What is a carnal Christian?
The Apostle Paul addresses this topic in his first epistle/ letter to the Church in Corinth. 1 Corinthians is a rich book because we learn so much from Paul's corrections of this troubled church. Chapter 3 is especially useful in that we learn some valuable truths about the nature of the local church, the role of Christian leaders, and how we should behave within the Christian community. And as we'll see, these lessons are as important to the twenty-first century Church as they were to the Church in the first century.
Worldly vs. Spiritual Believers (3:1-3)"
1 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly -- mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?" (3:1-3)
Some Scholars contends that one of the main themes of 1 Corinthians is a misunderstanding of what is "spiritual." In chapter 2, Paul describes the spiritual person as one who communicates through the Holy Spirit with "the mind of Christ." In chapter 3, Paul addresses the question again. Behavior -- in this case, jealousy and quarreling -- are diagnostic indicators of a Christian's level of spirituality. Jealousy and quarreling indicate that the Corinthians as a whole fail the test.
"Spiritual" is pneumatikos. In classical Greek the word refers to spirit as the inner life of a human being. But in the New Testament, the word means "having to do with the Divine Spirit, caused by or filled with the Divine Spirit, pertaining to or corresponding to the Divine Spirit." Here it means something like "possessing the Spirit, the one who possesses the Spirit."
"Worldly" (NIV), "people of the flesh" (NRSV), "carnal" (KJV) is sarkinos61, found in 3:1, 3, and 4, literally, "consisting/composed of flesh, fleshy." In the New Testament the word can mean (1) "human, physical, made of flesh," as well as, (2) pertaining to being human at a disappointing level of behavior or characteristics, "(merely) human," as in our text, with focus on the physical as being quite mediocre, transitory, or sinful -- "earthly, mediocre, merely human, worldly." A similar word, sarkikos occurs in 1 Corinthians at 3:3-4 and 9:11.
Rather than people walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), with their minds set on things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5-9), the Corinthians are controlled by their merely human nature and impulses. This doesn't mean that they aren't Christians, only that they haven't grown much. They are mere "infants" in Christ. We think of babies as cute. But five-year-olds like the Corinthians who still act like babies aren't cute, they're pathetic. Grow up! says Paul.
When I was with you, says Paul in verse 2, I fed you on milk -- a baby's diet. You weren't ready for solid food -- and you still aren't! Paul is trying to shame the Corinthians into changing their behavior.
Their present behavior is typically human, with "jealousy and quarreling among you" (3:3). "Jealousy" (NIV, NRSV), "envying" (KJV) is zēlos, "intense negative feelings over another's achievements or success, jealousy, envy." "Quarreling" (NIV, NRSV), "strife" (KJV) is eris, "engagement in rivalry, especially with reference to positions taken in a matter, strife, discord, contention."
How often we see jealousy and rivalry among church members and between Christian workers. Dear friends, we're just showing our gross immaturity in the faith!
"Truth of the word".