A Voice in the
Wilderness

site navigation

free newsletter

October 1, 2006

Return to: Q/A's
Q/A Topic:
  • Carnal Christians?

Carnal Christians?

READER (#1) QUESTION:
I was just reading one of your letters about 'carnal christians' and was wondering if by that you mean that a born again person can live a life like the unregenerate and still be saved. You have to remember that the unrighteous do not inherit the Kingdom of God. Then paul begins to list the things the unrighteous do. 1cor6:9-10 and then goes on to say that 'you were' like that, past tense. The entire New Testament testifies against this theory. Read Romans 8:1-17, Ephesians 5:3-7, Galatians 5:19-26. Galatians. 5:24 epitomizes this teaching "Those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." The reason that Paul warns this church about their "carnality" is so that they will straighten up and not be among "the unrighteous." This is the only mention of the "carnality" of the Corinthians. Notice why they were referred to as carnal- it had nothing to do with sexual immorality or drunkenness or idolatry- it had everything to do with their selfish attitudes and partisan spirit. We still have problems and divisions in the church to this day, so in many respects that aspect of carnality still rears it's ugly head. This is all said in love, my friend.

VW ANSWER:
But....
Please notice how he starts out that chapter (1Co3)

"And I, BRETHREN, was not able to speak to you as to spiritual but as to carnal, even as BABES IN CHRIST. I FED YOU WITH MILK and not with solid food; for until now you were not able, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and BEHAVING LIKE men?" (vs1-3)

He calls them "brethren" and "babes in Christ". They are Believers. He does not call them "natural" men (2:14) He says "we have the mind of Christ" (2:16b) "we" Does not "we" mean both himself and them? Peter speaks of "babes" feeding on the "milk of the Word" (1Pet2:2) Believers. Paul is "feeding" them; something not possible with unbelievers.

Even of himself he says, "For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin" (Rom7:14), in his own struggle between the flesh and spirit. If Paul calls himself "carnal", is that to suggest that he, while writing part of God's Word, at the direction of the Holy Spirit (2Pet1:21), was unsaved? If the carnal Corinthians were unsaved, then so was Paul. However, if Paul was saved, and he calls them "brethren", then they were also saved... only... "carnal"

But this is the whole point of our need for being made "incorruptible" at the resurrection/rapture. (1Co15:52) In our present state, in these bodies of flesh and blood, we are "not able to inherit the kingdom of God" (vs50)

The Corinthians, whom he calls "brethren" and "babes in Christ", he does not label them as "natural" (unsaved)...but he says they were, "BEHAVING" -like- men. (vs3) A spiritual person (saved), behaving like a natural man (unsaved), is carnal.

If we were not, at times, "carnal", why would John have said, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1Jn1:8) This, in the same context as "if we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth" (vs6)

We -are- "righteous" through the blood of Jesus Christ (Rev1:5), and the "accounting" of faith (Rom4), but sometimes we -behave- like "men". Which is what Paul is exhorting/chiding Corinth about. If Christians never behaved carnally, why would there be Scriptural exhortations to Christians to live holily? The exhortations instead would be to "be saved". Any time we sin, that is a "carnal" act, by definition. It is the "flesh" waring against the spirit. (Rom7) If there was such a thing as "sinless perfection", all the exhortations to -live- holy would be silly. It would be like to ask a dog, "Would you please bark" or a duck, "quack for me". They do these things by nature because they -are- dog and duck.

We are saved in the spirit (Tit3:5), but until the "change" (Job14:14, 1Co15:52) happens, we are still "flesh and blood"....we cannot go to Heaven, because we have the dirt of this world clinging to us, requiring Jesus to come along and wash our feet occasionally. Otherwise, we are "completely clean" (Jn13:10)

Also, notice in the case of those who had sinned certain sins, he says to "deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." (1Co5:5) Some of these he calls "brethren" had been taken in premature death (11:30) And he says that it is "chastening" so that "we may not be condemned with the [unsaved] world" (vs32)

It's like the prodigal son. He did not abandon his family name. He took his "inheritance" with him. (Lk15:12) But he was obviously not building with "gold, silver and precious stones". His works got burned up, but he was "saved, yet so as through fire" (1Co3:15)

It's like my uncle, that I have told about on a couple occasions. Most of his adult life he lived like the world, in debauchery of a couple different sorts. But even though he was "living like" the world, there was also a "witness" of his spirit that he knew the Lord (Rom8:16) Then, near the end, the Lord put him in the hospital for heart surgery, and when he came home, for the couple weeks before his death, his life was cleaned up...he made various indications that he was correcting past wrongs and 'how' he was 'now' living his life. Then, the Lord took him in death. He made it, "yet so as through fire". But most of his life had been 'carnal', doing many of the things that characterize the "deeds of the flesh".

We are exhorted to -NOT- be carnal. But the fact that various states of carnality of True Believers exists, is a fact. Paul said so, even of himself. (Rom7:14) But when our carnality results in sin, we "confess" it. (1Jn1:9)


READER (#2) QUESTION:
While listening to another Paul Washer sermon I came across another reference he makes to the "carnal christian" in 1 Corinthians. If you have time you can listen here: [link] Click on sermon "SE pt3 - How Can You Have Assurance?" At 8:49 he begins with the spiritual Christian, the carnal Christian and the lost.

Basically, carnality is a state in which a Christian can fall, but only temporarily and one who is truly born again will be disciplined by God. One who lives continually in a state of carnality since his "conversion" was never converted to begin with. I have heard the term "carnal believer" used as an excuse for so-called christians to coninue to drink, smoke, swear, and to be just like the world -- but there is no evidence of having been saved...

[VW: As background... this subscriber awhile back sent me the URL to another one of Paul Washer's sermons on Matthew ch7. For the most part it was very good. But I replied to the subscriber how Washer spoke of there being no such thing as a "carnal christian", quoted a Scripture passage from 1Corinthians that talks about it, and went on as though the Scripture he had just quoted didn't mean what it said. So, I'm assuming this mail follows the context of that prior exchange. :VW]

VW ANSWER:
I don't have time to go listen to another, but....

First of all, let's clear up one egregious false doctrine in that summation. With Reader "#1" (above) there also were further communications, not included here, in which he sent a file about the Prodigal Son, and in amongst that teaching was also the concept that, instead of how the parable clearly states that the son took his inheritance with him from his father, this other teaching suggests that the son was 'fallen'. As written, it was sounding like to suggest an "unsaved" state; out of which he was then restored/saved. And here Washer says that a person can "fall...temporarily".

If that is what the two are intending to teach, let us understand:

Heb6:4-6 is quite clear that a saved person (vs4-5) cannot "turn aside" and then also become "renewed" to repentance. (vs6) Such a thing would necessitate a re-crucifying of Jesus. But Jesus died "once for all" (Heb7:27, 9:12), He declared the work "finished" (Jn19:30) And if a person "draws back" into sin "willfully" there is "no more sacrifice for sins" (Heb10:38-39,26)

The prodigal son was a "son" (started out saved), took his inheritance with him (remained saved), lived like the world (carnal), and came back (confessed), and was forgiven (1Jn1:9)


However, otherwise....

Agreed... If a person makes a claim to having been "converted", but there is no change, they continue in sin, and there are no signs of Life, they were never -truly- converted. The "conversion" was -false-, it was -fake-, etc. BY DEFINITION. If a person claims to have "changed", but there is -NO- 'change', then they did NOT, in fact, change.

This sounds simple enough, doesn't it? But most of that which calls itself "church" today doesn't seem to 'get' it. Either that, or they willfully excuse it away with their easy believerism of all-inclusivity

And also, like I just replied to another (#1 above) on this same topic some minutes ago, any act of "sinning" (as a Believer)(1Jn1:8), is also, by definition, an act of "carnality". Which we then "confess" (vs9)

The word "carnal" comes from the Latin "carn" meaning "meat" or "flesh". Same root as for "carnivorous" being a "meat eater". A Christian who is being "carnal" is being "fleshly", not spiritual. Right now we are yet "flesh and blood" and are not able to be in Heaven (1Co15:50), until the "change" where we become "incorruptible" (vs51-53, Job14:14)

Now, in terms of the comment about "carnal christian" as an "excuse" to "continue in sin". (Rom6:1) What sort of "time frame" are we talking about? If a True Believer is in a backslidden state, HOW LONG are they in that state? Do we put a 'limit' on God's workings within the individual heart? How long was the prodigal son away from home, before he came to his senses? My uncle was living a carnal life for, oh let me think... at least 20 years....possibly/probably longer (since when I was younger and didn't know). When I was duped into "loosening up" to be more "tolerant" of all views (like I shared awhile back), it was after 20 years, then, when the Lord's 2x4 knocked against my (spiritual) skull. I was not sleeping around and getting drunk, like my uncle; I was trying to serve the Lord; but was 'compromised'. What 'degrees' of carnality are "good", and how far does one go downwards to where carnality changes from "good" to "bad"? -ALL- carnality is bad. But I can tell you from first hand knowledge that: the longer I was compromised, the farther 'down' my carnality went! But I can also equally assure you that I -was- a True Believer. And even with my uncle in his "bad" carnality there was a "witness" of the Holy Spirit within him. (Rom8:16) Most of the world saw him as the "playboy". That was his reputation. But near the end, the Lord got his attention, and he straightened up. (Ezk18:21) And then the Lord took him in death. In my case; my reputation was of a "fine Christian" who was "serving the Lord" (most people didn't know I was carnal, they saw me on the platform ministering...but then, too, most of them were "natural"); the Lord got my attention, cleansed me, and gave me a job to do.

So then, what about those who -remain- in their "carnality"? They go to their deaths. Were they saved? Were they, thus, proven to have 'never been' saved in the first place? (1Jn2:19) Or were they Believers, but taken in discipline? (1Co11:30-32) The "sin unto death"? (1Jn5:16)

One thing we must remember is that the "Lord knows those who are His" (2Tim2:19) He knows the hearts (Heb4:12-13, Ac15:8a, Ps44:21, Lk16:15) "So then each of us shall give account concering himself to God" (Rom14:12) NOT each other. If the person is truly saved, "Who are you to judge another's servant?" (vs4a)

However, if a person "makes -claims- for Christ", but there is no change in the life, how is it possible for that to have been a true "conversion"? When a baby is first born, it usually cries. If it doesn't cry, doesn't breath, and is all 'blue' with no pulse... it is 'dead'. And further, it is not able to start "feeding". If a person makes a profession, but there is no change, and they show no interest in the Bible (1Pet2:2) or things of the Lord....they are not "carnal". They are still "in sin". And as Jesus said of those who refuse to believe in Him, "you will die in your sins" (Jn8:24) There hasn't even been a place of Salvation, from which to then backslide. They have not taken hold of the plow and then "looked back", because they never took hold of the plow to begin with. (Lk9:62)

"By their fruits you will know them" (Mt7:16,20)

Anybody can -say-, "I believe". Even satan and his demons say that! (Ja2:19) Empty words. If a dog does not 'bark', it is likely not a real dog at all, but a "stuffed toy", or something like that.


CLOSING THOUGHTS:
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Let it not be! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Rom6:1-2)

Many believe that "carnality" is an acceptable alternative to being so "hatefully" "judgmental", as they softly lisp and hiss, "grace, grace, graaaeeessss!", knowing nothing of God's true Saving Grace (Eph2:8), but instead are "natural" They are the ones who "have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were set forth to this condemnation, ungodly men, who TURN THE GRACE OF OUR GOD INTO LICENTIOUSNESS and deny the only Lord God, even our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ju1:4) They are in the churches, and claim to be "christians", but they are "natural". They are -not- "carnal". They came up "some other way". (Jn10:1)

One of the (above) readers wrote with their question, thinking that VW teaches "easy believerism". (Not sure where they got that! Perhaps they can be excused because they are newer subscribers, and haven't been around very long?) I don't think the labels I get periodically, alleging me to be "unloving", "hateful" and "judgmental" comes from "easy believerist" teachings; but from the Scriptural notion that, when a person makes a "claim" to having changed, been converted, been saved, have repented of their sin and received God's salvation through Jesus Christ, that they have become a "new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2Co5:17) And if things are not "new" with the person, but they are still behaving like the world, they "-LIE- and do not practice the truth" (1Jn1:6) "the love of the Father is not in him" (1Jn2:15) They are not saved. They went forward and "prayed the prayer", but their meeting was only with a counselor where they "repeated after me", not the Lord Jesus Christ; the Holy Spirit did not enter to take up residence (Ac2:38, Rom8:9); they never met the Lord. They are still in their sin. Since they are still rejecting Christ, they will "die in [their] sin" (Jn8:21)

Yes, there -is- such a thing as a "carnal christian"; Scripture teaches it. But like we have been repeatedly speaking recently of the "few" (Mt7:14); I dare say, if we had the ability to know the hearts as God does, to investigate each case where a person was "claiming" to be a "Christian", but was living like the world... in the vast majority of the cases, they are not "carnal" at all, but "natural". They are not saved. They are not [C]hristians. They are busy proclaiming "Lord, Lord" and "in Jesus' name"; but in that day Jesus will reject them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who work out lawlessness". They are the "many" on the "broad...way that leads to destruction" (Mt7:21-23,13)

Until "the change", we are yet "flesh and blood", and we cannot get to Heaven in this state. (1Co15:50) We are comprised of "spirit, soul and body" (1Th5:23) When we are saved and are "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph1:13) that is the -spiritual-. But the body and soul (flesh and blood) are still of "dust" (Ps103:14) While on this earth we have "natural bodies" full of "weakness" (1Co15:42~~)

And while we wait for the "redemption of our body" (Rom8:23), we are yet in bondage. We are in a continual struggle between the flesh and the spirit; "so that [we] do not do the things that [we] wish". (Ga5:17) That's the whole topic of Romans ch7, Paul expressing his own struggle between the spiritual and the carnal. (vs14)

What is the solution? Who delivers us from the flesh? "Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom7:25) How does He do this? The Holy Spirit dwells in us. (Rom8:9) And so we must choose which to follow, the flesh or the Spirit. We must "crucify the flesh with its passions and lusts" and "if we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Ga5:24-25)

Walking in the Spirit is a step-by-step deal. We do not get a direction from the Spirit, and then run off in that direction on our own, in the flesh. The "weapons of our warfare are not carnal (of the flesh) but mighty through God..." (2Co10:4) Notice that we are "walking". God did not give us transport 'pods' to 'whisk' us here and there. Walking, by definition, is STEP-by-STEP. Each and every step is directed by the Holy Spirit. Anything else is of the flesh...carnal.

Supposing a person were to engage in something noble like "witnessing"; so the Holy Spirit opens the door to some individual; does the Christian then take off on their own, with their pre-programmed "method" and start yapping? Or do they savor each word from the Holy Spirit? (Mt10:20) If a Christian lets their mouth start flapping, apart from the Holy Spirit, such "witnessing" is -carnal-, of the -flesh-. It is not from God.

You see: "Carnality" is not limited to all the "bad" things in those Scripture references. It is -anything- we do, that the Holy Spirit did not direct...STEP-by-STEP. Whatever step we take, apart from the Spirit, is in the flesh. You say that even -witnessing-, then, can be "sin"? Indeed! If not directed by the Holy Spirit.

Some people object to so much talking about the "Holy Spirit". Well, if it is not from the Holy Spirit (God), the only other option for our human tri-partite beings is "body and soul" or "flesh and blood".

Note: we're not talking about charismania's practice of being "spirit-filled". That is a fleshly and demonic practice by shamanistic methods. When they are engaged in their spirit-filled 'worship', they engage in some of the very "deeds of the flesh" found in those Scriptural lists.

You see... this matter of living by the Holy Spirit is so important, that satan has taken it and twisted terminology around in order to 'confuse' people into something totally different, to the point where, in reaction to that error, there are some Christians who behave almost as though the Holy Spirit did not exist. Being "spirit-filled" (as they call it) is of the flesh. But on the other hand, if a True Believer ignores any notion of God's (true) Holy Spirit in the life, the only alternative, then, is also the "flesh"...no matter how many 'works' they do, if it is not from the Holy Spirit's empowerment, it is of the flesh.

And again: by definition, "flesh" is "carnal".

Thus:
"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Ga5:16)

In other words:
"...be filled by the Spirit..." (Eph5:18b), and you will not be carnal.

Amen!

Related topic: "their Works Follow them"

[Top]


Return to: Q/A's