The Bible categorizes every man in one of three categories: natural, spiritual and carnal.
Everyone falls into one of the three categories.
The natural man is bad news. He walks in darkness and is alienated from God.
The spiritual man has been made alive by the Spirit of God and is controlled by Him.
The carnal Christian, however, has enough of the Lord to be saved, but not enough of the Lord to rest in that salvation.
He has enough of Christ to be miserable in the world, but too much of the world to be happy in Christ.
That’s a terrible place to be.
I read about a farmer who had an apple tree on the border of his orchard. Half of the tree’s branches hung on
his side of the property and the other half hung over the fence. Each autumn as the young boys would start back to school, they would walk under that tree and see those apples. When the apples started to ripen, the boys would beat on that tree with their sticks trying to knock those apples down before the farmer could get them.
The farmer was also watching that tree, and when the fruit started to ripen, he would go out there and beat on that tree so he could get his apples down before the boys did.
The farmer said that that tree on the border of his field was the most beaten tree in his whole orchard.
I see a lot of Christians around who are getting beaten from both sides. They are getting beaten by the world and beaten by the Spirit.
That’s carnal Christianity.
Man is always trying to put himself and others into various categories. People often ask, “What church do you
belong to?” or “What denomination are you in?” They are trying to pin you down and categorize you.
God has only three categories for man—the natural, the carnal, and the spiritual.
Paul tells us about these categories in his letter to the Corinthians.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto
him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Then Paul says, But he that is spiritual judgeth (the word “judgeth” in the Greek means “discerns” or “understands”) all things, yet he himself is judged of no man (not understood by any man). For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him?... But, Paul said, we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:15–16).
Paul then said, I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes
in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, 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? (1 Corinthians 3:1–4).
The natural man, the spiritual man, the carnal man; which of these three categories best defines your condition
The Natural Man
Paul first talks about the “natural man.” This is the way man is born. This is the man whose mind and life are governed and ruled by his body appetites. “What shall we eat? What shall we drink? Where shall we go?” The desires of the body occupy the mind and life of a natural man.
Paul said, You hath he [Jesus] quickened [made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation [manner of life] in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others (Ephesians 2:1–3).
Paul tells us that the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God. Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit comes, “He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). But the natural man feels no conviction for his sins; he sees no need of righteousness; and he’s not really concerned about the judgment to any great extent. If he were, he wouldn’t be a natural man for very long!
The natural man doesn’t feel the conviction of the Spirit of God upon his heart or within his life. He doesn’t understand the love of God or see the need for redemption. He doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ any more than he believes in any other prophet who might have lived. And he doesn’t understand the Word of God: the Bible is a mystery to him.
Paul said that the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness to him. The apostle said that “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
The idea of Jesus Christ dying on the cross for man’s sin is ridiculous to the natural man. The natural man believes that everyone has to make his own way: “Just do your own thing.” The idea of Jesus taking his sin and guilt and then dying in his place is silly to the natural man.
When Paul was preaching before King Agrippa about Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead, Festus the Roman governor cried out, “Paul, your much learning has made you mad! You have been studying too hard (you’ve flipped!), talking about resurrection from the dead!” (Acts 26:24). The Gospel was foolishness to Festus. He couldn’t receive the things of the Spirit.
Many times the natural man will pick up the Word of God and say, “I’ll read the Bible to see what God has to say.” But he can’t receive it or understand it. He cannot comprehend God’s truths. Neither can the natural man know them, Paul said, for he lacks those faculties by which God’s truths are apprehended and appreciated.
Not only does he not receive the things of the Spirit, the natural man simply cannot know the things of the Spirit.
We know that the blind man does not appreciate the beauties of a sunset and the deaf man does not appreciate the beauties of a symphony. Why? Because each lacks the faculties by which these things are appreciated. Likewise the natural man, lacking the spiritual faculty, cannot understand the things of the Spirit. So he passes them off as foolishness.
Until my spirit comes alive, I really cannot know spiritual truths.
Until God makes them knowable to me, I really can’t understand them. Thus, it is folly to try to argue a
person into believing in Jesus Christ. I fear for that person who has been won by argument to a faith. If he can be brought to a faith by argument, he can also be taken away from that faith by argument.
Paul, whose heart had been opened to truth by the Spirit of God, said, When I came to you [I] came not with excellency of [man’s] speech or of wisdom, …that your faith should not [rest] in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:1, 5).
A man becomes spiritual because of the operation of God’s work within his life.
The things of God are foreign to the natural man. The Word of God is an enigma to him. He doesn’t understand the things of the Spirit, neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned.
The Spiritual Man
The second category that Paul gives us is the “spiritual man.” The spiritual man is one whose spirit has come alive through faith in Jesus Christ. His mind and life are no longer governed by the flesh and the desires of the flesh, but they are now governed by the Spirit of God.
The first thing Paul says about the spiritual man is that he understands all things.
It is amazing how God’s Spirit opens up our understanding to the things that were previously a mystery. Once
we’ve accepted Jesus Christ, the Bible suddenly becomes a very interesting and understandable book.
A young man came to evangelist Dwight Moody one day and said, “Dr. Moody, if you answer ten of my questions, I will become a Christian.”
“That sounds like a fair deal,” Moody answered, “but let me make you an offer. Kneel down with me and accept Christ right now. Then bring your ten questions to me tomorrow morning and I guarantee that I’ll answer them all.”
The young man said, “Very well, I agree.” He knelt down and asked Jesus Christ into his heart.
The next morning when the young man came into the office, Dr. Moody said, “Okay, I’m ready. Fire away!”
The young man said, “There’s no need. God answered all my questions last night.” The spiritual man understands all things. The Spirit of God begins to open up our understanding to the things of God—and it is just beautiful to see the work of God’s Spirit in giving us this understanding.
One little epistle in the New Testament, 1 John, is more or less dedicated to knowing. John uses the verb “to know” 39 times in this short epistle’s five chapters.
In the Greek there are two different words for the verb to know. One is ginosko, which means “to know by experience.’’
The other word is oida, which means “to know by an intuitive kind of knowledge.”
The Book of 1 John is almost equally divided in its usage of ginosko and oida for “to know.”
In the first case, there are things which we come to know by experience, such as the grace of God within our lives. We know the grace of God because we’ve experienced the grace of God. That we ginosko.
On the other hand, much of what we as Christians “know” is known intuitively by the work of the Holy Spirit
within our hearts. It’s oftentimes difficult to tell a person how we know a certain truth. We just know it. “But how do you know it?” Well, I don’t know how I know it, I just know that I know it!
This intuitive knowledge, oida, covers many areas. Once I’ve received Jesus Christ and my heart has been opened by the Spirit, I simply know and understand so many things because God’s Spirit begins to give me the understanding. It’s like turning on a light. All of a sudden, things are so clear. We see them plainly because God’s Spirit has opened up this whole dimension of the spirit. The spiritual man understands all things, but Paul said that he is not understood by any man.
Once you become a spiritual man, you are an enigma to the natural man. Natural people can’t figure you out.
Because of this, you become a threat and a challenge to them. So they begin to probe. They try to figure out what makes you tick, and why your attitudes are so different from everyone else’s.
These people can’t understand how you can have so much joy. They assume that you just don’t understand
what’s going on. If you really understood the circumstances then there would be no way that you could be so happy.
They try to explain to you over and over again how terrible things really are. The fact that you still have such joy within your life really bugs them, and they can’t understand the peace that you possess.
Eventually, the natural man assumes that you just don’t care. If you really cared, you would be upset, you would be in turmoil, and you would be reacting. The natural man cannot understand the peace that you have in Jesus Christ.
Nor can these people understand your forgiveness or your willingness to forgive. They urge you to assert your rights and “sue them!” But you just want to forgive—and that really troubles them! They can’t get over the fact that you’re not standing up and asserting yourself. They say, “People will push you down! You’ve got to learn to demand your own rights!”
Natural people can’t understand why you’re not worried or upset, and why you don’t want to go out with them to the bars—because how in the world can you face these problems unless you brace yourself with a drink? They don’t understand your changed life and your changed desires.
“You mean you go to church during the week, too?” The fact that you enjoy going to church mystifies them.
The spiritual man understands all things, yet he is not understood by any man.
The Carnal Christian
Paul said, “Brethren, I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.”
The “carnal Christian” is the man who has been awakened by the Spirit of God to his need of Jesus Christ and has received Jesus Christ into his life as his Savior—but he has never submitted his life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Thus, he is one who believes in Jesus Christ as his Savior but is still ruled by his flesh.
Paul said, “I could not speak to you as spiritual but as carnal, even as babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk and not with meat, for you have not been able to receive it before, neither are you able now.”
The carnal Christian lives in an arrested state of spiritual development. He has never grown beyond the crib or
beyond the bottle. He is still as he was 15 or 25 years ago when he first came to Jesus Christ—in the infancy state.
Carnal Characteristic #1
Nothing is more exciting than to have a baby and to see him grow and develop. You watch the baby as he first learns to coordinate and respond—those first responsive smiles are so exciting and beautiful.
You see him discover his hands and body and watch him as he begins to walk. You hear him as he tries to communicate by sounds until he grows and matures and develops. Observing a baby’s growth is a very beautiful and rewarding experience. I thank God for the privilege of being a parent and watching my children grow up through those developmental stages. It was the most exciting experience that I could
I’ll never forget when our first daughter said her very first word. I had been repeating “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy” to her over and over again. I was determined that her first word was going to be “Daddy.” Every day I would smile and go through my routine with her.
One Sunday evening I was going into the closet for my suit coat and from the crib I heard it—”Daddy.” I was
shocked. I jumped. I yelled. I ran to the crib. “What did you say? What did you say?” I shouted. My baby daughter gave me the biggest, knowingest grin I had ever seen. I said, “Say it again! Say it again!” But she wouldn’t. She just grinned. I urged her to repeat it and when I turned to walk back into the closet, I heard it again. “Daddy!” I turned around to her big grin. I grabbed her, I squeezed her, I hugged her. Oh, what a time Daddy had with his little girl!
Now the years have gone by. If I were to walk into the room and see my same daughter still in a crib, and she’d look up grinning and say “Daddy!” then the experience wouldn’t be joyful and exciting. It would cut like a knife in my heart. She should have developed. She should have grown. She should have matured. Infancy, when it’s time to be an infant, is beautiful. But infancy, when the time has come for you to be an adult, is monstrous.
When we first come to Jesus Christ and offer our initial prayers to God, those early prayers are not very polished or smooth. Yet, I am certain that the Father’s heart jumps with joy and excitement as we offer our first prayers unto Him. But, if after 20 years of arrested spiritual development we are still saying, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep…” then I am certain that it must hurt the heart of the Father.
Paul is saying that you haven’t been able to take meat before nor are you now able to receive anything more than gruel. You’ve never developed enough to take meat. You’ve never grown beyond infancy. There is no depth of spiritual comprehension. You love the sermons filled with jokes and personal testimony because you’re not able to feed upon the Word of God.
You seek whatever amuses you.
Lacking spiritual depth, you become more experience-oriented in your relationship to God.
Carnal Characteristic #2
Another characteristic of the carnal Christian is that of striving—loving to get involved in situations to stir things up.
The carnal Christian is a fault-finder.
If he can’t find a fault, then he will create a fault.
I was reading a sociological study of one of the subculture tribes in New Guinea. The sociologists were interested in this particular group of people because the tribe was always getting into huge fights. Every morning, before these people would get to the day’s business, there was a big brawl.
The sociologists tried to figure out why the natives needed to fight each day. In studying the tribe, they found that its diet was very deficient. The people were living on the borderline of starvation and suffering from malnutrition.
The sociologists theorized that the tribesmen, so weak from their poor diet, could get enough energy for the day only by getting into a big fight and stimulating their adrenaline flow. Once their adrenaline started pumping, they had the energy to get up and do other things. The fighting was directly related to their poor diet.
It’s interesting that Paul also relates poor diet and fighting to the spiritual life. Paul said, “You’re not able to take meat.
Thus, there are jealousies, strife, and divisions among you.”
A poor spiritual diet will lead to strife. Because you need something to get you motivated, you get into arguments and situations that get you excited and stirred up. Then when you’re good and mad, you search the Scriptures. But you only do it to prove your argument, not to really study and learn about God.
“So,” Paul said, “there are jealousies among you.” Jealousy always leads to division. Carnal Christians want to get everybody on their side, “Don’t you think I’m right about this?” and thus they create divisions within the body of Christ.
Paul points out that some say, “I’m of Paul,” while others say, “I’m of Apollos.” He asked, “Isn’t that carnal?” But what’s the difference between saying that or saying, “I’m a Baptist,” “I’m a Presbyterian,” “I’m a Methodist,” “I’m a Catholic”? I have found that the more spiritual a person becomes, the less denominational he is. We should realize that we’re all part of the body of Christ and that there aren’t any real divisions in the body.
We’re all one.
What a glorious day when we discover that God loves the Baptists!—and the Presbyterians, and the Methodists, and the Catholics. We’re all His and we all belong to Him.
We see the whole body of Christ, and we begin to strive together rather than striving against one another. But, as long as a person is filled with a haughty spirit, he will show the mark of carnality rather than real spiritual growth and maturity.
Is a “Carnal Christian” a Christian?
Some people become very carnal as they challenge the phrase “carnal Christianity,’’ arguing that the words are mutually exclusive. “If you’re carnal then you can’t be a Christian, and if you’re a Christian then you can’t be carnal.” But Paul refers to them as both “carnal” and as “babes in Christ.” They are in Christ—yet tragically they are still babes.
We are encouraged in many places in the New Testament to grow up. The word “perfect” in the Bible means “of full age, maturity.” We are encouraged toward perfection, toward growing up, developing, and becoming mature in our relationship with God.
So that we might come into,…the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (into that complete or fully matured man in Him): that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ (Ephesians 4:13–15).
May God help us to get beyond the infancy stage. Let’s not be satisfied with the fact that we’ve received Jesus as our Savior, but press on until Jesus becomes the Lord of our lives and we become truly spiritual people—walking in the Spirit, led by the Spirit, and governed by the Spirit of God within our lives.
In the Old Testament we have a beautiful picture of the children of Israel as they came out from the bondage of Egypt, passed through the wilderness, and ultimately entered into the Promised Land. “Egypt” represents the world and the “wilderness” represents carnal Christianity.
True, they’re not in Egypt anymore. Praise the Lord for that. It’s better to be a babe in Christ than to be a full-grown adult outside of Christ. Yet, they haven’t entered into all that God has for them.
The Promised Land is a beautiful land of abundance, a land in which to settle down and make homes, a place to live off the land and share in the glory of God’s promises. But we see the children of Israel in the unsettled condition of the wilderness as they’re roaming around with no place to abide or to rest.
Carnal Christianity is the unsettled condition of moving from place to place and never being rooted or grounded. For the carnal Christian there are no permanent victories.
He can never claim an area or territory and say, “This is mine. I have conquered it.” Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it (God has left us a promise rest)…There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works (from his own strivings, from his own carnality), …Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest (of God) (Hebrews 4:1, 9–11).
Pray to God that we will enter into the rest today and begin to grow so that we can take the meat of the Word, develop, and become truly spiritual.
In the parable of the seed falling on various soils, there was the seed that fell among thorns. The thorns grew up, choked it out, and that seed did not bear fruit. Jesus said that the deceitfulness of riches and the cares of this life are the thorns that grow up and choke out the fruitfulness in the Christian life.
Carnal Christians are like trees without fruit. Their lives never produce anything that is really beneficial to others.
The life of a carnal Christian is barren, he is like a cloud without rain.
You may say that there is some value to a cloud even if it has no rain. Yes, it casts a dark shadow wherever it goes. I’ve met Christians like that. They never bring any refreshing and reviving rain—only dark shadows.
May God help us to avoid being ruled by our flesh and living as carnal Christians, so that we can walk in the Spirit totally and completely.
In the annals of American history there was a political group known as the Mugwumps. They were the fence-sitters. They were always trying to please both sides, so theirs was a miserable lot.
I never did find out why they were called Mugwumps, except that their “mug” was on one side of the fence and their “wumps” were on the other. A fence sitter is in a precarious position because he never fully satisfies either side.
You can never be fully satisfied as a carnal Christian.
It’s only as you give your life, your body, your mind, and your soul to the Lord and commit it all to Him, that you will know the joy, peace, and blessings of walking in the Spirit and being a “spiritual man.”
Maybe you would like to talk to the Lord about your own particular category.
The Lord would like to talk to you!
Posted by Michael James Stone
Last Generation, "Generation 2012", is not about predicting the future, though I personallly will tell you face to face or in posts, you do not have enought time left in the World and Bible Events to raise your grandchildren, we are posting the oncoming drama of human events that lead to Jesus Return.
Yes He is Coming Soon, yes I personally know a Rapture of some will occur. No not everyone goes...
Having said that, Last Generation IS about the Generation that "saw all these things come to pass".
We will not "pass away" till all things are fufilled.
What that means to you is what Last Generation is all about.
I apologize if this ruins your retirement plans, I personally am looking forward to going home,
-Michael James Stone 2009