Reflections and Blog

Do You Need Your Body?

“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”

The above quotation or some version of it is frequently attributed to C. S. Lewis, the famed 20th century Christian writer. However, C. S. Lewis never actually said this. In fact, as Christian as the above statement sounds, it has more in common with eastern mysticism and ancient dualistic philosophy than biblical teaching. Rather, the Bible teaches that every human being is neither body nor soul: he is both.

There has always been a strand of thinking in Christianity that has looked down on the physical body. The body is thought of like a sinful, degrading, and decaying prison from which every truly spiritual person should long to be free forever. Now, it is true that every Christian longs to be free from the sinful “flesh” or “law of sin” that is still present with Christians (Rom 7:21-23), but this “flesh” is different than the “flesh” of our physical bodies. Indeed, there is nothing inherently sinful about the human body since it was created without sin (Gen 1:26-31), is what our sinless Savior took on forever for our sakes (Phil 2:7; 2 Cor 5:21), and is again what we will be clothed with in the perfect world to come (Rev 20:4-6, 21:1-4). True also is the fact that we all long to be set free from the weakness, pain, and decay of our current bodies (2 Cor 4:16; 5:1-2). But this longing, as Pastor Babij stated so well in his Sunday sermon, is not a longing to discard absolutely the “clothing” of our bodies but instead to be fully clothed in glorified bodies (2 Cor 5:3-4). Indeed, the apostle Paul’s language in 2 Cor 5:1-4 suggests that being found “naked”—that is, without an appropriate body at all—is a wholly unnatural and unwelcome state!

Last summer, I talked about how we should regard our bodies when I preached through 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. One of Paul’s main points in that section of teaching is that the physical body and what one does with it matter to God. Of particular significance is 1 Corinthians 6:14 where Paul, in response to the notion that what one does in the body doesn’t matter since it will one day be destroyed, says, “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.” Notice how Paul counters the raised excuse about discarding our bodies by citing the coming resurrection; we are going to get our bodies back. Notice also how Paul poignantly refers to what will be raised in that resurrection: not merely “our bodies” but “us.” In other words, the raising of our bodies is the raising of “us” ourselves, for we are our bodies. Indeed, consider how many times the Bible describes the resurrection as the raising of persons, not mere bodies! And this only makes sense when we see our bodies as part of what we are, part of what it means to be human. Consider, too, that the unrighteous also will one day be raised with new bodies, but these bodies, frighteningly, are resurrected to experience forever torment, not forever blessing (Dan 12:2; John 5:29; Rev 20:5, 11-15).

I used to wonder why the Bible makes such a big deal about the resurrection if being in heaven with Christ is already “paradise” (Lk 23:43; Phil 1:23), but I think I’m coming to see the answer more and more. God is not against the material world but is in fact determined to restore and complete the “very good” physical-spiritual creation he began (Gen 1:31). He created us to need bodies, and God is pleased to provide bodies for us one day after the manner of Christ’s own body, bodies so glorious that we can now only partly understand (1 Cor 15:35-56).

2 Corinthians 5:4 (NASB 95), For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.

Questions to Consider:
1. How do you regard your body?
2. How does your body’s coming resurrection, either unto glory or unto shame, impact the way you view your body now?
3. How should your body’s coming resurrection impact the way you live now?