Together with two other doctrines—that of the natural man and that of the spiritual man—the doctrine of the carnal man completes the threefold division of the human family in their relation to, or attitude toward, the Word of God. The designations in the original text are: ^uxiko^, which indicates the unchanged, unregenerate man; nveu^atiKoq, which designates the spiritual man or one who is characterized by the presence and manifest power of the Holy Spirit; and oapKiKoq, which denotes the carnal or fleshly believer (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14-3:4).

Carnality is caused not by the unspiritual things which one may do, but fundamentally by a lack of yieldedness to the mind and will of God. The carnal Christian does unspiritual things because he is carnal or fleshly. The passage which directly declares who are fleshly and why is found in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4: "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?" In this context it is revealed that the carnal person is a true believer and therefore saved. Such are addressed as brethren—a salutation which never includes unregenerate persons, and they are said to be babes in Christ. While, because of carnality, they are termed babes in Christ, nothing could give greater assurance of their security for time and eternity than the fact that they are "in Christ." This revealing passage not only indicates the limitations of the carnal believer but reveals the state of affairs which, in the case of the Corinthians, came about because of their carnality. Being unyielded to God, they could not receive the "strong meat" of the Word of God; they could only receive the "milk." By so much their spiritual limitations are revealed. Their carnality was manifest in the divisions among them, with the tendency to follow human leaders. Such conduct signified a violent disregard for the unity of the Spirit— the one Body of believers—which unity the Apostle declares must be kept (Eph. 4:3). Since this sin of sectarian divisions is first on the list of evils for which the Apostle condemns the Corinthian believers— there is even mention of it before he points out their immoralities—its exceeding sinfulness in the sight of God becomes plain; yet like divisions are evident whenever sectarianism and denominational loyalty are stressed above the doctrine of the one Body of believers.

The term carnal is a translation of the word oapKiKoq, which term means that one is influenced by the oap^—not a reference now to the physical body, but to the fallen nature which every believer retains as long as he is in his unredeemed body. The flesh is ever opposed to the Spirit of God (Gal. 5:17) and is never removed in this life, but may be held in subjection by the Spirit when and as the believer is depending in yieldedness upon Him. The Apostle testifies that "in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. 7:18), and that when exercising his own strength he experienced nothing but failure in his conflict with the flesh. It was by the power of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that he became free from the power of sin and death—that spiritual death which manifests itself through the flesh (Rom. 8:2). He also forgets not to indicate that his victory by the Spirit depends, on the divine side, upon that aspect of Christ's death in which He brought the sin nature into judgment (Rom. 8:3). The result is such that the believer may experience all the will of God wrought in and through him—but this will never be wrought by him (Rom. 8:4). The Christian's responsibility is to "walk after the Spirit." This does not suggest living after some code or rule of life, but rather a subjection to the guidance and purpose of the Spirit who indwells him. When thus yielded, it becomes the Spirit's task to "work in" the believer "both to will and to do" of God's good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).

Though much is disclosed by the Apostle respecting carnality and the flesh, his more important teaching on the subject is found in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, already considered, Galatians 5:16-21, and Romans, chapters 7 and 8. Having declared in Romans 8:4 that the believer's responsibility is to walk by means of the Spirit, the Apostle writes freely of the distinction between being in the flesh, which is the estate of the unregenerate person, and having the flesh within, which is the condition that characterizes all who are saved. Those believers who are dominated by the flesh respond to the flesh and those that are dominated by the Spirit respond to the Spirit (Rom. 8:5). In any case the carnal or fleshly mind functions in the realm of spiritual death and the spiritual mind in the realm of life and peace (Rom. 8:6). The reason for the carnal mind facing in the way of spiritual death is that it means enmity against God, not being subject to God's will, nor can it be (Rom. 8:7; cf. Gal. 5:17). The unsaved, being in the flesh, cannot please God (Rom. 8:8). However, the believer is not in the flesh as his estate though the flesh is in him. If someone is regenerated he will bear evidence of the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9). Too much emphasis can hardly be given to the fact that the Christian may function in his life within either the realm of spiritual death—separation from God—or the realm of things related to the Holy Spirit, He who is the Originator and Director of the spiritual life. Therefore, the Apostle declares: "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die [or, be in the realm of spiritual death—separation from God]: but if ye through [by means of, or, depending on] the Spirit do mortify [reckon to be dead in Christ's death] the deeds of the body, ye shall live [i.e., in the realm of the spiritual life]" (Rom. 8:13-14). Carnality means, then, a manifestation of the flesh which in turn is a demonstration of that which belongs to spiritual death. There is no implication in this extended declaration respecting the flesh and carnality that the believer may turn about or become unsaved. This presentation by the Apostle, however, is wholly within the sphere of the believer's walk as that which may be energized either by the flesh or by the Spirit. The Christian is saved and safe in Christ, yet in his manner of life he may prove oapKiKoq or nveu^atiKoq.

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  • fethawi
    What is carnality and divisions?
    8 years ago

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