• By John Hicks

Carnal in Corinth. But we're they safe?

Were the carnal (sinners) in Corinth saved? Well, yes and no. I will explain by using all of Paul's letter to the Church in Corinth.

First we need to define carnal.

CARNAL, adjective. Pertaining to flesh; fleshly; sensual; opposed to spiritual; as carnal pleasure. Lecherous; lustful; libidinous; given to sensual indulgence.

Paul gives a definitive description between the flesh (carnal, living in sin) versus the spiritual (those who are in Christ Jesus) in Romans chapter 8 verses 1 through 8. He wrote:

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 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. Romans 8:1-8

People try to twist the definition of carnal as per Augustine's presupposition on the matter by starting from the false premise that carnal is the natural state of man. This is preposterous when one realizes the Bible’s definition, or more precisely God’s definition, of carnal is the exact opposite of Augustine's conclusions. We were created in God’s image, for His good pleasure and to do good works for Him so that He can be glorified. Man is born upright but then he goes astray and into carnality. This all pertains to the fallacious Augustinian creation of “Original Sin” verses the Bible’s position on the matter.

This is not exactly the specific focus of this discussion but it must be brought up as many will want to run to the popularly held Augustinian view without even seeing that they are leaning on doctrines of men to form their own presuppositions verses actually leaning on scriptures to form the foundations of their doctrines. This is fundamentally critical to understand or else this entire conversation will be shut out of any real consideration for what the truth really is. When one shuts down the conversation before hearing it out they are being the foolish one described in Proverbs 18:13:

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

Moving on to whether or not a Christian can be carnal, when some people are told the truth that there is no such thing as a carnal Christian they tend to try to use the first 8 verses of the 3rd chapter of Paul's letter to prove otherwise. By doing so they fail to capture the full context of Paul's letter and they arrive at a very false and dangerous conclusion. First of all, there were definitely saved people in the church or it would not be referred to as a church in the Bible. Some of these at the time that Paul wrote his first epistle to the church had chosen to go into sin and thus they became fallen castaways. In fact, Paul points out some very specific sins. To get the correct context its best to start with whom the audience is that Paul was writing to. In 1 Corinthians 3:1 Paul indicates the "brethren" as being the general audience for his instructions to the church in the letter. These brethren were the saved believers in the church. He indicated that among them were folks causing division, envying and strife. These are sins that they may not have realized were sins or maybe they did but Paul would make it clear that they should not be acting as such. Paul said he was speaking to them "as carnal" and as "babes". We should know that Paul went to great lengths to encourage them to be unified and to not sin in the process. But, as mentioned previously, some sins were specifically called out such as the one having sex with his father's wife along with the already mentioned sins of divisiveness. We will discuss all of this a bit more later. For now, we know that that this church had some folks in it acting quite carnally (sinfully) and Paul was addressing that directly. He was not, in any way, saying this was to be expected or accepted but quite to the contrary as we will see here in a bit. In Matthew chapter 13 Jesus gave the parable of the wheat and the tares. With this He explains that we will always have good seed, or believers, mixed with tares, or non-believers, who in every way look like believers. We are told by Jesus to leave these tares alone so that an actual believer will not be uprooted. He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? [29] But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. [30] Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. Matthew 13:28-30

Jesus never said to not exclude the obvious sinners from fellowship (church). He was addressing just those we cannot clearly identify as unrepentant sinners. We know this to be true because later in Matthew chapter 18 Jesus tells us that we need to exclude the unrepentant sinner from the church:

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. [16] But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. [17] And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Matthew 18:15-17

We know that Jesus meant exclusion versus continued inclusion based on the full counsel of His Word. Here are supporting verses for this truth:

The adversary hath spread out his hand upon all her pleasant things: for she hath seen that the heathen entered into her sanctuary, whom thou didst command that they should not enter into thy congregation. Lamentations 1:10

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. James 4:4

Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. 2 John 1:9-11

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Ephesians 5:10-11

Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart. For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth. I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers. I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked. I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O LORD: That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works. LORD, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth. Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men: In whose hands is mischief, and their right hand is full of bribes. But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity: redeem me, and be merciful unto me. My foot standeth in an even place: in the congregations will I bless the LORD. Psalm 26 The Church of Corinth definitely had tares in their midst but Paul, with great detail, explains how some were outright sinning such as the wretched carnal soul who was having sex with his father’s wife.

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. [2] And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. [3] For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, [4] In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, [5] To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. [6] Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? [7] Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: [8] 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. [9] I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: [10] Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. [11] But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. [12] For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? [13] But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. 1 Corinthians 5:1-13

Going back to recall who Paul was directly writing to and that was the brethren, believers. Remember that Paul was explaining in the third chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians that there were carnal folks among them acting out in sin. As we see above, in the fifth chapter, Paul drilled down to exact nature of one those in the midst of the brethren whose carnal or sinful actions were outright known. That wretched person was having sex with his mother apparently or maybe it was his mother-in-law as Paul for some reason said it was with “his father’s wife”. This man was obviously an adulterous fornicator and Paul said in a couple of different ways to literally kick this person out of the fellowship with hopes that someday they may repent to save their soul.

Following is the passage being referenced to as the focal point of this writing. Here Paul is pointing out that the brethren were new in the Lord and he, Paul, had started them out with the basics regarding the faith but obviously he now saw the need to step up the spiritual feeding, if you will, due to the reports he had been hearing about things that were causing divisions among the fellowship. And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. [2] 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. [3] For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? [4] For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? [5] Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? [6] I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. [7] So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. [8] Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. 1 Corinthians 3:1-8

People who cite 1 Corinthians 3:1-8 to justify a mythical “carnal Christian” tend to use the verses that follow, 11 through 15, to say that these so-called “carnal Christians” will have their sins burned away at the final judgment but they will still be saved. This is far from the truth based upon what Paul said, as noted further above, in the fifth chapter verses 1-15. What Paul is referencing here is obviously works done by individuals and more specifically a new believer as Paul alluded to in the second verse. These works, done by new believers, in the end will be judged by God and if they had any amount of motivation behind them other than Jesus Christ alone then these will be burned. One has to understand the grace of God to get this. Once a person has matured in the faith and knows full well this fact then that will be judge fully as sin verse “I was young and just did not realize”. To say that these verses justifies any sin that any believer commits is forgiven without repentance is doing so by going fully outside of the actual context of what is being said here. We know this based on many other scriptures but most importantly we see this as pointed out in Paul’s letter specifically to the Corinthians. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. [12] Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; [13] Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. [14] If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. [15] If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 Following are clear examples of what happens to people who are willingly and knowingly committing sin.

Remember that Paul had already singled out one specific person that was being tolerated in the Corinthian church and that person was in blatant fornication. That person, Paul said later in the 6th chapter, will not go to heaven without repentance and being sanctified. Paul pointed out that sin was not to be accepted in the fellowship. He said the believers were sinners once but now they were not (“And such were some of you”). 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, [10] Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. [11] 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. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Paul gets into the more mature teachings of the faith such as staying away from fornication but really this should have already been known by the church as fornication is generally not seen as a good thing. Paul had to emphasize this regardless due to the fact that one of their own was committing fornication. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. [17] But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. [18] Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. [19] What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? [20] For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. 1 Corinthians 6:16-20

Paul told the Corinthians that when they sin against brethren you sin against Christ. One has to stretch and twist around and beyond the actual context of this to justify unrepentant sinners. But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. 1 Corinthians 8:12

When we sin against Christ we must repent or we can become a castaway from the faith as Paul mentioned in the following chapter. People twist this as well to say that even a castaway is somehow still in the faith. No, a castaway is cast away, or thrown out of the faith due to their sin. You cannot remain in something if you are cast away from it. Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. [25] And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. [26] I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: [27] But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Paul goes to great lengths to warn the believers in the church at Corinth to not do as their fathers did and that was to fall from the faith. In Hebrews we see this also provided as the exact same warning. Yes, those who were chosen or saved by God will go to hell if they are found in that state once they breathe their last breath. Unrepentant sin results in the death of the soul. Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; [2] And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; [3] And did all eat the same spiritual meat; [4] And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. [5] But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. [6] Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. [7] Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. [8] Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. [9] Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. [10] Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. [11] Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. [12] Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 1 Corinthians 10:20-21

Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Hebrews 3:8-11

Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:23-31

The unrepentant soul that sins dies and goes on to eternal punishment.

The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. Ezekiel 18:20

I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Luke 13:3 (and 5).

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. Matthew 25:46

In conclusion, Paul was not justifying carnal Christians in fact his entire letter was to warn the Christians to not be carnal and to separate from themselves those who were outright and knowingly living in sin or, in other words, those who are carnal and without repentance. Paul, towards the end of his letter likened these to devils and he said to not have fellowship with these unbelievers on several occasions. The things which are sacrificed by non-believers include fornication and sin in general. People tend to include only physical idols in this sense but this is limiting the actual context of what Paul is saying. Throughout scriptures and in the Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we see that sin indeed is an idol which separates souls from God so we ought to keep ourselves separated from those who offer up sacrifices of things that are abominations (sin) to God...

But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. [21] Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils. 1 Corinthians 10:1-12

Corruption does not inherit the kingdom of God. Those brethren who are “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” will, in the end, inherit the kingdom. The following verses from the end of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians explain this along with other scriptures that explain this truth in a much more granular fashion. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. [51] Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, [52] In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. [53] For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. [54] So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. [55] O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? [56] The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. [57] But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. [58] Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. Matthew 10:22 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. Hebrews 3:6 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Mark 13:13 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. Revelation 3:5

In closing this out, this definitely bears repeating:

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 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. Romans 8:1-8

#carnalChristian #carnal #sin #Corinthians #falseteachings #osas #OSAS

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