Monday, July 16, 2007

The Carnal Christian

Is there such a thing as a carnal Christian? Consider Romans 7:5:
For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
Notice that Paul writes, "When we were in the flesh." Were. Now look at Romans 8:5-9:
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
So much in these verses plainly says a carnal Christian does not exist. He isn't after the flesh. He doesn't mind the things of the flesh. He isn't carnally minded or in the flesh any longer. Sin does not have dominion over the believer (Rom. 6:12). A Christian no longer lives sin as a lifestyle (1 John 3:6-10). A child of God is a new creature, old things are passed away and all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). The person he once was is crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20).

The moment someone receives Christ, he has every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3) and all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). The Holy Spirit is a Person, not a power of influence. The moment someone believes in Jesus he receives the Person of the Holy Spirit, all of Him. He won't receive any more of Him. He doesn't need anything more than He has in order to live the Christian life.

Justification isn't a two step process. Someone doesn't receive Christ as Savior and sometime later as Lord. He doesn't allow the Lord in but not on the throne of his life. No one can remain in rebellion against the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Confessing Him as Lord is more than Words. It is more than just intellectual, but also volitional. It is relinquishing allegiance to sinful self.

Every single believer has the power to obey everything Scripture tells him. We don't have to wait for salvation to "click," to "sink in," or to "really take hold" in order for the child of God to submit to any and every truth in the Bible. In order to gain eternal life, we have to give up our temporal life. For God to cleanse our soul, our self, we must give it up to God by faith. If we hang on to it, God won't restore it back into the righteous state He intended it.

Those who won't give up their life aren't carnal Christians. They're just carnal. They walk after the flesh and not after the Spirit (Rom. 8:1). They won't have the power to live the Christian life either. And that won't come when they have revival or receive a second blessing or get the baptism of the Spirit. However, when they do receive Jesus for Who He is, He will save them and immediately give them victory for their Christian life. It will be a struggle (Romans 7:21), but they will conform to the image of His Son even as He predestined them (Romans 8:29).

11 comments:

Stephen Garrett said...

Amen!

I think your exhortations to "carnal Christians" shows the Arminian "falling from grace" crowd, that we who believe in eternal security for the believer, or in "once saved, always saved," we Baptists, do constantly preach to our members not to be presumptious but to prove their election and calling by their dedication to Christ and his word.

We do not believe people can live like the devil and still go to heaven, even if they were supposedly professing "Christians."

Good article! God bless my friend.

Stephen M. Garrett
www.baptistgadfly.blogspot.com

Dave Mallinak said...

Whether a Christian can be carnal or not, we still must deal with the fact that believers will struggle with sin, will often stumble into sin, will sometimes struggle with the same sin repeatedly for long periods of time before they get victory, will wallow in immaturity, will be prone to wander. Some of this Paul indicates in Romans 7.

Whatever we call them (and I agree that regenerate Christians do not live in a constant state of carnality), their carnal moments are difficult to overcome. One persistent problem for many is that they are taught to gain victory through the power of their flesh.

In that sense, their victory is a carnal victory. They have obtained the "Christianity" of the Pharisees. For them, piety is carnality.

Bill Hardecker said...

Do you believe that a saved person has a 'dual nature?' Particularly a sinful nature (flesh) and a new nature (which is given to us at Salvation). What are your thoughts on that?

BTW, I amen your article. I think people are trying to divorce Salvation and Sanctification to the extent that they are teaching bad doctrines.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Stephen.

Pastor M, I agree on the Rom. 7 struggle-with-sin truth. They will struggle, not just give in to the flesh. And I agree that fleshly solutions for spiritual people is common, which makes me wonder if they have been given a false gospel.

Bill, I don't believe we have two natures. When we are justified we lose the old, take on the new, but the flesh remains. Yes, sanctification comes out of justification, as does glorification. The false views of sanctification are a big problem today.

Terry McGovern said...

Bro Kent,

First, I agree a Christian is a "new creature" in Christ. Anyone who claims to be saved, and yet has no desire for God and the things of God is not saved.

However to then draw a conlusion from Romans 8 that there is no such thing as a Carnal Christian, does not consder the other uses of the word in the New Testament.

What about I cor 3:1-4, where "brethren" are called carnal by Paul? This was not a church of Jews, so he is referring to Christians. Also he would not have used brethren if he was trying to say they were never saved to begin with.

I do see your point in Romans. I can see where carnal there was refering to those in a unregenrate state, but that is only one use of the word carnal. As with many words they have multiple meanings.


How can you beleive we still have "flesh" yet not a sin nature? If you no longer have a sin nature, then you would not strugle with sin. Is this just symantics?

Do you believe in sinless perfection as well as Lordship salvation?

When a true Believer in Christ struggles with sin, is he not walking after the flesh (Gal 5:16) and therefore carnal?

Carnal definition-

1. Pertaining to flesh; fleshly; sensual; opposed to spiritual; as carnal pleasure.

2. Being in the natural state; unregenerate.

Thanks Bro

Kent Brandenburg said...

Bro. Terry,

I'm sitting here working on Wed. night right at the moment, as well as cleaning up some things related to not being here for two weeks. I'm going to answer yours with capital letters in the text of your letter. Capitals does not mean I am shouting. :-) The next paragraph starts you.

First, I agree a Christian is a "new creature" in Christ. Anyone who claims to be saved, and yet has no desire for God and the things of God is not saved. NEW IS KAINOS, THAT IS, NEW AS IN DIFFERENT. WE DON'T HAVE THE OLD WITH SOMETHING NEW ADDED, BUT SOMETHING THAT IS ENTIRELY DIFFERENT. THE OLD IS GONE, WHICH IS WHAT THE VERSE SAYS.

However to then draw a conlusion from Romans 8 that there is no such thing as a Carnal Christian, does not consder the other uses of the word in the New Testament. FIRST, NO WHERE SAYS THERE IS A CARNAL CHRISTIAN AND, SECOND, WE HAVE A PLACE THAT DOES NOT NOT GIVE THIS CATEGORY. I BELIEVE THAT THE CARNAL CHRISTIAN CATEGORY ORIGINATED WITH THE LEWIS SPERRY CHAFER BOOK, HE THAT IS SPIRITUAL, WHICH POPULARIZED THIS NOTION THAT HAD BEFORE NOT BEEN AROUND IN HISTORIC THEOLOGY.

What about I cor 3:1-4, where "brethren" are called carnal by Paul? This was not a church of Jews, so he is referring to Christians. Also he would not have used brethren if he was trying to say they were never saved to begin with.

IN BELIEVING THE CARNAL CHRISTIAN POSITION, YOU START WITH THAT THREE PRONGED CATEGORY THAT CHAFER POPULARIZED---NATURAL MAN, CARNAL CHRISTIAN, SPIRITUAL CHRISTIAN. WELL, PAUL DOESN'T SAY THEY WEREN'T SPIRITUAL. HE SAYS THAT HE COULD NOT SPEAK TO THEM AS SPIRITUAL MEN BECAUSE THEY WERE LIVING LIKE CARNAL MEN. EVERY CHRISTIAN IS CARNAL AT TIMES, THAT IS, FLESHLY, BUT THERE IS NO CATEGORY OF "CARNAL CHRISTIAN" AND THAT IS WHAT THE CARNAL CHRISTIAN PEOPLE MEAN BY THAT, PERPETUALLY A CARNAL CHRISTIAN. THERE ARE ONLY TWO CATEGORIES: CHRISTIANS AND NON-CHRISTIANS. THE NATURAL MAN IS PERPETUALLY CARNAL AND THE SPIRITUAL MAN CAN ACT IN A CARNAL (FLESHLY) WAY. THE PROBLEM IS NOT THAT WE ARE IN A STATE OF CARNALITY, BUT THAT WE ARE BEHAVING CARNALLY BY DISOBEYING THE LORD, EVEN THOUGH WE ARE SPIRITUAL.

I DON'T BELIEVE A CATEGORY OF CHRISTIAN CAN COME OUT OF 1 COR. 3, IN LIGHT OF ROM. 7, 8. WE SEE A CHRISTIAN WHO IS BEHAVING FLESHLY, CARNAL.

I do see your point in Romans. I can see where carnal there was refering to those in a unregenrate state, but that is only one use of the word carnal. As with many words they have multiple meanings. I ESSENTIALLY AGREE HERE.


How can you beleive we still have "flesh" yet not a sin nature? I SEE THE BELIEVER HAVE A NEW NATURE, NOT ANOTHER NATURE. WHAT IS OLD HAS PASSED AWAY, HAS BEEN CRUCIFIED. WE STILL HAVE THE FLESH, BUT THAT IS NOT OUR NATURE ANY LONGER. If you no longer have a sin nature, then you would not strugle with sin. YOU WOULD BECAUSE OF THE LAW OF SIN WHICH ABIDES IN THE FLESH (ROM. 7:21). WE WILL ALWAYS STRUGGLE INTO WE ARE GLORIFIED, BECAUSE OF THE FLESH. Is this just symantics? IT IS SEMANTICS, BUT IT ALSO HAS AN IMPACT ON PEOPLE BECAUSE THEY SEE IT AS TWO NATURES BATTLING, WHEN THEY ALREADY HAVE THE VICTORY IN CHRIST.

Do you believe in sinless perfection as well as Lordship salvation? I DON'T BELIEVE IN SINLESS PERFECTION, JUST THE OPPOSITE.

When a true Believer in Christ struggles with sin, is he not walking after the flesh (Gal 5:16) and therefore carnal?
I DON'T SEE THAT IN GAL. 5:16.
Carnal definition-

1. Pertaining to flesh; fleshly; sensual; opposed to spiritual; as carnal pleasure.

2. Being in the natural state; unregenerate.

Thanks Bro

WHEN WE ARE LOST WE ARE IN A CARNAL STATE, UNSAVED, A NATURAL MAN. WHEN WE ARE SAVED, WE ARE NO LONGER IN THE CARNAL STATE, BUT THE REGENERATE STATE. IN THAT REGENERATE STATE WE WILL BEHAVE CARNALLY.

THANKS TO YOU.

William D said...

great stuff...I get tired of hearing preachers try to justify their thousands of souls won to Christ who are living carnally. The Bible is clear enough..good comments

Anonymous said...

I have read Romans 8. I understand it to describe the difference between the non-Christian and the Christian. I understand and accept the teachings that Christ's death is the only thing that makes us righteous. Nothing we can do in the flesh, even for the good, will make us right before God. I get all that.

I struggle with how God views sin in a (real) Christian life. Is God completely oblivious to it? Or does He acknowledge the sin (and hates it) but disregards it because of the shed blood of Christ? Is God, the Father, oblivious to the sin but maybe it grieves the God, the Holy Spirit. I agree that sin in a Christian person's life doesn't necessarily disqualify them from salvation. I just know from personal experience that sin in a Christian person's life can be devastating. I used to preach and teach, I walked with God's anointing in ministry and service, than I did something stupid, I let a serious life controlling sin in my life. With failed attempt after failed attempt to get in out of my life, the sin left me distant from God, the anointing that I once walked in slowly eroded, leaving me in a spriritual wilderness. God didn't do this, because of me, sin did this.

Not only have I experienced how sin can effect a individual's life, I've seen how it effects churches. I am accustomed to very Holy Spirit anointed worship services, experiencing and feeling the presence of God. My wife and I were visiting a church once and me personally liking the contemporary style worship, the service would of normally led me into God's throne room praising and worshiping Him. But during that service, there was flatness, basically it was spiritually dead. I couldn't explain it. 6 months later through someone I knew that attended that church said that the worship leader was found out to be having an affair.

I have seen where spirtual compromise in the leadership ranks of a church will have a slow, eroding effect.

So...can sin (though it doesn't disqualify us from salvation) leave a genuine Christian in a "carnel" state, basically just existing as a Christain but having no real power nor anointing.

Adeyeye Tolu (tolu_ade_2003@yahoo.com) said...

this is a really interesting topic. i realize so many Christians have become carnal minded even to the point of praying for things of this world to happen disregarding the purpose of God the Father at that moment. i think there are two battles facing us: that of the flesh and that of the spirit. Any Christian will ever desire the things of the Spirit."For if ye live after the flesh ye shall die but if you through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body you will live"

the flesh will always remain as long as we are in this world.our duty is By the Holy Spirit control the Sinful nature and the carnal mind.

what happens to a christian who was troubled to the point of confusion. it is written, "you are confused not knowing the Scripture nor the power of God". if truly God lives in us by his spirit, how can one communicate a spiritual truth to a parent that hardly communicates with his child(or put this way:resents his child's opinion) i know that a child is obliged to obey his parents in the Lord. certain things do happen that springs up the works of the flesh in a christian: when a parent leads his child to idolatory,obviously this is not in the Lord, so therefore what is the resolution to this?

it happened personally to me,like a blogger here described here: the move of the holy spirit was not there. but in my own case there was gradual seperation from holy spirit communion. now i need to get back to that beautiful state of fellowship with God Please help. your ssuggestions can be mailed to tolu_ade_2003@yahoo.com i will appreciate your concerns thank you.

life in the Spirit iss the only Meaningful life one can enjoy!

Ryan W said...

I whole heartely agree with everything except the part about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit in NOT a person, he is a spirit, hence the name, Holy SPIRIT. And we shold pray to receive greater and greater manifestations of him. Just as we have life in Christ, we should pray to have it more abundently, same with the Holy Spirit.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Ryan,

Personality doesn't depend upon a body; therefore, the Holy Spirit is referred to by personal pronouns (see John 14-16) and by attribution---He knows, speaks, teaches, leads, convicts, and is grieved. Jesus is a Person and He said the Father would send another Comforter, the Holy Spirit---another of the same kind (allos). Jesus said to the Father, into thy hands I commend my Spirit---Jesus was still a Person.

Your wrong understanding of the Holy Spirit is a wrong understanding of God. This is dangerous in a salvific way. Eternal life is "knowing God" (John 17:3) and if you don't know the Holy Spirit, you don't know God.