Editors Note: Jeremy Sanders article from last Wednesday continues this week. It will conclude next week.
Point 2: The lie of the “carnal Christian” and unfruitful believer
(Matthew 13;3-23, Romans 8:6-8, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Ephesians 4:22-23, Philippians 1:6 James 2:17-18)
The two main questions we must answer are first, can Christians sin, and second, can a Christian be carnal and unfruitful. The answer to the first question is a resounding YES, the answer to the second question is a resounding NO! Confused? Let’s dig into Scripture.
Point 2.a: Can A Christian Sin?
“For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” Romans 7:15-20
When writing this passage of Scripture, we see a deeply emotional side of Paul. He does not desire to sin; indeed, he hates it. However, he continues in sin. Why? Why does he keep sinning? After all, does not this same Paul write in 2nd Corinthians 5:17 write “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” How are we to square the two seemingly irreconcilable facts? After all, if the Apostle Paul still struggled with sin, how much more must we struggle today?
The answer comes in verse 20 of Romans chapter 7, “Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” This statement is not Paul excusing His sin, far from it! He is simply recognizing that while we are new creatures in Christ, we still have an old sin nature that we must battle daily. We must “put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Ephesians 4:22) “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:23). The Christian life is a constant battle. It is part of the process of Sanctification, which God begins in us at the moment we submit to Him, and continues until we die. Salvation is not merely just receiving freedom from the punishment of our sins. No, salvation is a three-part act. Justification, (the sinner declared righteous before God, Romans 3:24-26, Romans 5:1,9), Sanctification, (Being made to conform to the image of Christ, Phil 1:6, 1 Cor 6:11) and Glorification (when we shed this old corrupt body and receive a new body uncorrupted by sin, Romans 8:30, Phil 3:20-21).
The important point to remember is that one cannot be justified without beginning the process of sanctification. It is impossible for someone to merely pray a prayer and receive justification, but then miss the step of sanctification. Indeed, many “converts” try to skip the second part of salvation. They say a prayer to ease their conscience, think they are justified in God’s sight, and then live their lives as they please, believing they will one day be glorified. Yet, as Philippians 1:6 reminds us “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ”. Notice there is not an option, the verse clearly states that Christ will perform the good work (Sanctification) in believers “until the day of Jesus Christ” (Glorification).
Two facts are clear thus far. A Christian will still struggle with sin, but God will continue to work in his life to accomplish the good work of Sanctification. So, what of the “carnal Christian”. Doesn’t the Bible talk about such an individual? What about the unfruitful Christian?
Point 2.b: Can a Christian be carnal?
The Bible tells us in 1st Corinthians 15:22 that the old man is dead, but the new man is alive in Christ. With that information, we must compare James 2:17-18. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” Good fruit/ good works always accompany a redeemed mind. They are not prerequisites for a redeemed mind, but they are the result of a redeemed mind. Someone who has genuine faith will also display genuine good works.
What about the unfruitful or “carnal” Christian? Is not the Bible contradicting itself? The phrase “carnal Christian” is used so much that it has become a standard part of our vocabulary. Yet, did you know the phrase is not actually Biblical? Not only does it not appear in the Bible, but Scripture teaches the exact opposite of the heretical doctrine. Proponents of the phrase often cite Romans 8:5-9. Let’s take a look at what it actually says.
“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
Notice, that the carnal mind is death, spiritual death. Placed in context with 1 Corinthians 15:22 and James 2:17-18, we know that only those that are saved are alive with Christ. A carnal mind “it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be”. Thus, a carnal mind is not a Christian mind, for it is not obeying the law of God. Indeed, someone who is not spiritually-minded, who does not have “the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” What an important point, not to be glossed over! The verse destroys the idea of a carnal Christian. Such a person does not exist. It is impossible. A carnal mind cannot be a Christian mind, and a Christian mind cannot be a carnal mind.
To make his point even clearer, Paul writes in 1st Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul writes “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: 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. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” Yes, we still stumble at times after we are saved. Yet, those who are redeemed and being sanctified by Christ do not live an unrepentant, corrupt lifestyle. Notice, it says “such were some of you, but ye are washed” meaning a redeemed person does not produce such evil fruit. A Christian may still sin, he may still be tempted by the items listed above. Yet, he does not live a lifestyle defined by such actions.
The most blatant disregard for the principles of this Scripture are those that self-describe as “Gay Christians”. Just like carnal Christians, there is no such thing. Someone who defines themselves by their sinful characteristics is not a “new creature” and thus not a Christian. Yes, a Christian may be tempted by such sin, but a Christian is defined by said sin. A Christian will not live such a lifestyle. And for those that say that sodomy is natural, need I turn to Romans 1:26-27, which describes such acts as unnatural and vile. Many “Christian” churches have openly welcomed such a practice, yet welcoming such sin demonstrates their lack of faith in Christ. Society will say the above paragraph constitutes “hate speech”, and many Christians shirk from speaking the truth of the Gospel. Yet, it is not hate speech to speak of the truth to someone who must be convicted of their sin to escape eternal damnation. Affirming such behavior is the definition of “hate speech”, for if you do not care enough to attempt to save the sinner from hell, you must very well hate such a person indeed.
One last point on “carnal Christians”. God always provides a means to escape our temptations and overcome our sin. He does not allow Christians to be tempted more than we can withstand. First Corinthians 10:13-14 “here hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” What beautiful verses for every Christian, for we all suffer temptations. Whether it is the former homosexual, who now is justified through Christ and walking a sanctified life by abstaining from lust, or the former drunk who has escaped the clutches of the bottle, or the former adulterer who is now living a faithful life; all Christians share in this promise. And even if one should stumble temporarily, a Christian will not live a lifestyle defined by such choices. Sadly, many people do not heed the call to flee from such acts, as verse 14 describes. Instead of affirming sin, Christian churches must call for repentance, and flight from such unrighteous conduct. Remember, a carnal mind cannot be a Christian mind, and a Christian mind cannot be a carnal mind.
Point 2.c: Can a Christian be unfruitful?
“And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.” Matthew 13:3-8
“Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” Matthew 13:18-23
Now that we have dispensed with the idea of a “carnal Christian”, what of the unfruitful Christian? Matthew 13:3-23 tells of the parable of the sower, who sows seeds on four different types of soil. The hard ground, the rocky ground, the weed-infested ground, and the fertile ground. Only one soil brings forth fruit. Many commentators argue that the rocky and weed-filled ground represents “carnal” Christians, and thus a Christian may live a life without fruit. They have neither good fruit nor evil fruit; they are merely existing in their own little biosphere. Is such a statement true?
Notice that of the four types of soils, representing four types of people, only one understands the gospel. All hear, but only one understands. Yes, the stony ground heart hears the gospel with joy. But as soon as tribulation strikes, he shrinks, withers, and dies. The same with the weedy ground heart. He springs up, but the lusts of the world choke the gospel and it dies. What did we learn in Romans 8? Death is the result of the carnal mind, the mind at enmity with God, the unregenerate mind. The only soil that produces life is the good soil. Hence, it is the only soil that is regenerated. And notice, God makes allowances for the amount of fruit it will produce. Some Christians will only produce a little fruit, some much more. Yet, every Christian will produce fruit, echoing Philippians 1:6 where we see that Christ “will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” It is not optional. It will occur. The idea that a Christian can be carnal and unfruitful is a lie straight from Satan, meant to divert many an unsuspecting soul down the broad path to the wide gate of hell. Sadly, it has been embraced by many churches and is now mainstream in “Christian” culture.
Point 3: Examine Yourselves!
(Matthew 7:21, 2nd Corinthians 13:5, Philippians 2:12, James 1:22)
One defining aspect of today’s culture is the unwillingness to examine ourselves at an individual level. Sure, the political left is willing to use broad strokes and label all conservatives as racists, all Christians as bigots, etc. But, examining our inner convictions is not something commonly done today. Such ideas have permeated the church. Among those Christians who believe in eternal security (Which, by the way, is a Biblical doctrine) many shrink back in horror at the thought that someone who makes a confession of faith may not be saved. Indeed, some readers may think I am trying to make a genuine follower of Christ doubt his salvation (newsflash, I am not). Others may question if I am telling Christians to examine their salvation (newsflash, I am!).
Let me remind you that the Apostle Paul wrote that Christians must examine ourselves to make sure we are truly saved. Philippians 2:12 “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Working out your salvation does not mean you need to work for your salvation, it means you should examine yourself to ensure you are saved. It says to do it with fear and trembling because it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. How do we work out our salvation?
In 2nd Corinthians 13:5, Paul writes “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” Note that this is Paul’s fourth letter to the Corinthian Church, two of which are not part of the Scriptural record. Paul knew the church very well, he founded the church, yet he is still saying to “Examine yourselves”. Why? Because if Christ is not in you, you are reprobates, you are not His children! How do you “prove your own selves”? By examining your works, your fruit, your lifestyle. Is it defined by holiness? Is it defined by a yearning for God? Is it defined by seeking to obey Him, and remorse when you fail? Or is it defined by embracing a sinful lifestyle, feeling no conviction of your sin, unless of course it is discovered by someone else?
Why is it so important that we conduct such examination? Back in Matthew 7:21, Jesus says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” There are many people, almost certainly someone reading these words, who believe they are saved, yet are truly lost. You may have been baptized, or prayed some prayer, or have “accepted Jesus into your heart” as the common vernacular puts it, but you have never submitted your life to Christ. Not only is such a phrase not in the Bible, it is a modern invention that places the sinner in the position of Christ. Instead of humbly begging as a supplicant before the throne of the Lord Jesus for His forgiveness, “accepting Jesus into your heart” promotes the sinner to the status of Lord and demotes Christ to the status of supplicant, waiting for our approval. You see, salvation is not just making a “decision” to be a Christian. Too often, people pray a prayer because they think their life will become better, or because they want eternal life. We have cheapened salvation in the modern culture, which is why we do not see good fruit in our churches. We see evil fruit, not good fruit because people demonstrate the fruit of their hearts.
Notice, Matthew 7:21 makes a distinction between those that say “Lord, Lord”, and those that actually do the will of God. Yes, confessing Jesus as Lord is crucial, indeed, salvation cannot occur without mouth confession. Yet, it is not the “Sayers” who obtain salvation, it is the “Doers”. The Doers are those that actually believe because they do God’s will. They submit their own will to that of Christ. This is not a works-based salvation, merely a demonstration of what true belief looks like. James 1:22 further fleshes out this point. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves”. Notice, these people only deceive themselves. Just like those that cry out “Lord, Lord” they believed they are saved. Yet, they are truly lost. This point is why it is so critical to examine our hearts. So, the question you must ask yourself is as follows: are you a doer or just a hearer of the Word? The answer will determine your eternal destiny.
This article will conclude next week and run as one giant article on an upcoming Sunday.
Do you know what’s going to happen when you die? Are you completely sure? If you aren’t, please read this or listen to this. You can know where you will spend eternity. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us, we’d love to talk to you.