by Steven Chan
It is truly sad to see the lives, conduct and behavior of some Christians being not any different from those of the unbelievers. Why is this the case even though they have professed their faith in Christ and have been baptized for the remission of their sins?
The Bible gives us the answer in 1 Cor 3:1-3: –
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 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; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?”
The problem is that of being “carnal”. What is meant by being “carnal”?
* It is contrasted with “not being spiritual” or as “babes in Christ” (1 Cor 3:1). In other words, they have not grown up spiritually and have not matured in Christ. Their understanding of God’s Word is still very elementary even though they may have been believers or Christians for a very long time. In Heb 5:12, they are described thus: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”
The Lord has placed every baptized believer in His church (1 Cor 12:18, 25; Acts 2:47) so that each member of the body can benefit from the love and care of other members, as well from the “spiritual food” fed by teachers, evangelist and elders (Eph 4:11-16). Sadly, when one persistently or habitually fail to avail themselves for such edification of the faith, then one deprives oneself from such nourishment and encouragement as designed by God for His children.
* Being “carnal” is also described as “behaving like mere men” (1 Cor 3:3) or “ walking according to the lusts of the flesh” or according to the “course of this world” as described in Eph 2:1-3 – the conduct characterizing one who is not a Christian:-
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” (Eph 2:1-3)
God wants believers to stop being “carnal” and “walk in the Spirit”.
* “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit… 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. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom 8:1,5-8)
As Christians, we “live in the flesh” and “live in the world” (Gal 2:20; John 15:19) but we should no longer “live according to the flesh” or “live as of the world”.
* To “live according to the Spirit”, we are to consciously resolve to make the decision to “set our minds on the things above” (Col 3:1) or to set our minds on spiritual matters (Rom 8:6). Otherwise, the Bible warns that we would be “enemies of God” and we cannot “please God”.
When we are willing to yield ourselves to walk according to the influence of the Spirit as guided by “sword of the Spirit, the Word of God” (Eph 6:17) then we will be determined to conduct ourselves in such a way that we will no longer walk after the flesh which produces the “deeds or actions and attitudes” of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21) – and God’s warning is crystal clear:
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery,[c]fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders,[d] drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
The warning is that if we continue to exhibit the deeds of the flesh, we WILL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD!! This is a solemn warning to Christians that we should make every effort to put away these unacceptable behavior – regardless of extenuating circumstances, provocations, etc. There is no justification or excuse for such conduct unbecoming of a Christian. A similar list of unacceptable conduct is given in Col 3:5-9. We will not make it into heaven if we insist on walking according to course of this world or manifesting the deeds of the flesh.
If anger and wrath is a problem in our life, then make every effort to “put it to death” (Col 3:5). Don’t let it continue in your life! Pray earnestly to God and fill our hearts and minds with the Word of God and allow it to control and influence our conduct (Rom 12:1-2).
Transformation is necessary!!! Bad attitudes and conduct ought NOT to be tolerated in the life of one who professes to be a disciple of Christ who has “crucified” himself with Christ at baptism (Rom 6:1-7)
* When we decide to yield ourselves to walk according to the Spirit then we will produce the “fruit of the Spirit” – conduct and lifestyle that are acceptable to God: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Gal 5:22-23). There is no room for bad behavior such as “becoming conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Gal 5:26).
One important thing to remember is that the definition of the fruit of the Spirit such as “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” must be understood by the description given by the Spirit Himself as revealed in His Word; it should not be misunderstood as having qualities as generally understood in the world. For example, the peace of God differs from that given by the world: John 14:27. This is to ensure that one does not think that one is having “peace” as produced by the Spirit, when one has actually embraced “peace” as defined by the world! Likewise, this applies to all the various areas of conduct and attitudes described as the fruit of the Spirit.
Brethren, if “walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Gal 5:16) “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Gal 5:24-25) Or, are we still “carnal-minded” and “behaving like mere men”? Are we still “biting and devouring one another and being consumed by one another!?” (Gal 5:15) These things ought not to be so!