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Our bodies as Temples

In one of the strips of the popular comic “Calvin and Hobbes,” Calvin’s father attempts to correct Calvin’s faulty math homework. “You can’t add things and come out with less than what you started with!” he explains. A frustrated Calvin responds: “I can do that! It’s a free country! I’ve got my rights!”

The claims of individual rights that trump all other considerations are nothing new. Even Christians in the apostle Paul’s day used similar arguments, saying, “I have the right to do anything” (v. 12). The underlying logic these Corinthian Christians were using stemmed from a wrong view about the body. They seemed to believe that the body did not really matter. Because God would destroy it in the end, you could do whatever you wanted.

Paul emphatically corrects this erroneous thinking by pointing out the importance of the body, and he bases his argument on two key truths. First, Jesus also had a body and it matters that His body was resurrected (vv. 14–15). Our own eternal salvation and bodily resurrection depend on Jesus’ body having been raised and glorified, and now we are part of Christ’s body on earth.

Second, our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and so our bodies do matter as instruments of service for the Lord (v. 19). Our bodies are not worthless receptacles that we can treat any way we like, filling them with the rubbish of sexual immorality or shallow gratification.

The call to “honor God with your bodies” (v. 20) extends to all bodily activities. Our bodies are not our own; they belong to God as a temple for His Spirit. Our bodies are gifts from the Lord to be used for His glory, not our own pleasure or selfishness.

Apply the Word

Many resolutions are physical goals such as losing weight, exercising more, or giving up unhealthy habits. Instead of making resolutions just to improve your physical health, how can you use your body as God’s temple? If you’re making healthy meals, make extra to share with others. If you are walking more, visit the shut-in to encourage them.

BY Bryan Stewart

Bryan A. Stewart is associate professor of religion at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. His particular interests are the history of Christian thought and the way that early Christians interpreted the biblical canon. He is the editor of a volume on the Gospel of John in The Church’s Bible series (Eerdmans), and he has done extensive research on the ways that the early Church preached on this Gospel. He is an ordained minister. 

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