Answer by John MacArthur:
Yes, in fact, there is no such thing as a Christian who is not at times carnal. Did you get that? And if you're saying to yourself, "I have never been carnal," then, "God have mercy on you."
But let me tell you what people mean by that. There was a definition of a Christian as a Carnal Christian, as if that was a permanent condition. The people in the Church used to teach that there were three kinds of people, Natural, Carnal, and Spiritual. And they would define the Natural person as unregenerate, unsaved, self on the throne, life in chaos, and sin everywhere.
Then there is the Carnal person. What's that? That's the Christian who still has self on the throne. Christ is still in there somewhere, running around, but He is not in charge, and the life is still in chaos. So the only difference between a natural and a carnal person is that Christ is in there somewhere, but the life hasn't changed.
And then thirdly, there is the Spiritual Christian. Self is off the throne, Christ is on it, and the life is all in order. And so people came up with the idea that you could be either a Carnal Christian or a Spiritual Christian. You know, once you are saved you could say, "Well, I am going to stay a Carnal Christian, I like it better."
And that brings in this whole idea of Lordship, because those are the people who accepted Jesus as Savior, but not as Lord. Those are the people who said, "I don't want to go to Hell, and I want you to save me from Hell and I want you to forgive my sins, but I just don't want you to run my life.
And the old definition of a Carnal Christian was a person who believed in Jesus for salvation, but didn't let Him be Lord, and didn't let Him run his life. That's not what a Carnal Christian is. That isn't at all what Paul had in mind in 1Corinthians 3, not at all. Let me show you what it is.
There is only two kinds of people in the world. My grandfather use to say the "saints" and the "ain’ts," that's it, Christians and Non-Christians, Believers and Unbelievers. Now listen, the Natural man is the unregenerate. The Spiritual man is the regenerate man. Read Romans 8, the Spiritual man is the regenerate. But the Spiritual man can act in a fleshly way. Anytime you disobey the Lord, you are carnal. Anytime you obey the Lord, you are Spiritual. Anytime you do what you ought not to do, you are carnal. That means fleshy, you're operating off the principle of sin. Anytime you do what the Lord wants you to do, you honor the Word.
So carnality is not a permanent state of Christians who have not given Christ Lordship. Carnality is simply a momentary experience of the Believer who is disobedient to God. So it is not a state, it is simply a kind of behavior. And all Christians at any given moment, right now, this moment here, are either Carnal or Spiritual, depending on whether you functioning in the Spirit or in the flesh. If you are sitting there and the Spirit of God is teaching you, and you are enjoying what's happening, then the Spirit of God is at work, you're a Spiritual person.If you're sitting there saying, "I don't like what he is saying, I don't buy any of this stuff. I reject all this stuff. This stuff isn't true." And you have hostility in your heart, and you may be dealing with sin, and you don't like what I said, I don't know. Your flesh is reacting, that's Carnality. Understand?
Listen to three episodes of Way of the Master Radio on this very subject.