What is Carnality? Part 1 (Understanding God’s Great Salvation #20)

[audio https://www.buzzsprout.com/26114/220932-what-is-carnality-part-1-understanding-god-s-great-salvation-20.mp3]

The Bible says in Hebrews 7:25: “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Bible Knowledge Commentary by Dr. John F. Walvoord and Dr. Roy B. Zuck:

No Old Testament priest ever functioned in this permanent way, since all were subject to death. But the permanent priesthood of Jesus gives Him the capacity to carry His saving work to completion. When the writer asserted that He is able to save completely, he continued to have in mind the salvation- inheritance first referred to in Hebrews 1:14. The readers were to hold fast to their professions of faith and to continue numbering themselves among those who come to God through Him, knowing that He can see them through every trial and difficulty right to the end of the road because He always lives to intercede for them. In saying this, the author reverted again to a truth he had already enunciated where he had invited the readers to avail themselves boldly of the mercy and grace accessible to them through Jesus’ priesthood. As they did so, they would find that their Captain and High Priest could get the job done! He could lead them victoriously into glory. In this way He saves “completely.”

Today’s quote is from Samuel Rutherford. He said: “See that you buy the field where the Pearl is; sell all, and make a purchase of salvation. Think it not easy: for it is a steep ascent to eternal glory: many are lying dead by the way, slain with security.”

Our topic today is titled “What is Carnality? (Part 1)” from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.

Can a born-again Christian be carnal? Or is carnality something that describes an unsaved person? Or can carnality describe both Christian and nonbeliever?

Before discussing these crucial questions, it may help to clear the air on two matters.

Some think that those who teach that Christians can be carnal also must logically conclude that some believers can go through life without ever bearing fruit of any kind. In other words, they think that the teaching about carnality includes the ideas that carnality can be lifelong and so total that carnal believers will never bear any fruit and yet be genuinely saved. But that is not true, for all believers will bear fruit, some thirty-, some sixty-, some one hundred-fold. Otherwise, they do not possess the new life.

Those who hold to the teaching that Christians can be carnal sometimes say that the lordship/discipleship/mastery view cannot include any concept of carnality. They reason that if Christ is Lord of life, then logically no carnality can coexist in that life. But obviously, committed Christians—whenever that commitment was made—disobey and become carnal (or rebellious, or backslidden, or whatever you wish to label them). Lordship advocates recognize that. Nevertheless, some who hold to a lordship position prefer to say that, although Christians can do carnal things, there is no such thing as a carnal Christian.


What is carnality? According to the Greek dictionary, the word carnal means to have the nature and characteristics of the flesh (or more simply, it means “fleshly”). What, then, is the flesh? In the Scriptures, sometimes it refers to the whole material part of man, and, based on this meaning, carnal sometimes relates to material things like money or to the opposite of our weapons of spiritual warfare. But the word fleshly also has a metaphorical sense when it refers to our disposition to sin and to oppose or omit God in our lives. The flesh is characterized by works that include lusts and passions; it can enslave; and in it is nothing good. Based on this meaning of the word flesh, to be carnal means to be characterized by things that belong to the unsaved life.

Do we have at least a tentative answer to the questions posed about carnality? If carnality refers to that disposition or life principle of the unregenerate life, then obviously an unsaved person may be said to be carnal or carnally minded. But cannot believers also exhibit those same traits? If so, then a believer can, under some circumstances, be labeled carnal. If we can first understand what carnality is, then we are in a better position to answer the question, “To whom can the term be applied?”


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