Q Zone: No Carnal Christians?

Today we feature guest blogger Carlos Jerez, one of FFC’s elders/lay pastors and a regular teacher within this faith family. Here’s why he’s “guesting” as the blogger today: Because he preached Sunday and there were still two questions he didn’t get to address as he wrapped up his message. So I asked him to do exactly that in this forum — give some insight into two more questions that came about from his message on last Sunday.

Incidentally, Carlos unpacked Paul’s testimony from Acts 9, so these questions stem from that context. For the full message, listen here. Or you can just read these final Q’s and enjoy the responses. Either way will be beneficial!

Q: You said the Bible knows nothing of “carnal” Christians, yet Paul called the Corinthian believers “carnal.” Can you explain or reconcile this?

The term “carnal” (NKJV, KJV) in 1Corinthians 3:1-3 is translated from the Greek word “sarkikos,” which literally means “flesh/fleshly” (ESV, NASB). In this context Paul is using it to refer to the Corinthians’ sinful behavior that manifested itself in divisions within the church. It is clear that Paul views his readers as Christians, for he refers to them as “the church of God,” “brothers,” and “infants in Christ” (1:2, 3:1). Therefore, we can conclude that Christians can be “carnal” or sinful. In fact, the Apostle John is very emphatic when he says that Christians can and will continue to sin this side of eternity (1 John 1:8; 2:1-2). True Christians will however, repent and confess their sins to Christ. He will in turn forgive and cleanse the repentant believer (1 John 1:9).

Sometimes, however, the term “Carnal Christian” is used by some to teach that there are some people who profess faith in Jesus Christ, but continue in a life of unrepentant sin all the time. In other words, they never display the fruits repentance after “being saved.” It is argued, since salvation is by grace through faith, that works/obedience are not necessary. It is true that works/obedience do not save us. Yet, the Scripture is very clear that those who believe, obey (James 2; Ephesians 2:8-10; 1 John 2:4-6). So can a Christian be “carnal” (i.e. sinful) periodically? Yes, but there is no such thing as a perpetual “Carnal Christian.”

2. Should we continue to sin that grace would abound? Don’t we have to make an effort to live a godly life?

Romans 6:1ff says that we do not continue in sin that grace would abound. Paul even goes on to say, “may this thought never come into being” (literal translation of the Greek). Those who would think to abuse grace in this manner simply do not understand it or possess it (Titus 2:11-14).

In regards to the second question, yes we do make an effort to live a godly life. We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, yet it is God who enables us to do so (Philippians 2:12-13). In fact, the “effort” we put forward is to submit to the Holy Spirit as the Word of Christ richly dwells within us (Ephesians 5:18; Colossians 3:16). God, therefore, gets the glory for our good works. So we can say that even our godly life is all of grace!

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