Robert Wurtz II
I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, 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 walking like men? (1 Cor. 3:2, 3)
Paul gives us a concise definition of carnality in our passage; walking like men. The idea is that the people at Corinth were living and acting like people that had never repented of their sins, believed on Jesus Christ and received the Holy Spirit. Paul encountered this behavior at the church at Galatia as well. Here we read, Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3) By implication the right way for Christians to live is to have begun in the Spirit and continue in the Spirit. If a person reverts back to walking in the flesh we call that carnality. It comes from the Greek word sarkikos (root sarx) and could be translated fleshly. The danger at both Corinth and Galatia was that they were conducting themselves as if they had never begun in the Spirit. They were living like unregenerate men. This is a very dangerous condition for Christians to find themselves in.
Indicators of Carnality
”The Bible without the Holy Spirit is a sundial by moonlight.”
~ DL Moody.
Paul gives us a warning sign when he writes, I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able. Carnality has a direct effect on the understanding. The writer to the Hebrews brings this point out as well (Hebrews 5:12-14). Strong food (Spiritual knowledge) is for those that are full-grown in Christ. That is to say, they that are walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh. When a born again Christian reverts back to the carnal mind they can’t be fed spiritual truths. They eat spiritual pablum. Paul writes to the Romans, For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:6-8). Here we are introduced to the phrase ‘in the flesh.’ So we see then that to be ‘in the flesh’ is to be moving in a carnal mind that is at enmity with God and unable to receive the things of God because they are Spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). This is important to understand because a person that is walking in carnality rejects the counsel of God on various subjects. Couple this with the fact that they are not consciously yielding themselves to the Holy Spirit and you have the outworkings of a person that is not even saved.
Capable of Anything
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:11, Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Paul spends several verses leading up to this passage showing the people at Corinth that they were capable of committing the same sins as did the Children of Israel. This is carnality run amok. Pastor D.L. Burch used to say, “When you get out from under the hand of God, you don’t know what you are capable of.” Based upon 1 Corinthians 10, certainly we are capable of doing anything that happened in the Old Testament. This would seem impossible for people that have been Born Again by the Spirit, but it is not. I sometimes say that theology gets real fuzzy when sin and compromise comes into the picture. All the charts and graphs seem to break down. Yet the warnings are clear, all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition. It is very sobering to consider that men and women in whom God had wrought such a great work could actually fall back into a pattern of life like the unregenerate and in some cases even exceed the world in their sinfulness (1 Cor. 5:1).
Not in the Flesh
Paul tells us plainly in Romans 8:9; But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. This is a sobering passage. If we are in the flesh (living in the flesh), by implication, we do not have the Spirit no matter what our profession. The Holy Spirit does not yield the lusts of the flesh. This is common sense. But there are those determined to say that they have the Spirit and yet live out a carnal (sarkikos) life. Paul says it plainly, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit if the Holy Spirit dwells in you. Paul goes on to qualify these remarks, And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. The Holy Spirit lives in believers both to eventually raise this body from the grave at the resurrection and quicken us to handle the natural desires of the body in this present evil world. Paul continues, Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Here we have a tremendous truth. The body has good natural desires that God has given us, but when these desires are excessively cultivated in order to find fulfillment in life, independent of the counsel of God and the leading of the Spirit, we are moving in the flesh and are at enmity with God. The solution? For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:14)
In Ephesians 5:18-21 Paul gives us the antidote for carnality, And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
1. Don’t be drunk on alcohol or anything else (Isaiah 29:9).
2. Be being filled with the Holy Spirit (ask and you shall receive).
3. Allow your mind and heart to be a place of praise and worship to God.
4. Maintain an attitude of thankfulness.
5. Maintain an attitude of mutual submission to one another.
6. Do these things in the fear of the Lord.