The Carnal & the Spiritual
Paul addresses carnality among the believers at Corinth.
In Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians, he divides all Christians into two categories, the spiritual and the fleshly or carnal; consider:
“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as 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?” (1 Cor 3:1-3).
The above verses clearly portray two types of believers; the spiritual, and the carnal.
Spiritual believers are, “those who by reason of use [application] have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb.5:12-14). They have progressed beyond the “first principles”; having the eyes of their understanding enlightened regarding their standing “in Christ.” They, through trial and error, have learned the meaning of Romans 6:11, “…reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Babes in Christ can be young or old believers. The carnal believer is still dominated by his flesh; hasn’t yet learned to recognize and resist “the old man.” His knowledge regarding the purpose of the refining process, involving the struggle between the new and old nature is insufficient to produce change. He has yet to learn that, “the flesh profiteth nothing”, (John 6:63) therefore he is unable to “Walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16).
It is quite natural for young believers to be carnal or fleshly; spiritual maturity doesn’t happen overnight. Growth requires time and opportunity; however, the nature of Paul’s admonition reveals that he felt the believers at Corinth should have grown by the time of his writing. Those at Corinth who were genuinely saved had sufficient time and opportunity to grow, yet they had failed to do so they hadn’t experienced normal spiritual growth and were still walking in the flesh. So “then”, So “now”
The tragic situation which occasioned Paul’s rebuke to the Church at Corinth is similar to the contemporary crisis facing the “body of Christ” in these “last days.”
Four primary methods of teaching used by the Holy Spirit.
There are four primary methods of teaching: contrast, association, repetition, and correction.
The two categories’ of believers contrasted in (1 Cor. 3:1-4) “for our learning” is only one example of many throughout the Bible. In the “Epistle’s” the contrast is most obvious wherever we find the phrases, “new man” and “old man”, “inward man” versus “outward man” or the “Spirit” versus the “flesh.”
In the “Gospels” Jesus used parables and analogies to illustrate contrast. The terms darkness and light are used liberally throughout the “New Testament” to point out important distinctions.
“Parable of the Sower”
In the three different accounts of the “Parable of the Sower”: (Matthew 13, Mark 4, Luke 8) the Holy Spirit contrasts four diverse types of soil upon which the seed is sown. The full picture of this highly instructive parable comes into focus upon placing them side by side, paying careful attention to the distinctions…noting the differences.
I believe that the first two groups of soil (hearers) “the way side” and “the stony places” represent the unsaved while the last two “the thorns” and “the good ground” picture the saved.
I am persuaded the last two soils represent two types of believers (the carnal and the spiritual) they are the ones I’d like to focus on; primarily the third soil “the thorny soil”.
Let’s take a close look at the four soils and the types of people they represent.
The Parable of the Sower
(Side by side comparison; Matthew, Mark & Luke)
Matt. 13:18 “Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.”
Mark 4:14 “The sower soweth the word.”
Luke 8:11 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.”
The Four different types of Soil
THE WAY SIDE
Matt. 13:19 “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.”
Mark 4:15 “And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.”
Luke 8:12 “Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.”
Matt. 13:20 “But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
Matt. 13:21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended”.
Mark 4:16 “And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
Mark 4:17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.”
Luke 8:13 “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.”
Matt. 13:22 “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.”
Mark 4:18 “And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
Mark 4:19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.”
Luke 8:14 “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.”
THE GOOD GROUND
Matt. 13:23 “But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Mark 4:20 “And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.”
Luke 8:15 “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”
In the case of the first soil “wayside” the seed (word), due to a heart problem (Matt. 13:15), the word was not understood and therefore easily snatched away by the devil.
The seed received by the “stony places” represents those who hear the word and understand it, however, their comprehension is limited to head knowledge only; their hearts have not experienced the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
Due to the fact that the seed does not take root their faith is superficial, all relies upon circumstance, not genuine…profession without possession; therefore no CONTINUANCE; “dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.” Compare, (1 John 2:19 & James 1:25).
The description of the third soil, that which was covered with “thorns” twice uses the phrase, “becometh unfruitful.” The word “become” is defined by the Noah Webster 1828 dictionary as follows, “To pass from one state to another; to enter into some state or condition, by a change from another state or condition…”
I believe those who received the seed among the thorns represent those who are genuinely saved but, “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.”
Unlike the first two soils, the “seed” had to have germinated (taken root) in the heart of the hearer in order to have the potential to produce fruit. Notice the wording, “other things entering IN, choke the word…” (Mark 4:19). The careful reader will notice the negative influences entered within… where the word had taken root; in the heart! It stands to reason that in order for them to become unfruitful they had to have the ability to bring forth fruit in the first place.
In Luke’s account of the “thorns”, we find the strongest evidence in the revealing phrase, “bring no fruit to perfection.” (Luke 8:14).
In order for the statement to be true they had to have the ability to produce fruit, therefore I conclude that the third soil pictures unfruitful, carnal believers.
“…the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” These have repentant, truth seeking hearts; they are not forgetful hearers; they keep the word near to their heart (John 14:21 & 23). These represent the spiritual believers who maintain a disciplined “abiding” relationship with God and His word; thereby insulating themselves from the influence of “this present evil world.” (Gal. 1:4).