Studies in First Corinthians – VI
Every born again child of God has within them the Holy Ghost. God’s Spirit has come into our lives to produce His character in us. Therefore, we must ask ourselves, “Why is it that so little of Christ shows through and so much of my self remains?” We find an answer in the opening verses of chapter three.
“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ” (3:1).
Notice that Paul uses the word “brethren”; he is writing to those who are filled with the Holy Ghost. He classifies these “brethren” into two groups: the “spiritual” and the “carnal”. These carnal Christians have a salvation experience but remain immature, controlled by their flesh.
The carnal man that Paul saw at work in the life of the Corinthians, we see in the lives of many Christians today. Every Spirit-filled believer has within them the capacity to take on the character of Jesus Christ, however this is not always accomplished. Why? Because too many Christians continue to live on the carnal level.
Carnal people lack spiritual growth. Paul calls them “babes in Christ,” saying, “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat” (3:1-2). Don’t be a baby! Babies are totally dependent upon other people. They do not walk on their own. They aren’t able to feed themselves. The same is true for the carnal Christian. He cannot walk by himself. She has never learned how to feed herself on the Word of God.
Carnal people hold on to sin and live in constant defeat. They feed their old nature and starve their new nature. Although they have been filled with the Spirit, they continue to be mastered by the flesh. They can’t even enjoy their new fellowship because they are defeated and constantly fighting.
Simply put, carnal people live a life of fruitlessness and worldliness. In many ways, they resemble non-Christians; there is little that separates them. This is not the life God has planned for anyone who is filled with His Spirit.
Raymond Woodward describes plan God has for His children and the dangers of continuing to live the carnal life: “There are two sides to our relationship with God. As our SAVIOR, He gives us a positional relationship of perfect standing before God. As our LORD, He gives us an experiential relationship of progressive growth in God. This relationship can be broken and scarred by sin; once damaged, it can be healed only by repentance; if repentance is not sought, divine discipline may be the result; if repentance is still not sought, the believer will eventually forfeit even his positional relationship!”
As Christians, we are called to live a life of victory over sin and the flesh. We are called to spiritual growth and Christ-likeness. We are called to bring forth permanent fruit. Just as the carnal Christian reveals worldliness, so the spiritual Christian reveals a life of separation unto God.