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It is generally believed that our attitude toward our bodies contributes significantly to how we feel about ourselves. Studies have shown that body image or body attitude plays a contributing role in the development of our self concept and our feelings of self worth (Zion, p. 494). This has created a dilemma for some Christians.
As one who has been given a “new nature” as a result of accepting Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior, the Christian is often uncertain as to whether concern for the physical body is a lingering attribute of the old sin nature or a legitimate part of his efforts in his new life in Christ. Should the conclusion be drawn from I Timothy 4:8, “bodily exercise profits a little,” that greater levels of spirituality could be reached through greater levels of physical inactivity? Or, should efforts be poured into achieving maximal levels of physical proficiency in every area of endeavor in an attempt to meet the expectations of a perfect, omnipotent God in light of the exhortation in I Corinthians 6:20 to “glorify God in your body?”
Careful study of the entire counsel of Scripture will clarify that neither of these extremes is appropriate, and that godly concern for the physical body is an essential component of the God-honoring Christian life. The physical body is not a “necessary evil,” dragging down or imprisoning the “good” soul, even though at times this has been promoted within theological circles as a result of the influence of Greek philosophy. But neither is the physical body a means by which we can earn or achieve salvation and eternal life. Efforts to that end are woefully inadequate and result rather in judgment unto eternal death (Revelation 20:12-14).
The body is an essential aspect of man, God's most glorious creation. In order to develop a godly perspective of the body, it is necessary to view the body as God views it. To do that, we must seek information and understanding from what He has revealed to us. God has revealed Himself and His truth to man through both general and special revelation.
General revelation includes all means apart from Christ and the Bible; that is, God's revelation through nature (Romans 1: 18-2 1), through His providential dealings with man (Romans 8:28), through his preservation of the universe (Colossians 1: 17), and man's moral nature (Genesis 1:26; Acts 17:29). Special revelation is that which has come through Christ (John 1: 18) and through the Bible (I John 5:9-12)'. (Ryrie, p. 37).
From general revelation, we have been able to gain very detailed information about how our bodies function, what their needs are, and what we can do to have them function as they have been designed to function. The remaining chapters in this text rely heavily on knowledge obtained through years of study on the body and its function, knowledge able to be acquired as the result of the general revelation of God.
In addition, each individual can obtain very specific information about the body's condition and needs directly from it through an incredible internal awareness sometimes referred to as the “wisdom of the body.” While the effects of sin on all of our being have likely dulled our sensitivity to this information, it is available and efforts should be made to heighten our receptiveness to it. Thus, much of the information necessary for us to care effectively for our bodies has been provided through general revelation.
Special revelation has been given to reveal God to man more completely, that man might become wise unto salvation (Packer, p. 15). The written Word (the Bible) and the Living Word (Jesus Christ) were given that we might clearly understand our hopeless position before God, and that we might know of the provision for our redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23-26). Upon appropriating that provision, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to provide the guidance necessary for growing in godliness (God-likeness) and for living a life that will bring honor and glory to God. Through the Scriptures we can know how and why we came into (Godly-likeness), as well as the hope we can have beyond this life. Thus, special revelation gives us God's perspective of this life and provides us with an effective “operators manual” for the living of it in a manner that honors and pleases Him.
To have a godly perspective of the body, then, it isnecessary to gain knowledge and understanding from both general and special revelation. In the next section we willreview several truths from Scripture with regard to the worth and significance of the body.
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A premiseon which this text isbased is that God views man's physical body as having significant worth and value. This, therefore, should be man's view, and evidence of that worth and value should be prevalent in how we care for our bodies throughout our lives. Following are several truths from Scripture which provide support for this belief.