The Apostle Paul was a Jew, in fact he was a Pharisee; everything about him was Jewish, including his mindset. He was the Pharisee who persecuted Christians, who met Jesus on the road to Damascus and who gave his life to Christ and became the apostle to the Gentiles, and in the process of all this, he wrote the largest part of the New Testament sending his writings to Gentiles. Ironic isn’t it?
A common theme that runs through his writings is that of the old way of life versus the new life in Christ, and in discussing this, he used several ways of explaining it. Perhaps the most common of these was his dichotomy between “the flesh” and “the spirit”, but he also described the same thing in other terms; the first man v. the second man, the old man v. the new man, the Law v. life, in all of this, Paul makes essentially the same point; we have choices to make.
On the one hand, we can continue to live according to the ways of this world, just like we did before we had a relationship with Jesus Christ, or we can live a new life in Him. We can worry about the transactional legalism of the Law, or we can be free in Christ; yes, that is our decision to make. None of that, however, tells us that our physical forms are anything other than the image of God, nothing Paul has written tells us that our bodies are bad, wicked, evil or terrible; actually the opposite is true.
If God made us with physical bodies that are evil, wicked, shameful and oozing sin, then why would using our bodies for sinful purposes be “immoral”? In such a case, we could rightly say that God made us sinful and wicked, and we just can’t help being what God made us, but Paul (not to mention Jesus) taught the exact opposite. Paul not only gave us the problems, he also gave us the solution: “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”, and “set your mind on things that are above”. Humanity’s great challenge comes not from evil in our physical bodies, but from the wrong kinds of thinking, for we start our journey with Christ thinking like everyone else around us, rather than seeing things from a more heavenly perspective. Consequently, our focus is on the things of this physical life; money, food, shelter, pleasure, entertainment, sex, luxuries, sensuality, emotions, feelings, passions and social positions… just like the pagans.
Does this kind of thinking describe Jesus?
We recently studied the kind of living that a citizen of the Kingdom of heaven should be living (Matthew 5-7), so how do the old ways stack up against the Sermon on the Mount? Paul did not contradict the notion that we were created, in every way in the image of God, for it is precisely because we were created in God’s image that this is important.
And we don’t have to do this on our own… that’s why we have the indwelling Holy Spirit.
If you have “your game on” today, then you have already seen the next step in our exploration, it’s in Genesis 2, and we’ll dive into it next time!