Have you ever heard it said that someone was a waste of space? It is a not very nice comment sometimes made about a not very nice person. Recently the doctor informed me I was taking up too much space! I needed to lose some weight. I now find myself doing push-ups and sit-ups and running between three and five kilometres most mornings! After a workout my wife reminded me of what someone once said, ‘Sweat is fat crying!’ But, what does the Bible have to say about it all? Well, some would point to those Scriptures that speak of the body needing to be taken care of because it is the temple of God. Fair enough! However, for me there are two main but related things going on in the Bible They are to do with the mind and the body. Both need to be exercised. Solomon says, ‘Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh’ Ecclesiastes 12:12b. The word ‘study’ as used here means intense mental application (Strong’s). And the word ‘flesh,’ by way of extension, means the (naked) ‘body.’ Therefore, mental exercise causes physical weariness. However, let us exercise our minds by delving a bit deeper.
The Apostle cheers on the Christian where he says, ‘Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things…’1 Timothy 4:7b-8a. The original Greek word translated ‘exercise’ here comes from a word meaning to practice naked (Strong’s), from which we derive the words gymnasium and gymnast etc. Exercising toward godliness is a mental exercise. It is a running to God. It is to do the opposite of what Adam and Eve did when they sinned against God. ‘Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden’ Genesis 3:7-8. Here the word ‘naked’ has more to do with being made bare and less to do with being without clothes. It denotes a loss of innocence, as in a loss of ‘godliness.’ Adam and Eve had become like the Devil, i.e., subtle, cunning, crafty – as described in Genesis 3:1. ‘Seductive’ might be an apt description. For, in the original, ‘cunning’ and ‘naked’ are from the same source.
Scripture describes Adam and Eve before they fell, ‘And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed’ Genesis 2:25. A different word is used for ‘naked’ here than what Adam and Eve became after the rebelled against God. If you will, the former is to be naked without shame and the latter is to be naked with shame (i.e., trying to hide your shame). Do not miss the subtlety of what is going on here. Think of the proverbial ‘Used Car Salesman.’ When he shows us a car we wonder what he is trying to hide! He needs to be subtle, cunning or crafty if he is going to succeed in selling a dud! When Adam and Eve fell they were trying to cover their shame. They were trying to sell God a dud! All mankind is like this until the Holy Spirit working with the Word in our hearts exposes us for what we really are – naked and in need of being clothed by God. ‘Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them’ Genesis 3:21. Though practical, this ‘clothing’ was also a symbolic gesture of God’s part. It pointed to the One promised in Genesis 3:15, i.e., to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Next, notice one of the things the LORD God said to Adam after he had lost his godliness, ‘In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground’ Genesis 3:19. The word ‘sweat’ is used three time in the Bible, a) Here in the Garden of Eden, b) Priests ministering in the Temple were not to wear anything that would cause them to sweat (Ezekiel 44:18), and c) Our Great High Priest in the Garden of Gethsemane sweat ‘great drops of blood’ (Luke 22:44b).
Let us add it all together: Christians are to exercise toward godliness. Mental and physical exercise causes us to sweat. Sweat reminds us of our fallen or sinful condition. Our sins need to be washed away. God needs to clothe us. ‘For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ’ Galatians 3:27. Also, ‘To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood’ Revelation 1:5b.
You and I are not a waste of space! A new Adam represents us. In mental anguish He sweated as He prayed for us. He was hung naked upon a tree that God might clothe us in His skin, in His righteousness. Thus, He makes the ungodly godly.
Nothing in my hand I bring / Simply to Thy Cross I cling / Naked, come to Thee for dress / Helpless, look to Thee for grace / Foul, I to the fountain fly / Wash me, Saviour, or I die. Augustus Toplady, 1740-78.