Biblical Foundations: Physical Beings

Physical Beings

First, we are physical beings by God’s perfect design. God could have made the first human pair in some other way or out of some other material, but he made us physical bodies. Many Christians think that “the real me” is an immaterial soul planted within a mere physical shell, but this is not the Christian view. Genesis 2:7-8 says, “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” “Living being” literally means “soul,” so this verse means that when God breathed life into the earthly body of Adam, the whole person of Adam, including his body, became a soul. Adam’s body was an indispensable and good part of who he was. We do not just have bodies; we are bodies.

Three great Christian doctrines support positive attitudes about our bodies. The first is the doctrine of Creation. The second is the doctrine of the Incarnation, which teaches that Christ, the perfect Son of God, became flesh. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity” (Hebrews 2:14; also John 1:14). If having a physical body were inherently bad, how could perfect holiness have taken on a body? Third, the doctrine of our coming Resurrection teaches that we will live as bodies, perfected bodies, forever (1 Corinthians 15:35-44, 53-54; see also Philippians 3:20-21).

Many Christians have a vague sense that their bodies are somehow bad or deficient. This seems to be a leftover of older Bible translations that warn us about the “flesh” being the enemy of the “spirit” (Romans 8:6) and warn us against the “deeds of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21). Biblical scholars now recognize that it is not the body that is the enemy, but rather our tendency to rebel against God. Thus, they are increasingly translating this term as “sinful nature” rather than “flesh.” The sinful self is the whole person or any part of the person—body, mind, soul, emotions, spirit, will, heart—that is in rebellion against God. The spiritual self is the whole person or any part of the person—body, mind, soul, emotions, spirit, will, heart—that is submitted to God for His cleansing and direction and enabling. And thus the body really is a gift from God on a par with all other parts of the person.