Imagine you’re at a party with your friends and a bunch of other people that somehow know your friends.All seems to be going well. The music is blasting, the energy is high, and everyone is having a great time. But amidst the excitement, you notice something strange going on. People are doing all sorts of crazy and questionable things. There’s some people stealing drinks from the fridge, others are worshipping a strange lama piñata, and there’s even a group arguing loudly about different church doctrines and philosophies. It’s like a scene from a bad movie!
You feel a bit uneasy because deep down, you know these things aren’t right, but you don’t leave…because you can’t. You remember what you’ve been taught about living a moral and godly life. You want to stay true to your beliefs, but it’s not easy when everyone around you seems to be caught up in this chaotic lifestyle. Even some of your friends have started getting in on the things that you know are wrong.
That party is just like the church in the city of Corinth that the Apostle Paul wrote about in the book of 1 & 2 Corinthians. The believers there were facing similar challenges, surrounded by a culture that embraced immorality and ungodly practices. Those believers – young and old – were struggling to stand firm in their faith, just like you might find yourself in situations where it’s hard to make the right choices.
But here’s the good part—Paul’s words to the Corinthians give us guidance on how to navigate these challenges. He offers wisdom on staying close to God and standing strong against the constant pressures of our culture. So, let’s uncover the secrets to living a life that reflects our faith, even in the midst of a wild party-like world!
The Carnal Christian
The book of 1 Corinthians was written to believers who were facing some serious challenges in their society. Imagine living in the city of Corinth, where all kinds of immoral stuff was happening—thieving, idol worship, divisive philosophies, sexual immorality, even religious prostitution on the streets and in demonic temples. It was way worse than what most of us deal with today.
Despite all that, these believers were trying their best to live for Christ and follow the teachings of the Word of God that they had at that time. On top of the cultural pressures, they were also bombarded with the demonic influences all around them. It was intense, and many of them struggled to resist these temptations. One one side, they had a calling from God to live a holy and separated life, on the other there was the pull of their culture that was so strong, many ended up giving in instead of staying obedient to God.
The words written by the Apostle Paul to these believers give us direction today on how to live the life that God called us to, even when our culture is pulling at us not to. The Apostle Paul shared how we can stay close to God and stand strong against the constant bombardment we endure.
The beginning of 1 Corinthians tells us what God thinks about the people in Corinth.
Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift… – 1 Corinthians 1:1-7
Paul, writing by the Holy Spirit, calls those in Corinth sanctified by Christ Jesus and says they are called to be saints. This doesn’t just apply to those in on Corinth, but look at the next part – with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. That means he was talking to you and me!
Paul thanked God for the grace given to the Corinthians through Jesus Christ. He saw that they were enriched in every way and had received the testimony of Christ. In simple terms, Paul recognized that these believers had a lot going for them.
Now, here’s something important: Paul said they were sanctified by Christ Jesus and called to be saints. What does that mean? It means they were chosen to be set apart, holy, and pure, free from sin. This calling applies not just to the Corinthians, but to every believer in the world, including you and me.
But guess what? We don’t have to do this alone. We have the Holy Spirit’s power, God’s grace, and the Word of God to help us. This is the standard God has set for us. He sees us as holy and set apart because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Through His blood, we are made pure, blameless, and sinless. Pretty amazing, right?
Now, let’s look a little further into 1 Corinthians, specifically chapter 3. Even though God has called us to be holy and sees us that way, we still have a part to play.
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 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 behaving like mere men? – 1 Corinthians 3:1-3
Paul mentions something interesting—he describes the believers in Corinth as “carnal” and “babes in Christ.” What does that mean? In simple terms, being carnal or a babe in Christ means acting in a way that doesn’t line up with God’s Word.
Remember that just a few chapters ago in chapter 1 verse 6 and 7, he says that they were enriched in utterance and knowledge, coming short in no gift. So even though they are carnal, babes in Christ, they still flowed in the gifts of the Spirit. So having spiritual gifts operating in your church (and in your life) doesn’t mean that you’re mature or spiritual.
Paul points out that there is envy, strife, and divisions among these believers. This shows their carnal behavior. So, even though they have been sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be saints, their behavior doesn’t match up with their position with God. Their position with God is sanctified in Christ, but their behavior is carnality.
So, to sum it up: being carnal and a babe in Christ means not living according to God’s Word even though you have a relationship with Him. This doesn’t mean that not being carnal implies you’re perfect. Being carnal just means that you’re constantly acting and living contrary to the Word of God, even though you’re saved. It’s okay. There’s still the grace of God working in your life. But God desires for you to grow up, mature, and become spiritual.
Let’s break it down in a simpler way. When we talk about being “carnal” or a “babe in Christ,” it might sound like two different things, but they actually mean the same thing. Let me explain.
When we say someone is a “babe in Christ,” we often think of a new believer who recently accepted Jesus into their life. They’re like a spiritual newborn, starting fresh on their faith journey. On the other hand, we think “carnal” refers to a person’s actions and choices. In truth, they’re the same exact thing. They both mean being controlled by our fleshly human nature and desires instead of living according to God’s Spirit and His Word.
To put it simply, a carnal person focuses more on themselves and what they want rather than what God wants for them. Instead of following the Bible’s teachings and being guided by the Holy Spirit, they prioritize their own desires and what their old sinful nature craves.
For example, a carnal person, when someone says something hurtful about them, instead of forgiving and letting it go, they hold onto grudges. Instead of using their faith and trusting in God for something they want, they might try to figure out all the ways they can make it happen, or even resort to stealing or manipulating others to get it. Rather than listening to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, they do whatever they feel like doing. And remember, we’re talking about Christians here—people who believe in Jesus.
Sadly, the believers in Corinth had become like this. They professed faith in Jesus, attended church, and sang worship songs, but their lives were heavily influenced by the worldly culture around them. They lived like everyone else during the week and only acted like Christians on Sundays. Instead of the church influencing the world positively, the world’s ways seeped into the church.
Today, we still see this happening. Some Christians only dedicate one day a week to church and act differently during that time, but the rest of the week, they live just like the world does. They’re “Sunday Morning Christians.” Instead of allowing God’s truth and what He says about them to shape their lives (as we saw in 1 Corinthians 1), they let their culture, sinful nature, and personal desires determine how they live.
It’s important to note that this isn’t meant to condemn anyone or make you feel bad. It’s simply to make you think and stir something in your spirit. I’m not saying that you’re a carnal Christian. I’m just sharing what the Bible teaches us. It’s worth reflecting on and considering how we want to live our lives as followers of Christ.
So the church at Corinth was filled with carnal Christians, believers who act like the world. If a believer never learns to control their flesh and its selfish impulses and desires, they will always look like and act like the world and the unsaved. And they will never experience the goodness of God like He desires them to.
So what’s the opposite of a carnal Christian? Romans 8 tells us exactly what it is – it’s a spiritual Christian. Not only that, it also tells us the differences between the two.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 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, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 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. – Romans 8:5-9
What does this say about carnal Christians?
• They live according to the flesh.
• They set their mind on the things of the flesh.
• Death is the end result.
• The carnal mind is enmity (actively hostile, warring) against God
• It is not subject to, or obeys, the Law of God, nor can it
Checkout part 2 to see an in-depth look at the effects of being a carnal Christian. Stay with the Word and the Spirit.