many types of food as possible. Our bodies were made for the Lord, Paul says.
This isn’t to say that food and pleasure are bad – to the contrary. They are a part of having bodies. Food is good. Sex is good. Pleasure is good. But we were not made to let those things control our bodies and define our lives.
When God created our bodies he did so with the intention that we would use them to honor him -- and reflect his glory.
Secondly, PAUL IS CONCERNED ABOUT WHAT WE DO WITH OUR BODIES BECAUSE OUR BODIES WILL SHARE IN THE RESURRECTION.
Verse 14 – “And God will raise our bodies from the dead by his marvelous power, just as he raised our Lord from the dead. Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ?”
Here is this idea of union with Christ again. Don’t you realize that your bodies are parts of Christ – members of Christ? ...even those of you in the back row there.
Pinch yourself. Ouch. That body with all of it’s flesh and all of the nerve endings are a part of the body of Christ. When you were baptized you were baptized into Christ; and you became one with him. And because you are one with him you will share in his resurrection. And we’re not just talking about your souls or your spirits but about all of you – including your bodies.
As we say in the creed, summarizing the biblical teaching, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the
forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.”
I always kind of cringe when I go to a grave side service and someone says –“Our friend Joe is gone now. This is just the empty shell. He has departed from his body and gone on to higher and better things. So we say good-bye to his body knowing that we will see him again in heaven.” Or something along those lines.
I understand the sentiment but it’s not exactly accurate. The body isn’t just an empty shell that can be disposed of like the butterfly disposes of the cocoon.
That body is still a part of who that person is and that body about to be buried will share in the resurrection of Christ. It will be remade and renewed along with the rest of creation.
I know that some of this stuff is kind of weighty this morning. But Paul’s message here is weighty. This is deep stuff. And it affects how we look at the world – at our lives – and then ultimately how we live. It really is very practical.
So what then are the implications of this high view of the body? (As opposed to the low view of the Greeks and the moderns)
First of all, FOREIGN UNIONS ARE OUT OF THE QUESTION.
If you are united with Christ in more than just a spiritual sense – in a bodily sense, too, then you don’t want to do anything with your body to taint that union.
Verse 15 – “Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which belongs to Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never! And don’t you know that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her?”
And Paul isn’t just talking about prostitutes. But he is using an absurd example to talk about any kind of sexual immorality. For sex is an act of physical and spiritual union. It’s not just a crass mechanical release of sexual urges – as some are inclined to think. But sex is an act of union – body and spirit meeting together.
And whatever unions you enter into, if you are also in union with Christ, those unions should be of the nature for which we were created by Christ. They need to be pleasing to him.
You can be a member of the United States Army and the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. You can be in the US Army and be in Rotary and the Sierra Club and any number of other organizations. But you can’t be a member of the US Army and be a member of the Taliban at the same time. That would be an incompatible union. This is what Paul is saying about sexual union.
If you are in union with Christ, a sexual union with someone who is not your spouse is totally unfitting.
Verse 16 – “For the Scriptures say, ‘The two are united into one.’ But the person who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.”
Then he adds, “Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.”
Sexual sin is worse than some other sins because it isn’t just an assault on the soul – a person’s spiritual well-being. But it is an assault on the body
Then secondly, if we have a high view of the body WE NEED TO LOOK AT OUR BODIES AS THE TEMPLES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
We heard this in chapter 3 where Paul talked about the church as the temple or dwelling place, the residence of the Spirit of God, but here in chapter 6 he takes the idea a step further and says that our bodies as individuals are also the temple of the Spirit.
Verse 19 – “Or don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?”
When you were baptized, when faith started to take root in your life, God’s Holy Spirit moved in and started to take up residence in you -- and not just in your heart and mind – but in your body as well.
Ponder this for a bit - The Holy Spirit lives in your body.
In what way, if any, does this change what you do or don’t do with your body?
But wait a second, maybe even this is the wrong question. Here is a wild thought for individualistic Americans who like to think in terms of individual ownership and independence. Maybe it’s not YOUR body at all!
Look at verses 19-20 – “Or don’t you know 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.”
Your body is the dwelling place of the Spirit. AND your body was an extremely expensive purchase made by God – “bought with a price” – an obvious reference to what Christ did when he died on the cross.
He redeemed you. He bought you off the slave block. And it cost him his perfect life. And since you have been purchased by Christ there is a sense in which you no longer own your life...including your body. Your body belongs to God. He holds the pink slip.
WE NEED TO GET OVER THE MIND SET (and this is the third implication), WE NEED TO GET OVER THE MIND SET WHICH VIEW’S ONE’S BODY AS A PERSONAL POSSESSION. THEY (our bodies) ARE A TRUST FROM GOD.
This is how we got into this abortion mess, isn’t it? Women started saying – “This is my body and I should be able to do with it as I please.”
Men started saying, “This is my body and I should be able to have sex with whomever whenever someone agrees.”
“Don’t intrude on my individual rights! Don’t tread on me! I am my own person! I am free to pursue my own destiny and pleasure.”
“Restrictions and rules are artificial impediments to the individual’s right to pursue his or her own way.”
If you are a follower of Jesus you realize that you have given up your rights of ownership and you are a possession of the loving living God who bought you out of sin and darkness and did so at great expense to himself.
If you are a follower of Jesus you see your life, including your body, as a trust given to you by God to be operated in his own best interest.
When you decide what you are going to put in your body you have to do so conscious that it’s not really your body that you are filling.
When you decide to do something wild and crazy – you have to remember that you are doing it with someone else’s body.
“You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.”
If you are a follower of Jesus – your purpose, your aim, your point of resolve, is to honor God with your body. This is the key point: IT IS OUR GOAL TO HONOR GOD WITH OUR BODIES.
I’m not suggesting that this is easy or that there isn’t forgiveness and grace when we blow it. For the God who owns our bodies is gracious and merciful.
But we need to realize that if we are following Jesus we need to be honoring God with our bodies – if we are not doing so, then we are not following Jesus.
There has been a lot of talk about sex in this chapter (which is the only thing keeping a few of you awake, because this is a complicated passage. And it has taken a little longer to flesh things out.) But I’m going to tell you a secret. This passage isn’t really about sex – except indirectly. This isn’t a sex talk but a body talk.
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 has to do with how we manage our bodies as well.
“Honor God with your body.” If you get that down you are light years ahead of most people in their walk with Christ. This is the real meat of the faith – if you will excuse the pun. “Honor God with your meat.”
“Honor God with your body.” Won’t you say it with me please. “Honor God with your body.”
What a great word this is – that you don’t just care about our souls but that you have saved our bodies, too. We confess, though, that we tend to lag a bit when it comes to using our bodies for you. We see them as our own and for our own purposes. Forgive us and set us free from our short-sightedness and self-centeredness. Help us to honor you with our bodies. To the glory of Christ.