The Dignity of the Believer’s Body
by Inglis Fleming
A Christian may be viewed from different standpoints and in various relationships. But however regarded, we see him as a remarkable individual, for he is the outcome of the gracious counsel of God the Father, of the atoning work of God the Son, and of the mighty operation of God the Holy Spirit.
If regarded in the light of the epistle to the Romans we see a guilty sinner justified from all his sins, freed from the dominion of sin, cleared from all possibility of condemnation, made a child and heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ, and only waiting the glad day when in a body like Christ’s body of glory, radiant with His beauty, he shall shine in entire conformity to the image of God’s Son, that He may be Firstborn of many brethren. We are compelled to say, “It is a wonderful thing to be a Christian.”
Or regarded in the height of his calling in Christ Jesus, as presented in the epistle to the Ephesians, he is seen as quickened out of death in trespasses and sins, and raised up together with and seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, according to God’s pleasure and according to the riches of His grace and glory. He is “accepted in the Beloved” and in all His nearness and dearness before God His Father. He is part of His body, the church, the fullness of Him who filleth all in all, and soon to be presented to Himself. Seeing him in this association, identified with Christ, and blessed with all spiritual blessings, again we say, “It is a wonderful thing to be a Christian.”
But if we look at him on what is, in some respects, a lower platform—but remembering that all is “of God” even there—in his actual condition and in his mortal body for which he still has to wait redemption, we may still be filled with wonder and with praise. He is in the midst of a world where Christ has been rejected, but is being maintained of God in all his trials and difficulties. He is being carried “on eagle’s wings” and brought on his way to glory. He has to tread a pilgrim path and to face dangers innumerable, but he lives in the joyous prospect of the Father’s house on high as his home; and already the earnest of coming glory—the Holy Spirit—dwells in him. Must we not say yet again, “It is a wonderful thing to be a Christian”?
In connection with this view of the Christian, the importance of a right estimate of his body may profitably occupy our thoughts for a few moments, and if we turn to 1 Corinthians we shall see with what dignity the believer’s body is clothed.
Corinth was a corrupt city. A man who was pursuing an utterly immoral, licentious course was said to be Corinthianizing. But the Gospel and the grace of God had visited that centre, and out of the cesspool of its evil “the sanctified in Christ Jesus” addressed by the apostle (chap. 1:2) had been delivered. The depths of evil from which they had been raised are indicated in verses 9 and 10 of the sixth chapter. “Such were some of you.” This was their past. But it was past. He can happily add—
“But ye are washed.” They were cleansed from their pollution, for they were born of the Spirit and the Word and thus renewed.
“But ye are sanctified.” They were set apart from all they had been, now to be for the holy service of God.
“But ye are justified.” They were cleared from every charge and made the righteousness of God in Christ.
Purified, sanctified, justified—this was their present. They were on a new footing altogether, and all was in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. They owed everything to the Lord Jesus and that which He had wrought for them at Calvary; and to the mighty operation within them of the Holy Spirit of God. Henceforth they were to recognize this, and not to allow their bodies to be used save for the glory of Him who had wrought so graciously for their blessing.
The apostle shows them therefore bow the body is to be regarded and to be used by the Christian.
It is “FOR THE LORD” (v. 13) It is to be held as under His authority. It is to be employed according to His direction as a vessel which He has a right to, for He has secured a title to its exclusive use. Instead of being engaged in the service of diverse lusts and pleasures, it is to be engaged only as His good pleasure may determine. Correspondingly “the Lord is for the body.” Being for Him we may rely upon His caring for its well-being, and upon His maintenance of it for His own service. So, to use an illustration, my watch is for me. It is for my service as a timekeeper and is wholly mine and at my disposal how I will. And I am for my watch. I take care of it and preserve it from harm to the best of my ability in order that it may continue useful to me.
Again, the body is A MEMBER OF CHRIST.
Here the figure of the human body is used to show how intimate is our association with Him. The members of our bodies are used by us to express our thoughts and wishes, they make us known and fulfil our pleasure. So the Christian’s body is viewed as part of Christ by the Holy Spirit, “joined to the Lord,” and is to be engaged in expressing Him in the world where He has been refused. It is one of His many triumphs that He is still here in His members and that His life is still reproduced, in part, at least, in our bodies.
Then in verse 19 we learn that the Christian’s body is THE TEMPLE OF THE HOLY GHOST.
“What, know ye not?”—this inquiry has been made again and again in the chapter. Were they not acquainted with the foundation truths? or had they forgotten them? For the sixth time he uses the formula, as he asks, “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?”
That which had been the abode of unclean passions was now the dwelling place of the Spirit of God.
Just as of old the tabernacle when set up by Moses, and the temple when completed by Solomon, each became the shrine on which the Shekinah cloud abode, so today the believer’s body is a dwelling place of God on earth. What dignity is here! If the truth of it were abidingly present with us, how should we conduct ourselves in the midst of a Christless and condemned world?
“Which ye have of God.” The Holy Ghost takes possession of our bodies on God’s behalf. He has come to claim us for God’s pleasure, and to empower us to be here for God’s praise.
Then completing the question, “Do ye not know that . . . ye are not your own?” We have now no right to use our bodies according to our own will and inclination, for sinful lusts and pleasures. God claims for Himself. He takes possession by the Holy Spirit of that which is His own.
“Ye are bought with a price.” The cost who shall declare? The words bring before us “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Calvary with its expression of love and with its inexpressible sorrows comes before us. His precious blood, shed there that He might cleanse us and claim us, is presented to our mind’s gaze.
God has thus secured our bodies for Himself. We are His alone, the fruit of His power and purchase and presence.
Do we know this? We do. Then the only reasonable outcome of our knowledge is that we should hear and answer to the exhortation:—
“Therefore glorify God in your body” (v. 20).
It is His, but it is committed to us as His stewards to hold it henceforth for Him, and “whether we eat or drink or whatsoever we do we are to do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:30).
Truly, it is a wonderful thing to be a Christian.