71) Body and Soul

From a sermon entitled “Life Eternal” by Ralph Sockman (1889-1970)

     As I ponder Paul’s discussion of the body (in II Corinthians 4 & 5), it deepens my realization that personality does go on despite bodily changes.  We are told that a human body undergoes a complete renovation every seven years (by the ongoing replacement of cells).  If that be true, then I myself have used up and thrown away some seven bodies during my lifetime.  Yet through all those changes my personal identity continues.  Somewhere in each of us is an organizing center of life, called the soul or spirit, which keeps our individuality intact while replacing the worn parts of the physical structure.  Thus these bodies of ours are but the changing instruments of a continuing spirit.  In light of this fact does it not seem possible, even reasonable, that personality can survive the extreme bodily changes of the grave?  As Sir Oliver Lodge once put it, smashing an organ is not equivalent to killing the organist.  The soul of man can go on expressing itself through some instrument other than the earthly body. 

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II Corinthians 4:16-18 — Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

II Corinthians 5:1-10 — Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.  Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.  For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.  We live by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

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Even such is time, that takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
And pays us but with earth and dust;

Who in the dark and silent grave, 
When we have wandered all our ways
Shuts down the story of our days;

But from this earth, this grave, this dust, 
My God shall raise me up, I trust.

–Sir Walter Raleigh, written on the night before his execution