1 Corinthians 3:1-2

In 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 Paul confronts the Corinthian church about their spiritual condition. They are believers but not living like it. Though they have the Holy Spirit, they are not behaving like spiritual people, but like carnal – that is, fleshly-people, like immature Christians (infants in Christ). “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.” These Christians, to some extent, are thinking and acting according to the flesh, not the Spirit. Of course, the flesh does not dominate every aspect of their life, or they would then have no evidence of being born again.

But Paul is addressing issues where they clearly are thinking and acting in a carnal – that is, fleshly – manner. Redpath wrote “The carnal Christian is a child of God, born again and on his way to heaven, but he is traveling third class.” The Greek word used here gives us some indication of what Paul is telling us. Guzik writes “There is a difference between being fleshy (sarkinos, used in 2 Corinthians 3:3) and being fleshly (the Greek word sarkikos, used here in this passage).

  1. Fleshy is simply “made of flesh”; it can speak of the weakness that is common to every fallen human.
  2. Fleshly, when used of a person, means “characterized by the flesh.” It speaks of the one who can and should do differently but does not. Paul says that the Corinthians were sarkikos.

Paul has spoken to us about three categories of men.

  1. There is the natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14), who is patterned after Adam and rejects the things of the Spirit.
  2. There is the spiritual man (1 Corinthians 2:15), who knows the things of God.
  3. There is the carnal man who knows the things of God, yet in some significant ways is still characterized by the flesh.

Which one are you? God desires us to be a spiritual person – one that knows Him and His ways and lives that way. We can do that because the Holy Spirit lives within us as a Christ Follower. But we have to make that choice.

Paul goes on to tell us how he is dealing with the carnal believers at Corinth. He kept his teaching on the basics, even though they had an inflated view of their spirituality. They believed they were ready for the “deeper things,” but were not living any deeper in the basic things he had already preached to them! “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. The difference between milk and solid food is one of degrees, not kind. Every doctrine can be taught to children, though not in the same words. There are not two gospels, one for the learned and one for the unlearned; there is no part of the gospel that we are authorized to keep back from the people.

It wasn’t that God was preventing the Corinthians from receiving the solid food Paul had to give them. The real problem was the Corinthian attraction to spiritual “junk food,” based on man’s wisdom and words. They were so “filled” with this junk food that they were not able to receive the spiritual solid food Paul wanted to give them. Are you filling your life with ‘good things’ that prevent you from getting the real meat of God’s Word into your life? We have to be careful not to get all caught up in spiritual junk food so we don’t have an appetite for or a full stomach that prevents us from taking in what God desires.

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