Carnality and the Kingdom
This is a continuation with part two of the series: What is Carnality? In part 1, I covered the root of carnality which is to be sensual, worldly, non-spiritual; relating to or given to the crude desires and appetites of the FLESH or body. Flesh was identified as the lower—base part of man that contains the sinful nature. The focus was on Romans chapter 7 where Paul identified the problem of indwelling sin; that there is a problem between the law, sin and the flesh. Also, while the law identified sin, it was powerless because of his flesh. In verse 18 he Wrote “for I know that in me (that is in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. So what he said I, while he has the will to do good, he couldn’t perform it because of his flesh. So I concluded by acknowledging just how powerful the flesh really is. How the flesh makes wrong seem right, and right seem wrong. I also pointed out the effects of being carnal—led by the flesh—how the flesh manifests itself according to Gal. 5:19-21, and I covered each individual manifestation and what it’s effects are.
So let’s take a fast look at these again and I’ll move into the current segment.
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
The Danger of Carnality
Now this is where the first article ended—the manifestation of the flesh—in the natural. But in this article, we’re going to look at the manifestations of the flesh in the natural and the spiritual—the eternal consequences of being led in the flesh. Paul mentions this in verse 21, he wrote, taking it from “of the which I tell you before—as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Paul wraps this thought up by telling the Galatians what he had told them before; that they which do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. This does not refer an isolated lapse, that involves our confession and repentance (1 John 1:9), but it does refer to willful, continuous sin. We’re talking about a lifestyle here. Now everybody slips sometimes, but sin should be an accident, an occasion in the life of a believer, not a way of life. The NIV phases it: that those who live like this—shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Simply because, evil practices are sure evidences of a hardened, unbelieving heart. So the first danger of carnality is the manifestations of the flesh. Also, if the condition isn’t turned around, if an individual doesn’t repent, the second danger is having no part in the kingdom of God—the spiritual consequence.
There are many who feel that after we accept salvation through Christ, we receive the reward—the kingdom, regardless of how we live; that when we are carnal we still receive the reward. This has fueled the acceptance to categorize individuals who have accepted Christ, but remain sinful as “Carnal Christians” (we’re going to look at this). This title has derived mostly from a passage of scripture In 1st
Corinthians, where the apostle Paul addressed those who had accepted Christ, but remained carnal. But we are going to continue in the book of Romans tonight.
In the book of Romans, the first point to observe is that Paul is addressing (brethren) Christians [E.g. 7:1; 7:4] He is not addressing non-believers.
Let’s take a look at Romans 8: now remember in chapter 7 Paul addresses the weakness to control the flesh; that no matter how good our intentions may be, we are powerless to obey the law—to do right. In chapter 8, Paul gives the solution. Verses 1-13 reads:
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
Paul again addresses the weakness of the flesh making the law non effect. In recognizing the weakness of the flesh, he acknowledged the fact that God, in sending His own son in the form of a man—“in the likeness of sinful flesh,”
condemned sin in the flesh. What the law couldn’t accomplish because of the weakness of the flesh, Jesus did. In other words, God destroyed sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Why did He do this? The answer is in verse 4, it reads:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
God did this so that the requirement of the law would be fully fulfilled for us who no longer follow our sinful nature but in its place follow the Spirit. Remember what Jesus said in Matt 5:17, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”
The scriptures tell us in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” God has made a way for us to overcome sin and death and live forever! But there’s a condition—an obligation—after we receive Christ. Verse 1 says There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, [but after the Spirit]. Verse 4 says: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who (again) walk [not after the flesh], but [after the Spirit]. Simply put, we cannot receive the blessings of God walking after the flesh. We must walk in the Spirit of Christ as opposed to the flesh. In other words, we are to be led by the Spirit instead of the flesh. Paul goes on to explain why. Verse 5 reads:
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
Now I’m not going to cover too much about the spirit in this article, because I’m going to cover that fully in the next one.
In this article I’m going to cover with the flesh—carnality. To repeat what Paul wrote, “for they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh.” This is why we as Christians are not to walk after the flesh; be controlled by the flesh. Because, if we walk according to the flesh we’re going to do what the flesh dictates. We open ourselves up to all of the manifestations of the flesh that we just saw listed in Gal. 5:19-21: adultery, fornication, murder, envy, so on and so on. We become in a word: carnal. This is a very dangerous position to be in because these actions become strongholds. This is when we simply lose control of our lives. We no longer know right from wrong—until it’s too late. This is what happens if we’re not vigilant and continue in prayer. But again, I’m going to cover the remedies for overcoming carnality in the next article (maybe the next two articles) because this is important. If we can’t control our flesh, we’re in serious trouble. Let’s look at another passage Galatians 6:7-8
7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
Now this applies to the natural. If we sow to the flesh—use our lives and sow our resources in wasteful indulgence to do no more than please our flesh, we will earn a harvest of destruction.
Remember what Paul said in Romans 7 verse 18, “in my flesh dwelleth no good thing.” So it is paramount for us to overcome the flesh.
We have three enemies as Christians: Satan, the world, and the flesh; and all three will dictate to us: have whatever you want, any way you want it. Because any way you want it, that’s the way you need it. The flesh wants what it wants, however it wants it, whenever it wants it, and will convince us that we need it. But we must not allow it to control us. Because again: in my flesh dwelleth no good thing.
This brings to mind what God told Cain way back in Gen 4:7, …“sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” NIV
So while we live and walk in the flesh as humans, we are not to be in (or controlled by) the flesh. Now back to Romans 8, Paul gives further explanation in verse 6.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
This is self-explanatory To be minded (dominated) by the flesh, the sinful nature, is “death.”
Now that doesn’t mean that when we sin, we’re going to drop dead like Ananias and Sapphira did. [Acts 5:1-10] This death is spiritual—eternal. Carnality in a Christian’s life, is spiritual cancer. Cancer in the physical is a disease whereby a human’s beings physical body destroys itself. Carnality is when a human being spiritually destroys itself.
Notice other similarities in the words cancer and carnal. They both begin with the letter “C,” they both have six letters; they both spread and cause havoc, destruction, and death. They both need to be cured in the very early stages to limit damage. The only difference is, one is more terminal than the other. It’s not always possible to turn cancer around, leading to physical death. But if one is carnal, he can always be cured through the prescription of confession and repentance. But to remain carnal is spiritual death; it is spiritually terminal. Paul goes on to explain why.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
Now let’s look at this word enmity. Enmity is opposition—hostility. But even worse, enmity is deep-seated animosity or hatred. Paul here confirms that the human mind in its natural
state has a natural “enmity against God.”
Let’s look at another Scripture that deals with this enmity, James 4:4
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
The world is carnal; worldly and carnal are synonyms. Therefore if an individual is carnal they are worldly and a friend of the world. As the Scripture reads, a friend of the world is the enemy of God. [So what is a carnal Christian? More to follow]
In part 1 we looked at what Paul wrote in Ephesian 2:3 where he wrote in part:, that we were ”… by nature the children of wrath…” We are by nature at enmity with God because of indwelling sin—inherited from Adam. We are born with a carnal mind—born with hostility against God—born in opposition against God—born with deep-seated animosity and hatred against God. This is how we entered into this world. As I mentioned in part 1, you never have to teach a child to do wrong, but you have them to teach them real hard to do right. Again, “in my flesh dwelleth no good thing.” Which is why Jesus said: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” [John 3:3] So again I say, we cannot see the kingdom of God— if we are led by the flesh. For more on born again, see the article, What does it Mean to Be a Born Again Christian on this website.
Moving on, the scripture says the carnal mind is an adversary of God. It cannot submit to God’s law. Therefore, it cannot discern right from wrong. The carnal mind operates in complete opposition to God seeking only worldly (materially and physical) interests. It wants its own will, not the will of God. It wants to be its own master, not to bow to God’s rule. It’s nature is such that it cannot be subject to God’s law. It is not only the aspiration that is missing, but the capability as well.
The flesh is dead toward God, operating spiritually by manifesting itself in doubts, fears and anxieties (strongholds). The carnal mind is unregenerate, meaning not spiritually reborn or converted, as well as obstinate. In the next verse, Paul gives the result.
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
It is impossible for a carnal [sarkikos] minded person to please God. We can’t walk in opposition to God and please Him. It is simply impossible. He sent His son so that we could be free from sin—that we could be reconciled with Him. If we could walk in sin and please God, then there would be no need for Christ and His death was in vain. But we know fully well that we need Christ. We need the sacrifice of Christ in order to appease God’s anger against sinful man. Therefore Christ’s propitiatory death was absolutely necessary. God provided Christ as our savior; and when we accept Him as our savior, we are to walk in His spirit, allowing it to manifest fruit in us.
This is what a Christian is. But if we remain carnal—in the flesh, we are in opposition with God. That’s why verse 8 says: “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” So the words Carnal and Christian do not belong in the same category. Simply put, there’s no such thing as a carnal Christian. Carnal and worldly are synonyms, carnal and Christian are not. Either we’re a Christian (sanctified, regenerated, justified) or we’re carnal.
17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. [This is all about Spiritual warfare]
The flesh and the Spirit of Christ (carnality and righteousness) are contrary to one another. They war against each other constantly. So if carnality is in opposition to the spirit of Christ, how can one be a carnal Christian? It won’t work! [James 1:8] The flesh—stifles—quenches—stamps out —the Spirit. [1 Thess 5:19; Eph. 4:30] Jesus said: “no man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other…Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
For one to label themselves as a carnal Christian is to say: “I’m living on the fence-walking in compromise; double minded. But the bible clearly tells us: “a double minded man is unstable in all he does” and that includes his walk with God. [James 1:8] There clearly is no middle ground; no “hybrids” will be found before God’s judgment throne! Now it’s okay to confess this condition. After all, confession is good for the soul, but not to continue in the sin. So back to Romans 8, Paul goes on to say:
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
We are debtors means: we have an obligation. But not to the flesh. After we receive Christ, our obligation is to the spirit. Paul goes on to say:
13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
Notice the word brethren in verse 12; Paul again is addressing Christian believers—those who have accepted Christ. He distinctly tells Christians that if they live after the flesh they will die. Now if you’ll remember, God told Adam the same thing regarding the forbidden fruit. He said: “…for in the day that thou eastest therof thou shalt surely die.” God has not changed since the Garden of Eden and the same holds true today. Flesh produces ill fruit—forbidden fruit, and if we partake in it verse 13 says: “ye shall die.” But Paul adds also in verse 13, that if we through the Holy Spirit of God turn from the flesh, put to death “the deeds of the body,” we will live. So the fact is even believers; Christians, have a choice: life or death. We as Christians have a perpetual choice. So we Christians must remember what Paul said in Galatians 5:21: “as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” This is the ultimate danger of carnality—which comes from the leading of the flesh. Again: “in my flesh dwelleth no good thing.” Simply put: we cannot enter the kingdom of God in the flesh.
Now understand we are all carnal when we first except Christ. However, we are not to remain in that state. We are to allow the Spirit to lead us and grow into maturity. Christian maturity is paramount!
We are either moving forward or we falling backwards!
In the next article, part 3, we’ll look at overcoming carnality. For part 3 click here.
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