There is an ongoing series of articles called The Theology of the Body by Gregg Allison that are addressing some often overlooked aspects of how the human body is not to be neglected in God’s plan. I gave some excerpts from some of his earlier posts in my blog entry Theology of the Human Body. This latest entry is the entire blog entry entitled Why Your Body Matters in Worship.
When most Christians think of worshiping God, they imagine such activities as singing songs of praise and thanksgiving, listening to the Word of God read and preached, corporate prayer, and the like. Few would consider the role of their body in worship. Indeed, in a popular definition, worship is described as involving a person’s conscience, mind, imagination, heart, and will—with no mention of the human body!
Your Body in Physical Worship
Scripture, however, presents an active, physical involvement in worship: the raising of hands, indicative of both blessing God (Psa. 134:1) and pleading for his help and mercy (Psa. 28:1-2; 88:8-10); kneeling, bowing, and falling down, exhibiting humility and abject shame before the Lord (Rev. 4:9-11; 5:8-14; Ezra 9:5-6; 2 Chron. 6:12-14; Psa. 35:13-14; Neh. 8:5-6); dancing or leaping, manifesting intense joy (Psa. 149:3-4; Ex. 15:20-21; 2 Sam. 6:14-17); and clapping and shouting praise to God (Psa. 47:1-2; 66:1). Certainly, many cultural—including generational, ethnic, geographical, socio-economic, and denominational—realities must be considered in this discussion, but embodied human beings qualified to worship God “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24) are to engage in this activity with the entirety of their being—and that includes their body.
Your Body in Baptism
Moreover, Jesus Christ ordained physical, tangible means by which he expresses and grants grace to his followers. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the two ordinances given by Christ to his church. The initial rite, baptism, is administered to new converts as a concrete portrayal of their entrance into a new covenant relationship with the triune God (Matt. 28:18-20); their identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:3-5; Gal. 3:26-28); their cleansing from sin (Acts 26:16; 2:38); and their escape from divine judgment (1 Pet. 3:20-21). These mighty works of God are visibly depicted through baptism by immersion, a very physical act.
Your Body in the Lord’s Supper
The ongoing rite, the Lord’s Supper, is celebrated regularly by Christians as a concrete portrayal of the death of Jesus Christ—the loaf split in two, symbolizing his broken body; the cup of wine, representing his shed blood—and their participation in his blood and body (1 Cor. 10:16). As the church administers the Lord’s Supper, it “proclaims the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26)—not a verbal proclamation, but an enacted portrayal of the gospel. The mighty work of Christ on behalf of sinners is visibly depicted through the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, a very physical act.
Your Body as a Living Sacrifice
Worship, then, involves bodily participation as Christians physically express their praise, confess their sins, plead for divine mercy, and exalt in God’s blessings, which are also tangibly exhibited by the concrete, tangible rites of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Unsurprisingly, then, Paul urges Christians “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1).