Understanding Where Anatomy Meets Worship
Chuck Smith Jr.
Besides being a worshiper that punctuated his letters with prayers and doxologies, St. Paul made several fundamental statements regarding the practice of worship. Perhaps the most familiar is the Romans passage where Paul urges his readers to present their “bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God” (Rom 12:1 NASB). This may be a good time to stop and ask ourselves, “Have I been doing this? Have I been presenting my body to God when I worship? Have I been leading in a way that invites my congregation to participate with their bodies?”
Paul makes a fuller installment on his theology of the body in 1 Corinthians 6. The misbehavior of certain members in the Corinthian church compelled him to provide believers a criterion for determining the proper uses of the body. To ask, “Is it lawful?” does not provide a sufficient standard, because God’s grace has come to us “apart from the Law” (Rom 3 21-26). Other questions must be asked, such as, “Is it profitable?” “Could I become enslaved to it?” and “Is it edifying?” (1 Cor 6:12; 10:23).
Out With Gnosticism
In this context, Paul penned a line that is almost shocking to our Western ears. The body, he says, is “for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body” (1 Cor 6:13). Furthermore, our bodies are “members of Christ.” We are not to think that they still belong to us, for we have been purchased by God so that our bodies can serve as “a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 6:15, 19). The upshot of all of this comes in Paul’s concluding instruction, “Glorify God in your body”(1 Cor 6:20).
If making our bodies a focal point of worship sounds foreign to us, it is not because Jesus advocated for worship that was purely spiritual (“in spirit,” in the context of John 4:24, does not negate the body, but qualifies its participation in worship). Rather, it is because the body has not fared well in church history that we are suspicious of its liturgical role. We have not yet fully escaped the influence of platonic philosophy that fascinated important Christian theologians of the first four centuries. Therefore, our inclination is to either approach the body cautiously (the more positive view) or declare war on it.
(There is more to this article in the July/August issue of Worship Leader Subscribe now to continue reading this issue in the WL Archive.)
Author, columnist, and student of prayer, Chuck Smith Jr. has recently launched Reflexion, a spiritual community anchored by Scripture and focused on drawing close to God in such a way that the love and goodness of Jesus Christ is made visible.