'She that is unmarried is careful for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit.' -- 1 Cor. vii.34.
'Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.' -- Rom. xii.1.
Coming into the world, our Blessed Lord spake: 'A body didst Thou prepare for me; lo, I come to do Thy will, O God.' Leaving this world again, it was in His own body that He bore our sins upon the tree. So it was in the body, no less than in soul and spirit, that He did the will of God. And therefore it is said, 'By which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.'
When praying for the Thessalonians and their sanctification, Paul says, 'And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.' Of himself he had spoken as 'always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.' His earnest expectation and hope was, 'that Christ be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.' The relation between body and spirit is so intimate, the power of sin in the spirit comes so much through the body, the body is so distinctly the object both of Christ's redemption and the Holy Spirit's renewal, that our study of holiness will be seriously defective if we do not take in the teaching of Scripture on holiness in the body.
It has been well said that the body is, to the soul and spirit dwelling and acting within it, like the walls of the city. Through them the enemy enters in. In time of war, everything yields to the defence of the walls. It is often because the believer does not know the importance of keeping the walls defended, keeping the body sanctified, that he fails in having the soul and spirit preserved blameless. Or it is because he does not understand that the guarding and sanctifying of the body in all its parts must be as distinctly a work of faith, and as directly through the mighty power of Jesus and the indwelling of the Spirit, as the renewing of the inner life, that progress in holiness is so feeble. The rule of the city we entrust to Jesus: but the defence of the walls we keep in our own hands; the King does not keep us as we expected, and we cannot discover the secret of failure. It is the God of peace Himself, who sanctifies wholly, who must preserve spirit and soul and body entire and without blame. The tabernacle with its wood, the temple with its stone, were as holy as all included within their walls: God's holy ones need the body to be holy.
To realize the full meaning of this, let us remember how it was through the body sin entered. 'The woman saw that the tree was good for food,' this was the temptation in the flesh; through this the soul was reached, 'it was a delight to the eyes;' through the soul it then passed into the spirit, 'and to be desired to make one wise.' In John's description of what is in the world (1 John ii.15), we find the same threefold division, 'the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.' And the three temptations of Jesus by Satan correspond exactly: he first sought to reach Him through the body, in the suggestion to satisfy His hunger by making bread; the second (see Luke iv.) appealed to the soul, in the vision of the kingdoms of this world and their glory; the third to the spirit, in the call to assert and prove His Divine Sonship by casting Himself down. Even to the Son of God the first temptation came, as to Adam and all in the world, as lust of the flesh, the desire to gratify the natural and lawful appetite of hunger. We cannot note too carefully that it was on a question of eating what appeared good for food that man's first sin was committed, and that that same question of eating to satisfy hunger was the battleground on which the Redeemer's first encounter with Satan took place. It is on the question of eating and drinking what is good and lawful that more Christians than are aware of it are foiled by Satan. To have every appetite of the body under the rule and regulation of the Holy Spirit appears to some needless, to others too difficult. And yet it must be, if the body is to be holy, as God's temple, and we are to glorify Him in our body and our spirit. The first approaches of sin are made through the body: in the body the complete victory will be gained.
What Scripture teaches as to the intimacy of the connection between the body and spirit, physiology confirms. What appear at first merely physical transgressions leave a stain and have a degrading influence on the soul, and through it drag down the spirit. And on the other side, spiritual sins, sins of thought and imagination and disposition, pass through the soul into the body, fix themselves in the nervous constitution, and express themselves even in the countenance and the habits or tendencies of the body. Sin must be combated not only in the region of the spirit: if we are to perfect holiness, we must cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit. 'If through the Spirit ye do make dead the deeds of the body, ye shall live.' If we are indeed to be cleansed from sin and made holy unto God, the body, as the outworks, must very specially be secured from the power of Satan and of sin.
And how is this to be done? God has made very special provision for this. Holy Scripture speaks so explicitly of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that communicates holiness, in connection with the body. At first sight it looks as if the word, your bodies, were simply used as equivalent to, your persons, yourselves. But as the deeper insight into the power of sin in the body, and the need of a deliverance specially there, quickens our perception, we see what is meant by the body being the temple of the Holy Spirit. We notice how very specially it is of sins in the body that Paul speaks as defiling God's holy temple; and how it is through the power of the Holy Ghost in the body that he would have us glorify God. 'Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost: glorify God therefore, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in your body.' The Holy Spirit must not only exercise a restraining and regulating influence on the appetites of the body and their gratification, so that they be in moderation and temperance, -- this is only the negative side, -- but there must be a positively spiritual element, making the exercise of natural functions a service of holy joy and liberty to the glory of God; no longer a threatened hindrance to the life of obedience and fellowship, but a means of grace, a real help to the spiritual life. It is only in a body that is full of the holy life, very entirely possessed of God's Spirit, that this will be the case.
And how can this be obtained? In the true Christian life, self-denial is the path to enjoyment, renunciation to possession, death to life. As long as there is ought that we think we have liberty and power to use or enjoy aright, if we but do so in moderation, we have not yet seen or confessed our own unholiness, or the need of the entire renewing of the Holy Spirit. It is not enough to say, 'Every creature of God is good, if it be received with thanksgiving;' we must remember the addition, 'for it is sanctified by the word and by prayer.' This sanctifying of every creature and its use is a thing as real and solemn as the sanctifying of ourselves. And this will only be where, if need be, we sacrifice the gift and the liberty to use it, until God gives us the power truly to use it to His glory alone. Of one of the most sacred of Divine institutions, marriage, Paul, who so denounces those who would forbid to marry, says distinctly that there may be cases in which a voluntary celibacy may be the surest and acceptable way of being 'holy both in body and spirit.' When to be holy as God is holy indeed becomes the great desire and aim of life, everything will be cherished or given up as it promotes the chief end. The actual and active presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the body will be the fire that is kept burning continually on the altar.
And how is this to be attained? Of the body as of the spirit it is God, God in Christ, who is our Keeper and our Sanctifier. The guarding of the walls of the city must be entrusted to Him who rules within. 'I am persuaded that He is able to guard my deposit,' to keep that which I have committed to Him, must become as definitely true of the body, and of each of its functions of which we are conscious that it is the occasion of doubt or of stumbling, as it has been of the soul we entrusted to Him for salvation. A fixed deposit in a bank is money given away out of my hands to be kept there: the body or any part of it that needs to be made holy must be a deposit with Jesus. Faith must trust His acceptance and guarding of it; prayer and praise must daily afresh renew the assurance, must confirm the committal of the deposit, and maintain the fellowship with Jesus. Abiding thus in Him and His Holiness, we shall receive, in a life of trust and joy, the power to prove, even in the body, how fully and wholly we are in Him who is made unto us sanctification, how real and true the Holiness of God is in His people.
BE YE HOLY, AS I AM HOLY.
Blessed Lord! who art my sanctification, I come to Thee now with a very special request. O Thou who didst in Thine own body bear our sins on the tree, and of whom it is written, 'We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,' be pleased to reveal to me how my body may to the full experience the power of Thy wonderful redemption. I do desire in soul and body to be holy to the Lord.
Lord! I have too little understood that my body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, that there is nothing in it that can be matter of indifference, that its every state and function is to be holiness to the Lord. And where I saw that this should be so, I have still sought myself to guard from the enemy's approaches these the walls of the city. I forgot how this part of my being too could alone be kept and sanctified by faith, by Thy taking and keeping charge of what faith entrusted to Thee.
Lord Jesus! I come now to surrender this body with all its needs into Thy hands. In weariness and nervousness, in excitement and enjoyment, in hunger and want, in health and plenty, O my holy Saviour, let my body be in Thy keeping every moment. Thou callest us, 'being made free from sin, to present our members as servants of righteousness unto sanctification.' Saviour! in the faith of the freedom from sin which I have in Thee, I present every member of my body to Thee: I believe the Spirit of life in Thee makes me free from the law of sin in my members. Whether living or dying, be Thou magnified in my body. Amen.
1. In the tabernacle and temple, the material part was to be in harmony with, and the embodiment of, the holiness that dwelt within. It was therefore all made according to the pattern shown in the mount. In the two last chapters of Exodus, we have eighteen times 'as the Lord commanded.' Everything, even in the exterior, was the embodiment of the will of God. Even so our body, as God's temple, must in everything be regulated by God's word, quickened and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
2. As part of this holiness in the body, Scripture mentions dress. Speaking of the 'outward adorning of plaiting the hair, of wearing jewels, or the putting on of apparel,' as inconsistent with 'the apparel of a meek and quiet spirit,' Peter says, 'After this manner aforetime the holy women, who hoped in God, adorned themselves.' Holiness was seen in their dressing; their body was the temple of the Holy Spirit.
3. 'If ye through the Spirit do make dead the deeds of the body, ye shall live.' His quickening energy must reign through the whole. We are so accustomed to connect the spiritual with the ideal and invisible, that it will need time and thought and faith to realize how the physical and the sensible influence our spiritual life, and must be under the mastery and inspiration of God's Spirit. Even Paul says, 'I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage, lest I myself should be rejected.'
4. If God actually breathed His Spirit into the body of Adam formed out of the ground, let it not be thought strange that the Holy Spirit should now animate our bodies too with His sanctifying energy.
5. 'Corporeality is the end of the ways of God.' This deep saying of an old divine reminds us of a much neglected truth. The great work of God's Spirit is to ally Himself with matter, and form it into a spiritual body for a dwelling for God. In our body the Holy Spirit will do it, if He gets complete possession.
6. It is on this truth of the Holy Spirit's power in the body that what is called Faith-healing rests. Through all ages, in times of special spiritual quickening, God has given it to some to see how Christ would make, even here, the body partaker of the life and power of the Spirit. To those who do see it, the link between Holiness and Healing is a very close and blessed one, as the Lord Jesus takes possession of the body for Himself.