So I’m reading Graeme Goldsworthy’s classic, Gospel and Wisdom. He has a paragraph or two about docetism. Docetism was an ancient heresy denying that Jesus took an actual body. He just seemed to be fully human. Docetism arose in a climate of Greek religion that taught that spirit is good and matter is evil. This religion crept into the church and was called gnosticism.
Anyway, Goldsworthy makes the observation that although we don’t find very many professing docetists, the docetic assumptions are still with us. Look, for example, at how many professing Christians describe their faith. They’ve asked Jesus (a spirit) into their hearts (a spirit) and felt very spiritual about the whole thing.
As I was reading, I had to put the book down and think some things through. Goldsworthy is exactly right. I see it over and over as I counsel. “You can’t judge my heart!” Every pastor has heard the same thing. “I repented. I’ve asked Jesus into my heart. I have a good relationship with God.”
But the body doesn’t follow suit. The body continues to engage in fornication, drunkenness, reviling, pornography, strife, etc. The mouth pours out obscenity and blasphemy. The feet are quick to shed blood.
And as I thought, I wondered if perhaps we are too much taken with the Greek idea of a complete disconnect between the body and the soul.
God created man by forming him of the dust of the ground and breathing into his nostrils the breath (spirit) of life and man became a living being. Only one being, both body and soul. The scripture doesn’t teach this disconnect. When the heart is corrupt you can tell because the body does corrupt things.
Look at all of these passages:
13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.1 (Rom 6:13 KJV)
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom 12:1 KJV)
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Mat 7:21 KJV)
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. (Psa 14:1 KJV)
How does one praise God’s name without the tongue and the lips? How does one give a glass of water to a thirsty man without eyes and hands and feet?
How can we show our love for God and for our neighbor without using the body that he has given us.
I’m tired of words. I’m tired of those who live in debauchery and ruin pretending that they have a close personal relationship with Jesus. As James wrote, “Show me your faith by your works” (James 2:18).
If we are Christians we are imitators of Jesus. We are being conformed to the image of God’s son. If we are truly indwelt by the Holy Spirit (which is what being a Christian is), then this same Holy Spirit is conforming us to be more and more like Christ. Jesus, the true Image of God, is conforming us to Himself by His word and Spirit.
So if He truly came in the flesh, being transformed to His Image includes our whole being – body and soul. For this reason, it is impossible for those who continue to live in sin to actually be Christians. If they say that they are, they are liars. The Holy Spirit does not allow a Christian to live in sin that “grace may abound.”
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1Co 6:9-10 KJV)
Of course we still struggle with our sinful nature. Of course we will never overcome sin in this life. But that isn’t the topic. As Christians we STRUGGLE against sin, knowing that it is an abomination before God.
A true Christian can never say, “I’ve accepted Jesus into my heart, so it doesn’t matter how I live.”
If Jesus truly came in the flesh, then to belong to Him means that we belong to Him both in body and in soul. Let’s offer our bodies to him as living sacrifices of thanksgiving and quit making excuses. We must quit living like practical docetists. Jesus came in the flesh that he might redeem us, both body and soul, from sin and the power of the devil. It DOES matter what we do with the body.