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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  1. Fred Carpenter July 29, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    John, you have already been resurrected from sin-death, from the image of Adam, physical, earthy to the image of Christ, spiritual. The idea of a future bodily resurrection [of the flesh] is so ingrained in our psyche that we could never dream of another biblical viewpoint. Read Don Preston’s wonderful article *Resurrection From What Death* here.
    Fred Carpenter

  2. pyodor July 30, 2009 at 2:17 am

    “the body is not inherently sinful. This same body will be raised on the last day”
    1 Corinthians 15 doesn’t seem to suggest that “this same body will be raised”. V44 says “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body”. This seems to suggest that the resurrected body is not going to be the same as the natural body which is made of the dust of the ground although it is not clear if the heavenly body is immaterial in this particular case. It may be also difficult to determine how sinful the dust of the ground itself is. But 1Co15 seems to suggest that the natural body made of the dust of the ground has inherently no value and is inherently sinful which of course doesn’t seem to necessarily lead to the conclusion that the natural body should be mistreated.

  3. Chris Criminger July 30, 2009 at 11:23 am

    Hi pyoder,
    Jesus resurrected body was both physical and spiritual. This seems to be a both/and and not an either/or. If this is correct, I think it’s a mistake to interpret that spiritual body trumps physcial body as if they are opposed to each other somehow. God cares about the physical body and the same resurrection body of Jesus is to be like ours (so aspects of material or physical body are not totally lost).
    Does that make sense?

  4. pyodor July 31, 2009 at 3:51 am

    The argument of both/and could be very convenient in many cases. But I don’t think it could be applied effectively in this case. For example, the natural body is perishable while the spiritual body is imperishable. If both/and argument is used in this case, the resurrected body is both perishable and imperishable. How can that be? I would rather have my resurrected body imperishable all the time. Therefore, the natural body is exclusively perishable and the spiritual body must be exclusively imperishable. Now I don’t think this should create any problem with the notion of “body” in spiritual body. The natural body is “believed” to be subject to earthly physics/chemistry. But we do not know if the spiritual body is going to be subject to the same earthly physics/chemistry. So it could be speculated that the spiritual body is going to be subject to physics/chemistry different from the earthly ones if there are going to be physics/chemistry after all. The natural body is perishable and is inherently sinful. The spiritual body is imperishable and is not going to be the same as the natural body.

  5. Chris Criminger July 31, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Hi pyoder,
    I could be wrong but it seems like we are talking two different issues (or are we?). I raised the point of does the resurrection body have physicality to it and is there any connection to our physical bodies? You did not make any comment about the physicality of the resurrected body except that it is going to be imperishable. I affirm this well.
    You seem to equate the natural body is simply perishable and inherently sinful. I agree that they are not the same but it does not follow that they are totally disconnected either. Was Jesus ressurrected body totally disconnected from his natural one? What is the whole point of a ressurection body if it is not connected to our body?
    Nor am I sure what to make of incarnation and transformation theology biblically if it means that the old is totally discarded and the new is totally different. Obviously one wonders as well about “renewal” language since it also suggests a renewed and restored relationship rather than a totally eclipsed one.
    In the end, maybe its just my Evangelical ears itching but it seems problematic to this observer if what you are saying is you do not believe in a historical physical resurrection of Jesus? I am not saying you’re saying this but it does sound like it when you seem to deny any kind of physciality to the resurrection body. So I agree there are both/and’s and either/or’s. I agree that the resurrection body is unperishable and not perishable. But I also believe the ressurrected body has both components of physical and spiritual.
    Therefore it is not problmematic to me that the disciples could touch Jesus body and Jesus could consume fish while also appearing and disappearing at will and looking like he could walk right through walls.
    Nor am I positive that the natural body is inherently perishable? Adam is suggested as one who could live forever if he had continued access to the tree of life. I know this is before the fall but there are some scriptures which talking about paradise has paradise restored as well (and the tree of life right back in the middle of things in the book of Revelation).
    I quess in conlusion, two underlying issues besides people making deductions from this text or that text is (1) what does “new” mean within the scriptural context? and (2) what is the implications of “body” theology for believers today?
    Now if someone wants to ask the literal and scientific question of how God takes a perishable body that for all practical purposes has disintegrated and make it into an imperishable body, I don’t know? The same question was asked to second century Christians by skeptics and I can not give any rational answer except what is impossible for man, is possible with God.

  6. pyodor August 1, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    I will talk about two points in your response: physicality and connectivity. I think you might have meant identity by the proposition that resurrection body is connected to our body. I think that our identity continues in the resurrection body although the resurrection body is different from our body. According to 1Co15, mustard seed and mustard tree have completely different body but are still connected in terms of their identity. “So is it with the resurrection of the dead.” I would take the position that bodily transformation (including plastic surgery) does not change one’s identity. Now about the physicality of the resurrection body, it should be considered that what appears to be might not be the same as what really is. Jesus’ resurrected body appears to be the same as Peter’s natural body. But we do not know positively if they were the same. According to Romans 7, 8, Jesus came to this world “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (ESV) even though he is the Holy God (So amazing! I guess it is like that Sgt. Crawley decides to put on Prof. Gates’ black flesh and Prof. Gates decides to put on Sgt. Crawley’s white flesh except that both men are only sinners.) I don’t think he had the same sinful flesh still on when he appeared to Peter after he was resurrected. Peter’s natural body and Jesus’ resurrected body appeared to be the same but one of them must have been still a “sinful flesh” and I think it wasn’t Jesus’. The two bodies were physically real but one was inherently evil like ours and the other inherently good.

  7. Chris Criminger August 1, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Hi Pyoder,
    I won’t belabor the point but I do appreciate a few things you said concerning identity and transformation and the like. I understand your point about sinful flesh and Jesus holy flesh. I mentioned earlier about Adam could have lived forever in the physical flesh if he continued a life of obedience and continued eating from the tree of life. Maybe there’s more to the parallel between the old Adam and the new Adam?
    I am glad to hear you saying that “the two bodies were physically real but one was inherently evil like ours and the other inherently good.” Despite what you might mean by “inherently” (a whole different discussion), the main point is you do believe in a physical real resurrection body. This was unclear to me and I am glad to hear it.
    Ancient Gnostics said Jesus only appeared to be a man but really was not (matter is evil) which contradicts the biblical idea of creation (even if it is fallen) and modern liberalism which equates spiritual resurrection body which has no physical reality to it at all.
    The gnostic tendency is to downplay Jesus humanity and say Jesus only appeared to be human whereas the theological liberal tendency is to downplay the miraculous and Jesus being divine and suggest Jesus only appeared to be divine.
    Anyway, thanks for the interesting comments . . .

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