Is there such a thing as a "carnal Christian"? Can a Christian
live just like the world and still be called a "Christian"? Are
there saved fornicators, adulterers, or liars? Is there supposed to
be a difference? Listen for a brief biblical answer.
Here are the notes for this question:
Can a Christian live just like the world?
- Is there such a thing as a “carnal-Christian”?
- I don’t think there is a more contentious question to answer
today than this one. I have offended many people because of what
the Bible says about this issue.
- Before I answer it though, I want to ask you something
important: do you want the truth so that you can obey God? Lots of
people ask questions that they don’t expect answers to. If you want
the truth, from God’s Word, so that you can obey it, I guarantee
you God will be with you. Jesus Christ said, “If any man will do
his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or
whether I speak of myself.” The Holy Spirit will reveal truth to
those willing to receive it for the purpose of obeying God. All I
ask is that you really consider that.
- Define the Terms
- “carnal” means “pertaining to the flesh; bodily; temporal; (by
implication) unregenerate; worldly”
- “Christian” means “follower of Christ” and the word “follow”
means “to walk after, practice, or act in accordance to; to obey”.
So a Christian is one who walks after, practices, or acts in
accordance to Jesus Christ.
- The real issue behind this question is usually someone asking,
“what is God going to let me get away with and still let me go to
heaven?” Honestly, that’s the real question usually. The heart of a
Christian says, “how close can I get to God while still on earth?”
The heart of a lost man says, “How earthly can I be and still get
to heaven?” They don’t care about pleasing God for the sake of
pleasing Him. It is always what they can get from Him to seek their
- There is an obvious contradiction in the term “carnal
Christian” when you define the words honestly. To say that someone
is a “carnal Christian” is to say that “though that person walks
after the standard of Jesus Christ they are worldly and in the
flesh.” Which is to imply that Jesus Christ has led them that
- The flesh lusteth against the Spirit of God, they are contrary
the one to the other. (Gal. 5:17) You cannot be led by the Spirit
of God and the flesh at the same time. The sons of God are led by
the Spirit of God we are told, (Rom. 8:14). Those that are after
the flesh (still lost) do mind (or have a disposition towards) the
things of the flesh and world, because that which is flesh is flesh
(Rom. 8:5 and John 3:6). A Christian is after the Spirit, and
therefore minds the things of the Spirit. The world has lost its
lasting appeal, unless the person has turned again to them. That
means they are no longer being led by the Spirit of God, and means
they are no longer the sons of God.
- What did Paul say?
- Why then did Paul call the Corinthians carnal, and he obviously
referred to them as Christians? Let’s read the verses:
- “And 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?” (1Cor. 3:1-4)
- When you honestly look at what Paul says you see very clearly
what is meant. He calls them “babes in Christ”. He also says, “yet
carnal”. They were young in the Lord, and were still walking in
certain ways of the flesh. But notice something very clearly! It
was envying, strife, and divisions: it was not fornication,
adultery, and lying!
- Paul obviously was not justifying living in sin. Many people
today use the myth of the “carnal Christian” to justify themselves
living in sin, and many believers use it as an excuse to not
confront sin in the Church!
- Paul still commanded sin to be openly punished.
- Just two chapters later in 1 Corinthians 5 Paul commands the
church to rebuke and separate from a man living in fornication.
Wasn’t he just carnal? No, Paul said that if he refused to repent
of it to separate from him because he was a “wicked person” (1 Cor.
- There is a very big difference in someone being divisive and
envious, and someone living in fornication, adultery, or lying.
Paul says clearly that, “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor
adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor
extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (1Cor. 6:9-10) It
doesn’t matter if they profess to be a Christian. In fact, he
actually said that if they profess to be a Christian and do such
things to not even eat with them (1 Cor. 5:11). Those that don’t
profess to be a Christian are the ones you are supposed to be
witnessing to anyways. But someone who does such things and
professes to be a Christian is a hypocrite and a liar, and they are
bringing a reproach upon the name of Christ.
- Is a Christian supposed to be perfect then?
- In John 3:10 we are told, “In this the children of God are
manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not
righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his
- And again in 1 John we are told, “And hereby we do know that we
know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him,
and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not
in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of
God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he
abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”
- If you are a Christian you are walking after, practicing after,
and acting in accordance of Jesus Christ and are growing towards
that end. If you are a young Christian, you will still be learning
to not be envious or strive in the flesh; but do not use that as an
excuse to live in sin.
- “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to
obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto
death, or of obedience unto righteousness? “ (Rom. 6:16)
- Whether or not someone ever was saved in the first place
doesn’t matter in regards to this question. If someone is living in
fornication, adultery, lying, witchcraft, etc., and has no desire
to repent when confronted: they are not a Christian. A Christian
desires truth, and seeks the truth and right doctrine from God and
His Word with a tender heart ready to be taught and corrected (John
- Only those who hate the light of God’s ways will refuse to be
corrected, and there are many in the Church today who are liars and
hypocrites. Their actions, in regard to this thing in particular,
makes it clear.