“Are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” 1 Cor 3:3

by Steven Chan

  1. The Great Commission of Jesus to His disciples was to “go into all the world and make disciples” (Matt 28:18-20). Those who became disciples were called Christians (Acts 11:26). So, all Christians are fundamentally disciples of Christ; meaning that we are learners and followers of Christ. The Greek word translated “go and teach” in Matt 28:19, mathēteuō, means to teach them to “follow His precepts and instructions” (Thayer).
  1. Being a disciple of Jesus requires more than just obeying His command to be baptized. It is also more than just attending worship services on Sundays. It requires us to do as what the disciples in the first century did: “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:41-42)
  1. “Continuing steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers” requires more than just knowing the steps to salvation and attending worship services.
  1. Consider carefully the instruction of the apostle Paul in Colossians 3:a.) “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”

    i. We died to sin and to the world when we were buried with Christ in baptism (Rom 6:1-14). We are required to “set our minds” on matters given by our Lord; no longer on the things of this world. Brethren, this is not a mere suggestion; it’s a matter of life and death: “For to be carnally minded isdeath, but to be spiritually minded islife 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.” (Rom 8:6-8).

    ii. Carnal-mindedness refers to the mind-set of thinking: thinking according to how you feel or whatever pleases you only, i.e. doing whatever pleases you (instead of the things that pleases God – 2 Cor 5:9; 1 John 3:22); thinking of the things of this world and behaving like the rest of the people of this world (being guided by the principles of this world instead of the principles that comes from God – 2 Tim 3:15-17; Heb 5:11-14). The Bible warned disciples of the danger of acting or behaving like “mere men” in how we conduct ourselves in this world (1 Cor 3:3).

    iii. Being “carnal” is contrasted with being “spiritual” (1 Cor 3:1-4) – i.e. those who have grown up in Christ, mature in their understanding and conduct in Christ. According to God’s Word, “babes in Christ” are generally still very much influenced by worldly manner of thinking and living. “Babes in Christ” must grow up by feeding on the word of God (1 Pet 2:2) – and brethren, this spiritual growth is essential as it leads “unto salvation”: “as newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation” (1 Pet 2:2 – ASV, RV). Without growth in Christ, one would be placing one’s salvation at risk (2 Pet 1:1-11).

    iv. We are to have this spiritual mindedness until the appearing of Christ. To those who believe that Jesus has already come in AD 70 (and their sympathizers), the exhortation in this entire chapter 3 of the epistle to the church at Colossae is no longer applicable to them as in their belief, Christ has already appeared, and therefore disciples of Christ living today are no longer ‘hidden with Christ” and have missed this opportunity to appear alongside with Christ in glory (Col 3:1-4)

    b.) “5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.”

    i. Disciples/learners of Christ should not allow fleshly desires to control our lives.

    There are things that may be practiced by our family members, friends, colleagues, business associates and community which disciples of Christ must not follow them to do.
    Such spiritually unhealthy desires must be “put to death”; in other words, it should not be permitted to exist among the desires of our lives: “sexual immorality, indecency, lust, evil passions, and greed” (1 Tim 6:6-10).

    c.) “8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.”

    i. The disciple/learner of Christ must consciously and resolutely work towards “putting off” “manifestation of feelings and emotions” that are not characteristics of children of God.

    “Outburst of anger” and bad/evil thoughts to hurt or make another to suffer, or to take revenge of those who offend us or misbehaved towards us, should not be present in our lives; they must be put off! One cannot excuse one’s bad behavior by saying that one cannot help it! God does not require us to do something that is impossible for us to do (1 Cor 10:13)

    d.) 12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

    i. Disciples/learners of Christ must actively seek to cultivate this set of attributes that honours God: “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; be tolerant of one another and forgive each other”

    These attributes are to replace those which we are to put away. If we learn to show mercy to others (i.e. not quick to be angry or to condemn those who may have offended us as we suffer long with them and our “hurt” pride/ego is not permitted to overcome us) then we can learn to be like our Lord and be “tolerant or forbear” with one another and can readily forgive those who offend us. This includes not showing a “countenance of being upset and offended”. Some say “I forgive” but their conduct and countenance show that they are still “bitter” and “bearing a grudge” against the offender.

    ii. Consider Rom 12:17-21: “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

    iii. Disciples/learners of Christ are likely to be able to “live peaceably” with all men if we learn to deny self/ego/pride by understanding that we have been crucified with Christ and we no longer live for ourselves but for Christ (Luke 9:23; Gal 2:20; 2 Cor 5:14) and follow the pattern of conduct as given by Christ (1 Pet 2:19-23)

    e.) 18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. 20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

    i. Marital relationship must reflect the practice of submission to God’s will as well. It is sad and tragic that the marital relationships among some disciples of Christ do not reflect compliance with the will of God – husbands show their displeasure for their wives, and they live separate lives. Didn’t our Lord use the marriage relationship to describe that of the church and our Lord (Eph 5:21-32): “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord doesthe church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” How can living “separate lives” be considered as “one flesh”? How can an ‘indifferent’ attitude towards our wives be fulfilling the need to “nourish and cherish” our wives?

    ii. Listen to the counsel of the word of God: “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Pet 3:7).

    iii. Dear beloved brethren, if we cannot use the principles of God, the love of God, the wisdom and the help of God to live in the appropriate manner with our wives then how can we expect to manifest our light before men so that they can glorify God (Matt 5:16)?

    iv. The concern expressed to the Jews is also applicable to us all who profess to know the truth: “Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, 18 and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. 21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?” (Rom 2:17-21)

    f.) 22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.

    i. Likewise, in our everyday conduct, disciples/learners of Christ must seek to please God as well – even in our conduct in the workplace. We are servants of the Lord at all times – not just when we are preaching the gospel!

Brethren, let us put on Christ and live according to His instructions. Do not act or behave like mere men.