Bodily training does have some value, because God created the body and he will one day redeem the bodies of his people—but what will bring about the redemption of our bodies one day in the life to come is not bodily training. Our bodies are only part of who we are. When God formed Adam’s body, he breathed into Adam’s body the breath of life, and man became a living soul. We are not only physical, we are also spiritual.
Should Christians care about their bodies? How much emphasis should we place upon bodily exercise?
Some professing Christians in past history have argued that the body is bad—we don’t need to give attention to the body, we just need to focus on spiritual things.
But notice what Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:8: “Bodily training is of some value.” Don’t read that and think Paul is saying bodily training is worthless; he’s not. He is acknowledging here that bodily training does have some value.
Why is bodily training valuable? Well, the Bible actually has much to say about our bodies.
Our bodies matter to God.
First, God made our bodies.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Genesis 2 tells us that God formed Adam’s body, and remember, he did this before sin entered the world. The body is a good thing that God made—he saw it, and it was good. God made our bodies, and therefore our bodies are good.
Sin affects our bodies.
But second, sin affects our bodies.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
God created Adam, but Adam disobeyed God; and as a result of Adam’s sin, God cursed the whole creation, including our bodies. From the moment of our conception really, our bodies begin to wear down and decay. It’s not so bad when we’re young and growing, but you hit 40, and it’s all downhill from there.
I jest, but it’s a reality, right? Even the youngest experiences aches and pains. Our bodies get sick. We break bones and sprain ankles. Our bodies are significantly affected by the reality of sin.
Bodily training is of some value.
The reality of sin is exactly why bodily training is of some value. Disciplined exertion of our bodies through exercise and athletics can help to hold back some of the worst effects of the curse upon our bodies. If we stay in shape and eat well, that can have positive effects on our bodies.
However, ultimately, no matter how much bodily training we engage in through the course of our lives, no matter how healthy our diet, no matter how well we keep our bodies in shape, they still will wear down. The best we can do with bodily exercise is to slow the breakdown of our bodies, and that does have some value. But one day each one of our bodies will fail, and we will die. And our bodies will be placed in the ground, and they will return to dust.
Christ will redeem our bodies.
But there is hope. The third reality that Scripture teaches about our bodies is what Paul said Romans 8:23: we eagerly await for the redemption of our bodies. One day our bodies, along with all creation, will be redeemed. That redemption does not come as a result of anything we do—in other words, the value of bodily exercise is not that our own bodily training somehow redeems our bodies. No, Christ will redeem our bodies.
And we know this for one very important reason: Jesus Christ—who is 100% God, and has existed co-equally with God the Father and God the Spirit for all eternity—took on a human body at his incarnation.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
That body was truly human—Jesus was hungry, he was thirsty, he got sick, he had aches and pains—his body was affected by sin just like ours is.