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"And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal"-- l Corinthians 3:1.
Here the apostle speaks about two stages of Christian life-two types of Christians-spiritual and carnal. The Corinthians were Christians, in Christ. But, instead of being spiritual Christians, they were carnal. "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hither to ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able, for ye are yet carnal" (I Corinthians 3:2-3). Here is that word a second time. "For whereas"-this is the proof- "there is among you envying, and strife, and division, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul, - and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?" (I Corinthians 3:3-4).
Four times the apostle uses that word carnal. In the wisdom which the Holy Spirit gives him, Paul feels: I cannot write to these Corinthian Christians it unless I know their state and unless I tell them of it.
If I give spiritual food to men who are carnal Christians, I am doing them more harm than good, for they are not fit to take it. I cannot feed them with meat, I must feed them with milk. And so, he tells them at the very outset of the epistle what he believes their state to be. In the two previous chapters, he had spoken about his ministry being by the Holy Spirit. Now, he begins to tell them what state people must have in order to accept spiritual truth, and he says: "I cannot speak to you as I would like, for you are carnal and cannot receive spiritual truth." That suggests to us the solemn thought that, in the Church of Christ, there are two classes of Christians.
Two Classes Of Christians
Some have lived many years as believers, and yet always remain babes; others are spiritual men, because they have given themselves up to the power, the leading, and to the entire rule of the Holy Spirit. If we are to obtain a blessing, we must first decide to which of these classes we belong. Are we, by the grace of God, living a spiritual life in deep humility, or are we living a carnal life? Then, let us try to understand what is meant by the carnal state in which believers may be living.
Marks Of The Carnal State
We notice, from what we find in Corinthians, that there are four marks of the carnal state. First: It is simply a condition of protracted infancy. Let me illustrate what that means. Imagine a beautiful baby, six months old. It cannot speak; it cannot walk. But, we do not trouble ourselves about that. It is natural, and ought to be so. But, suppose a year later we find the child not grown at all, and three years later still no growth. We would at once say: "There must be some terrible disease;" and the baby, that at six months old was the cause of joy to everyone who saw him, has become a source of anxiety and sorrow. There is something wrong; the child cannot grow. It was quite right at six months old that it should eat nothing but milk. But, years have passed by, and it remains in the same weakly state.
Now, this is the condition of many believers. They are converted. They know what it is to have assurance and faith. They believe in pardon for sin. They begin to work for God. And yet, somehow, there is very little growth in their spirituality-in the real heavenly life. We come into contact with them, and we at once feel that there is something missing. There is none of the beauty of holiness or of the power of God's Spirit in them. This is the condition of the carnal Corinthians, expressed in what was said to the Hebrews: "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God" (Hebrews 5:12). Is it not a sad thing to see a believer who has been converted five, ten, twenty years, and yet has no growth, no strength, and no joy of holiness? What are the marks of a little child? One is, a little child cannot help himself, but is always keeping others occupied to serve him. What a tyrant a baby in a house often is! The mother cannot go out; she must be there to nurse it; it needs to be cared for constantly. God made man to care for others, but the baby was made to be cared for and to be helped. Likewise, there are Christians who always want help. Their pastor and their Christian friends must always be teaching and comforting them. They go to church, to prayer meetings, and to conventions, always wanting to be helped-a sign of spiritual infancy.
The other sign of an infant is this: he can do nothing to help his fellow-man. Every man is expected to contribute something to the welfare of society. Everyone has a place to fill and a work to do. But, the babe can do nothing for the common good. It is just so with Christians. How little some can do! They take part in work, as it is called, but they exercise little of the spiritual power and the carrying of real blessing. We each should ask, "Have I outgrown my spiritual infancy?" Some must reply, "No, instead of having gone forward, I have gone backward, and the joy of conversion and the first love is gone." Alas! They are babes in Christ; they are still carnal.
Continual Sin And Failure The second mark of the carnal state is this: there is continual sin and failure. Paul says: "Whereas there is strife and division among you, and envying, are ye not carnal?" A man gives way to temper. He may be a minister, a preacher of the Gospel, or a Sunday school teacher-most earnest at the prayer meeting-yet he often shows strife or bitterness or envying. Alas! Alas! In Galatians 3:5, we are told that the works of the flesh are especially hatred and envy. How often, among Christians who have to work together, we see divisions and bitterness! God have mercy upon them, that the fruit of the Spirit, love, is so frequently absent from His own people. You ask, "Why is it, that for twenty years I have been fighting with my temper and cannot conquer it?" It is because you have been fighting with the temper, and you have not been fighting with the root of the temper. You have not seen that it is because you are in the carnal state, and not properly given up to the Spirit of God. It may be that you never were taught it, that you never saw it in God's Word, or that you never believed it. But, there it is; the truth of God remains unchangeable. Jesus Christ can give us the victory over sin, and can keep us from actual transgression. I am not telling you that the root of sin will be eradicated, and that you will no longer have any natural tendency to sin. But, when the Holy Spirit comes, not only with His power for service as a gift, but when He comes in divine grace to fill the heart, there is victory over sin. There is power to resist the lusts of the flesh.