“do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” This text from 1 Corinthians is definitely in the running for the most ripped out of context and misused verse in the New Testament. It is often (mis)used in order to condemn any number of acceptable Christian practices, from alcohol consumption, to eating genetically modified foods, to smoking tobacco, etc. The text is also used as more generally as a proof text for why Christians ought to exercise, eat healthy, and care for their bodies well out of an obligation to God.
While one could make the case that there is some level of obligation for Christians to pursue good health, there is no biblical support for a mandated form of Christian asceticism in order to maintain bodily health. That is not the main issue in this text, and it’s time to stop ripping it out of context and using it to promote this idea. This quote is from the end of Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 6 regarding sexual morality, this argument being particularly focused against the Corinthian believers who were continuing to visit temple prostitutes. If we wish to use this text to forbid a particular bodily sin, perhaps we should, you know, use it to forbid sexual immorality. Crazy idea.
Using Paul’s injunction against sexual immorality as a means to forward one’s particular hobby horses is a bad, bad idea. Olympic weightlifting is a wonderful sport, but I would have a very hard time convincing you from this text that you should learn how to perform a technically proficient snatch, because Paul is not commanding anything, he’s forbidding sexual immorality. Avoiding drunkenness is a good and biblical idea, but you’d have a terribly hard time supporting avoidance of alcohol from this text, particularly in light of the rest of the testimony of scripture regarding it. Why? Once again, because it’s not what Paul is dealing with here. Context is important.
The body of any Christian is truly the temple of the Holy Spirit, and to deny that would be completely contrary to the testimony of scripture. However, to use this text as a means to create some sort of ascetic understanding of the body, diet, and exercise is completely outside of the purpose and usage of the text. Using this text as means to forbid various bodily pleasures also goes completely against the surrounding context of Paul’s continued argument against the gnostic heresy which was present and taking hold on some of the church at Corinth. Don’t be a practical gnostic. Love God, and do what you want. If what you want is smoking tobacco, drinking wine, or eating french fries, then do so. If what you want is to lift heavy things, run marathons, or simply enjoy a recreational sport, then do that. God gave you these things to make your heart glad. The point Paul is making in this text is not specifically for or against any of these things, he’s just against visiting temple prostitutes. Love God, do what you want, and stop ripping bible verses out of context to further justify your lawful hobbies or condemn the lawful hobbies of others.