Updated: Jul 15
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The Bible refers to our bodies as temples multiple times. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 says, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”
Jesus even referred to his body as a temple. John 2:19-21 says, “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’ But the temple he has spoken of was his body.”
Instead of a physical building, the Holy Spirit dwells inside of us. Because of that, we are sacred and sanctified. Being the temple of God sets us apart from other people. It’s not just our spirit that is dedicated to God, but all aspects of our being一our minds, emotions, bodies, and spirits are for God.
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
“‘Everything is permissible for me’ーbut not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’ーbut I will not be mastered by anything. ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food’ーbut God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power, God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 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.”
This passage is about sexual immorality, but it gives Christians helpful insight into how we should treat our bodies. The church in Corinth was struggling with multiple sins and Paul wrote this letter to rebuke, correct, and change them.
The Corinthians argued two points: that sexual desires were like hunger and that everything is permissible. The Corinthian Christians compared sexual desires to hunger. They argued that since hunger is a natural desire that must be satisfied, sexual urges are also a natural desire that should be satisfied. The Corinthian Christians also thought they had the freedom to do whatever they wanted. Just like today when Americans justify their actions with their right to freedom, the Corinthians justified sexual immorality.
No excuse can justify sin. Paul doesn’t need to justify God’s command, but he presents a counterargument to the Corinthians logic. Paul explains what happens to a person when they become a Christian, specifically what changes occur to your body, mind, and soul.
1. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?” “You are not your own”
If you’re a believer, your body belongs to Jesus. When He died on the cross, He saved us一our souls, hearts, bodies, minds, everything. When Jesus comes back, He will resurrect us and give us new bodies. 1 Corinthians 15:35-58
2. “Not everything is beneficial.”
Freedom without responsibility and discipline becomes slavery. True for every pleasure, too much of a good thing can be detrimental to your health. The most obvious example is cookies. Cookies are delicious, but too many can give you a stomach ache. Sex with proper restrains, like inside of marriage, is freedom with responsibility. Marital sex is beneficial to every party involved.
3. “All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.’
1 Corinthians 6 is one of the only times in the Bible where the author talks about how something affects you. A majority of the New Testament discusses how your actions affect others, especially the church. Sexual immorality destroys you in a way no other sin does.
The mind and body are intertwined; they affect each other. If we sin using our bodies, it damages our souls. Every time intercourse is performed, a supernatural and spiritual connection takes place. That means there is no such thing as casual sex.
4. “But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.”
Marriage was created by God to be a picture of Jesus’s relationship with the church. When a man and a woman get married, they become united in every way - intellectually, spiritually, financially, etc. They are dependent on and responsible for each other. The husband and wife are so close, they function as one person.
The phrase “two become one flesh” refers to sexual intercourse. When a husband and wife have sex, they become spiritually connected or spiritually one. It seals the permanent relationship between two people.
A similar connection happens when you become a believer. You are united with God in every way - intellectually, spiritually, financially, emotionally, etc. Your bodies are connected through the spirit and you take Him into every sexual relationship you have.
What does this passage about sexual immorality have to do with health?
All of Paul’s counterarguments about sexual immorality apply to our health. Your body belongs to God; it is not yours to do whatever you want with it. Not everything in life is beneficial to our health; just because you can smoke doesn’t mean you should. You are one with God through the spirit so you take him into every relationship, ever your relationship with food.
I’m going to let the scholars say definitively one way or the other, but I speculate that you can sin against your own body by not taking care of it. Later in this series, we will talk about gluttony, the sin of overindulgence.
“Therefore honor God with your body.”
What does it mean to honor? Honor is a manifestation of esteem, respect, and dignity. Honor has to be seen and reflected. It is the subordination of the self for the sake of the elevation and celebration of another. To honor means to affix or assign value. Honor is directed to and celebrated inconsistent, committed servants.
Honor God means to respect, elevate, and celebrate him. Honor God with your body means to use your body to respect, elevate, and celebrate God. 1 Corinthians 6 speaks to honoring God when it comes to sex and sexual immorality, but sex isn’t the only action we do with our bodies. “Honoring God with your body” applies to other areas of our physical being. We must respect God when eating, dancing, running, hugging, etc.
Just like money or talents, your body belongs to God and just like money or talents, your body is a tool we can use to honor God. It’s another tool that God has given you to live on earth. What you do with your body and what happens to your body matters.
Honoring God with your body is more than taking care of your body. To honor means to respect. In this way, we are called to dress modestly, feed your body well, exercise your body often, etc. Treat your body with dignity and respect.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, 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ーfor we are members of his body. ‘For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mysteryーbut I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
Though I read the passage multiple times, “no one ever hated his own body” stuck out to me when I read the passage seriously for the first time in college. I was recovering from an eating disorder and though I didn’t hate my body anymore, I still didn’t like it. It gave me pause because I couldn’t believe this was the logic in Biblical days. It was so obvious: of course, no one hates their bodies, it’s only for their benefit.
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