Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20The passage cited above highlights the central point of an extended discussion that Paul develops around the concept of righteousness vs. unrighteousness, which is an expansion on judging believers (inside) vs. the world (outside); see 1 Cor. 5:9-13. In the section leading up to this verse, Paul introduces two concepts, which he will develop later in subsequent chapters, food – as it relates to being offered to idols, and sexual immorality – as it relates to relations outside of marriage. Both concepts deal explicitly with the human body, specifically the physical body of believers. Note the following statements within the section from 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (please read the entire section):
“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. 1 Corinthians 6:13a
The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 1 Corinthians 6:13b
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 1 Corinthians 6:15
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.1 Corinthians 6:18
By highlighting the verses cited above from the larger context, we can see clearly that there is an emphasis in this section on the physical body of believers. Often, it seems within Christianity that there is an obvious focus on the spiritual side, i.e. the soul, the mind/will, or heart and affections, but there is often a disconnect as it relates to the physical body, i.e. our actual flesh and blood, our literal members comprised of cells, and eyes, ears, and toes, etc. We understand that Jesus died to rescue our souls from sin and eternal damnation and we know that Scripture speaks to the resurrection of our glorified bodies (Romans 6:5; Philippians 3:10-11). However, little, if anything, is ever conveyed on the importance of our physical body now in the present, let alone the fact that our subject verse from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 specifically ties together the body of believers (physical) as the temple of the Holy Spirit, alongside the clear statement that we, that is our bodies, do not belong to us. Instead of belonging to us, that is again our bodies, the passage states that we were bought with a price. While not defined specifically here, this is a clear reference to the ransom of believers through the redeeming blood of Christ. The price that was paid for us, again to include our physical bodies, was nothing less than the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. This fact is reiterated and built on by the command, or better we might say the imperative which followed the indicative, that we are to glorify God in our bodies.
How contrary this passage is to modern evangelical Gnosticism with which we have become so familiar. We may be reminded that Gnosticism, an early heresy in Christianity, views matter – that is that which is physical, as inherently evil while the spiritual is held up as good. Do we see anything resembling a Gnostic view in the passage highlighted above from 1 Corinthians? Absolutely not.
Contextually, this passage has to do with honoring God with our physical bodies specifically as it relates to abstaining from sexual immorality. However, there are additional applications here, one of which has to do with the authority over the body. By way of reminder, we saw how our bodies were purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ and are not our own. Ownership belongs to our Creator, and (re)ownership (as it were) was taken by Christ over all of His elect. This means principally that while we are not our own, we are not anyone else’s either. There is no entity, whether it be government, ecclesiastical body, and certainly not a corporation, that has ownership of your body. Therefore, why would anyone usurp the ownership of Christ and surrender their body to another? In fact, and as it relates to our passage, this ownership comes up again immediately in the next chapter as it relates to marriage. Again, reemphasizing that we are not our own, but in marriage our physical bodies belong to our spouses. That is the only caveat and it does not usurp the ownership of Christ, rather it is an earthly representation of it (see Ephesians 5:22-33).
There is much for us to meditate on from this passage, not the least of which is the pursuit of holiness before the Holy God. But there is more here for us, especially if we consider the times in which we live and those who would seek to have authority over our bodies. Remember, you are not even your own, you were bought with a price.
Soli Deo Gloria.