From the beginning of man’s history on earth, the body was the principal thing as to his relation with this scene. In the garden of Eden, while there was innocence, it was undying and uncovered; when sin entered, then came death on the body; the body thus doomed God clothed with skins, and man was driven out of the garden. Now as there was faith, as divine power worked in anyone, there was an action of the body expressive of faith. “By faith Abel offered”, etc. He did a certain act; his body was the agent by which he expressed the power which governed him. Where there was not faith there was no new power. Man used his body as the medium for gratifying his own desires and tastes. Where there was faith there were works, deeds done in the body; otherwise faith would be dead, as the apostle James shows.
It is evident that faith produced works. It compelled the body to act in keeping with its view or sentiment; and hence the work was only an expression or counterpart in act of the power or idea which produced it. Every faith had its own work. But it was the subjection and submission of the body to this power which was the work, and the body was thus the display and the evidence of the faith, as James says, “Shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works”. The faith was proved by the work which it produced, and thus Abraham was justified when he offered up his son, though forty years before he had the faith for which he was accounted righteous (Genesis 15) and on which Paul insists in Romans 4. The body was safe in innocence; but when sin entered, it was not only subject to death, but led away by divers lusts and passions, except where faith worked; and then, according as the faith ruled, the body became the evidence of it, and this proved its power; otherwise faith was dead. Hence, though the body was, after the fall, the theatre of all the desires of the flesh and of the mind, yet when there was faith, there was palpable proof that the body was under a greater power than the will of the flesh, and that very thing on which sin had entailed death was made to express the efficacy of divine control.
In innocence the body was according to God’s will, but after the fall the will of man became the rule, and it was only as there was faith that the body in which sin dwelt, and which was under the penalty of death, became the expression or exponent of divine power working in it according to the requirement of faith. Thus the body was, like one on horseback, borne along by a power outside itself to a given point; but when again on foot — when the power ceased to act — occupying itself with its own pleasure. A certain thing had been done, a great deed performed which proved the mettle of the power which carried it, but the body generally remained unaltered in all its tastes and habits; for the Spirit did not yet dwell in it to control or order it in everything; the body was not then the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Now under the law there was action required also. The body was required to express the demands of the law, but as there was no new power conferred, the demand only disclosed that there was no power in a body of sin to meet God’s law. The law was added because of transgression to expose how entirely incompetent man was to meet what was righteously required. It was as if one were to sow garden seed in the wild sand in order to show that it could not grow there. The law was holy, just and good; but there was no power in man to personify the requirements of it. It was not sufficient to accept the terms of it, and to admit they were all right. Man under the law was called to express in his walk and ways the demands of it. It conferred nothing on him. It only required of him, and thus disclosed the weakness that was in him, as if one were required to walk a mile when not able to move one step.
But now the body is the Lord’s, and it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is neither as it was in innocence, nor as under law, nor is it merely led and controlled by some particular or special faith; but now in everything it is empowered by the Spirit of God, who dwells in it, to act according to the word of God which is for the guidance of faith in everything.
While saints universally admit that their conduct and walk should be exemplary, they are confused in their minds as to the scope of their responsibility; instead of adopting the new order they are apt to adopt and pursue a mixture of what came before it — faith and law. They own and rejoice that faith leads them to do a certain thing, but then they exact from themselves other things; that is to say, if one may use a metaphor, they ride part of the way, and try to walk another part, and this leads to weariness, and lameness, and an imperfect testimony. It is a compound of the definite action of faith, and of the inability of mere nature. Thus there is an excuse for weakness, while grounding their hope and acceptance on faith and divine power. It is this mixture of faith and law which has produced and tolerated so much worldliness in real believers. The conscience is quieted because grace is known through faith, but for the rest of their course and ways the law is the standard, and the idea is that one must seek only to do the best one can and with as little reproach as possible.
Our blessed Lord set forth in His own body, for the first time on this earth, a man suiting and answering to the divine mind in every movement. There had been seen previously man under the control of faith, the action of faith giving him a distinct line for an occasion in keeping with itself; and there had also been seen man under the law, which only exposed his inability; but now in the Person of the Lord Jesus there was a Man in His own body, expressing in every detail of life what was well pleasing unto God. He always did the things that pleased Him; and hence the Lord in Luke 11 announces the new order, where He says, “The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light”. It is not merely that one has bright thoughts or happy feelings, which are quite right in themselves, but that this body, which was doomed to death in paradise, is now through grace to be light. The whole is to be light, having no part dark, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give light. The thing doomed because of man’s sin is now through grace to be an expression of Christ, as the apostle says, “always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body”. While the Lord spake (see Luke 11:37) a Pharisee asked Him to dine with him, evidently connecting His remarks with the doctrine of the Pharisees. The Lord takes a place at his table in order to explain the error of the Pharisees’ doctrine. They were occupied with the outside, and with the effort to obtain something for the body, instead of first receiving the light and then showing it forth. Now in chapter 12 He sets forth to us how the body would express the light, and this expression of the light is comprised in two marks, namely, that there is no fear from without, and no care within. If it were thus with them, their loins would be girded, there would be an activity in their manner, and their lights would be burning. The body would be brilliant with light, waiting in the dark night for the morning star.
We hardly estimate the privilege conferred upon us, with its consequent responsibility — even that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit as well as a member of Christ. If the gravity and greatness of this privilege were before us, everything we did, every appearance we presented would be judged and scrutinised. A manner or an attitude would not be regarded as too small a matter to attend to or to correct; even one’s dress would be determined by its suitability for Christ’s member, or whether it became the temple of the Holy Spirit.
In our desire and effort to maintain the doctrine, so long unknown or unseen, that the believer is perfect in Christ, we have overlooked too much the place which the body of the saint holds, or is required to hold on earth. It is necessary, first, that his heart should enjoy Christ; but besides this, his body is to be the channel or medium of his walk on earth, and hence we see in 1 Corinthians 11:30 – 32 that if a man did not judge himself the Lord touched his body. When once we admit the Lord’s claim over the body, and see that we are called to the privilege of glorifying God in it, we then begin to grow in intelligence as to how everything connected with the body must be done according to His will; whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, we do all to the glory of God. And there will be a sense of our responsibility which will not only order us in the care of the body, deprecating all neglect of it, but will also refuse to make it too much an object, while seeking to make it in dress and manner an expression worthy of Christ. Saints who had this sense would not be worldly in their dress, for they would not wear anything which Christ would not approve for His own member; and there would not be the undevotional position which is not uncommon now in our meetings. If the truth that the body of the believer is a temple of the Holy Spirit, as well as a member of Christ, laid hold of the heart, the exhortation to “glorify God in your body” would deeply exercise it. The Lord grant that it may, for His own glory.