Dear Canaan English Ministry members and friends,
Christians have always affirmed that Jesus’ physical body rose from the dead. Many other religions do not think that the body is important or necessary, but Christianity does. Why? Because Christianity believes that our bodies matter. God created our physical world and our bodies to be good. But sin deformed how we use our bodies and the physical world. So our bodies are not evil nor are they to be dispensed with when God’s kingdom comes. Thus, salvation is not essentially about escaping the body. Rather, it is about redeeming our bodies for God’s purposes.
Christ’s physical death and resurrection interrupted our human tendency to misuse our bodies (i.e., use if for purposes other than God’s will). Jesus showed us a new way to live in our bodies! That’s precisely what Paul means in Romans 6:5-14 (note especially verses 12-14):
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
Jesus’ bodily resurrection means that our bodies are to be re-purposed for his kingdom. Our faith is not just about what we think and believe. It’s not just about experiencing God (whether through visions or feelings). Salvation is about how we use our bodies.
In I Corinthian 6, Paul reinforces this point of view. When some (presumably) new Christians at Corinth asked Paul about why it was wrong to use prostitutes, they argued that:
12 “I have the right to do anything” … 13 “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.”
In other words, they believed that God would destroy the body when the kingdom comes. Christians are free to do anything they want with their physical bodies because salvation was ultimately about being released from these bodies.
But Paul makes it clear that the right to do anything is not always beneficial. Indeed, such freedom is illusory if one is mastered by something other than God. Instead, he emphasizes that the way people use their bodies is what distinguishes them as Christians (notice how he connects this with the physical resurrection of Christ):
13 The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 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! 16 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.” 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
Christians are members of Christ’s body! Thus our bodies are united with him and his purpose. Paul concludes with a call to holiness:
19 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; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
Indeed, our bodies are so much a part of our salvation that Paul concludes his greatest letter with these famous words:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. — Romans 12:1 (NIV)
What does this mean for us? How do we apply this principle to our lives?
Let’s be clear:
Being physically present and giving our time is what it means to offer our bodies to God. We cannot hire contract workers or house cleaners to live our faith for us. Christianity is a full-bodied, full-immersion adventure.
Therefore, I suggest that we ask ourselves the following questions:
1. How many hours per week do I give to offering spiritual support for a brother or sister in Christ while being physically present? (Skype, Google hangout, and even email/text conversations count, but not as much as being physically present.)
2. How many hours per month do I spend physically with the body of Christ (includes small groups, fellowships, and especially Sunday worship)?
3. How many hours per week do I spend on enlarging God’s kingdom? (e.g., studying Scripture so that I can be equipped to help others know Christ better; volunteering for ministry, mission, or Christ-centered service; meeting with and talking to un-churched relatives and friends about Jesus and Canaan; teaching and showing my children what it means to follow Jesus; creating a workplace environment that treats employees the way that Jesus would want them treated).
As we reflect on these questions, let us pray that we will more enthusiastically seek to bear the fruit of salvation by offering our bodies for his purpose!
See you Sunday!
Tim Tseng 曾 祥 雨 :: Ph.D.
Pastor of English Ministries