Body

The general Biblical truth regarding the body yields to a threefold division, namely, (1) the human organism, (2) Christ's physical organism, and (3) Christ's mystical Body.

1. The Human Organism. In the New Testament a marked distinction must be made between aw^a and oap^. The former is generally used to indicate physical flesh, while the latter is broader in its import, referring at times to the physical body (cf. Heb. 5:7) and at other times incorporating that which is immaterial and ethical into its meaning, with specific reference to the fallen nature of man. The great Apostle wrote, "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing" and in the same context also: "sin [the nature] that dwelleth in me," "sin which is in my members," and "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:15-25). These declarations demonstrate the truth that the Apostle included in the word flesh all which constitutes the unregenerate man. The present body is unredeemed as yet even though redemption has been applied to the soul and spirit. This essential truth respecting the believer's body—that it remains unredeemed—is declared in Romans 8:23, where the saved one is said to be waiting for the redemption of his body, which redemption will occur when Christ returns. As for the future of the believer's body, it is said to become, when redeemed and changed, like Christ's glorious body (Phil. 3:21), and to be conformed to His body instantly at the rapture (cf. 1 Cor. 15:42-44, 51-52). Since the human body is the medium of expression for the immaterial part of man, the flesh is also conceived as being the expression of the "old man," or sin which is in the members of the body. In this connection the Apostle refers to "the body of sin" (Rom. 6:6). In like manner, he compares the flesh with its sin nature to a body of death (Rom. 7:24), or a dead body which he must carry with him wherever he goes. This, again, is the same "body of the sins of the flesh" which Christ judged when He died unto the believer's sin nature (Rom. 8:3; Gal. 5:24; Col. 2:11). Distinguishing between the body and the spiritual life within it that God bestows on faith, the Apostle suggests that the life from Him is a "treasure" which is held in an earthen vessel (2 Cor. 4:7). This body which in its present living state is mortal—subject to death— will, if death does not ensue, put on immortality; and should death ensue, the body which because of death puts on corruption will at the resurrection of saved ones put on incorruption. The body which is to be the believer's forever in glory is adapted to the spirit of man, while that same body in its present estate is adapted to the soul of man (1 Cor. 15:44-46); and whether the Christian goes by death and resurrection and so through corruption into incorruption or by translation into immortality being instantly changed from mortal to immortal, the end is a standardized reality. It will be a body like Christ's glorious body (Phil. 3:21). There is as much promise for the future of the believer's body as there is for the future of his soul and spirit.

It seems evident to some from 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 that an intermediate body is prepared in heaven for believers who by death are separated from the present organism, which organism will see corruption until the resurrection. The intermediate body would be occupied until Christ comes and the present body is reclaimed in all its resurrection glory. The body referred to in 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 is said to be "our house which is from heaven," one that in character belongs to the sphere of eternal things and serves to avoid even a moment of disembodiment for the believer.

2. Christ's Physical Organism. That which is essential to a true humanity and required if an all-sufficient, bloodshedding sacrifice were to be made, namely, a human body, was acquired by Christ through His physical birth. For that body He gave thanks when about to come into the world, and all in view of the failure of animal sacrifices to deal finally with the problem of sin (Heb. 10:4-7). It is significant that a record has thus been made of Christ's valuation of His physical body and that His primary thought was for this to be made an all-satisfying sacrifice. With reference to His kingship and so likewise to a rejected King's death He said, "For this cause came I into the world" (John 18:37). In vain do artists attempt their imaginary portraits of Christ in His humiliation. That appearance has gone forever (cf. 2 Cor. 5:16). Thus, also, Christ's human body served as a veil to hide His essential glory. Only once did His glory penetrate that veil (2 Pet. 1:16-18). It is probable that His glory was still somewhat veiled during the fortyday postresurrection ministry and until His final ascension. John, who saw Christ in every situation when He was here on earth, even as Christ appeared after resurrection, fell at His feet as one dead when he saw Christ in glory (Rev. 1:17) . In that body in which He lived and died He arose, and in that same body He is being glorified. Thus glorified, He will in that same body come again.

3. Christ's Mystical Body. The figure most employed to represent the relationship which obtains between Christ and the Church is that of the human body with its many members and its head. The immeasurable reality given the believer as he comes into his new position in Christ by the Spirit's baptism is illustrated by the idea of joining a member to some human body; and, as the functions of the members in such a body differ, so the service of believers varies according to the will of the living Head. Vital union to Christ is the glorious truth which the figure sets forth. No such relationship obtained in the Old Testament order, nor will it appear in the coming kingdom.

Chafer, L. S. (1993). Systematic theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

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