The word ‘carnal’ is only found in the New Testament.  It is from the Greek word ‘sarkikos’ and means: pertaining to flesh, bodily, temporal.  The word is used 11 times in the Bible.  Nine times it is translated as carnal.  Two times it is translated as fleshly. From this we can see that carnal refers to one having fleshly thoughts as opposed to having spiritual thoughts. 

Let’s read 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, “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. For YE ARE YET CARNAL: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”  In this portion, the recognizable traits of a carnal Christian are envying, strife, and division.  Notice these men were not ‘babes in Christ’, but Paul had to write to them on a very simplistic level so they could understand them, even as he would have to do to those who truly were new converts to Christ.  Peter, the apostle wrote in 1 Peter 2:11, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.”  Here, Peter warns against following fleshly (carnal) lusts.  They fight against the Christian’s soul. 

Whenever you have strife in any Christian setting, it is because there are carnal Christians among yourselves. That’s the mark of carnality, the fact that they can’t get along with other Christians.  More mature believers may not agree with each other, but spiritually minded believers will behave with wisdom and patience and seek to get along. 

So, a carnal Christian lives to satisfy his/her fleshly desires.  They might not even be mature enough to realize their own carnality.  Our loving Father knows our hearts and He knows why we do what we do.  In His immeasurable love towards us, He will discipline us so that we will not continue living according to the flesh.  We read in Hebrews 12:6 and 11, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth…Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”  How thankful we should be that the Lord moves to rescue us from a carnal life and to follow Him in truth. 

Galatians 5:19-23 shows us the difference between the works of one living in carnality and one living according to the Spirit of God.  That says, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

Any believer can be carnal, regardless of how long they have been saved.  A carnal believer can CEASE BEING CARNAL.  Listen to the instruction of Romans 12:1-2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  We must present ourselves to our Lord and allow Him to direct our everyday lives.  We renew our minds by learning from and following the Word of God.  We do not have to be carnal.  We can be spiritually minded believers and honor the Lord when we follow Him.  (CC)  (539.6)