4. The believer’s body should be kept, as far as possible, in good condition for the Lord.
Inasmuch as the believer’s present physical body is the divinely appointed vehicle by which the Holy Spirit expresses Himself on earth; it will be readily appreciated that it should be kept, as far as is humanly possible in good physical condition by proper food, clothing, exercise and rest. The privilege of living in a body purchased by the Lord must be balanced by the responsibility of taking good and proper care of it, so that it will be at its best for Him. It has been well said: “A disembodied spirit cannot function at peak efficiency on earth!” Once the human spirit leaves the body at death, the body can no longer function on earth for the Lord, and is, therefore, laid in the grave to await the resurrection, when the spirit will be reunited to the glorified body.
Dr. A. T. Schofield, an eminent nerve specialist, a devoted Christian and an able expositor of the Word, used to say that when Christians forget what God remembers, they get into trouble. He would then quote Psalm 103:14 to support his contention. This reads: “He (God) knoweth our frame, He remembereth that we are dust.” He would then go on to apply his homily and say: “When a Christian forgets that he is dust, and imagines he is made of cast iron, and abuses his body by over-taxing his nervous energy, God has to lay him aside until such time as he recovers his health.”
Many devoted Christians have had to learn the hard way the truth of this sage advice. There are two extremes to be avoided. One is that of rusting out through slothfulness and love of ease, and the other is wearing out through overwork. The best method is to sensibly wear out for the Lord. The ideal is to have a healthy soul in a healthy body, and this calls for a good supply of that uncommon commodity known as common sense. Many a life that promises much useful service has been cut short because of a failure to observe the rules governing sensible living.
One of these things, as Paul by the Spirit indicates, is the profitable use of judicious exercise by which the body is kept fit for the service of the Lord. Recreation, therefore plays no small part in the maintenance of bodily health. The Christian should, therefore, be reasonably careful what food he eats, and learn to avoid that which disagrees with him. He should see to it that he is suitably clothed to meet whatever climatic conditions in which he finds himself. He should see to it that he gets enough sleep, so as to keep mentally alert and enabled to do his work efficiently.
The body should therefore not be despised, but developed for the Lord. It should neither be neglected nor molly-coddled. While the physical body is certainly not everything, yet it is something that God has given to each believer. It should, therefore, be accepted as a sacred trust, and developed to the best advantage for the Lord, for we are told: “The body is … for the Lord and the Lord for the body” (1 Cor. 6:13). We should not become unduly anxious about it lest we lapse into a state of hypochondria and become morbidly occupied with our aches and pains, real or otherwise. Nor should we become careless about it, but ever remember that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and therefore should be kept clean and usable for Him.
There is a false theory that the physical body is the source of evil and must be punished by self-inflicted torture. Under this erroneous assumption, people scourge themselves with a whip or chain until covered with blood. This is called “flagellation.” Others wear a most uncomfortable hair shirt, or walk with shoes in which pebbles have been placed or compel their body to endure privation in the way of insufficient food or clothing. Still others will shut themselves up in a cell and practise abstemiousness for long periods, imagining in so doing that they are pleasing God by punishing their bodies. But all this is in vain. It is not the body that is evil, but the sinful nature within the body, and only the regenerating power of the Spirit of God can take care of this.