The definition of a carnal Christian

I needed to take a pit stop and go into this before Part II of “The discernment of saints”


1 Cor 3:4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?


What is at issue here is the definition of a ‘carnal Christian’. The best definition of which is: A Christian who needs to, or prefers to, drink from another man’s spiritual bucket.


Instead of going to the well which is found in Christ, these men considered themselves to be in a good state because they referred to their status by the human teacher preferred; whether Paul or Apollos, (or Calvin, or Wesley, or Luther, or whomever besides the Holy Spirit). And for that Paul refers to them as carnal; for their preference of drinking from the bucket of men rather than the living waters flowing forth from the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit.


Refer to other men if necessary, but if we allow their thoughts (whether good or bad) to rattle around all alone unchecked in our heads, THAT is what defines us as carnal! Too lazy to press on after and slay our own spiritual meat, that we may chew the cud on it. A spirit that prefers that other men present the truths of God to us. A cup not full enough that it runneth over, but one that requires overflow from another cup to fill it, is the clearest definition of a carnal Christian.


By that definition, was Solomon carnal? No. Did Solomon live in sin? Yes. Was Solomon comfortable in his sin? No. Was he grieved by it? Yes. Did he go to the well which is found in Christ? Yes. Through all his sin, Solomon fits the mainstream definition of a carnal Christian, yet having wisdom above all men, he does not fit the true definition of a carnal Christian. What Solomon did have was a very tumultuous battle against the old nature that he put on display as an example for the rest of us, and poured forth his wisdom from it, to the glory of God.


Compare that to King Saul, Judas, and the rich young ruler, who outwardly did many things right, and gave much evidence of submitting to the lordship of Christ, yet through their sin of morality the damnation of each is most obvious.


Take heart, there is such a thing as a carnal Christian, the difficulty has always been the definition.

21 Responses to “The definition of a carnal Christian”

  1. Lee says:

    To appease our remnant carnal nature, here are some other men’s thoughts on the issue:

    29. Two Kinds of Christians
    A carnal Christian is one who places any particular doctrine or practice that distinguishes him or her from other Christians as the basis of his acceptance of and fellowship with them. Apparently, the Corinthians took pride in their baptism (1 Cor 1:13-17). It is not through water baptism that we become brothers and sisters, but it is through our common redemption by Christ Jesus. While he chided the Corinthian Christians for being carnal babies, observe how Paul in the same breath called them brothers (1 Cor 1:10; 2:1). Our brotherhood rests solely in our union with Jesus Christ (Eph 4:4-6), and not in our baptism, as important as that may be. – Spiros Zodhiates

    The Corinthians were also filled with an attitude of spiritual superiority, which is another mark of an immature Christian. When Paul addressed them as he did in 1 Cor 12:1, he really intimated that they were ignorant of spiritual gifts. Similarly today, a carnal Christian learns to do something “in the flesh” then calls it a spiritual gift. This person must guard against the ensuing spiritual pride which accompanies such a work. Endeavoring to prove that one has more gifts than others is certainly a sign of spiritual babyhood.- Spiros Zodhiates

  2. Lee says:

    III. Carnal Or Spiritual?
    Every object is named according to its most prominent characteristic. If a man is a babe in Christ and has a little of the Holy Spirit and a great deal of the flesh, he is called carnal, for the flesh is his chief mark. If he gives way, as the Corinthians did, to strife, temper, division, and envy, he is a carnal Christian. He is a Christian, but a carnal one. But if he gives himself over entirely to the Holy Spirit so that He (the Holy Spirit) can deliver from the temper, the envy, and the strife, by breathing a heavenly disposition; and can mortify the deeds of the body; then God’s Word calls him a “spiritual” man, a true spiritual Christian.
    (from Deeper Christian Life- Andrew Murray)

  3. Lee says:

    A Description of the True Circumcision (Philippians 3:3)

    [1.] That as the outside of worship is most minded by a carnal Christian, so the inside by a renewed Christian: Matt 15:8,

    ‘This people draweth nigh to me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.’

    Their hearts are averse from God. The carnal Christian is all for uncovering the head, and bowing the knee, but taketh no care of the heart: Isa 58:5,

    ‘Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day unto the Lord?’

    The pharisees were zealous for washing before meat, as if it were an holy religious act, because it was one of their own traditions, Matt 15:2, but took no notice of inward defilement.
    (from Works of Thomas Manton: Discourses to Promote Peace and Holiness)

  4. Lee says:

    3:1 — Carnal Christians
    The carnal Christian can appreciate only the exterior parts of gospel truths; these must come first; the surface must be passed before the internal can be reached. So, though Paul did not conceal any doctrines from the carnal Corinthians, he could only carry them with him in his teaching as far as they were prepared to go. Milk is the simple religious view; meat, the profounder. The same doctrine can be presented as milk and meat; the carnal Christian only goes so far in comprehending it, the spiritual searches into its depths. The doctrine of Romish reserve is not sanctioned by Paul.

    3:1 — Carnal Christians
    5. Not very open to reasonable appeal. They are wilful. Having very little knowledge, they believe that they possess all. They are hard mouthed, and the bit of reason controls them but little. To argue with a babe is not promising, but it is quite as hopeful as to reason spiritually with a carnal Christian.

    3:1 — Carnal Christians
    1. Jealousy. Partisan spirit, rivalry, pride; in opposition to “in honour preferring one another.” Leading to:
    2. Strife. Active opposition instead of hearty co-operation. Creation of causes of strife; evident fondness for it. The carnal Christian is seldom at peace except when he is at war. Love of fighting other Christians rather than love of fighting Satan. The disciples at the table had a strife for pre-eminence, and thus showed their carnality.
    Leading to:
    3. Division. Estrangement, separation, hatred; instead of unity, peace, love. The carnal Christian’s progress is very different to the true pilgrim’s progress.
    4. Men followers rather than Christ followers. The carnal Corinthians showed their carnality conspicuously in this respect.
    5. Arrest or retardation of development. “Not even now are ye able” (ver. 2). If the carnal Christian does not go back, he tends to stand still.
    6. Weak spiritual digestion. (Ver. 2.) Poor spiritual appetite. Little power of assimilation. Spiritual food does not seem to feed the carnal believer. He is lean. There are many religious dyspeptics.
    (from The Pulpit Commentary)

  5. Lee says:

    The root cause of carnality is that we have so little discernment of the leading of the Holy Spirit, that we seek it out from other men. Sometimes this leads us in a positive direction for a time, and other times it leads us in a negative direction for a time. Either way, to substitute the leading of men in whole or in part for the leading of the Holy Spirit is what defines us as carnal….

  6. mike says:

    So you are saying that you can be a Christian and yet live like a carnal person…obeying its fleshly lust? If that is the case, there will not be any power in the Christian to overcome…since they will tend to be stagnant and immature? How will they enter into eternity?

    ‘This people draweth nigh to me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.’

    If our heart is not turned to Christ…if I am giving Christ lip service and my heart is not turned to Him, isn’t that the same as “head knowledge”? Wouldn’t that be more to do with carnal christian…?

    I think I am bit confused….my interpretation has always been about an unregenerate person, not so much about who they “look” to for spiritual food, but a lifestyle either out of ignorance or never converted…

    Will follow up in more depth later….

  7. Lee says:


    Sometimes fleshly lusts come in the form of morality, formality, hypocrisy and ignorance, all of which are just as bad as the more gross sins.

    IE from above
    “A carnal Christian is one who places any particular doctrine or practice that distinguishes him or her from other Christians as the basis of his acceptance of and fellowship with them.”

    The carnal Christian does this because he is following men….

  8. Jean says:

    I think I need time to digest this and go to the Word! I totaly understand what you saying here. For example there are people who identify themselves with Calvin more than they do with Christ. I also see this mostly among religious people who are not saved, they tend to base all their doctrine on Pastor so and so, they are lazy to read the Word for themselves.
    The definition I had of a carnal christian was: A Christian who lives in total disobediance to God. They live their life just like a heathen. I thought it was possible, but one is not meant to stay in that condition. A few months after I got saved there was a short period of time that my life went back to the way I used to live without Christ. Not in all things, but enough to be noticed. However it did not last for a long time. Was I not a carnal christian that time then?

    I know some people who profess faith but live wordly lifestyles all the time, some call them carnal, I have a hard time accepting that, because to me they just seem like people who do not know the Lord. Am I right to believe so?

  9. Mike says:

    Jean I agree with you, it’s hard to digest too. I had a similar experience when I became a Christian. My whole concept of carnality has been based on unregenerate person lost in there sin still.

    I understand what you are saying about popular theologians, pastors and teachers…I was so involved in reading and listening to these men myself to the point I was puffed up, thinking I know something or that I NEED to know so much about them. Sadly, I know more “sound bites” from these men than anything else. What I realized that there is much pride in being able to quote, know there doctrine down to the tee.

    The question I am asking myself and seems to redundant, if I can be carnal and still get away with it(as far as still going to heaven)…then what is stopping me, or any of us?

    I will have to pray about this, for I am beginning to get perplexed about this topic…its pretty deep.

  10. Lee says:


    You wrote:
    “The definition I had of a carnal christian was: A Christian who lives in total disobediance to God. They live their life just like a heathen.”

    That is just a faulty definition, and that was the purpose of this post, to root these things out.

    You wrote:
    “Was I not a carnal christian that time then?”

    Possibly, but perhaps you may be more carnal now than then? Then you were subject to your flesh, and were losing the battle in Rom 7 for a short time. Now you may be holding back on faith

    Carnality simply exalts reason at the expense of faith. That is why the carnal man prefers to learn of men and associate themselves that way, rather than of the Holy Spirit.

    Three things:

    1) The Lord asked you to slay your own child, would you be prepared to do it believing that God would raise him from the dead?
    2) The Lord asked you to build a huge boat in the middle of the desert because it was going to rain. Would you waste 100 years of your life at it?
    3) To overtake a city in warfare would you just walk around it 13 times blowing a horn?

    Abraham (one who lied), Noah (one who committed fornication), Joshua (one who murdered)….

    These things worked AGAINST reason, but they were OF faith.

    Faith for the natural man is more difficult than works. The type of works that spring forth from faith are against reason, and require faith to accomplish them. The type of works proclaimed today by those who oppose the CC doctrine, are merely works of self-righteousness so that one can say, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.”

  11. Lee says:


    You wrote:
    “The question I am asking myself and seems to redundant, if I can be carnal and still get away with it(as far as still going to heaven)…then what is stopping me, or any of us?”

    Answer: The Spirit of God.

    Wisdom is the commingling of faith with reason. Two more opposing things within a Christian that come together to work as one.

  12. mike says:

    Lee wrote: “Carnality simply exalts reason at the expense of faith. That is why the carnal man prefers to learn of men and associate themselves that way, rather than of the Holy Spirit.”

    that make sense…I can see the point you are making.

  13. Jean says:

    After much thought and going to the word and examining all you said with scripture, I have realised that my definition of Carnal Christian was indeed false.
    Not only that, I have learnt something about myself. I think I may be leaning more towards being carnal now than I was when I thought I was carnal. I am mortified by what the Lord has revealed to me about myself. My faith is weaker than when I was just a babe in Christ. In my day to day life, my trust in God in everything seems to have sort of gone down. I use human reason so often than putting my trust in God in everything I do, think or say. I am not practising any outward gross sins or anything, but my faith is not as strong as it used to be. I am walking more in the flesh than in the Spirit. May God restore me and lead me in the right path! Thank you Lee for this post, I am actually saddened by what I have discovered about myself.

  14. Lee says:


    Might I just say, that is about as humble a confession as I have ever heard.

    Also note, a hint as we go further into part II, humility is the only grace of God for which the devil and the flesh have no close counterfeit. False humility is just so sickeningly obvious, whereas true humility is one of the signs of a child of God.

  15. mike says:

    The more i thought about this, honestly, the angered I got. Because I think I was confronted with something…my pride. I realized that I tried so hard not to look carnal, and make sure I “looked” justified. My pride wanted me to look a certain and act a certain…but it was all smoke and mirrors. Realizing I don’t know anything, realizing that I was following “dead theologians” emphasized a certain stigma within Christianity. My whole view on a carnal christian was based on my own insecurities and pride. I thought if I was more spiritual and better than the rest, within the context of what was happening in the Corinthian church, then I am spiritual! I mean I was eating meat, I was studying the word, reading from the “dead theologians” things were great…esthetically. But inside was a mess. My mind conjured up a attitude by proofing I was not a sinner like the Corinthians, because that would me two things: either, they are lost since they are carnal, meaning then maybe it is a possibility for me. Or I am just as carnal like them, and in desperate need more milk. I didn’t know what was worse salvation or not being carnal. Many in Christianity make you feel less learned because you don’t go to a seminary, you didn’t know the Five points of Calvin, read the works of Luther, Edwards, Aquinas, Watson and so on. Knowing about the history of the manuscripts. Its an overload!! I strived to know this, to have the right books, thus making me “feel” good. But reality I wasn’t and didn’t learn a whole lot. I want to know Christ, the reality of Christ. not from what others have read, but from His….His word. to have my spirit re kindled again like my past…now I am an old stuffy shirt, boring, drap and boring. I so much want to SEE Christ…I am tired of searching for more of Him, I can’t find it from others…I just hope I still am able to continue. I want to forget all the other stuff and just meet Him with all my heart. I just can’t move forward anymore….

    Well my rant is over…I don’t know what to do next, but admit that I am carnal and in need of His spirit.


  16. Lee says:


    I have travelled that road, and am not sure there is anything I could say to add to that. All that is left now is simply to ask Him.

    Luke 11:9-13

    9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

    10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

    11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?

    12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?

    13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

  17. mike says:

    I know there is no answer…more of a rhetorical question because the Lord works the way He chooses. Its frustrating to always seek, to knock, to ask…it has been a long time in doing this…and not getting anywhere.

  18. Lee says:

    Don’t give up, there is always a wilderness before the promised land!

  19. Mike says:

    Thanks Lee for your encouragement…

  20. Randy says:


    In reference to Solomon, I find it interesting that he is the one who was chosen to build the temple. I know that almost all of us look at the temple in Jerusalem as his finished accomplishment. But….. I think I may see a blueprint in proverbs chapter 7 that shows what the carnel christian gets his roots.

    Proverbs Chapter 7

    What if Proverbs is exactly what it says it is ?
    That would be proverbs, correct? Wouldn’t that mean that the face value of the writing is not really the point?, but rather that it is inferring to a much deeper meaning that is hidden. Almost anyone with the ability to read can read proverbs chapter 7 at face value and understand it in its natural sense.

    Solomon says a wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsel; to understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark (hidden) sayings.

    Proverbs: Chapter 7
    1: My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. 2: Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. 3: Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart. 4: Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman: 5: That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words. 6: For at the window of my house I looked through my casement, 7: And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding,

    (What if the simple one was you?)

    8: Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house, 9: In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night: 10: And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart. 11: She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: 12: Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.

    (What if this is the voice coming from the Harlot Church .) Aren’t organized, institutional, religious churches usually on a corner?
    Think about it.

    13: So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him, 14: I have peace offerings with me; this day have I payed my vows. 15: Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee.

    (What if this meant “I’ve been ordained and have a religious ” Title” that proves it! and I’m out evangelizing for my church:) (“organized, institutional, religion”)

    16: I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt. 17: I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. 18: Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves.

    (What if this meant : I know the needs you have, I have needs too, and I have prepared something that I know will really satisfy the inward depths of your soul.)…an imitation of the real thing.. (“organized, institutional, religion” )

    19: For the good man is not at home, he is gone a long journey: 20: He hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed.

    (What if this meant Jesus is not here right now. He has gone on a long journey and taken some of his wages {the first fruits of saints he redeemed at His resurrection} and He won’t be back until the time appointed by God. and didn’t Jesus also say “There is none good but God” ? Could this also mean the good man is Jesus?)

    21: With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him.

    (What if this meant that the “organized, institutional, religious person with the “Title” compelled you by their artful speech to become one of it’s members? )

    22: He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; 23: Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life. 24: Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth. 25: Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths.26: For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her.

    (Do you remember where Jesus spoke of the man that had been beaten by robbers and left wounded on the road? He was taken to the inn-keeper and oil and wine were poured in his wounds,…..and the inn-keeper was asked to look after him….{The good samaritan – The true neighbor- which seems as though it could be Jesus Himself} said if he owes for anything else it would be paid for when He returned. It would seem that Innkeeper could very well be the Holy Spirit.)

    27: Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.

    (Yes, what if it was you)
    Just thought I would share this with you. You have a wonderful message in your blog. Thank you,

    Have a great day in Jesus


  21. Lee says:

    Thanks Randy.