George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
The Uplift of the Body -- Part I
He is the savior of the body--Eph 5:23
The True Charter of the Human Body
Students of the New Testament have often remarked how much mention is made of the body. Our text is only one of many passages which arrest us with this unusual emphasis. Of all the books in the world's literature, there is none which insists upon the soul so urgently; yet there is no book in the world's literature which has done so much to dignify the body. One of the errors of popular evangelism is that it thinks of nothing but the soul. That too was one of the errors of monasticism, and indeed ultimately proved its overthrow. It was false to the noble proportions of the Bible and tried to spurn what Scripture never spurns, and in the long run had to pay for that by being swept into oblivion. It is extraordinary how many people want to be a little wiser than the Bible. It is extraordinary how many people want to be a little more spiritual than Christ. They take the part and treat it as the whole; they are blind to everything except the spirit; they never seem to have caught the flash of glory that the Bible has cast upon the body. "We ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for...the redemption of our body" (Rom 8:23). "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost who is in you?" (1Co 6:19). "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye pre sent your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God" (Rom 12:1). Such words, and they might be multiplied by ten, are not at all impertinent intrusions. They are inwrought into the web of Scripture, and they are part and parcel of its mess age; until at last, by such recurrent whispers and by a hundred other hints and shadowings, we came to see that the Word of God in Christ is the true charter of the human body.
The Pagan Versus Christian Attitude
Now I question if we always realize the importance of this Gospel emphasis. For we have never known the outlook of the heathen, nor have we been "suckled in a pagan creed." To know what Christianity has done for women, we should need to have lived before Jesus Christ was born; and we should need to have lived before Jesus Christ was born to know what it has accomplished for the body. It is true that among the ancient Greeks, whose worship was just the worship of the beautiful, the charm of physical beauty was appreciated as perhaps it has never been appreciated since. But a nation, like an individual, may be exquisitely sensitive to beauty, and yet may wallow, as I fear the Greeks wallowed, in horrible and disgusting sin. To the pagan the body was a slave, and no one could care less how to treat a slave. To the pagan the body was a curse, for evil had its seat and center in the flesh. Or at the best the body was a clog, a sorry prison for an immortal spirit, a scaffolding that would be knocked in pieces when the palace-courts within were perfected. You cannot wonder that with attitudes like these, the pagan world was sunk in immorality. You cannot wonder at what we read in Romans when you remember what the Romans held. And what I say is that you must remember it--you must remember the depth and the disgrace--if you would understand what Christ has done in rescuing the body from dishonor. No longer can we treat the body as an alien. We have learned that it is a friend and not an enemy. It is no prison house with grated windows; it is a temple where the Spirit dwells. And such is the honor that has fallen upon it that even the bodies of our dead are precious and are clothed in new garments and laid in a quiet grave with a certain gentle reverence and respect. It was one of the first effects of Christianity that it put a stop to the burning of the dead. Men felt that it was a kind of sacrilege to burn a temple of the Holy Ghost. And that alone, which everywhere and always accompanied the preaching of the Gospel, will show you what a change had been effected in the popular concept of the body. Now this is the question which I want to ask, How did the Gospel of Jesus work that change? How did it lift the body from the mire and crown it with glory and with honor? What are the new facts, or what are the doctrines, which have given to the body such high dignity that we may say of Christ unhesitatingly, He is the Savior of the body?
The Incarnation Provided Dignity for the Body
The first is the great fact of the Incarnation. It is the coming of the Son of God in human form. The Son of God dwelt in a human body, and that has clothed it forever with nobility. If human flesh and sin were indistinguishable, do you think the Word would have become flesh? Had the flesh been ineradicably vile, would the Son of God have worn it as a garment? Wherever sin may have its source and spring, it is not in the human body, else when Christ took a body to Himself, He would have taken to be His comrade what was vile. So long as you think of God as far away, so long it is possible to degrade the body. For the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and every sense may be a road to ruin. But if the Son of God has tabernacled here--if perfect purity and love have dwelt here--if the immortal King has stooped to earth and taken to Himself the seed of Abraham, then the body never can be despised again. It was that fact which altered the world's standpoint and cast a glory on the human frame. The body had been the instrument of sin; now it was made the instrument of Christ. Through human lips the voice of God had spoken. Through human eyes the pity of God had looked. The love of God had wrought through human hands and gone its errands upon human feet.
We may throw a certain light upon that change by remembering what has happened in other dwellings. If someone whom we reverence has been born there, the place is never ordinary to us again. There is a house in Stratford built of common brick, not differing outwardly from other houses, yet in that home the poet Shakespeare lived, and to it thousands of pilgrims turn their feet. There is a cottage in Ayrshire, just an old clay building, low-roofed, confined and damp, yet in the fulness of the time Burns was born there, and it is not a mean place to Scotland now. It is the genius who adorns the house. It is the saint who glorifies the dwelling. Wherever the home has been of one we love, there forever is a hallowed spot. And when we think of all we owe to Christ, when He became poor for our enriching, it helps us to realize a little better how His coming has glorified the body. He took upon Himself the seed of Abraham. Can you dishonor the seed of Abraham now? He passed through the doorway of this little cottage. And will you spit upon the cottage wall? The flesh is vile, said the old pagan thinker--the flesh is the great enemy of the spirit. And John, looking that old world in the face, said, "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (Joh 1:14).
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