The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
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 one was more able to reflect on that transformation than Paul who switched from a persecutor of Christ to a proclaimer of Christ. He was in Christ (a phrase Paul used repeatedly in his epistles to speak of a believer’s spiritual relationship to Christ) because he believed the message of the gospel and was identified by faith with Christ. To be in Christ is to be a new creation. This new creation is brought about by the Holy Spirit, the Agent of regeneration and the Giver of divine birth. God’s new creative work, begun in each one who believes in Christ, will one day be consummated on a universal scale. The old life of slavery to self and sin has gone. The new life of devotion to Christ means that one has new attitudes and actions.
Today’s quote is from Thomas Aquinas. He said: “Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do.”
Our topic today is titled “What is Carnality? (Part 4)” from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.
How serious can the evidences of carnality be in a believer? Is carnality merely a momentary defection? Or a surface, not a serious, thing? To help answer those questions, let’s look at some of the sins Peter says believers may commit.
First Peter is addressed to the “elect” to testify about the “true grace of God.” When discussing persecution, Peter distinguishes between that which Christians might bring upon themselves by their own wrongdoing and persecution which would result from standing for Christ. If believers are reviled for the name of Christ or if believers suffer because they are Christians, then this glorifies God.
But between these two verses Peter strongly admonishes his readers never to suffer “as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler.” Does he mean that a believer could be a troublesome meddler? To answer yes seems not too difficult. Does he mean a believer could be an evildoer? Again we can be comfortable with a yes answer. Does he mean a believer could be a thief? Perhaps it becomes a little more difficult to say yes, except we remember that Paul also said believers steal. But does Peter mean a believer could commit murder? If so, this surely seems to be the depths of carnality. If not, then two choices emerge: (1) either the murderer was a true believer and lost his salvation when he committed the murder, or (2) he was never saved in the first place.
Commentators do not hesitate to acknowledge that believers can be guilty of any of these crimes listed in verse 15. “Peter [encourages] anyone [who bears] any reproach in the name of Christ as a Christian, only not as a murderer, a thief, an evil-doer, or as a busy-body or meddler in other people’s affairs.” “Here St. Peter must mean ‘Take care that no such charge can be brought with truth against you.’” “The Christian must not incur penalties for such deeds, but to suffer for the Name itself is not shameful.”
James reminds us that “we all stumble in many ways.” No one, no matter how earnest or how committed, is exempt. When we sin, that is clearly and plainly wrong. When we struggle, it is not necessarily a sign that we are unsaved, uncommitted, or unspiritual.
J. C. Ryle called this struggle for holiness “a good sign,” one we should thank God for. He said::
We may take comfort about our souls if we know anything of an inward fight and conflict. It is the invariable companion of genuine Christian holiness…. Do we find in our heart of hearts a spiritual struggle? Do we feel anything of the flesh lusting against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, so that we cannot do the things that we would? Are we conscious of two principles within us, contending for the mastery? Do we feel anything of war in our inward man? Well, let us thank God for it! It is a good sign. It is strongly probable evidence of the great work of sanctification…. Anything is better than apathy, stagnation, deadness and indifference.