There is a great deal of confusion within the church today regarding carnality and the Christian life. This is rooted in the Lordship debates of the 1980’s and popularized by many prominent dispensational authors, preachers, and teachers. Many mistakenly believe that there is such a thing as a “carnal Christian”—that is, they believe that a Christian whose life is marked by carnality (worldly, earthly, fleshly) may well continue in this condition that is permanent and permeating every area of life.
Make no mistake; we are all carnal at times. We chase after the things of this world, seeking to satisfy the flesh rather than the Spirit. The Christian who denies this bitter truth is sadly mistaken. But the notion that there are three classes of people is a wicked error and a denial of the truths of the Gospel. There are those who separate mankind into these three groups:
- Natural (unsaved with self on the throne)
- Carnal (saved with self still on the throne, living like the natural man)
- Spiritual (saved with the Savior on the throne of life)
There are only two kinds of people in this world: saints and ain’ts . . . believers and unbelievers . . . those who are in Christ and those who are not . . . those who have Jesus as both Savior and Lord and those who do not.
Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (Romans 8:5-10)
Paul makes it crystal clear that there are only two categories of individuals, those who are saints and those who are “ain’ts.” Saints are of the Spirit; ain’ts are of the flesh. Saints are on the way to eternal life; ain’ts are on the way to eternal damnation. There is no such thing as the carnal Christian! This is simply a mythical characterization that has been used as a license for sin and an excuse to continue in a state of rebellion against God.
You simply cannot receive Jesus as Savior without receiving Him as Lord. To be a Christian is to surrender all of life to the rule and reign of Jesus. It is to desire in every area of life to live in such a way that brings honor and glory to Jesus.
This does not, however, mean that the Christian will live without any signs of sin. Indeed, 1 John 5:10 says bluntly that “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” Those who are saved still sin. Those who have surrendered to the Lordship of Christ also surrender, at times, to the sinful self. There is a constant battle going on inside for control of the heart, but the heart has been transformed by the grace of God and is now a lover of righteousness rather than sin. Sin no longer reigns, but it still remains throughout the life of the believer—throughout the process of sanctification and growing more Christlike.
The Westminster Confession of Faith states, “This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” To be sure, saints will act like ain’ts, but in acting like ain’ts they are still saints!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!