For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? (1 Corinthians 3:3 KJV)
What comes to your mind when you read the word “carnal” or “carnality”? What makes a Christian carnal or spiritual? Though we often associate carnality with the gross sins of the flesh, the scriptural meaning of carnality is broader than sinful behaviors. This devotional will review a bigger picture of what the Bible calls carnality.
Paul gives us a straightforward Biblical definition of carnality in our verse above: carnality is walking as men. It is following the inclinations, impulses, promptings, or expected behavior of human nature. The terms “carnal” and “fleshly” are almost synonymous; both stand in contrast to Spirit as a way of living. There is a way that human beings typically respond or act in the ordinary affairs of life. However, when that human nature is under the control of the Spirit, a different type of lifestyle results, which scripture calls Spirit-led life.
In 1 Corinthians 3:3, Paul defines carnality using three common features: jealousy, strife, and divisions. Note that these three characteristics are also part of the works of the flesh he listed in Galatians 5:19-21. He was addressing a problem in the Corinthian Church where the believers were divided, some calling themselves followers of Paul, others of Apollos, Peter, or even Christ. The Holy Spirit will never lead us to be jealous of another believer, cause strife amongst God’s people, or develop factions. Ordinarily, our human nature does this without any difficulty—these are normal human behaviors, in contrast to Spirit-led people.
So carnality is a way of life following normal human tendencies in contrast to Spirit-led life controlled by the Holy Spirit.
Read more: Who is a carnal Christian?
What is carnality? Is carnal behavior always sinful?
Apply the Word
Carnality is the mother of sinful behaviors and those behaviors that are non-sinful per se but opposed to God’s purposes in our lives. For example, the Holy Spirit will never lead one minister to attack another minister and bring down their ministry. He will never cause a Christian to attack a Pastor or another believer, whether their reasons are valid or not. Whenever we see such behaviors, they are reminders that the flesh is running the show no matter the position or spiritual authority of the one involved.
Ask the Father to help all of us as the Body of Christ to overcome carnality and walk by His Spirit.