Is the Body Sinful? Living in Hope of Resurrection

In Romans chapter six the Apostle Paul says, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin” (verses 6–7).

The reference here to the body has created a number of serious errors over the centuries. These errors remain with us to this day demonstrating that there truly is “nothing new under the sun.”

Question: If our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit in what sense can we rightly speak of them as “sinful” or “ruled by sin?”

Some early Christian heresies said that the body of human flesh was sinful. This is not what Paul is saying here at all. He refers to the body as “ruled by sin” not just the body period. The simple, and obviously correct, way to read this text is to see that Paul is saying that the whole person who sins does so in a "sinful body." Sin is not outside the body. Sin involves the whole person, body and soul. Our physical body is good and holy according to Christian theology. Sin uses our bodies to commit acts through the choices we make but the body is not inherently sinful. This same body will be raised on the last day. Indeed, the bodily resurrection is the key to understanding Christian faith and hope.

Furthermore, Paul is not saying here that the body should be thrown away at death as a piece of sinful garbage. This same body will be raised in the last day. A funeral is thus a marvelous time to celebrate the resurrection. Symbols of that resurrection are most appropriate at funerals and texts about the resurrection should clearly be chosen for worship on a regular basis. I can never remember doing a funeral where I did not use 1 Corinthians 15 as a primary text, usually at the grave site. No truth more reveals the central message of our faith than this—on the last day this mortal flesh will be raised immortal. In the great day of resurrection both body and soul will be raised incorruptible and thus we shall ever be with the Lord, in a human body. Thanks be to God!

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