Signs of Christ or Signs of Carnality

Feb 15

Signs of Christ or Carnality

We are studying Popular Christianity.  These are the liberal, carnal, worldly practices that have been accepted into churches today to accomplish the work of the Lord.  God has been formed to fit a man-made mold.  Hence, we have placed the creature above the Creator, which is spoken of in Romans chapter one.  In this chapter we will study some signs of carnality and where Christ is seen or not seen in all of this “blended worship.”

In Romans 1:20 – 32, the Word of God says, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.  Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.  For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.  And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”

The Degradation of God

Paul is speaking to Christians, but in this passage he is writing about Gentile non-believers.  In this address, he notes several things beginning with the degradation of God.  “They glorified not…” and “…neither were thankful…” and “changed the glory of the uncorruptible God…” and “…changed the truth of God into a lie…” All of these speak to man’s degrading of God and Who He is.  This is expected in a godless Gentile world.

Although this may be expected, the Word of God says that they are “without excuse.” They are without excuse for two reasons: First, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” Creation bears witness and testimony to God.  Creation bears witness to Who God is and His existence; but it also bears witness to His eternal power.  How can one look that the complexity of the human body and not see the handiwork of one that is greater than man?  How can and individual look at the beauty of the heavens and not see that there is a Creator?  Creation itself bears witness.

In Acts 17 Paul addresses the superstitious Athenians.  These people would congregate to tell and hear something new.  As Paul was walking near Mars’ hill he sees an altar with the words, “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.” Paul addresses this by beginning with the Creator.  The Word of God says, “God that made the world and all thins therein, seeing he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands…”

Secondly in Romans 2:15, our conscience bears witness to the truth that there is a God.  Every time I hear someone say that they are an Atheist, I think that they have sinned against their own conscience.  Man is born with a conscience that shows to them the truth that there is a God that is greater than man.  Creation and conscience both bear witness.

The Gentiles in the passage in Romans have degraded the God of creation and ultimately they become haters of God[1].  The glory and truth of God has been changed.  This is to be expected in a world that is lost and left without the light of the Lord.  The Word of God is replete with many examples.  In Genesis six and Genesis eleven are some examples of man left to himself.  In other words, this degradation of God is expected in a godless world.

The Demoralization of Man

Demoralize means to corrupt someone’s morals.  Whenever your remove God or reform God to meet man’s standard this demoralization is to be expected.  Is this not what is happening in our country?  God is removed from school curriculum.  When you tell children the lie that they came from a big bang, single cell ameba, or monkey people begin treating each other like animals.  Why is life treated the way it is? (i.e. babies found in dumpsters, partial-birth abortions, condoning of same-sex unions…etc  The reason is clearly seen in Romans chapter one.  God has been removed, and He is no longer glorified as God.

The Deification of the Creature

The Word of God says, “And worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator…” In truth, when man removes or reshapes God to meet his own standard, man puts himself in the place of God.  Fallible hands of man grip the authority that rightfully belongs to the Creator-God.  This is nothing shy of humanism.  When Satan said, “ye shall be as gods…” he was appealing to the “pride of life.” The exaltation of man has been man’s desire from the beginning because it was the very desire of Satan himself.  Man was not created to exalt himself, but rather, he was created to exalt and glorify his Creator.  The deification of man is a feeble effort to wrongfully take what is rightfully God’s.  On a side note may I say that God is still in the throne!  Man may think he no longer retains God in his knowledge, but when we see Jesus this will refute all worldly philosophy, and every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess!

The degradation of God, demoralization of man, and deification of the creature are all clearly pronounced in this chapter, but they are also seen in the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.  Let these principles be clearly established before we move forward in our study.  When God is removed or reshaped by man, the god formed ceases to be the God of the Bible.  He is made into an image made like to corruptible man.  This downgraded, watered down theology of Popularists is nothing less than worship given to a false god that has been shaped and formed by man’s own ideology and philosophy.  Man is not the goal, God is!

The Division in Corinth

This worldliness or carnality is expected in an unregenerate world, but what about in Christ’s church?  In I Corinthians 1, Paul gives a nine-verse introduction.  Following this, he begins instruction, and the very first thing he begins to address is division.  This instruction about division continues up through chapter three where the Word of God says in verse three, “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”

The word carnal means something that pertains to the flesh, bodily, temporal, animal, unregenerate, and fleshly.  The Word of God says this about this church.  They were carnal!  Of course, this could be clearly said of a lost world, but now we are speaking about the church of God.  This church had allowed worldly mentality to enter into it, as a result of this there were several things that happened, the first of which is addressed being division.

Mark it down, carnality in a church breeds division.  You can also say that division is a sign of carnality in God’s house.  When we as Christians begin to adopt the worldly mentality, when we become temporally minded, when we begin thinking naturally (animal) rather than Biblically we usher in division.  Please note chapter 3 verse 3 again.

This division was over nonsense.  The Word of God says that they were disputing over who had come of Paul versus who had come of Paul.  Carnality breeds division, and this division is generally over temporal, non-spiritual issues which do not edify the church.  The church had taken their eyes off of God and placed them upon man.  It is not wonder that there was division because of this.  God is not longer at the center of the church; but rather, they had begun looking at man.

The Doctrine in Corinth

Secondly, carnality in Christ’s church impacts doctrine.  Man’s nature and this world are naturally contrary to Scriptural doctrine.  The Word of God says in I John 2:16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” Hence, when worldly philosophy and wisdom of men is allowed to penetrate the church, doctrine is naturally changed to meet man’s standard.  The change may at first be subtle, but the subtle changes are the most dangerous.  Later we will see what caused this carnality, and that will help us to understand the weakness in doctrine.

There are several truths that were being abused among the church family.  They were taking each other before worldly legal systems for things that should have been handled within the church.  Clearly, church authority was undermined in this case.  The Lord’s Table was being used incorrectly.  It was not to be used as a time of eating, drinking, and playing; but rather the Table is a time of remembrance.  This ordinance had been tampered with in this church.  Just in these two instances there are two major signs of a carnal church.  First, authority is removed, and second entertainment is sought.

Church authority is clearly established by Jesus Christ in Matthew 18.  This authority along with other established authorities are undermined in our society.  It is a shame that this has happened in our churches.  God’s man for the church is undermined, ridiculed, socially spit upon, and verbally buffeted.  There was a day when the fear of God was present in the minds of God’s people, but that day seems to have passed.  Moving in to church authority, the church is a living organism that is sanctioned by Jesus Christ.  If God’s people cannot have respect for God’s institution how can we expect the world to hold Christ’s church in reverence?  This is hypocrisy.

Among the many things that were happening in Corinth, the one that is most prevalently happening today is the downgrade from the truth of the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.  The man-centered philosophy of the world that has entered into our churches has taken the Holy Spirit and fit Him into a scheme to draw attention to man and to the Holy Spirit Himself.  This is unbiblical.  The Holy Spirit of the Word of God does not seek attention for man or for Himself; He seeks to glorify only Jesus Christ[2].  The entire truth of Who He is and individuals in God’s house on a weekly basis misuse what He does.

The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, Teacher, and Guide[3].  He is to continue the work of Jesus Christ.  He indwells true born-again individuals.  He is the seal wherewith we are sealed unto the day of Christ’s return[4].  His greatest teaching is that He has taught us to abide in Christ[5].

The Destruction in Corinth

In I Corinthians 3, the Word of God reveals that there will be a time where every man’s works will be tried by fire “…of what sort it is.”  We are accountable to God for our motive of service.  God sees the heart.  Service done in the flesh with a wrong motive will not be rewarded, but rather they will be burned up!  The lost of rewards is a great tragedy, but it is to be expected by Christians who are living for self.

The second part of this is of great importance.  In verse 16 – 17 the Word of God says, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?  If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” Verse 13 identifies that the writing is speaking about personal responsibility and accountability.  The following verses continue to speak about individuals.  It would be very easy to make application to the purging of the church, but I do not believe that this is the intention of this passage.  In light of the context, and of further references to the temple of God in chapter six, he is speaking who have defiled their bodies.  There are times where God does destroy.  The Word of God teaches clearly of the chastening of God[6].  There is also a sin unto death spoken of in I John 5:16.  Let us be very clear that God will chastise His children, and He can and will remove them if needed.

For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting”(Galatians 6:8).  You cannot expect true lasting spiritual results by investing in the flesh.

Within this chapter are given to us several things that can be applied to combat this carnality.  First, re-establish that Jesus Christ is the foundation for our life and churches.  “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” This is not salvation over again; for once you are saved you can never be “plucked” from the Father’s hand[7].  This is where we submit to the truth of God’s Word, and we acknowledge afresh Who He is, and what He has done.  Paul is here reminding them that the emphasis is on the foundation, Jesus Christ.  No other foundation can be laid!  In II Peter 1:9 there is a statement that is made, “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” What a terrible thing to think of forgetting of all that Jesus Christ did for us when He saved us.  I was firmly planted upon the Rock that day, and that “Rock was Christ.” We must seek to not dangle our feet in the mire of sin.

Secondly, we must understand that we are accountable to Jesus Christ.  This is done in verse thirteen of First Corinthians chapter three.  Every work will be tried of what “sort” it is.  In Romans 14:12 the Word of God declares, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” In the middle of this passage to the Corinthians, the Lord sees fit to remind these individuals that the motive behind their service is important.  We are accountable to the true and living God that sees the heart.  There is nothing that He cannot see.  When teaching or preaching there is not greater accountability that can be firmly fixed in the mind of the hearer than their accountability to God.

In First Corinthians 5:7 God says, “Purge out therefore the old leaven…” In the Word of God, leaven is a type of sin.  This is further solidified in verse eight of the same chapter where the Word says, “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Malice means badness or evil.  Wickedness is a plural word to speak of sins, plots, or iniquity.  It is sin to worship God superficially.  The Word of God says that those who worship God must worship in “spirit and in truth[8].” Sin must be confessed and forsaken, especially the evil of carnal, superficial lip service.  This is truly the product of Popular Christianity.  There is movement on the outside, but there is deadness and emptiness within.  There is body and soul involvement, but the spirit is nowhere to be engaged.  One man commenting on John 21:15 – 17 said it this way, “Peter was much like the average Christian today.  He loved the Lord with a brotherly love – he was fond of the Lord.  Many people are fond of the Lord and His church, but Jesus was not referring to this type of love.  He wanted to know if Peter loved Him with a godly love – a deep, spiritual love that would cause him to forsake this world and serve the Lord.[9]

Paul is speaking to a local church in our main passage of First Corinthians.  Carnality had crept in there, and there were signs of this.  The same is very true today.  Carnality has crept into many churches.  We must remember what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross of Calvary.  He is the only true foundation.  We must remember our individual accountability to Jesus Christ.  We will all stand before our Lord one day.  Sin must be purged from our lives and churches.  God sees the heart!  Worship in spirit and in truth.  Lastly, the Word of God is our Standard and Final Authority.  In First Corinthians 3 the Word of God says in verse one and two, “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.” In Hebrews 5:11 – 14 the Word of God says, “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.  For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.  For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.  But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Whenever I have asked individuals who are openly compromising Biblical truth in their lives or churches, without fail the vast majority begin a statement that sounds like this, “Well, I just think that…” We must get away from the “I just think (man’s rationale and opinion); and we must get back to “Thus saith the Lord.”  What does God’s Word clearly teach about Who God is what He expects in His Church?  “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God (I Corinthians 3:19).

What will it be for you?  Will you love, serve, and worship God according to the Word or the world?  Will you have the Christ of the Bible or the idolatrous image of a false Christ established by popular Christianity?  Will it be Christ or carnality for you?

[1] Romans 1:30

[2] John 16:14

[3] John 14:16 – 17; 26; 15:26; 16:13

[4] Ephesians 1:13; 4:30

[5] I John 2:27

[6] Hebrews 12:6

[7] John 10:28 – 30

[8] John 4:24

[9] Abiding in Christ by Paul Chappell, pp. 47 – 48

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