Why are some “Christians” seemingly disinterested in the spiritual life? Does Scripture support two classes of Christians, carnal and spiritual? How long must I struggle with sin in my life? Consider:
- Spiritual maturity is always a goal to be achieved, not a quality that we possess (Eph 4:13; Philip 3:12-16). Maturity is a process in you, not a character trait of you. Until we are glorified in Christ’s presence, we live between two tensions expressed in this phrase: “always aspiring but never attaining.” In this life we will always be aware of our sinful tendencies and inclinations (2 Cor 11:29; 1 Tim 1:16; Jm 3:2; 1 Jn 1:8), we will occasionally falter, but regularly seek forgiveness, and gradually grow by the power of God within us. That is the biblical reality of our human condition. We are a work in progress. But, we God’s work that will progress!
- It follows, therefore, that while it is true every believer has been “washed” and “sanctified” (1 Cor 6:11), it is equally true that every believer is characterized by varying degrees of holiness and sinfulness. Hence, the terms “spiritual” and “carnal” apply in some measure to all of us.
Sin, for those truly born of God, is episodal not habitual (1 Jn 1:8-10; 3:9). In every case where sinful patterns persist, they are always condemned and never condoned (cf., Heb 5:12-14). Therefore, the popular designation “carnal Christian” may be true of genuine believers temporarily but not true of genuine believers indefinitely (1 Jn 2:4). If there is a group of “Christians” who are “carnal/worldly,” Scripture clearly does not support it or see it as the “norm.” It is an aberration from biblical standards (1 Cor. 3:1-4). Although sin never leaves us after regeneration(1 Jn 1:8), we have no excuse for being slaves to sin. What changes after regeneration is our relationship to sin. Before Christ we were dominated by sin, whereas after Christ we are now dominated by the Spirit (Rom 6:6-7, 14, 17-18; 8:12-14; Gal 5:22-24). We have a new master. The Spirit’s domination is not coercive, however, but graciously and lovingly subdues our wills to want to do the things that please God.