“I’m saved.” “I’ve got faith.” “I’m going to heaven.” “I’ve got a personal relationship with Jesus.” We hear Christians say these sorts of things all the time, or things like them. They’re well meaning sentiments. But these sentiments confess a quite disembodied and spiritualized Christianity. These confessions—that’s what they really are—speak of something more “out there,” more abstract than what we Lutherans wish to confess.
We confess with the Church of all ages the Apostle’s Creed. In it we confess all sorts of stuff about God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. With that Creed we confess, “I believe that God…has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them” (Small Catechism, The First Article). This is how God made us. We aren’t just souls trapped in the body. It’s not that the flesh is bad, and the spirit good. We are as God made us—soul and body. God has given each of us our bodies, and what God gives cannot be bad. Faith isn’t something that just draws our souls closer to God, and heaven won’t be a place of disembodied souls praising God either.
We are soul and body. And that’s exactly what Christ has redeemed. “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person” (Small Catechism, The Second Article). We are redeemed both soul and body. What Christ took up, that He also redeemed. What He did not take up, that He did not redeem.
The Son of God became man to save us. He took up a human nature. He became man—body and soul. Jesus truly is Immanuel, that is, “God with us”—God with a human nature. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24) “becoming a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13)—”the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). It’s not just our souls which sin, but we commit all sorts of sins with our bodies: disgusting sins, gross sins, big sins, unspeakable sins. All of them are done with our bodies.
Faith isn’t just some abstract reality of the soul, while our bodies are perishing. Faith isn’t an internal decision to follow Jesus. We, in our sins, are slaves, dead. Christ comes to us, the rotting corpses that we often are and He saves us.
He splashes water on our foreheads: “not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God” (1 Pet. 3:21). Indeed “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). Through such baptism, which is a washing of rebirth in the Holy Spirit, our bodies not just our souls are a temple of the Holy Spirit. Christ dwells in us. We are in Christ.
Jesus places His Word into our ears. But it’s not just any word. It’s His forgiving Word. Christ says of His pastors, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven” (John 20:23). After all, “He who hears you, hears me” (Luke 10:16). From Your own mouth comes forth a word; Your shepherd speaks, but You are heard; Through him Your hand now stretches out, Forgiving sin, destroying doubt. (LSB 616:4)
Lutheran spirituality is seen. It’s felt. It’s heard. It’s tangible. Font, pulpit, a hand resting on a head and a voice speaking. But that’s not all. Lutheran spirituality says, “Open up your mouth and eat this, open up your mouth and drink this for the forgiveness of sin.” Why? “This is the true body of Christ given for you; this is the true blood of Christ shed for you.” This is the height of Lutheran spirituality. The body and blood of Jesus, of the Son, the God-man, Immanuel is placed into our mouths for the forgiveness of all our sins.
God made us body and soul. He redeems that in the sending of His Son. He saves us by packing us full of His Son, His redemption, His body and blood. It’s splashed on our foreheads, it resounds in our ears, and it’s placed and poured into our mouths. Thus, Christ dwells in us and we in Him, and He will raise us up on the Last Day, and this is why we also confess, “I believe that on the Last Day the Holy Spirit will raise me and all the dead and given eternal life to me and all believers in Christ” (Small Catechism, The Third Article).
We are redeemed body and soul. We are washed, absolved, fed not just soul, but body. That’s what Jesus redeems and sanctifies. That’s what will be raised on the Last Day. Jesus saves us. All of us.