November 6, 2016

Body and Soul

The human body is the crowning act of creation.

Hyveth Williams

In America, image is everything. For many, how we look is more important than who we are. Men and women are judged by the luminescence of their skin rather than the content of their characters. Countless of them, at the top of their games, throw away their reputations and professional futures for just a few moments of stolen pleasure without considering the costs or consequences.

The apostle Paul urged believers to “flee from sexual immorality. All other sins that a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” (1 Cor. 6:18, 19). The devastating consequences of immorality are not just mental or emotional; they are also spiritual and physical, ranging from loss of fellowship with God and others, loss of reputation, estrangement from family or friends, haunting guilt, inestimable financial and psychological losses, damage to the personhood of all involved, and a litany of other destructive, even deadly, outcomes.

This reality should scare everyone from sin. Unfortunately, it doesn’t! For if we are honest with ourselves, not only as Christians but as Seventh-day Adventists, some seem to think that commitment to Sabbath observance and a vegetarian diet exempts them from the consequences of immorality in the sight of God. They go on their merry way participating in, practicing, and even promoting abhorrent behaviors.

The human body is the crowning act of creation.

Many twenty-first-century Christians inherited, and seem to embrace, a Hellenized concept of spirituality in which we believe our bodies are ours to do with as we please. Thus we ignore Paul’s argument that the body plays a significant part in the entire plan of salvation.

The human body is the crowning act of creation. Instead of speaking a body into existence, God made the first human with His own hands, and breathed into it the breath of life so that it became a living being. When we are born again, the Holy Spirit, or breath of eternal life, takes up residence in our physical body. At the resurrection our bodies will be raised up through Christ’s power and the breath of God (1 Cor. 6:14).

New Testament writers emphasized the importance of our physical bodies because they saw Jesus after He was resurrected. Although His essence was different (He could walk through closed doors and disappear in the blink of an eye), Christ’s structure and substance were the same: flesh, blood, and bones, just as theirs. Indeed, we will be like Him at the resurrection of our own bodies.

Sinful behaviors are especially difficult to avoid for those who previously practiced them, because the bodies we have now as born-again believers in Christ are the same ones formerly ruled by the disposition of sin. However, we can overcome by grace when we daily claim: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by the faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Hyveth Williams is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.