Part 5: Christ and His Body

(This is the fifth and last of a series of articles that first appeared in 1950 in Truth magazine, published by Milwaukee Bible Institute/Worldwide Grace Testimony, now the Grace Gospel Fellowship. These articles have never before appeared in the Searchlight.)

“Now ye are the Body of Christ, and members in particular” (I Cor. 12:27).

The most wonderful truth in all the Word of God is that which concerns the relationship between Christ and the Church of this dispensation, called “His Body.”

To understand this distinctive truth, however, we must first learn that the words Church and body, as they are rendered in the Authorized Version, are not always synonymous.


The word Church (Gr. ekklesia) is a general term and is interdispensational in scope. It means simply a called-out group, or assembly, and God has had His called-out people in every dispensation. Israel under Moses was called “the church in the wilderness” by Stephen (Acts 7:38). Our Lord instructed those of His day how, if a sinning brother could not be reasoned with, they might, as a last resort, “tell it unto the Church” (Matt. 18:17). At Pentecost “there were added…about three thousand souls” and “the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:41,47).

The word ekklesia is not, of course, found in the Old Testament since the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, but it is significant that it is found in reference to Israel some sixty times in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament.

The word Church, then, is a general term for God’s called-out people in every age.

The word body (Gr. soma) is an entirely different word in the original. It may refer to any physical body, but when applied to “the Body of Christ,” that Body of believers of which we are members, it is a particular term and is distinctly dispensational in character.

How it can be argued, for example, that the Body of Christ had its historical beginning at Pentecost, when Pentecost was the fulfillment of prophecy and the Body of Christ is not even mentioned until Paul, has always puzzled us. The Messianic kingdom was prophesied throughout the Old Testament Scriptures; it was proclaimed “at hand” during our Lord’s earthly ministry and offered for Israel’s acceptance at Pentecost. The coming of the Holy Spirit, likewise, was prophesied by Joel and others, and at Pentecost Peter said: “This is that….” Even the great period of tribulation was predicted by the Old Testament prophets and at Pentecost Peter declared that the signs of that dread day had begun to appear.

But where in the Old Testament is there any prediction of the formation of a joint Body of Jewish and Gentile believers with a position at God’s right hand in the heavenlies? Where did Christ or His apostles even mention it during His earthly ministry? Where is even the term “Body of Christ” found until we come to the writings of the Apostle Paul?1 What right, then, have we to assume that the Body of Christ had its beginning at Pentecost? The signs of Pentecost heralded the “last days” of prophecy; the consumation of Israel’s glory in “the day of the Lord;” they did not mark the first days of “the Church which is His Body.”

The supposition that the words Church and body are synonymous in Scripture has lead to great confusion. Some, seeing Israel referred to as the Church in the Old Testament, have concluded that the Body of Christ had its historical beginning with Abel or Adam. Those referred to above, however, finding the word Church in Acts 2 and connecting this with Christ’s statement: “I will build my Church” (Matt. 16:18) have supposed—less consistently—that the Body had its beginning at Pentecost. Many good Bible expositors, including even Dr. C. I. Scofield, have sought to point out distinctions between “Israel and the Church,” when the fact is that Israel once was the Church, as we have seen from Acts 7:38.

The distinctions, properly, should be made between Israel and the Body, between the Church of that day and the Church of this.

Let us be careful, then, about our terminology. The word Church is a general term and is interdispensational in scope, while “the Body of Christ” is a particular term and is distinctly dispensational in scope, since it is the product of “the dispensation of the grace of God.”


Probably more “church members” today are interested in the establishment of Christ’s kingdom than are interested in the completion of the Body. This is because they have not been instructed in Pauline truth, the truth concerning the present dispensation.

God is not establishing Christ’s kingdom on earth today. The King and His kingdom were rejected 1900 years ago. Christ is seated at the Father’s right hand as a royal Exile from earth. Believers today are translated “into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1:13); and “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).

Indeed, the Church which is Christ’s Body came into existence as a result of Israel’s rejection of Christ and the postponement of the establishment of the kingdom on earth. It was when Israel had rejected Christ both in incarnation and in resurrection; when she had closed her eyes and ears to all the overwhelming evidences of His Messiahship and had begun to wage war against Him, that “grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). Gradually setting Israel aside as a nation along with the other nations, God now began to form “the Body of Christ,” composed of individual Jews and Gentiles reconciled to God by faith in His rejected Son.

“For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all” (Rom. 11:32).

“And that He might reconcile both unto God in one Body by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:16).


The Body of Christ had its historical beginning with Paul, before he wrote his first epistle.

That it began with Paul, not with Peter or before, is evident from several important facts:

First, as we have seen, the Body is not mentioned anywhere in the Scriptures until we come to the writings of Paul, and it is the great subject of his epistles.

Second, the Body of Christ is a joint Body, composed of Jewish and Gentile believers alike, with no difference, positionally, between them.

“That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs [joint-heirs], and of the same Body [of a joint-Body], and partakers [joint-partakers] of His promise in Christ by the gospel” (Eph. 3:6).2

“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles…” (I Cor. 12:13).

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek…for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26-28).

This is very different from the program of prophecy and the so-called “great commission” in which Israel is given precedence over the Gentiles (See Isa. 60:1-3; Zech. 8:13,23; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:25,26).

Third, the Body is made up of reconciled Jews and Gentiles as we have seen from Ephesians 2:16. Now we cannot reconcile friends. Reconciliation postulates alienation. This is why the message of reconciliation was not preached, nor the Body formed, until God had begun to set Israel aside along with the Gentiles. “The casting away of them” opened the way for “the reconciling of the world” (Rom. 11:15). Nor is there any indication of the setting aside of Israel until Paul is raised up.

Fourth, Paul distinctly states, by the Spirit, that the Body of Christ is a “new man” and a “new creation.”

“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [Gr. there is A NEW CREATION]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:16,17).

“For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

“Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain ONE NEW MAN, so making peace” (Eph. 2:14,15).

This “new creation” and “new man” stand in contrast to Adam and the old creation. Having concluded all in unbelief, God now offers to take the fallen sons of Adam and make them a new creation in Christ.

Fifth, the Apostle further states that God’s purpose concerning the formation of the Body of Christ was kept a secret until revealed through him.

“Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ,

“Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Eph. 3:4,5).

“[His Body, Ver. 24] whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the Word of God;

“Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints” (Col. 1:24-26).

That the Body had its beginning before Paul wrote his first epistle is also evident, from the fact that he speaks of it in his early epistles as having already been brought into existence and refers to the mystery as having already been revealed.

(See, as to the Body: Rom. 12:4,5; I Cor. 6:15; 10:17; 12:12,13,27. As to the mystery: Rom. 2:16; 16:25; I Cor. 2:7).


When the Apostle Paul writes to the Colossians that it was given to him to “fulfill [complete] the Word of God” (Col. 1:25), he means that the truth of the Body is the filling up of the divine revelation. More of the Bible was doubtless written later, but these later writings simply supplied further details and instructions concerning an already prophesied period of time. But the glorious mystery of the Body is the capstone of the divine purpose and revelation. Here we have the highest truth in all the Word of God. The Body is called, in Ephesians 1:23, “the fulness of Him that filleth all in all,” and we who have received grace to trust Christ during this age of His rejection should humbly thank God a thousand times a day that He has seen fit to give us the most exalted position contemplated for the redeemed anywhere in the Scriptures.

In this connection it should be noted, first of all, that the Body of Christ is more than an organization; it is a living organism. As necessary and Scriptural as organization is in the professing Church on earth, we should always remember that the true Church of today is made up of believers inseparably and eternally united to the living Christ in glory. And this Body grows in its dimensions, as one believer leads another to Christ and spiritually, as all believers come into a fuller knowledge and appreciation of the truth.

“In whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:21).

“But speaking the truth in love… grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

“From Whom the whole Body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the Body unto the edifying [building up] of itself in love” (Eph. 4:15,16).

Another blessed truth in this connection is that all true believers belong to this Body, even our individual bodies being called the members of Christ. And because we are the members of Christ, we are members one of another; each having some different function in the Body, to be sure (Rom. 12:4; I Cor. 12:14-26), but all equally members of it and of one another.

“So we, being many, are one Body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Rom. 12:5).

“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?” (I Cor. 6:15).

“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free” (I Cor. 12:13).

“Now ye are the Body of Christ, and members in particular” (I Cor. 12:27).

“There is one Body” (Eph. 4:4).

How this should make us love one another! How it should break down denominational barriers! How it should overcome personal differences! This bond should be most precious to us when we reflect that it is our union with Christ that makes us members one of another.

Finally, we should never forget that Christ, Christ alone, is the Head of the Body. We, the members, must always be subject to Him, ready to respond instantly to His will.

“And He is the Head of the Body, the Church…that in all things He might have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18).

“…Christ is Head of the Church… the Church is subject unto Christ…” (Eph. 5:23,24).

And this clearly implies that He will plan the very best for us; that His will for us will not be grievous.

“For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth it and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church” (Eph. 5:29).


  1. It is true that Paul speaks of those who were “in Christ” before him (Rom. 16:7) but here, as in many other places, the term has a moral connotation. These believers stood before God morally in Christ, since their sins had been imputed to Him and His righteousness to them. Thus we too have redemption “in Christ” (Eph. 1:7). This term is also used in an affinitive sense, as in our Lord’s upper room discourse: “Abide in Me” (John 15:4). This has the idea of belonging together as one. But in neither of these cases are men said to be in Christ as “members of His Body.”
  2. “Fellowheirs,” “same body” and “partakers” all have the same prefix in the original.

You can receive More Minutes With the Bible every week in your email inbox. This list features longer articles, including both original content and articles that have appeared in the Berean Searchlight.

Berean Searchlight – September 2004

Free Mail Subscription

For a free subscription to the Berean Searchlight by mail, visit the Berean Searchlight Subscription page.

Subscribe to the Berean Searchlight Monthly Email to receive an email announcement when each issue of the Searchlight is posted online.

Overcoming Depression Biblically and Naturally


The Berean Bible Society desires to have a variety of articles in the Berean Searchlight that cover a range of topics from doctrinal to practical Christian living. Depression is a very important Christian-living topic.

The Bible has much to say about depression; interestingly, the causes and solutions are not what are commonly thought in Christian circles. This article will offer insights that may help erase the stigma associated with depression and to see it in a new light. When seen correctly, there is no more stigma or shame associated with depression than any other illness.

For those afflicted with depression, please understand you are not alone in your feelings, not going out of your mind, confusion is common, and the inexplicable black cloud can be lifted. A sad truth is that many Christians suffer from depression and either do not know it (they are miserable but do not know why) or cannot admit it because they think that would be admitting a spiritual problem. So, they suffer in silence hoping and praying for deliverance; but the consequences of doing nothing often result in further complications.

To be the comforters of II Corinthians 1:6 (and to help ourselves) we have to understand depression’s causes, avoid false assumptions and grasp the concepts of how to gain victory. We will see that our brains malfunction like any organ or system of our body. Would we be gracious comforters if we went to a person with diabetes (or any physical ailment) and told them their problem was due to sin or lack of faith? Generally we would be wrong and we would just be heaping misery upon misery and making matters worse.


What is Depression?: Depression is a prolonged emotional tone dominating an individual’s outlook and mood. Normal moods of sadness, grief, and elation are typically short-lived and part of everyday life, but these can progress into a depressed mental state. Other symptoms often accompany depression but the most common symptoms of major depression are:1

  • deep sadness or emptiness,
  • apathy, loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities,
  • agitation or restlessness, physical hyperactivity or inactivity,
  • sleep disturbances,
  • weight/appetite disturbances,
  • diminished ability to think or concentrate,
  • feelings of excessive guilt, self-reproach or worthlessness,
  • feelings of fatigue or loss of energy, and
  • morbid thoughts of death or suicide.

If a person experiences at least five of these symptoms for one month they have major depression. Mild depression would typically be defined as having two to four of these symptoms for over one month. Bipolar disorder (manic depression) includes swings from deeply depressive moods to wildly manic moods (elation, irritability, hostility, inflated thoughts of self, boasting)—with many intensities and variations.

When asked “what brings you pleasure in life” most unsaved, depressed people will look down and finally say something like “nothing.” The saved are more guarded because they fear if they admit “nothing” they will be thought unspiritual, so they say something like “being saved” or “knowing Christ.” The saved, depressed person generally knows about their eternal and heavenly blessings, for which they are thankful, but they feel trapped now by inexplicable emotional tones and moods. Consider this man trapped by depression’s grip.

“I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would be not one cheerful face on earth. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell. I awfully (regretfully) forebode (foretell) I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible. I must die or be better it appears to me.”—Abraham Lincoln

Biblical Occurrences: Depression is the ascendancy and tyranny of our emotions over our lives. Thus, Proverbs 15:13 says, “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance; but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.” Often an initiating discouragement leads to sadness, which leads to prolonged grief, and then into a downhill spiral to depression. Depression is a universal problem, but no one really knows if Biblical characters had what we call depression, or if it would be more appropriate to say they suffered emotionally. However, Paul in I Corinthians 10:13 says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able…”. Temptation can mean trial, calamity, or affliction. Accordingly, we should understand that our present day afflictions were also common to the great Bible characters.

David was overwhelmed with grief and sadness, his heart was desolate, and his tears fell all night (Psa. 61:2, 77:2-3, 142:4, and 143:4). Jonah, Jeremiah (Jer. 15), Job, and Elijah (I Kings 19) are other examples. Whenever characters express rejection, loneliness, self-pity, hopelessness, overwhelming grief, and wish they had not been born, it seems they are expressing more than temporary sadness but classic symptoms of major depression. Paul had classic symptoms: his flesh had no rest, he was troubled on all sides, he was cast down, he had fears within, and he despaired of life (II Cor. 1:8 & 7:5-6). Hannah (I Samuel 1) had many of the symptoms of depression and her spiritual leader instantly and incorrectly accused her of a spiritual problem.

It seems there is a universal truth concerning depression, that is, the non-depressed rarely understand the unrelenting pain involved, the feelings of hopelessness (in this life, not once delivered from this body), and think the person should just pick themselves up and get over it. It is not that easy. In fact, when that part of the brain that mediates emotions is not functioning properly, medical help (not criticism) is often needed.

Depression Considerations: Each year depression strikes ten million people in the United States. Older Christians have more depression than younger; does this mean that spiritual maturity is of no avail? No, what this indicates is that older people have more biochemical and brain malfunctions as they age; depression is a natural consequence. Similarly, more women (two to three times) have depression than men. Women do not have more spiritual problems than men, but they do process adverse events differently than men, and, they have a complex body chemistry that can get out of balance, both leading to depression. Women tend to take adverse events and internalize them and take the blame—this is a thought-processing problem. Men tend to react to the same events with escapism (sports, TV, sexual obsessions, alcohol); which can later result in heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, etc.—again, a thought-processing problem but with different results. There is another difference: women tend to feel their depression (sadness/guilt) while men act it out in their behavior (rage, hostility and frustration).2

Causes: Understanding the causes of depression is very helpful to finding the solution. It is rare that there is only one causative agent, generally there are several at work. Listed below (no specific order) are some factors known to contribute to depression:3 4 5

  • nutrient deficiency or excess
  • drugs (prescription, illicit, caffeine)
  • hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • hormonal imbalances
  • allergies
  • heavy metals
  • sexual abuse as a child
  • microbial overgrowths/toxins
  • medical conditions (stroke, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes, thyroid)
  • natural light deprivation
  • psychological factors (generally poor thought-processing)
  • spiritual factors

Depression can have its source in our body, soul or spirit. Our body can affect our soul and spirit and vice versa. For example: if one has a low thyroid function it may affect the soul (for example the emotions) leading to depression which then affects one’s spiritual life. Affecting our spiritual life does not mean it changes our standing or position in Christ, it means things like a less productive outreach/ministry and a more self-oriented prayer life.

Research since the 1990’s has helped clarify this whole issue and there is now better understanding on the causes and solutions. The brain’s frontal lobe (behind the forehead) is now known to be intimately involved in emotional well-being. It is recognized that one of the characteristics of virtually all depressed people is a significant decrease in the frontal lobe’s blood flow and activity. The main cause of impaired frontal lobe function is a harmful lifestyle—the same cause of most of our physical diseases.6

There is now no question that reductions in frontal lobe function lie at the core of depression. Complimenting this research is the finding that depressed children have significantly smaller frontal lobes than non-depressed children. The evidence indicates that frontal lobe problems are the cause and not the effect. The frontal lobe’s proper function requires adequate blood flow and nerve chemistry.

As fog veils a beautiful meadow, so depression clouds life itself; existence becomes dreary and dark. It has been described as darkness visible. One can go to bed feeling fine only to wake with an overwhelming gloom that cannot be explained or escaped. With proper nutrition, lifestyle changes and a renewed way of processing the events of our lives we can break through that fog into a sunny day.

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine; but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 17:21).

Consequences: Now that it is clear that depression is related to many factors, primarily to frontal lobe malfunction, let’s consider the consequences of depression. Depression weakens the immune system’s power to attack cancer cells, increases the risk of fatal stroke by 50%, increases the risk of sudden cardiac death in heart attack survivors by 250%, and increases the complications of pneumonia.7 It has been found that depression increase stress hormone levels, hypertension, and headaches; it complicates diabetes and is the leading cause of suicide (its close relative). The point is clear, depression should be addressed early or it may lead to fatal consequences. However, because of their illness depressed persons have diminished ability to combat their own disease, so help is often needed to lift them out of the pit of despair.

How the Brain Works: By God’s design, all brain activity (every thought, feeling and emotion, every order the brain sends to the organs and cells) is the product of electrochemical signals. The brain’s electrical signals require a chemical to carry the signal across a small opening (synapse) between cells. The chemicals used to do this are called neurotransmitters. To have a properly functioning system we need an adequate amount of neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitter most commonly associated with depression is serotonin.

Depressed people have low serotonin levels. Thus, they have impaired brain message sending, especially relating to emotions and mood. Serotonin is produced in the brain from tryptophan (a protein), which is converted into 5-HTP, and then into serotonin. Some serotonin is converted into melatonin, the hormone needed for proper sleep (thus the connection between depression and sleep disorders). One cause of low serotonin is the lack of an enzyme that converts tryptophan to 5-HTP.8 Before proceeding, just think how unfair it would be to tell a depressed person that is missing this needed enzyme that they have a spiritual problem. As a doctor told a dear sister in Christ who just could not understand why she could not get over her depression, “quit beating yourself up about it, your body just does not produce enough serotonin.”


This article will consider botanical medicine, medications, proper lifestyle, nutrition, thought processing, and spiritual direction—the most common causes of depression. Some consider botanical or pharmaceutical medications for depression to be “mind-numbing” or “feel-good” drugs. This is unfortunate because such medications only help a depressed person feel more “normal” (a non-depressed person would feel worse or no change).

If depression were primarily spiritually induced, people should not get better from medications because medications do nothing about the spiritual problem. If the medications merely treat the symptoms and do not get to the root spiritual cause then the depression should always come back once the medications are stopped, which is not the case.

Botanical Medicines: The Scripture makes it clear that because of sin the earth today is not yielding its strength (Gen. 4:12). As a result of this Romans 8:22 says, “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” Knowing this, the Lord has made special provisions for us. Psalms 104:14 says, “…and herb for the service of man:…”, which means the botanical (herbal) kingdom was designed for the many services of humans, including medicine.

Often herbal products are slower acting than pharmaceutical medications, but the advantages of herbal supplements is that they can often affect a cure (rather than just address symptoms) and the side effects are minor compared to pharmaceutical drugs. Herbs can be considered the medicine from God’s pharmacy. The most important and well tested herbs to consider in connection with depression are:9 10

  • St. John’s Wort (SJW): relieves depression, anxiety, apathy, sleep disturbance, anorexia, and feeling of worthlessness. All these symptoms are caused by low serotonin and SJW increases the level of serotonin in the brain.
  • Ginkgo biloba: improves blood flow and function of the frontal lobe. Ginkgo increases the ability of serotonin to do its job in the brain.
  • 5-HTP: a plant extract that is just one step from becoming serotonin—the brain readily makes this conversion. It raises the level of serotonin and other brain neurotransmitters. This product overcomes the genetic problem that does not allow for the conversion of tryptophan to 5-HTP.

Pharmaceutical Medications: There are times when medications can save a person’s life. If botanical medicines do not work (in conjunction with the lifestyle, thought processing, and consideration of other causes) then medications are an option. A short-term use of antidepressant drugs may be needed in order to get the mind operating sufficiently well so that a person can function. Medications generally work by keeping serotonin (or other neurotransmitters) at adequate levels in the brain’s synapses. They do not help create increased blood flow or frontal lobe function.

Nutrition: A deficiency of any single nutrient can alter brain function and lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. The most common deficiencies are folic acid, vitamin B12 and B6. An insufficiency of Omega 3 fatty acids (oils) has been linked to depression. Low Omega 3 oils result in cells throughout the body and brain that do not function correctly, and the mind suffers. The needed Omega 3 oils are found in fish oils and flaxseed oil.11 12 13 14 15

The diet for helping to prevent and correct depression is based upon Biblical insights:

  • Increase the consumption of fiber-rich plant foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and raw nuts and seeds).
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and other stimulants; also avoid foods that cause allergic symptoms.
  • A good diet is: low protein, high fiber, low-moderate fat, and high complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates do not include simple carbohydrates (processed foods, snack foods, white bread, soda). Raw fruit has simple carbohydrates but is good because of the fiber, enzymes and antioxidants.
  • Atkins type diets are poor; they actually lead to depression since carbohydrates are needed to get tryptophan into the brain.
  • Foods high in tryptophan should be consumed regularly: soy flour, meats/poultry (turkey and chicken), tofu, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, raw nuts, eggs, lentils, and garbanzo beans.
  • A good snack before going to bed would be a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread (there is tryptophan in the turkey and the whole grain bread will help keep sugar levels stable and help get the tryptophan get into the brain).

Rule to live by: Eat foods as close to the way God created them as possible: raw, whole, and unprocessed. He created vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, etc. He did not create processed foods or animal meat full of antibiotics and hormones. Humans cannot improve upon God’s bounty!

Lifestyle: Regular exercise and sleep are essential to combat depression. Exercise at least 30 minutes four times a week. One does not have to jog: but walking, biking, tennis, swimming, gardening, active house/yard work are great. Regular exercise takes time for the effects to be felt, sometimes weeks.

We each have an internal clock that operates on a roughly 24-hour schedule (circadian rhythm). Even mentally healthy people can become depressed if the circadian rhythms are significantly disturbed. Seasonal Affective Disorder is common in the winter months in northern climates because the lack of natural sunlight disrupts these rhythms. Direct exposure to bright full spectrum light can help, or, the serotonin boosting botanical medicines.

A common factor leading to depression is hypoglycemia (low blood sugar); the brain requires a constant supply of blood sugar to function properly. Thyroid insufficiency also causes depression. Women with post-partum depression and those approaching menopause (symptoms often start by mid-30 age) are subject to hormonal disturbances that lead to depression.16 17 18

Biblical Thought-Processing: How we handle bad or disappointing news has a profound effect upon our mental well-being. As long as we believe we are victims, we are not able to achieve full mental health.19 Positive thinking is more important for overall health than almost anything else. Negative thinking, on the contrary, can destroy the good done by correct diet and lifestyle.20 Many depressed people have a tendency to look at the down side of life. It has been said that it is a positive duty to resist melancholy and discontented thoughts as much as it is our duty to pray. Certainly there will always be things in this imperfect world that give us cause to complain. Often we are helpless to personally do anything about many of these negative things. However, we can focus our mind on the enjoyable and wonderful things of life; this is scriptural, uplifting and therapeutic.

In our self-talk (how we silently talk and think to ourselves) we must replace the negative/compulsive thoughts with Philippians 4:8. But each person must search-out those things that are true, honest, just, pure, etc.—that is the purpose of meditating on God’s Word. As soon as the conscious awareness of an unconstructive negative thought is realized, a positive thought must immediately replace it. This takes practice and preparation, but brings our thinking into captivity. The instruction of II Corinthians 10:5 & 6 is, “…and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.” Applying these words to ourselves, we cannot allow ourselves to entertain negative thoughts, even if true, even if we have been wronged (Prov. 12:25, 15:13, 18:14). Nor can we entertain compulsive thoughts (thoughts that just keep running over and over again in our mind even though they may not be negative in nature).

In the world of secular counseling there has been a shift away from psychoanalysis which was aimed at uncovering “unconscious” reasons for depression. Time was spent on how the individual was raised as a child, and other past events that may have shaped a person’s feelings and behavior. Going through the maze of a person’s past life was thought helpful to present-day healing or identifying causative agents. This therapy has proven less successful than desired. So, a shift has been made toward cognitive behavioral therapy which focuses on the interpretation of life’s events. This is mentioned because secular therapy has, over time, become more closely aligned with what Paul teaches about our thinking, that is:21

  • erroneous interpretations of events and negative automatic thoughts may initiate or perpetuate the depressed mood and
  • our focus should not be on the past (finding circumstances or others to blame) but on what one can do differently.

The essential basics of cognitive behavioral therapy are shown below; each person should provide their own verses to make them more personal and meaningful. Whether in the natural world or in the realm of the mind, science comes to the same conclusion as revealed in the Bible 2000 years ago.

  1. Locate and identify the negative thoughts or misbelief in your self-talk. “I am no good because things are not like what I expect or want.”
  2. Argue against the negative thoughts. “I am not a failure just because I do not meet unrealistic expectations of myself or others.”
  3. Learn how to avoid rumination (the constant churning of thoughts in one’s mind) by immediately changing your thoughts.
  4. Replace the negative thoughts the very second they occur with the truth and with empowering positive thoughts and beliefs. “In spite of the sorrow, disappointments and feelings I experience the Lord will help me carry on.”22

Most depression-causing negative thoughts or misbeliefs enter the flow of self-talk after some loss has occurred. Temporary disappointment or sadness at loss is natural, but it cannot continue long-term without consuming a person.

Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that God has promised us perfect peace at all times; that will come to those in the Kingdom (Isa. 26:1-3). The instruction and blessing of Philippians 4:6 & 7 are applicable for today. Always understand these verses in light of Paul, who had plenty of struggles and afflictions but God brought him through and kept his heart and mind in the process.

Finally, Philippians 3:13 & 14 says, “…but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul is using a runner’s analogy to put the past and future in their proper perspective. He says that runners in a race cannot look back to see where the other runners are, for if they do they may stumble or get out of their lane and be disqualified. A runner can only look ahead and stretch forward, making the focus the finish line, not what may be behind.

We are on a track, running life’s race. The most incredible thing is that each Christian is the only person on his/her track. One does not have to be all that fast, but steady. The only thing that is behind us on our track is our past (forgetting those things that are behind), with its failures, abuses, hurts, regrets, accomplishments, or fame. If you have your eye on the prize the past cannot hurt/catch you. The past contains the thoughts that Paul says to forget about, certainly do not ruminate about them, if you do you will stumble (have mental problems). He implies a Christian’s greatest point of failure in running the race is letting the past keep him/her from running well. Look ahead, stretch forward toward a new day and thank God for all you have in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Spiritual Direction: Depression can have a spiritual source if we live in sin, harbor anger or resentment, etc. We have to be willing to forgive (make the unnatural decision to let someone “off the hook” even though they do not ask or deserve it) just as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us, Ephesians 4:32. (Note, we forgive because we already have been forgiven, not to be forgiven as is the case in the Gospels.)

Regular spiritual exercise (reading, studying, praying, meditation on the Word) requires use of the frontal lobe of the brain and emphasizes communion with God, thinking His thoughts, sensing His presence, and knowing His will. This is active worship and produces the type of brain waves in the frontal lobe that are very helpful for us all, including the depressed. Hypnosis and the trance-like state of Eastern religious meditation are very harmful; they produce the wrong type of brain waves and information bypasses the frontal lobe, leading to possible mind control.23

Sometimes a believer is living for the Lord, serving and honoring Him in all parts of his/her life. Over the years, the Lord blesses that person and they are happy, enjoy good health, etc. Certainly there is nothing wrong with enjoying the blessings of the Lord. But, it can all be taken in a moment, not because of spiritual problems, but because it may be that God is taking (or because of the situation He will take) that person to the next level of maturity—it is perplexing and it hurts. Often growth requires loss or brokenness.24 Paul says, “…I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord for whom I have suffered the loss of all things…” (Phil. 3:8).

Romans 12:2 says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Transformed in Greek is metamorphosis and means a change in form; it implies a struggle like when a chrysalis morphs into a butterfly. If we do not become changed from the inside-out—if we do not morph—we will be tempted to find external things to satisfy our needs. Transformation is not an instantaneous act of God, it is a life-long process (journey). One does not get transformed by just praying, asking or believing; there is no “microwave” (quick and easy) way to spiritual maturity.

The passive voice in Romans 12:2 means the Holy Spirit will do the transforming for us if we cooperate with Him (listening, yielding, relying…). Expect spiritual advancement, you can always mature more, Philippians 3:15-16. Your imperfections will be revealed by the Holy Spirit so that you may continue to grow and become more complete (not sinless, but well-rounded). Maturity versus infancy is the issue. God loves you just the way you are, but refuses to leave you that way; He wants you to be made conformable to Christ, II Corinthians 3:18.

Our Lord stripped himself of His glory and “…made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men…and became obedient unto death…” (Phil. 2:7 & 8). His life reminds us of our spiritual growth which often imposes tough lessons, sometimes so tough we shrink back from learning them. It seems we have to learn from actual experience that whatever we depend upon in this life (for joy, comfort, acceptance, etc.), ends up controlling us. God allows and uses life’s events to teach us about misplaced dependencies, so that we finally grasp the concept that Christ is our one true sufficiency.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, offer prescriptive advice or substitute for a personal health care provider. Anyone taking prescription medications, or wishing to significantly change his/her lifestyle, is advised to consult with a medical professional with appropriate expertise.

Steve Shober is a Naturopath (natural health practitioner) and a member of the BBS Board of Directors. If you have questions about this article, would like more information on the use of herbal products, nutrition or lifestyle issues, or would like a presentation on depression at your church, contact him at: Biblical Health Ministries, 7179 Clover Hill Dr., Waunakee, WI 53597; or Biblical Health Ministries is a non-profit ministry dedicated to teaching God’s provisions for our health.


  1. Textbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd Edition, J. Pizzorno, ND & M. Murray, ND, Bastyr University.
  2. Unmasking Male Depression, Archibald Hart, PhD, Word Publications.
  3. Depression the Way Out, Neil Nedley, MD, Nedley Publishing.
  4. 5-HTP The Natural Way to Overcome Depression, Obesity & Insomnia, M. Murray, ND, Bantom Books.
  5. Endocrinology and Naturopathic Therapies, 4th Edition, D. Powell, ND, Bastyr University.
  6. Depression the Way Out.
  7. Depression the Way Out.
  8. Textbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd Edition.
  9. Textbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd Edition.
  10. 5-HTP The Natural Way to Overcome Depression, Obesity & Insomnia.
  11. Textbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd Edition.
  12. Depression the Way Out.
  13. 5-HTP The Natural Way to Overcome Depression, Obesity & Insomnia.
  14. Endocrinology and Naturopathic Therapies.
  15. Naturopathic Gastroenterology, E. Yarnell, ND, Naturopathic Medical Press
  16. Textbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd Edition.
  17. Endocrinology and Naturopathic Therapies, 4th Edition.
  18. What Your Doctor May NOT tell you About Premenopause, J. Lee, MD, & J. Hanley, MD, Time-Warner Publishing.
  19. The Blessings of Brokenness, Dr. C. Stanley, Zondervan Publishing House.
  20. Your Health Your Choice, M. T. Morter, DC, Lifetime Books, Inc.
  21. Textbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd Edition.
  22. Telling Yourself the Truth, W. Backus, MD, & M. Chapian, Bethany House Publ.
  23. Depression the Way Out.
  24. The Blessings of Brokenness.