The Bible Speaks
“…are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” 1 Corinthians 3:3b
The Bible speaks of three classes of men: the natural, the spiritual and the carnal. The natural man is one without Christ for he has never been born again. The spiritual man is a Christian who is being controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit who dwells in him. The carnal man is a Christian but is controlled by his flesh, his sinful nature, and therefore acts as though he were not a Christian. He may attend church and profess to be a believer, but his actions show little or no evidence of the spiritual life.
We should never be surprised when sinners sin, but it is an entirely different thing when men who have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them act as though they did not. No Christian will be perfect, but every Christian has the capacity to turn from his selfish, sinful nature and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit within him. Christ does not save someone to let them continue in their past sinful habits. He gives every convert His Spirit who enables the believer to do the right thing once he learns it from the Word of God. A non-Christian cannot be expected to live a holy life even if he wanted to, but a Christian has the power to live a godly life even when he doesn’t want to.
Choosing to give into the flesh instead of being led by the Spirit will result not only in unchanged behavior, but also will prevent further growth and maturity in Christ. The Apostle Paul in today’s text points out to the Corinthian church that their carnality had resulted in spiritual immaturity and an inability to receive deeper truths from God. The Holy Spirit is necessary to understand the Word of God (see 1 Cor. 2:10-15), yet the carnal man has pushed aside the work of the Spirit in his life and thereby is unable to comprehend the deeper truths of the Bible. His spiritual growth is arrested, not because his mind is not functioning, but, because his heart is not receiving. A carnal man hasn’t “grown up” in Christ because he is refusing the necessary help of the Spirit to understand God’s truth and to put it to work in his life. The carnal man is a “babe in Christ.” (3:1) Babies cannot live like mature men; they are not able. Carnal Christians cannot live holy lives for the same reason; they are just not able to do so.
The Bible speaks of dependence upon the changing power of the Holy Spirit to move us from acting like mere men to living like followers of Christ. Read the Word; confess what it says to you that you do not do and pray for His power to help you to do what He desires. Don’t try to be a Christian without Christ nor live as a spiritual man without the help of the Spirit. “I say then, walk by the Spirit…”(Gal. 5:16).
The Rev. Bruce MacInnes is pastor of Turner’s Chapel.