by Josh Liu
The Bible is replete with references to various parts of the human body (e.g., foot, hand, tongue, arm, eye, head, etc.). While many references to body parts are in a literal sense (i.e., a physical organ), Scripture often uses body parts figuratively to represent or address some spiritual principle. For the 2016-2017 academic year, College Life Bible study went through a topical series entitled “Spiritual Anatomy.” We examined what the Bible taught on specific body parts to further understand how we ought to honor God with our whole being, physically and spiritually.
The following provides a brief overview of the topical series:
1. “Body Worship” (Rom. 12:1-2)
Sinners rightly deserve God’s wrath for their unrighteousness. Yet God would be merciful to justify sinners by faith in Christ so that they would never face His condemnation (cf. Rom. 3:21-22; 5:1-2; 8:1). In response, believers are commanded to spiritual worship by presenting their bodies (i.e., lives, whole being) as a living, holy, and acceptable sacrifice. This is a comprehensive body (whole person) response–a life of worship to the God Who saves.
2. “A Theology of the Flesh” (Rom. 7:14-8:1)
Besides literally, Scripture also refers to man’s flesh metaphorically, representing all that opposes God. Theologically, the flesh represents the principle of indwelling sin in believers–that which remains of his former, unregenerate, old self (cf. Gal. 5:13, 19; Eph. 2:3). While believers have a new nature in Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17), they will still battle sin on this side of eternity. Believers should not be discouraged, but persevere in opposing the sinful flesh.
3. “A Heart for God” (Selected Scriptures)
The heart is like the control center of man, being the source of life, thoughts, and actions (cf. Gen. 6:5; Prov. 4:23; 20:5; Luke 6:45). However, sinners’ hearts are also corrupt with sin (Jer. 17:9) and require God’s transforming, regenerative work (Ezek. 26:26; Acts 15:9). In response to a transformed heart for God, we are commanded to seek the Lord with all your heart (Deut. 4:29); love the Lord with all your heart (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37); serve the Lord with all your heart (Deut. 10:12); obey the Lord with all your heart (Deut. 30:1-2); turn/return to the Lord with all your heart (Deut. 30:10); follow the Lord with all your heart (1 Kings 14:8); give thanks to the Lord with all your heart (Pss. 9:1; 86:12; 111:1; 138:1); and trust in the Lord with all your heart (Prov. 3:5).
4. “Mental Metamorphosis” (Selected Scriptures)
How would you evaluate your thought life? When you are not required to think about something, what do your thoughts drift toward? How well do you control your thought life? Are you concerned with what fills or influences your mind? As God transforms and renews believers’ minds (thoughts, desires, intentions), they are commanded to proactively set their mind on the Spirit. One means is by being devoted to the things of the Spirit: edification of believers (Eph. 4:7, 12), worship (Eph. 5:18-20), submission (Eph. 5:21-6:9), etc.
5. “Spiritual Nephrology” (Selected Scriptures)
In Scripture, the human kidney is sometimes figuratively used to refer to man’s inmost being, mind, or affections and has been translated as mind, heart, and feelings. Since the areas surrounding the kidneys are sensitive, the kidneys were believed to be the seat of emotions (cf. Job 19:27; Ps. 73:21; Prov. 23:16). Often times, people have been told to ignore their emotions and grunt through some situation by sheer will power. While we are not be led or dictated by our emotions, we must redeem our emotions to honor God.
6. “Tongue un-Twisted” (Selected Scriptures)
The mouth, tongue, and lips are often used to refer to the activity of speech and communication. Scripture confronts the misuse of speech (cf. Prov. 10:1-32; 12:18; 20:19; etc.). God will judge every person for his or her words (cf. Matt. 12:33-37). Christ’s servants ought to seek to honor and glorify God with their speech and communication. They must silence sinful speech (e.g., gossip, slander, lying, critical speech, insults, etc.) and communicate sanctifying speech (e.g., edifying words, encouragements, comfort, etc.).
7. “Covered and Unashamed” (Selected Scriptures)
Scripture uses a variety of words to euphemistically refer to the sex organs. The sex organs are also used to refer to the activity of sex. Unfortunately, these (literal) parts are sinfully abused and used to pursue immorality and wickedness. Figuratively, Scripture references the sex organs in contexts of shame and guilt. For example, after Adam and Eve sinned, they realized they were naked and ashamed (cf. Gen. 3:7). However, for those who have ever sinned sexually yet have submitted to Christ as their Lord and Savior, Christ covers their shame with His righteousness and allows them to stand unashamed (forgiven, reconciled, and sanctified) before God.
8. “God’s Good Design – Part 1: Male Headship” (Selected Scriptures)
Scripture uses a variety of words to euphemistically refer to the sex organs. The sex organs identify mankind’s gender–male or female. God created mankind in His image male and female (though God is not gendered). Men and women are created equal as God’s image-bearers, and fulfill differing functions or roles. As heads (or leaders), men are called to be mature–spiritual maturity, character maturity, relational maturity, and stewarding maturity.
9. “God’s Good Design – Part 2: Female Helpership” (1 Tim. 2:9-15)
Men and women are created equal as God’s image-bearers and fulfill differing functions or roles according to those genders. One of the primary responsibilities for women is the role of a helper. A significant aspect of understanding this helper role is authority-submission. The Apostle Paul provides further instruction on authority and submission in the church by addressing women’s appearance, conduct, design, and blessing.
10. “Eye Exam” (Selected Scriptures)
The eye is used in its literal meaning and in connection with expressions relating to seeing. Figuratively, the eye refers to the seat of perception, understanding, and realization. Theologically, sinners are spiritually blind (cf. Jer. 5:21) and Jesus Christ gives spiritual sight (cf. John 8:12). Sinners ought to turn to God for spiritual sight through repentance and faith. Also, believers ought to fixate (focus, behold, look toward in anticipation and priority) on God (as oppose to worldly things), purity (as oppose to immoral images), and eternity future (as oppose to only the present).
11. “Beautiful Feet” (Rom. 10:1-15)
Scripture often uses the feet to refer to activity and movement. Believers are to be busy (active) in witnessing, evangelizing, and making disciples. The Apostle Paul declares, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” (Rom. 10:15). To be active in evangelizing (declaring the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ), believers can remember to be impassioned for the lost, recognize man’s responsibility, be confident in the promises of salvation, make no distinctions between persons, and carry the Gospel wherever they go.
12. “A Spiritual Physical” (Ps. 38)
A brief observation of the world (and human history) will reveal at least one thing: the world prizes health. There are many who are ailing and ill in need of care, recovery, and cure. It is often during ill health where man recognizes the fragility of life, true priorities of life, the blessing of good health or relief, and so on. Believers can idolize health in much the same way as the world. Scripture reveals that sinners are spiritually sick and in need of Christ, the spiritual Physician (cf. Luke 5:31-32). Our physical and spiritual health–emotional, cognitive, and physical state–can be affected by sin. Psalm 38 is the portrait of one who is in poor physical and spiritual health due to personal sin. Such experiences are opportunities to worship God, examine oneself for personal sin, and patiently endure suffering.
13. “One Body” (Selected Scriptures)
One cannot miss the absolute unity of believers as the body of Christ (cf. Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:14ff; Eph. 4:4-5). Each believer is to be a healthy, functioning member in the body (i.e., church), with humility and harmony.
As sinners, man’s body and spirit is corrupt with sin. By the mercies of God, He transforms man’s spirit in Christ and promises a bodily resurrection. So then, while believers await new glorified bodies, they are to steward their bodies (literally / physically) and lives (figuratively / spiritually) for God’s glory as an act of worship. May the Spiritual Anatomy series exalt God, edify His saints, and evangelize the lost.