The Carnal Christian?

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved, Sin, Trinity on August 6, 2009 at 4:21 am

(Psa 103:8-10 HCSB)  The LORD is compassionate and gracious; slow to anger and full of faithful love. He will not always accuse us or be angry forever. He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our offenses.


What Should We Think of the Carnal Christian?


Quotes from Ernest C. Reisinger

Many who regularly occupy church pews, fill church rolls, and are intellectually acquainted with the facts of the gospel never strike one blow for Christ. They seem to be at peace with his enemies. They have no quarrel with sin and, apart from a few sentimental expressions about Christ, there is no biblical evidence that they have experienced anything of the power of the gospel in their lives. Yet in spite of the evidence against them, they consider themselves to be just what their teachers teach them — that they are “Carnal Christians.” And as carnal Christians they believe they will go to heaven, though perhaps not first-class, and with few rewards.

That something is seriously wrong in lives which reveal such features will readily be admitted by most readers of these pages; no argument is needed to prove it. But the most serious aspect of this situation is too often not recognized at all. The chief mistake is not the carelessness of these church-goers, it is the error of their teachers who, by preaching the theory of “the carnal Christian,” have led them to believe that there are three groups of men, — the unconverted man, the “carnal Christian” and the “spiritual Christian.”

 Some of the fundamental questions which need to be faced are these:

 Are we sanctified passively, that is, “by faith” only, without obedience to the law of God and Christ? If sanctification is passive — a view represented by the slogan “Let go and let God” — then how do we understand such apostolic statements as “I fight,” “I run,” “I keep under my body,” “let us cleanse ourselves,” “let us labour,” “let us lay aside every weight”? Surely these statements do not express a passive condition, nor do they indicate that by one single act we may possess the experience of “victory” and thus become spiritual and mature Christians.

 Rom 6:22  But now, since you have been liberated from sin and become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification–and the end is eternal life!

 2Co 7:1  Therefore dear friends, since we have such promises, we should wash ourselves clean from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, making our sanctification complete in the fear of God.

 1Th 4:3  For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality,

Rom 6:19  I am using a human analogy because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to moral impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification.

  Have we accepted this as a fact in our thinking? Are we willing to subscribe the idea there are 3 classes of Christians? Maybe this is the seed of doubt that plagues a great many people in the church today. It seems a matter of course we have many who vacillate in the walk between assurance and doubt concerning their membership into God’s family. Faith does not have its basis in feelings but provides wonderful moments of ecstasy when we affirm our salvation in the Son of God. We tend to make allowances for pet sins and wonder why we don’t have the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. Do we seek after emotional ecstatic experiences as a substitute for real repentance and confession of our sinful self.

 Does an appeal to the so-called “carnal Christian” to become a “spiritual Christian” minimize the real conversion experience by magnifying a supposed second experience, by whatever name it may be called — “higher life,” “deeper life,” “Spirit-filled life,” “triumphant living,” “receiving Christ as Lord, and not merely as Saviour,” and so on? The words we read in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new,” do not refer to a second experience but rather to what happens when any real conversion occurs.

 Mat 23:25  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence!

 Rom 6:6  For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin,

 Rom 7:22  For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God’s law.

 (2Ti 3:2-5 HCSB)  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of religion but denying its power. Avoid these people!

 How many sermons have been preached too the “carnal Christian” while the lost person is being prodded by the unction of the Holy Spirit waiting for the Gospel of Salvation to be preached? Many churches today are powerless and shallow because we spend so much time providing for the “carnal” the real benefactors of grace are slowly disappearing. The church is supposed to be salt and light to a dying and lost world. It seems the discussions in modern evangelical circles concerns our methods, music, and worship focus on being comfortable. Maybe we spend too much time tiptoeing through the tither’s instead prostrating ourselves on the alter in prayer and confession. The Pastor and staff are supposed to be equipping the believers for their mission and preparing the faithful to storm the gates of hell.

 (Mat 28:18-20 HCSB)  Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 (Mat 16:18 ESV)  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

 Has the “spiritual Christian” finished growing in grace? If not, what is he to be called as he continues to grow in grace? Do we need to make yet another class whose members are the “super-spiritual Christians”? 4. Who is to decide who the carnal Christians are, and exactly what standard is to be used in determining this? Do the ‘spiritual Christians’ decide who the “carnal Christians” are? Does a church or preacher decide where the line is to be drawn that divides the two classes or categories? Since all Christians have sin remaining in them, and since they sin every day, what degree of sin or what particular sins classify a person as a “carnal Christian”?

 Do not all Christians sometimes act like natural men in some area of their lives?

 Do not the inward sins, such as envy, malice, covetousness, lasciviousness (which includes immorality on the mental level) demonstrate carnality as much as do the outward and visible manifestations of certain other sins?

 In Romans 8:1-9 there is a division stated, but it is not between carnal and spiritual Christians. It is a division between those who walk after the flesh (the unregenerate) and those who walk after the Spirit (they that are Christ’s). There is no third category.

(Rom 8:1-9 HCSB)  Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain, and as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirement would be accomplished in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those whose lives are according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those whose lives are according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit. For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so. Those whose lives are in the flesh are unable to please God. You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

 Again, in Galatians 5:17-24 we have only two classes or categories — those that do the works of the flesh and those that are led by the Spirit. There is no third or fourth class or group.

 (Gal 5:17-24 HCSB)  For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar, about which I tell you in advance–as I told you before–that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

 The Christian’s progress in growth is not constant and undisturbed. There are many hills and valleys in the process of sanctification; and there are many stumblings, falls and crooked steps in the process of growth in grace.

 There are examples in the Bible of grievous falls and carnality in the lives of true believers. Thus we have the warnings and the promises of temporal judgment and of chastisement by our heavenly Father.

 These truths are all acknowledged and are not the point of this present discussion. The question we have to consider is: Does the Bible divide men into three categories? This is the issue at the heart of the “carnal Christian” teaching.

 Whatever else sinners may receive when they are savingly called by the gospel, they must come into the primary blessings of the new covenant, namely, the forgiveness of sins and a new heart.

Well, what is the forgiveness of sins? It is an essential part of the justification of a man before God. And what is a new heart? It is nothing less than sanctification begun. But the “carnal Christian” teaching appeals to those who are supposed to be justified, as though a new heart and life are optional. Sanctification is spoken of as though it can be subsequent to the forgiveness of sins and so people are led to believe that they are justified even though they are not being sanctified!

The truth is that we have no reason to believe that Christ’s blood covers our sins in the record of heaven if the Spirit has not changed our hearts on earth. These two great blessings are joined together in the one covenant. The working of the Spirit and the cleansing of Christ’s blood are inseparably joined in the application of God’s salvation. Hence the teaching which calls for an act of submission or surrender (or whatever else it may be called) subsequent to conversion in order that the convert may live the spiritual life, cuts the living nerve of the new covenant. It separates what God has joined together. We see in the writing of Ezekiel we are given a new heart and new spirit.

 (Eze 36:24-27 HCSB)  “For I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries, and will bring you into your own land. I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances.

 (Heb 10:15-17 HCSB)  The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. For after He had said: This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws on their hearts, and I will write them on their minds, He adds: I will never again remember their sins and their lawless acts.

 The third major error is that this teaching does not distinguish between true, saving belief and the spurious belief which is mentioned in the following Scriptures: “Many believed in his name … But Jesus did not commit himself to them” John 2:23,24. “Many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him” John 12:42,43. “These have no root, which for a while believe” Luke 8:13. Simon Magus “believed” and was baptized but his heart was “not right in the sight of God” Acts 8:12-22. In other words, it was “belief” without a changed heart and because this was Simon’s condition Peter says he would perish unless he came to true repentance: he was “in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity” (vs. 23). And the evidence that Simon Magus was indeed unsaved can be seen in his prayer. He, like all unregenerate people, was only concerned with the consequence of sin and made no request to be pardoned and cleansed from the impurity of sin. “Pray ye,” he says to Peter, “to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.” Like the so-called “carnal Christian” he wanted Jesus as a kind of hell-insurance policy but he did not ask for deliverance from sin!

 In all these scriptural instances men “believed”; they had “faith”, but it was not saving faith. And all “carnal Christians” profess their faith but it is not always saving faith.

 Charles Haddon Spurgeon warned his students: “If the professed convert distinctly and deliberately declares that he knows the Lord’s will but does not mean to attend to it, you are not to pamper his presumption, but it is your duty to assure him that he is not saved. Do not suppose that the Gospel is magnified or God glorified by going to the worldlings and telling them that they may be saved at this moment by simply accepting Christ as their Saviour, while they are wedded to their idols, and their hearts are still in love with sin. If I do so I tell them a lie, pervert the Gospel, insult Christ, and turn the grace of God into lasciviousness.”

It is vital in this connection to notice how the apostles preached the lordship of Christ. The word “Saviour” occurs only twice in the Acts of the Apostles (5:31; 13:23), on the other hand the title “Lord” is mentioned 92 times, “Lord Jesus” 13 times, and “The Lord Jesus Christ” 6 times in the same book!

 The gospel is: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”


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